Amtrak workers protest scheduled closure of Riverside call center

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- More than 100 Amtrak employees joined union supporters for a rally in downtown Riverside on Wednesday to protest the closure of a call center in the city.

It's estimated that 550 jobs will be lost when the facility is scheduled to shut down permanently in a few weeks.

"Why would you break all of our spirits and take our jobs?" cried employee Jeri McGhee, who said she's approaching her 11th year with the company. "I don't understand. We've done everything we're supposed to do right, and this is what we get for it? It's not right."

A union spokesperson told Eyewitness News there are presently two call centers for Amtrak; one in Philadelphia and the one in Riverside that is scheduled to shut down in January. But the jobs that will be lost aren't necessarily being eliminated completely.

"They're closing this office and outsourcing the work to a non-union shop in Florida," said Jack Dinsdale with the Transportation Communications Union, who said Amtrak will save money by paying those workers less and not providing commensurate benefits.

"They claim labor costs are too high," said Dinsdale, who said the company may be able to save money, but will lose an incredible amount of experience and dedication if the call center is shuttered.

"These are committed, life career employees who love this company. They love this product," he said.

"More than 90% of our customers handle their travel arrangements through our website and our mobile app," Amtrak said in a statement, adding that the total number of calls they've received at their call centers has dropped by nearly 3 million calls, although the company did not provide a time frame for that statistic.

The statement continued:

"We know this is difficult news for our employees at Riverside. We are grateful for the team's professionalism and performance and are working with each employee individually to review their options going forward, which may include transferring to Philadelphia or pursuing open Amtrak positions."

But changing positions just isn't an option for some employees.

"I can't work at a station, I can't work on the train," said McGhee, who uses a wheelchair. "And I own a house. I mean, I don't have a lot of job options. I don't know what I'm going to do."
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