Amtrak Rewarded Executives With Six-Figure Bonuses as Rail Service Struggled

John Samuelsen, the president of the Transport Workers Union, whose members include nearly 1,500 service workers, mechanics and inspectors at Amtrak, said he was disgusted by the payouts.

“They gave themselves nice fat bonuses off the backs of workers that were exposed to harm’s way,” he said. “It just underscores the reason why there should be worker representatives on the Amtrak board.”

No bonuses were given in 2015, but in 2016 the rail service awarded some incentive pay to top executives. It spent no more than $500,000 annually on payouts in 2016, 2017 and 2018 as it narrowed its losses.

That changed in 2019. With Amtrak getting close to breaking even, the size of the bonus payouts to top executives nearly quadrupled, rising to a total of nearly $1.8 million, from just over $480,000 the year before. Amtrak paid no bonuses again in 2020, as the virus brought travel to a near standstill. But in 2021, it paid out $2.3 million, despite reporting its lowest revenue and biggest losses in more than a decade.

Stephen Gardner, who became Amtrak’s chief executive this year, has received more than $766,000 in short-term incentive bonuses since 2016, more than any other executive. Eleanor Acheson, the service’s general counsel and corporate secretary, was close behind, having received nearly $727,000 over that period. Amtrak declined to provide a fuller picture of how its executives are compensated, including salaries.

Of the dozen members of Amtrak’s current leadership team, all but three received bonuses of more than $200,000 last year, ranging from about $230,000 to more than $293,000 for Mr. Gardner, who was president at the time.

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