Amtrak rewards executives with six-figure bonuses as train service struggled


John Samuelsen, the chairman of the Transport Workers Union, which includes nearly 1,500 service workers, mechanics and inspectors at Amtrak, said he was disgusted by the payouts.

“They gave themselves nice fat bonuses on the backs of workers exposed to danger,” he said. “It just underscores why there should be employee representatives on the Amtrak board.”

No bonuses were awarded in 2015, but in 2016 the rail service awarded some incentives to top executives. It spent no more than $500,000 a year on payouts in 2016, 2017, and 2018, as it cut its losses.

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That changed in 2019. With Amtrak nearing break even, the size of its 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 again did not pay bonuses in 2020, as the virus almost brought travel to a halt. But in 2021, it paid out $2.3 million, despite its lowest revenue and biggest losses in more than a decade.

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

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

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