A Proud Union With A Long History
Before the famous Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters first organized, another group of African-American railroad workers helped them get their start. That union lives on today in UNITE HERE, representing dining car workers on Amtrak trains throughout the United States.
The Dining Car Employees Union first joined HERE in the early 1900s. At that time, the 17 dining car locals represented 20,000 cooks, waiters, and bartenders working on U.S. railroad lines.
For decades, the Dining Car Employees and Pullman porters were the only unions in the United States of mostly African-American membership. These two unions actively fought for their rights as workers while battling discrimination from the railroad industry and even other unions.
Eventually, major railroads wanted to get out of the business of passenger rail service, so Congress authorized the creation of Amtrak in 1971. As Amtrak began running the trains from Chicago to New York, New Orleans, Oakland, and Seattle, UNITE HERE and the two other unions representing railroad workers of various crafts across the country joined forces in the Amtrak Service Works Council.
UNITE HERE members in the Amtrak Service Works Council include lead service attendants, food specialists, and chefs, as well as service attendants in the snack cars, coaches, and sleepers.
Photo: Cliff CC-BY-SA 2.0.