The 10 highest paid Amtrak executives raked in six-figure bonuses in 2021 – in one instance nearly doubling a senior-level executive’s salary – despite the rail network struggling with low ridership and plummeting revenues.
The top-earning employees received “earned incentive” bonuses of more than $200,000 each — more than 50% of their base salaries – according to figures obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and a statement from an Amtrak spokesperson.
The bonuses enraged the Transportation Workers Union that represents more than 1,000 Amtrak employees, which noted in a statement that the American taxpayer is, in part, footing the bill for the six-figure rewards.
“It is outrageous that while Amtrak’s workforce put their lives on the line to see this carrier through its most trying time yet, bosses who got to work from the comfort of their homes — and who are so wealthy they can decline regular paychecks — walked away with millions in bonuses,” TWU spokesperson Denise Romano told The Post in an email.
“This isn’t just an affront to Amtrak workers — every tax paying American should be livid,” she added.
The data obtained by The Post show the base salaries and “total gross income” for the top 10 highest paid Amtrak employees in 2021.
“The total compensation includes earned incentives,” an Amtrak spokesperson said in an email.
William Herrmann, the rail line’s Vice President Sr. Managing Deputy General Counsel, appears to have cashed in the largest earned incentive bonus in 2021, according to the figures.
Herrmann earned a salary of $352,898, but raked in a whopping $653,879.74, according to the figures. His bonus of more than $300,000 represents about 85% of his base salary.
Herrmann’s total haul made him the fourth highest paid Amtrak employee in 2021, nosing out Eleanor Acheson for the No. 4 spot. Acheson served as Executive Vice President General Counsel & Corp Secretary and pocketed a total of $645,714.20 – despite having a significantly higher base salary than Herrmann, at $416,354.
The highest paid Amtrak employee in 2021 was then-CEO William Flynn, who had a base salary of $475,000, according to the data. Flynn earned a total of $759,205.40 that year, with a bonus worth $284,205 – or nearly 60 percent of his salary.
Stephen Gardner, who served as Amtrak’s president in 2021, notched the second-highest income at the company, pulling in $735,159 with a base salary of $473,800, the data show.
All but two of the top 2021 earners at Amtrak earned more than $600,000, according to the data. Four of the top 10 executives had base salaries of less than $400,000, but all collected more than $600,000.
In a statement, an Amtrak spokesperson said the company is pleased to offer the bonuses, which are aimed at attracting and retaining high-level talent in the transportation sphere.
“To earn incentives, Amtrak must achieve a high level of corporate performance in support of our company’s strategic plan – and employees must also meet their individual performance goals,” the spokesperson said.
Incentive plans are widely used in the private sector, the spokesperson added, and it’s not uncommon for executives in the freight and airline industries to seek bonuses that exceed their annual salary.
In August, the New York Times reported much smaller bonuses were given to the rail network’s executives in 2016, 2017 and 2018 – and none were awarded in 2015 and 2020.
In 2021, Amtrak spent a total of $2.3 million on the annual bonuses – despite the company registering its lowest revenues and biggest losses in more than 10 years, the Times reported. Total Amtrak ridership in 2021 declined more than 60% on all routes compared to 2019, according to numbers compiled by the rail service.
The 2021 bonuses were awarded amid an influx of federal spending to shore up Amtrak, which has lost money every year since it was founded in 1971. Both the infrastructure law President Biden signed in 2021 and pandemic relief funds infused billions of dollars into the for-profit company.
The Amtrak spokesperson said infrastructure funds “are not used to fund employee incentives.”
In September, the rail network narrowly averted a calamitous extended shutdown of long-distance routes as freight workers across the country threatened to strike.
Unions representing freight workers and the railroad companies that employ them were locked in a labor dispute over pay and working conditions that dragged on for months. The strike was averted hours before the mid-September deadline.
Amtrak and other commuter rail systems operate a large portion of their trains on tracks and other equipment owned by freight companies.
Emails sent to Herrmann, Acheson and Gardner were not returned. Calls for numbers listed for Flynn were also not returned. A Post reporter also left a message with Flynn’s doorman, which was not immediately returned.