March 15, 2015
SPRINGFIELD (March 16)–House Bill 439 (HB 439) has emerged unanimously from committee in the Illinois House and could be voted on by the full chamber sometime this week.
That means it’s time for all SMART-TD members and their families to contact their state representatives and ask them to vote “Yes” on this important new piece of workplace-safety legislation that would raise the minimum underinsured/uninsured-motorist coverage on passengers in a contract-carrier van from $250,000 to $500,000 the first of next year.
“The floor vote could come at any time now, so members need to reach out to their representatives immediately and urge them to vote for the measure,” said SMART-TD Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy.
SMART-TD’s predecessor, the United Transportation Union, got the original legislation passed in 2005, Guy said.
“A decade has passed since we established that minimum coverage and it needs to be updated,” he said. “The original coverage of $250,000 per passenger is inadequate 10 years later.”
Guy said HB 439 as originally drafted called for coverage to be raised to $1 million per passenger, but a compromise was reached in committee to raise the minimum to $500,000 per passenger once enacted, with another increase to $750,000 in 2020.
“Eventually, our members will have triple the coverage they enjoy today when they are transported, in the course of their employment by contract carrier vehicles,” Guy said.
“While we would have preferred the full amount we believe the bill as amended still represents great value for our members who have to ride in these vans,” he said. “Now the job is to get the bill passed on the floor and moved on to the Senate.”
And that, Guy said, is best accomplished by a vigorous program of member calls to their representatives.
“Telephone outreach efforts really get results,” Guy said. “Every piece of legislation secured by UTU and SMART-TD over the years has been preceded by a member-outreach campaign. We’re urging all of our members, all members of their families, and members of other labor unions to call their state reps and ask for a ‘Yes’ vote on HB 439.”
Guy said the process is easy. Just go to the “Legislative Lookup” link on the left column of the SMART-TD home page at www.illini.utu.org. You can find the office phone number of each state rep in both Springfield and the local district. If you don’t know the name of your state rep you can input your ZIP code and find it.
“Don’t be bashful about reaching out to your representative,” Guy said. “Elected officials love to hear from constituents because their re-election depends upon staying in touch with what voters are thinking.”
Guy advised keeping calls short—one or two minutes at most—and confining the conversation to one subject: asking the member to vote “Yes” on HB 439.
“Start by identifying yourself,” he said. Then tell the person who answers the phone—whether it be your state rep or an assistant—that you’re a resident of the district, that you work as a railroad crew member, that you’re a member of SMART-TD and that you’re asking the member for a ‘Yes’ vote on HB 439 because you need to be protected by adequate personal-injury coverage when you have to travel in a contract-carrier van.
“That’s what HB 439 is all about,” he said. “Be sure to thank the other party for listening. Courtesy pays big dividends.”
Guy said telephone outreaches to legislators are successful because they work on two levels.
“First, if you keep the call short and to the point you communicate important information that helps the elected official decide how to vote,” he said.
“And when you identify yourself as a SMART-TD member you signal to your rep that you are part of a large organization that can mobilize quickly to get things done. Politicians admire that kind of focus and professionalism. Most of them already are familiar with SMART-TD and respect the union for its legislative skills and its high level of member participation and activism. When our members call, the politicians listen—and act.”