January 19, 2009

CHICAGO (Jan. 19)—UTU Assistant Legislative Director Robert Guy was named Acting Illinois Legislative Director, and Joseph C. Szabo was summoned to Washington to serve as Acting Alternate National Legislative director following the unexpected death December 19 of longtime National Legislative Director James Brunkenhoefer (“Brokenrail”).

Szabo’s appointment announced January 15 by International President M.B. Futhey. Brother Futhey said Szabo will serve as Alternate National Legislative Director, succeeding James A. Stem, who was named to succeed Brunkenhoefer as the new National Legislative Director. Futhey said Szabo was assigned “to assist the National Legislative Director on a full-time basis.”

“Bob Guy is in full charge in Illinois,” Szabo told “Hot Topics” from the union’s legislative headquarters in Washington.

Guy, who is still moving into the Board’s Chicago office, said, “Unfortunately, we’ve lost quite a leader with Joe’s move, but in the Washington office he will now be able to use his skills on behalf of the entire international union.”

Born into a railroad family in Downstate Lincoln, Guy hired out in 1994 as a brakeman for the Southern Pacific Railroad when it was the owner of the old Chicago & Alton route connecting Chicago, Joliet, Bloomington-Normal, Springfield and St. Louis. He quickly became active in union affairs and in 1996 was elected Local Legislative Representative for UTU Local #234. Re-elected in 1999 and 2003, he was elected Alternate State Director at the UTU 2004 Quadrennial Reorganization meeting.

“Going forward, I plan to use Joe Szabo’s model of aggressive but careful legislative action,” Guy said.

“That means we work closely with the regulatory agencies to make sure that laws protecting the health and safety of our members are enforced,” he said. “It means we support the campaigns of candidates for elective office who share our members’ concerns about a safe and fairly managed workplace. It means we collaborate with our allies in the advocacy community to expand the state’s passenger-rail and commuter-rail systems and open up more jobs in the industry.”

Szabo said his and Guy’s promotions reflect the UTU’s philosophy of having a “deep bench” made up of skilled, trained professionals ready to take the playing field if a key player is lost.

“The UTU is respected nationally as an extremely effective union that consistently delivers for its members and their families, and its legislative achievements are at the core of its success” he said.

“Brokenrail was a major reason for that,” Szabo explained. “His understanding of the legislative process was unexcelled, but he never kept his ‘trade secrets’ to himself. He shared everything he knew with the next generation, and he trained his subordinates to absorb and follow the principles that worked so well for him.

“While no one could ever equal Brokenrail, I always tried to put his principles and practices into effect, and I kept them front-and-center in training Bob Guy as my successor,” Szabo said. “Our members can be confident that the Illinois Legislative Board is in strong hands, and I want to congratulate Bob and wish him every success as he plunges into his challenging new job.”