September 3, 2008

CHICAGO (Sept. 3)—The UTU Illinois Legislative Board has endorsed 175 candidates running in the November 4 General Election, with U.S. Sen. Richard J. Durbin heading the list as he campaigns for his third term.

A former railroad employee who rose to become the Senate Majority Whip, Durbin won the UTU endorsement for his solid pro-labor record as well as his successful work in helping Illinois expand its network of Amtrak passenger trains.

“If there is one reason railroad jobs are expanding in Illinois, that reason is Dick Durbin,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “His effort to grow the network has been relentless. And if there is one reason railroad work in Illinois is becoming safer, you can thank Dick Durbin for that too. He has stayed actively, continuously and successfully at the forefront of the fight for stronger federal safety legislation. Our union is proud to give him its endorsement.”

Szabo said the Illinois Legislative Board also is proud and delighted that the International union has endorsed Illinois’ junior U.S. senator, Barack Obama, for president.

“Barack’s pro-labor record in both the Illinois Senate and the U.S. Senate is impeccable,” Szabo said. “Between Dick Durbin and Barack Obama, Illinois union members—and railroaders especially—are glowing with pride.”

But electing a pro-labor president and U.S. senator are not enough to guarantee the economic security and workplace safety that UTU members need and deserve, Szabo said.

“That’s why our union has endorsed 174 other candidates for the Illinois House and Senate in the 2008 General Election,” he said. “Protecting our jobs and our health requires all the friends we can get at every level of government. The Illinois Legislative Board is calling on all UTU members and all voters in UTU households to consult these endorsements, to use them as guidelines, and to vote for the union-endorsed candidates November 4.”

To view the endorsements on the Legislative Board’s Web site simply go to the top of the left column under the heading “IL Legislative Board” and click “2008 General Election Endorsements.”

Szabo noted that, as in all previous elections, the UTU 2008 endorsements are non-partisan.

“When the Illinois Legislative Board sits down to consider candidates for endorsement, its members apply only one standard,” Szabo said: “Does this candidate have a record of supporting legislation that is in the interests of railroad employees and their families? If a candidate’s positions favor the health, safety and economic security of our members, that candidate gets the UTU endorsement regardless of party affiliation. It’s that simple.”

All incumbents who voted in favor of key UTU initiatives in Illinois, such as the Safe Walkways Act, the Railroad Employees Medical Treatment Act, the Contract Carrier Safety Act and recent amendments to the Railroad Police Act, receive the UTU Legislative Board’s endorsements, Szabo said.

“We don’t care what their positions are on other issues,” he said. “We simply want elected officials who will make sure our members have a safe and fairly managed workplace and protection for their jobs.”

Szabo said that at the federal level the most pressing issues will continue to be the industry’s push for one-man crews and the threat that a Presidential Emergency Board might influence the terms of the union’s contract with the carriers.

“The carriers are always going to be seeking a ‘rubber-stamp’ PEB, and they are always going to be looking for ways to abolish jobs,” Szabo said. “Our only defense against these threats is the ballot box. Dick Durbin has steadfastly stood with our members on these critical issues, which is why we have consistently given him our endorsement.”

Szabo also urged all members who are not now registered to vote to do so immediately.

“Registering to vote is as simple as going to our Web site and clicking on ‘Voter Registration,’” he said. “But do it now. Registration closes October 7.”

Szabo reminded the membership that UTU votes really count.

“As a UTU member you have much more power than you realize to protect your job and improve your working conditions,” Szabo said. “Non-unionized workers do not have this kind of power at the ballot box. Your union membership multiplies the power of your vote. Don’t waste that power. Use it!”