August 15, 2011

SPRINGFIELD (Aug. 15)—Gov. Pat Quinn has signed UTU-sponsored legislation requiring all contract-carrier vehicles that carry railroad crews to be equipped with first-aid kits.

House Bill 1573 mandates that the kits must contain the same basic medical supplies that already are mandatory on locomotives, trains and railroad-owned motor vehicles.

The legislation is effective upon the governor’s signature, but UTU Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy said it does allow time for the van operators to acquire and install the necessary equipment.

“They knew this was coming, but legally they were not actually obligated to start installing the kits in their vehicles until the governor’s signature was on the legislation,” Guy said. “We expect it will be a matter of several weeks before all affected vehicles are equipped.”

Guy said the Board decided to draft the necessary legislation after Brother Bill Mathes, Legislative Representative of Local #1402, raised the issue at the last re-organization meeting and noted that members riding in contract-carrier vans often were traveling at higher speeds on the highway than aboard the trains they worked yet did not have access to a first-aid kit in the event of a minor accident.

“As we all know, highway travel is statistically much more dangerous than rail travel, yet the vans in which we were riding to work had a lower level of simple medical protection than the much safer locomotives where we were spending our workdays,” Guy said.

“Bill made an eloquent case for putting first-aid kits in those vans,” he said. “The Board heard him loud and clear, and now it’s the law. Our members—in fact, all members of the operating crew–will have access to a simple first-aid kit regardless of where they are during their tour of duty.”

Guy said the signing of H.B. 1573 marked the second year in a row the UTU was able to navigate a bill through the Illinois General Assembly from introduction to the governor’s signature.

“And it’s the second year in a row that Asst. State Director Bob Blomgren was able to contribute to that process,” Guy said. “Bob has really shown strong professional growth over the last couple of years, and his confidence and knowledge of the General Assembly and the political process continues to grow. Considering that we had to throw him into the mix very early on, he’s done a remarkable job.”

Guy said passage of the first-aid-kit measure is another successful example of the UTU’s bottom-up philosophy of member activism.

“Even an issue seemingly as simple as first-aid kits could not be resolved without the involvement and outreach from our members,” Guy said.

“Our most effective and successful initiatives tend to be the ones initiated by the brothers and sisters. They observe what goes on in the workplace and bring their concerns—particularly concerns about health and safety—to the attention of their local leadership for possible legislative action. The Board urges all members to be alert at all times to potential safety or health hazards and to share their concerns with their local leadership.

“As H.B. 1573 proves, we know how to turn member concerns into action.”