April 21, 2005

SPRINGFIELD (April 21)—H.B. 2449, the landmark bill that would prohibit railroad managers from delaying, denying or interfering with an injured employees’ medical treatment, has moved to the Illinois State Senate and has picked up bi-partisan and multi-regional support.

The Chief Sponsor will be State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) a former 14-year States Attorney from Madison County.

Balancing the list of cosponsors are Sen. John O. Jones (R-Mt. Vernon), Asst. Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson (D-Chicago Heights), Dale Reisinger (R-Peoria), and Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Tony Munoz (D-Chicago).

“That gives us sponsors from both parties and from the Chicago area as well as Downstate,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “Plus three of the co-sponsors—Munoz, Reisinger and Halvorson—are members of the Transportation Committee.”

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Transportation Committee where it should be heard on May 3rd.

Szabo said he was particularly pleased to have Sen. Haine taking the lead on HB 2449, given Haine’s 14 years’ experience as a public prosecutor—a useful background in advocating a bill that makes denying, delaying or interfering with an injured employee’s medical treatment an action subject to criminal prosecution.

“The rail industry argued in the House that enforcing the language in HB 2449 would cause chaos for States Attorneys to prosecute,” Szabo said. “But Sen. Haine assisted us in the House with Amendment #1 which helped ensure language that was well defined and clearly enforceable. His years of experience as a States Attorney have help to give us a law that they can clearly execute.”

Szabo said that the battle in the Senate would be even tougher than the hard-fought battle won in the House.

“The Senate represents the last chance for the railroads to stop H.B. 2449, and they are leaving no stone unturned in their effort to beat us,” he said. “The intensity has clearly increased.”

Szabo said the only way to overcome the railroads’ war chest and cast of lobbyists is for rail employees to call their state senators and urge a ‘Yes’ vote on H.B. 2449.

“That’s how we got H.B. 2449 passed in the House April 13,” he said. “So many calls came in from railroad employees that the House couldn’t ignore us. Now we need to do the same thing – even better – in the Senate.”

Szabo said that employees who don’t know the name or phone number of their state senators should simply use the Internet locator feature at http://www.elections.state.il.us/dis/pages/SelectOfficialSearch.asp

Tell the person who answers the phone that you’re a railroad employee and you’re asking the senator to “Support H.B. 2449.”

Szabo said that employees who have had personal experience with a manager who tried to delay, deny or interfere with an injured employee’s medical treatment should share that real-life story. “Nothing beats a real-life story,” he said.

“This is an instant replay,” Szabo said. “You did it – and did it well – in the House and you won. You’ll need to do it again, and recruit your coworkers, with even more intensity to win in the Senate. Once again, this victory will be entirely up to you.”