April 27, 2010

SPRINGFIELD (April 27)—House Bill 4987, the measure that raises the penalty for vandals and pranksters who interfere with railroad operations, passed the Senate by a vote of 56-0 on April 27th.

The bill will now go to Gov. Pat Quinn for his signature.

“We can only hope that our crews never have to suffer from these willful acts of so-called pranksters, but at least now there will be more incentive for state and local law enforcement agencies to investigate these acts and more ammunition for local prosecutors to use should offenders be apprehended” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy.

Guy thanked Asst. State Director Bob Blomgren and UTU members for their help in getting the measure through both chambers of the General Assembly without opposition.

“This was really Bob’s first experience working on legislation from the drafting phase to getting it through both chambers,” Guy said. “He did a great job.”

Guy praised the membership for a phone-call outreach to their state legislators.

“Once again, union members did the essential work that leads to a safer workplace,” he said. “When the union leadership asked, they acted—by reaching out to their elected representatives and asking them to vote ‘yes’ on vital safety legislation. I encountered numerous Senate offices that had received calls from our members, and it showed.”

Under HB 4987, anyone who willfully places an object on or adjacent to an active railroad track in a way that causes an operating crew to take adverse action can now be subjected to steep fines and or imprisonment—even if the action results in no injury or property damage.

“The simple act of causing a train crew to initiate an emergency stop could now be a felony,” Guy said. “It’s not a ‘prank’ and it’s not vandalism. It’s a serious interference with safe railroad operations and in many cases has become a source of anxiety and trauma to train-crew members.

“We all know there are two main reasons we take such drastic actions with a swiftly moving train,” Guy said: “to protect ourselves or the public. For us to take this adverse action for the sake of someone else’s enjoyment is cruel, and the Illinois General Assembly agreed.”

Guy called the quick and unanimous passage of HB 4987 a tribute to the effectiveness of union solidarity.

“When we act together to protect our safety and the well-being of our families, there’s nothing we can’t achieve,” he said.