July 24, 2003

CHICAGO (July 24)–When UTU members reach out to their elected representatives, they get results–laws that protect railroad workers and their jobs. It’s been proven time and time again with issues such as Railroad Retirement Reform, crew-van safety and maintaining a national passenger-train service.

Now those results will be coming even faster as the Illinois Legislative Board sets up a computerized Rapid Response System to alert rail employees when legislative action is needed.

“The way it works is simple,” said Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo: “Whenever a piece of legislation important to UTU members is under consideration, our office will alert the members immediately via their e-mail. The alert will have two components: a short explanation of the legislation, followed by a brief but powerful message that members can phone, fax or e-mail to their representative in Congress or the Illinois General Assembly. Each alert will contain the phone numbers, fax numbers and e-mail addresses of legislators targeted for outreach.”

Before the system can be launched, however, the Board must have each member’s ZIP code, as well as e-mail address.

“Those members who are on-line can register by clicking a new link that’s just been set up on the Illinois Legislative Board’s home page,” Szabo said. “Click ‘Rapid Response Registration’ at the bottom of the left-hand column to display a registration form. Then enter your name, ZIP code, county and e-mail address. That’s it. You will be alerted instantly whenever there is a need for our members to reach out to elected or appointed officials.”

Szabo said members can provide the same information on a sign-up sheet that will be circulated by all local legislative representatives..

“Being registered means the Board will be able to reach members with advisories as soon as the need develops, and members will turn around and communicate their concern to their elected officials much faster than in the past,” Szabo said.

“The Rapid Response System makes the UTU much more nimble, and that makes all of us more powerful,” he said. “Legislators really respect constituents who are organized and confront an issue promptly with clear and concise arguments.”

Szabo said the ZIP code and county features are particularly important because they save wasted effort.

“If the union has an issue requiring passage of certain legislation and only two or three votes are needed to make a majority, the Legislative Board can use the ZIP code and county features to mobilize only the members who live in districts represented by those legislators,” he said. “If we published the same alert in “Hot Topics” it would be wasted on several hundred members who don’t live in districts represented by the legislators we need to reach. This is a very powerful, very strategic tool for influencing legislative decisionmaking.”

Szabo said the new Rapid Response system can go into effect as soon as members register, and the more members are registered, the better it will work.

“Rapid Response multiplies our voice and makes us more powerful with political decisionmakers,” he said. “The political process is controlled by those who choose to get involved. The Membership Rapid Response System makes political involvement so easy it’s virtually painless.”