June 23, 2010

CHICAGO (June 24)—If an officer of your UTU local reaches out to you to verify your home address in the next month or so, don’t be surprised.

It’s part of the preparation for a national UTU effort to ensure all members and their spouses are registered for the 2010 mid-term elections. If your address is outdated, chances are your voter registration is too.

“Your voter registration is valid only if you currently live at the address shown on your voter-registration card,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy. “If you’ve moved since the last time you voted, your old voter registration won’t be valid for the election in November. You have to re-register.”

Voters are registered by the precinct in which they live, Guy said, and because precincts are the smallest electoral unit, a change of address almost always involves a change of precinct and requires the voter to re-register under the new address.

“So the first stage in the UTU’s 2010 Get Out The Vote drive is to make sure we have current addresses for all members,” Guy said. “Although the GOTV campaign is a national one, members will be approached only by officers of their respective locals.”

Guy said the union is particularly concerned about having updated addresses for younger members.

“New and younger members tend to move more often than older ones,” he said. “Retirees and those approaching retirement move very seldom, but younger members may move more often as their families grow, and new hires often move shortly after they are hired. It’s also common in the rail industry to follow your “seniority” to ensure that you are working full time, which may mean re-locating from time to time.”

Once the union has updated addresses it can start sending reminders urging the relocated members to re-register, Guy said. He emphasized that member information is not sold to, or shared with, other organizations and is used only to promote member-to-member communication.

“This entire project is about having the ability to communicate with our brothers and sisters about information that should be important for them when it comes time for them to cast their vote in the fall,” he said.

The ultimate reason for the address-updating campaign is to make sure that the largest possible number of UTU members and spouses cast a vote in the 2010 elections.

“Voting tends to drop off in mid-term elections,” Guy said. “If there’s no election for president, lots of voters lose interest. Elections for the U.S. House and Senate and state offices are not seen as ‘sexy.’”

But UTU members can’t afford to relax in 2010, he said, because issues critical to members’ health and well-being will be at stake.

“The advances we’ve made in job security, workplace safety and regulatory compliance could be reversed if enough seats change hands in Congress or in the Illinois General Assembly,” Guy said. “We cannot permit that to happen. We must continue to make sure that these seats are won by UTU-endorsed candidates who support the UTU’s goals and programs.”

That means every UTU member and family member must register and vote, Guy said.

“Some of these races are going to be very close,” he said. “The UTU has almost 10,000 active and retired members in Illinois. A pool of votes that large can determine the outcome of a statewide election. Even the votes of a 200-member local can tip an election in one legislative district.

“And in a mid-term election, when the total number of voters is lower, the power of those who do vote becomes proportionately greater,” Guy pointed out.

“A tiny number of votes can determine who wins a critically important seat in a legislature,” he said.

“So if an officer of your local asks you for an updated address, share that information proudly,” Guy said. “It’s the first step in the UTU’s 2010 Get Out The Vote campaign, which is the first step on the way to a safer workplace and a more secure job.

“Not voting is like letting someone else control your future,” Guy said. “One vote counts. Your vote matters.”