February 3, 2003

CHICAGO (Feb.3)–The UTU Illinois Legislative Board issued an emergency appeal to its members today, asking them to contact U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.)and have him add his signature to a letter by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.)calling for full Amtrak funding at $1.2 billion for Fiscal Year 2003.

“Sen. Hutchison’s letter could be a major break for Amtrak if union members follow up on it,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph T. Szabo. “The Democrats in the Senate are solidly behind full funding of Amtrak, but they need support from the Republican majority to get a funding bill passed. Our job in Illinois now is to get our state’s Republican senator, Peter Fitzgerald, to add his signature to Sen Hutchison’s letter.”

Because time is short, Szabo said, members should forget about letters and faxes and simply call Fitzgerald’s Washington office at (202) 224-2854.

“Just tell the person who answers the phone that you are asking Sen. Fitzgerald to sign Sen. Hutchison’s letter of support for Amtrak,” Szabo said. “No further explanation is needed. They’ll know what you’re talking about.”

Although her Republican affiliation and Texas origins might suggest an antipathy toward passenger trains, Sen. Hutchison has been an outspoken supporter of Amtrak throughout her tenure in Washington. She has fiercely defended her state’s Amtrak trains, chiefly the Texas Eagle and the Sunset Limited, against all efforts to curtail or abolish them, and has met frequently with mayors and other officials representing communities along their routes. In 1996 she was instrumental in developing funding to launch the Heartland Flyer, a daily Amtrak train between Dallas-Fort Worth and Oklahoma City.

“We have always been able to count on Kay Bailey-Hutchison to fight for Amtrak funding, and now she is showing once again that she is worthy of our trust,” Szabo said. “All rail union members and their families in Illinois should now reach out to Sen. Fitzgerald and ask him to sign Sen. Hutchison’s letter.”