September 23, 2009

CHICAGO (Sept. 23)—Mark Azzi, a Metra conductor from a three-generation railroad family, has been voted the UTU’s new Alternate Illinois Legislative Director.

Azzi, 56, succeeds Bob Blomgren, who moved up to the post of Assistant State Legislative Director when Bob Guy became State Legislative director in January.

Guy said Azzi’s election came in a runoff after two of the three candidates for the position were tied after the first ballot.

“The UTU in Illinois is very fortunate in having such a ‘deep bench,’” Guy said. “We had three candidates, all highly qualified and all very popular. That kind of member activism is one of the classic signs of a healthy and effective union.”

Azzi has a long history of both railroading and union activism.

“I’m a third-generation railroader,” he told “Hot Topics.” “My father started out as a machinist’s helper on the Pennsylvania Railroad in Mingo Junction, Ohio, in 1948. He came out here and worked 30 years on the railroad and then joined the Federal Railroad Administration in 1978 and worked for 30 more years before retiring in 1978. I’ve got a brother who joined Amtrak as a laborer in 1979 and then went to Metra, where he’s a carman and trainer. I’ve got another brother who joined the Union Pacific in 1993 as a machinist and works as a foreman in their Metra yard at California Avenue. We figure the family has 143 years of railroad experience.”

A resident of Chicago’s Northwest Side, Azzi is a conductor on Metra’s Milwaukee Road West Line between Chicago Union Station and Elgin, where he has 37 years of service.

Azzi’s union credentials go back almost as far as his employment. He was elected vice president of UTU Local # 1433 and served as its legislative representative from 1991 to 1995. He was elected alternate state legislative director in 1994 and served in that post until Feburary, 1995. He has been a member of the Chicago Federation of Labor since 1996 and is a member of both the Illinois Labor History Society and the Eugene V. Debs Society.

“On behalf of the union I want to congratulate Mark on his election and welcome him as he joins Bob Blomgren and me in advancing our legislative program in Springfield,” Guy said.

“As the economy recovers and rail traffic continues to rebound, and as President Obama’s stimulus funding enables the Illinois Department of Transportation to build new infrastructure and add new passenger trains, our members will be faced with new challenges and new opportunities. I’m glad we can count on a dedicated railroader and union man like Mark Azzi to help us meet these new challenges with confidence.”