February 28, 2007

CHICAGO (Feb. 28)—The executive board of the Illinois AFL-CIO, on which UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo sits as a vice president, has unanimously elected Michael T. Carrigan to be president of the one-million-member statewide labor organization.

Carrigan will serve out the remaining two years of President Margaret Blackshere’s four-year term. Blackshere recently announced she would retire.

“This was an easy call both for the executive board and the UTU,” Szabo said following the announcement. “Mike clearly has the executive ability, the trust of his vice presidents, and the years of union experience needed to become a worthy and fitting successor to a legendary labor leader like Margaret Blackshere. She will be a tough act to follow, but if anyone can do it, Mike can.”

Szabo said the UTU backed Carrigan to be Blackshere’s successor because he has continually relied on the UTU for input and counsel on transportation issues.

“Mike has a very firm grasp of the critical role that transportation—and particularly rail transportation—will play in the emerging Illinois economy,” Szabo said.

“He gets it all: the importance of growing our state-funded passenger-rail program and the critical role of Metra in keeping Chicago’s economy growing,” Szabo said. “He also understands the need to continue educating legislators on the types of abuses rail workers routinely face from rail management.”

Szabo said Carrigan’s understanding of the political process will be essential to keeping Illinois legislators focused on these issues.

“Mike came up in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Decatur,” Szabo said. “Like any effective labor leader, he knows the key legislative and executive decisionmakers in state government. He knows how to explain organized labor’s issues in terms their constituents understand.

“While we accept Margaret Blackshere’s decision to retire and salute her for her many years of leadership and stewardship, we have to acknowledge that the Federation’s in very good hands,” Szabo said. “Mike’s just a tremendously talented union officer. I’m proud to serve as one of his vice presidents.”