September 24, 2012
CHICAGO (Sept. 24)—President Barack Obama heads the bi-partisan list of candidates endorsed by the UTU Illinois Legislative Board in the 2012 General Election.
Obama and his running mate, Vice President Joe Biden, won the Board’s approval for their pro-labor, railroad worker safety and pro-passenger-train platforms.
“President Obama is the first chief executive in our nation’s history to send Congress a program for a modern railroad infrastructure to support a growing network of fast passenger trains,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Dir. Robert W. Guy.
“The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act contained more than $8 billion to build new track and signaling systems for passenger trains.
“And more than $1 billion of that money is being spent in Illinois,” Guy said. “It’s creating hundreds of railroad construction jobs in our state and setting the stage for a massive ramp-up in passenger-train ridership and the hiring and training of additional crews to man a growing fleet of IDOT-funded passenger trains.”
Guy said Obama also was endorsed for his pledge to defend Medicare, Social Security, Railroad Retirement, Amtrak and a host of other federal programs that assure railroaders—as well as other industrial employees–of a safe workplace, a fair collective-bargaining system and a secure retirement.
“The president’s opponent, Mitt Romney, has promised to end Amtrak and phase out Railroad Retirement and Social Security, and is certainly no friend of labor,” Guy said. “Railroaders and other employees would be forced to set up their own investment programs and hope they earned enough of a return to assure retirement.”
Guy emphasized that UTU endorsements are bi-partisan.
“The Board chooses candidates exclusively on their positions on the issues that affect our members and their families,” he said.
“Safety in the workplace is Number One with railroad employees, because our jobs are inherently dangerous,” Guy said. “Candidates who support legislation that makes railroad work safer will always receive the union’s whole-hearted endorsement regardless of their positions on other issues.”
The possibility of injury also makes the union very concerned about what happens after a worker is injured on the job, Guy said.
“That’s why our union endorses candidates who support the right of an injured employee to receive prompt, professional medical treatment without interference or delay by the employer.”
The Board’s endorsements can be found at www.illini.utu.org.
Guy also reminded members to use Early Voting.
“Most of our members do not hold down a regular assignment, so they cannot be sure they will be off duty and available to go to a polling place on November 6,” he said. “The best policy for most railroad workers—and especially for operating crews—is to exercise your Early Voting rights.”
The Early Voting period in Illinois this year is from October 22 to November 3, inclusive.
In most jurisdictions, Early Voting can be done at the county clerk’s office in the County Building. In larger cities, it’s also available at City Hall. Simply call your county clerk’s office or city board of elections to learn the locations and hours, or visit www.elections.il.gov. If you live in a college town, you probably will be able to vote early at a site on campus. Check with the college administration for details.
Voters casting an early ballot must display valid identification, such as a driver’s license, a state-issued ID card or other government-issued ID with a photograph.
Absentee ballots also may be cast during the Early voting period. Contact your local board of elections for details.
And remember, you can’t vote if you’re not registered. The Grace Period for registration and voting is October 10-November 3, inclusive.
“All UTU members need to understand that the benefits and protections we enjoy as railroad employees were not handed to us by the railroads for which we work,” Guy said.
“Those benefits and protections were won for us by legislators who understood the nature of our work and agreed to pass legislation that would make our workplace a little safer and would assure us of prompt, professional medical treatment when safety efforts failed,” he said.
“It was friendly legislators who made sure we get to ride in safe crew vans operated by trained and rested employees,” Guy said. “It was friendly legislators who made sure that yard crews have even, unobstructed, well drained walkways on which to perform their work. It was friendly legislators who made it illegal for railroad officials to delay an injured worker’s medical treatment or ‘steer’ an injured worker to a company doctor.
“A UTU endorsement is the voter’s guarantee that the candidate can be trusted with the interests of railroad employees and their families,” Guy said.
“But the key is not the union’s endorsement. The key is your vote. Make sure you’re registered, make sure you vote, and make sure you vote early.”