May 28, 2008

SPRINGFIELD (May 28)—The Illinois Senate has approved union-sponsored reforms to the Railroad Police Act, with four Republicans joining 31 Democrats in a 35-17 vote.

Republicans Dale Risinger (Peoria), John Jones (Mt. Vernon), Matt Murphy (Palatine) and Tim Bivins (Dixon) voted ‘yes’ with the Democratic majority. Sen. James DeLeo (Chicago) was the lone Democratic ‘no’ vote. Seven Senators were absent.

The Senate vote follows the May 7 vote in the House, which passed the measure 91-17.

The Senate bill now goes back to the House for reconciliation of differences in language between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

“The differences are procedural rather than substantive,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “The core language dealing with the rights and procedures for appealing allegations of abuse of authority by railroad police departments remains unchanged.”

The language in H.B. 5159 would make railroad police departments subject to independent, external oversight similar to civil police forces, Szabo said.

“Charges of misconduct by railroad police departments could be investigated by the Illinois State Police and sanctions imposed by the Illinois Commerce Commission.”

If the House concurs with the language in the Senate bill, it will be sent to Gov. Blagojevich for his signature.

Szabo thanked the membership for contacting their senators to ask for “Yes” votes on the critically important measure.

“Once again we have demonstrated that when UTU members get involved, legislators will vote favorably on issues that are important to railroad employees,” he said. “Our message is getting through because our members send it themselves.”

Szabo was also quick to praise the efforts of Assistant Director Robert W. Guy.

“Bob really carried the load on this effort – as his first major assignment – and truly rose to the occasion,” Szabo said.

“We also greatly benefited from the efforts of the BLET, BMWE, Illinois AFL-CIO and Chicago Federation of Labor. It was truly a ‘rail labor’ effort.

“We’re not done yet,” Szabo said. “But one thing is certain, a vast majority of Illinois House and Senate members agree with our call for objective and independent oversight of railroad police.”