July 1, 2002

CHICAGO (July 1)–With Congress in recess until after the 4th of July holiday, Illinois UTU members just got another window of opportunity in which to contact Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) to seek his support for passenger rail funding.

And for members in Central Illinois, that window just opened extra-wide: They can meet with the Senator this evening at a town meeting in Springfield.

Fitzgerald’s office said the Senator will hold a town meeting tonight (Monday) at 6 p.m. on the University of Illinois campus at Springfield. The forum, which is open to the public, will be held in the Studio Theater of the Public Affairs Center at 4900 Shepherd Road.
It’s a meeting, not a prepared speech, and all who attend are encouraged to ask questions on any matter of public concern.

“This is a perfect opportunity for our members in Central Illinois to meet face-to-face with Sen. Fitzgerald and let him know about the importance of passing S. 1991, the new National Defense Rail Act sponsored by Sen. Fritz Hollings [D-S.C.]” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo.

“I would very strongly urge that any members based in Springfield, Decatur, Champaign, Bloomington, and even points as far away as E. St. Louis and Peoria, set aside the time to drive to Springfield this afternoon and take part in Sen. Fitzgerald’s forum,” Szabo said.

“The Senator already has said he will vote for S.1991,” Szabo said, “but we need a strong showing from rail labor to let him know we need him to declare himself a co-sponsor as well. Members of other rail unions should be encouraged to attend as well. Sen. Fitzgerald’s co-sponsorship of S. 1991 will send a strong message to the House of Representatives that it should follow the Senate’s lead and commit the nation to a sustained buildup of passenger-rail service and infrastructure.”

Szabo said S.1991 is a “must item” for rail labor because it would be the first legislation to provide sustained, long-term federal funding devoted to planning and building modern rail infrastructure the same way the federal government funds highways, airports, air-traffic control and Inland waterways.

“By expanding the capacity of the nation’s rail system, S. 1991 would permit both Amtrak and the freight railroads to operate more trains at higher speeds and with greater safety,” Szabo said.

“That translates into more mobility options for the nation’s travelers and overseas visitors and more frequent and reliable rail shipping options for industry–all of which translates into more train operations and more jobs for the nation rail employees,” Szabo said.

Szabo recommended that those UTU members not able to attend the Springfield meeting tonight use a small amount of their free time during the next week to call Sen. Fitzgerald’s district office to seek his co-sponsorship.

“The House and Senate will be adjourned for the holiday weekend until next Monday, July 8,” Szabo said. “Sen. Fitzgerald will be back in the state during most of that time, so we are urging our members to call one of his district offices rather than his Senate office in Washington. Members in the Chicago area should call his downtown office at (312) 886-3506. Downstaters can call the Springfield office at (217) 492-5089.

“Remember to keep your message short and simple,” Szabo said. “Tell the staffer who picks up your call that you are a railroad employee and that you are urging Sen. Fitzgerald to become a co-sponsor of S. 1991. They’ll know what you mean. As soon as you’ve delivered the message, thank the staffer and hang up to make room for the next caller.”