March 2, 2004

SPRINGFIELD (March 2)—UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo and Ass’t. Dir. John Burner, both two-term veterans, were re-elected to their third consecutive four-year terms by acclamation yesterday at the 9th Quadrennial Organizational Meeting of the UTU Illinois Legislative Board.

UTU Local #453 Chairman and Legislative Representative Lloyd Holman was re-elected to his post as Chairman of the Executive Committee, and Local #1290 Legislative Representative John O’Brien was re-elected Vice Chairman, both by acclamation.

Local # 1883 Legislative Representative Danny Kortum was elected to his second term as Secretary, and Local #234 Legislative Director Bob Guy was elected to his first term as Alternate State Director, both by acclamation.

National Legislative Director James Brunkenhoefer flew out from Washington on Sunday night to meet with the 39 Local Legislative Representatives who make up the Illinois Legislative Board. The body also was addressed by International Vice Presidents Bruce Wigent, Pat Drennan, David Hakey and Yardmasters Vice President J. R. Cumby.

And the union’s veteran Washington attorney, Larry Mann, praised Szabo for his effectiveness in protecting his members’ interests but joked that Szabo at times has been overzealous.

“He keeps calling me at home,” Mann said with a laugh.

Illinois Dept. of Transportation Sec. Tim Martin also joked about Szabo’s work ethic, telling Board members at the March 1 dinner that “On my first day on the job Joe Szabo was my first appointment. He handed me the Report of the Governor’s Transportation Transition Team and told me about all the things state government needed to do to build up rail in Illinois.”

Martin told the Board that the Transition Team’s Report rail priorities had been heeded by the Governor, who now is pushing for passage of House Bill 4881 to consolidate all of the state’s rail policymaking and safety regulation in a single agency within IDOT.

“The Secretary made it clear that Gov. Blagojevich wants to see advancements in passenger rail, wants to see the CREATE program funded so that Chicago’s rail network can be modernized, and supports a walkway-safety rule in place to protect railroad employees who work on the ground,” Szabo said.

At Tuesday’s meeting Chicago Transportation Commissioner Miguel d’Escoto appeared before the Board with a 30-minute PowerPoint presentation explaining details of the CREATE program and the modernization of the rail infrastructure in the Chicago gateway. D’Escoto praised Szabo for his integral role in familiarizing city and state transportation officials with the problems in the state’s rail infrastructure and with his proposals for solutions.

“I think the presence of these two prominent figures at the Quadrennial Meeting shows how seriously our union is taken in the halls of government,” Szabo said. “Tim Martin and Miguel d’Escoto both told us they are relying on the UTU for accurate information about the state of the rail industry in Illinois.

“The reason for their respect is no secret,” Szabo said. “Our members make the difference and are known for their political activism—both in contributing to political campaigns and in contacting elected officials to seek their votes for important railroad and labor legislation.

“The strong Illinois Legislative Board we now have in place, along with the new blood that is bringing fresh strength to the Board, will continue that tradition of getting involved in policymaking and lawmaking.”