February 25, 2008

SPRINGFIELD (Feb. 25)—The UTU Illinois Legislative Board re-elected Joseph C. Szabo of Chicago to his fourth term as State Legislative Director and re-elected Bob Guy, Local #234 Bloomington (UP), to his first full term as Assistant State Legislative Director.

Both officers were elected by acclamation at the Board’s Quadrennial Reorganization Meeting in the state capital.

“I am deeply grateful to my brothers on the board for their support, which I see as an affirmation of our partnership in securing state legislation that safeguards the health, safety and well-being of our members,” Szabo said.

The Board also elected Bob Blomgren, Local # 577 (UP), to fill the Alternate Director position left vacant by Guy when he moved up to the Assistant Director spot last year upon the retirement of John Burner.

Lloyd Holman, Local #454 in Decatur (CN), was re-elected to his fourth term as Chairman of the Board’s Executive Committee, and John O’Brien, Local #1290 (Metra) was elected to his third term as Vice Chairman. Dan Kortum, Local #1883 (IHB) was re-elected to his third term as Secretary.

Illinois AFL-CIO President Mike Carrigan gave the welcoming address at the meeting, which was attended by UTU International General Secretary/Treasurer Kim Thompson, International Vice Presidents John Babler and J.R. Cumby and Alternate National Legislative Director James Stem.

Szabo said he and Guy plan to push the Illinois UTU agenda even harder during their new terms.

“Despite our past accomplishments, new challenges continue to threaten the well-being of our members,” he said. “In 2007 alone the Illinois Legislative Board secured more than a dozen rulings against railroads that were caught by our members violating federal regulations, including three Hours of Service violations, employee intimidation and inadequate training for Remote Controlled Operation.”

The union’s 2007 scorecard also included rulings by the Illinois Commerce Commission that five crew buildings must be upgraded or replaced.

“The railroad industry is enjoying unprecedented success and earnings, but too much of that success is coming at the cost of employees,” Szabo said.

“Dangerous workplace practices must be stopped, and workers who are injured on the job must be allowed immediate access to all appropriate medical treatment. Bob and I pledge to our members our total dedication to protection of their health and safety, and with increased help from alert members who spot and report these violations we will secure a growing number of findings and penalties against railroads that ignore workplace safety.”

But, Szabo said, he expects his next term to present not just challenges but opportunities, including new jobs.

“Our push for more state-supported passenger trains will continue and will intensify,” he said. “During my third term, three years of effort were rewarded when Illinois doubled its budget for passenger trains, creating four new Amtrak frequencies and 45 new jobs, including 30 T&E positions.

“We expect even more jobs to open up once Amtrak starts running to the Quad Cities, Rockford, Freeport and Dubuque,” Szabo said, adding:

“Whether it’s job growth, job safety or job security, both Bob and I look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting back to work.”