October 2, 2006

CHICAGO (Oct. 2)—UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo has been named a vice president of the Illinois AFL-CIO.

Szabo’s election comes almost exactly six months after the Illinois Legislative Board announced its return to the Illinois AFL-CIO after an absence of several years. The International UTU rejoined the National AFL-CIO shortly before the Illinois Legislative Board.

“I am honored and pleased to be made a vice president so soon after the UTU’s re-enlistment with the state AFL-CIO,” Szabo said. “I’m particularly honored because my position will enable me to work closely with President Margaret Blackshere and Secretary-Treasurer Michael Carrigan. Both are dedicated, effective union leaders whose experience and wisdom will be become very valuable in the struggles railroad employees will face over the next few years.”

Szabo said that despite the Illinois Legislative Board’s recent record of winning long-overdue health-and-safety regulations to protect its members, the railroad industry continues to target railroad jobs.

“The bottom line is, the carriers want to use a few token improvements in signal technology as an excuse to go to One Man Crews,” Szabo said. “After decades of business decline that let the industry slash payrolls, the railroads finally are flush with traffic and hiring again. But they’re alarmed by their employment-growth trend, so they’re seeking to abolish jobs even in the midst of record traffic.”

Szabo said blocking the carriers’ campaign for One Man Crews now has become the UTU’s number-one priority, and the AFL-CIO will be an invaluable ally.

“Protecting our members’ job is a battle no single union can fight alone,” Szabo said. “We have to be affiliated with the Illinois AFL-CIO. It’s got over a million members plus a leadership that can bring incredible strength to bear in the General Assembly, the governor’s office and the media.”

By the same token, Szabo said, the Illinois AFL-CIO benefits from having the UTU on board.

“It’s a question of numbers,” he said. “The railroad industry is one of the few areas of the private-sector economy in which the number of unionized employees is growing. That’s important to the AFL-CIO. Union jobs in the auto industry, the steel industry and the coal-mining industry have suffered, but in railroading they’re growing. By being part of the AFL-CIO, the UTU strengthens the size and clout of the larger organization.”

Illinois AFL-CIO President Margaret Blackshere said the Federation expects to benefit strongly not only from Szabo’s legislative experience and political knowledge, but from his experience in the railroad industry.

“We have not had anybody on our board from the railroad industry for 30 years,” she said. “Joe will offer a clear and informed voice on rail and transportation issues that has not been present on the board for a long time.”