March 1, 2005
SPRINGFIELD (March 1)—The first shot in the UTU’s 2005 Illinois legislative campaign was fired today when the House Transportation Committee unanimously approved a bill mandating uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage for all railroad employees traveling in vans operated by contract carriers.
And an even bigger shot is scheduled to be fired next week when the same committee will consider a bill to prohibit railroad managers from interfering with employees’ medical treatment. UTU Illinois Legislative Dir. Joseph C. Szabo said members are being asked to contact their state representatives to make sure that both bills receive favorable votes.
The crew-van insurance bill (HB 2510), sponsored by Transportation Committee Chairman Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville), now goes to the House floor where it will undergo second reading before coming up for a vote.
UTU Ass’t. Legislative Director John Burner and Alternate Director Robert Guy were able to overcome opposition from the Illinois Railroad Association by testifying to the financial danger faced by rail workers if a van were hit by a motorist lacking insurance to compensate pay for the victims’ injuries. The bill would mandate that contract carriers transporting railroad crewmembers carry no less than $250,000 worth of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on each van passenger.
“This is just the beginning of the process,” said Szabo. “If the bill passes the House it will then move on to the Senate Transportation Committee for a hearing before being sent to the Senate floor for a vote. We will continue to track its progress and advise our members.”
Szabo said H.B. 2449, sponsored by UTU member and State Representative Eddie Washington (D-60th), would prohibit railroad managers from delaying, denying, or interfering with an injured employee’s medical treatment. HB 2449 is scheduled to come before the Transportation Committee next week.
“We are urging our members to contact their State Representative and urge support for both HB 2510 and HB 2449,” Szabo said. “Signing up for UTU’s Rapid Response at www.illini.utu.org is the quickest way. I’ll be regularly sending out updates and information on who to contact, when to contact them, and what to say.”
Szabo said it was “an outrageous practice for the railroads to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship,” but he said they would continue to do it until stopped by a law that significantly penalizes such action.
“Interference with our members’ medical treatment is a cold-dead-hands issue for our union,” Szabo said. “I urge every member to sign up for the Rapid Response feature on the UTU Illinois Web site, and be prepared to contact his or her state representative to urge a yes vote on both bills.”
“Legislation doesn’t happen by accident, but only when individual members choose to make a difference,” Szabo said. “Had enough of the carriers threatening and interfering with medical treatment? You now have an opportunity to send a message, loud and clear. The power has been placed in your hands.”
To determine contact information for your State Representative via the Internet go to http://www.elections.state.il.us/dls/pages/SelectOfficialSearch.asp