November 6, 2012

CHICAGO (Nov. 12)—From the Office of the President of the United States down to the Illinois General Assembly, the candidates endorsed by the UTU Illinois Legislative Board turned out to be winners.

“The overwhelming majority of candidates elected in the November 6 General Election were those endorsed by the UTU,” said Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy. “Starting with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden and working downward to the U.S. Congress and the Illinois General Assembly, the union-endorsed candidates were almost uniformly successful.”

Guy said the importance of President Obama’s re-election was critical to the interests of railroad workers.

“Barack Obama is the first U.S. president to introduce both a plan and a budget for the development of passenger-rail infrastructure and high-speed rail service in this country, and Joe Biden, who as a U.S. Senator used to commute to work on Amtrak virtually every day, is firmly behind the Obama rail buildup,” Guy said. “Now we know this effort will continue to advance.”

Guy said the passenger-rail buildup funded by President Obama’s 2009 Stimulus Act and the 2010 federal budget already have created thousands of rail-construction jobs and now are opening up new jobs building Next Generation passenger rolling stock in Illinois.

“And when that new 110-mph track and those new trains go into service, they’re going to create ridership demand that will lead to additional frequencies and more jobs for train crew and maintenance personnel,” Guy said. “Under President Obama and Vice President Biden, passenger rail will continue to be a growing industry.”

Guy pointed out that the re-election of the president and vice president also assures that key executive departments–the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration, the Federal Transit Administration and the Office of Safety and Health Administration– will continue to be led by administrators with a total commitment to safe workplaces for railroad employees.

“Safety in the workplace is both a ‘bottoms-up’ and ‘top-down’ issue,” Guy said. “Although we at the employee level can do a great deal to keep our working environment safe, that safety requires leadership from the top as well. The election results tell us we will continue to have that leadership.”

Guy called the results in the state races “outstanding.”

“In our congressional endorsements, 14 of the 15 candidates the union endorsed won their races,” he said. “That’s a 93-per-cent success rate. In the Illinois Senate, 52 out of 54-union-endorsed candidates won—a success rate of 96 per cent. In the Illinois House, 92 out of 101 endorsed candidates won, for a 91-per-cent success rate. Overall, we endorsed 171 candidates, of whom 159 were elected, for a 93-per-cent success rate.”

In the congressional victories Guy said he was particularly cheered to learn that the 17th District in the northwest part of the state now will be represented by an Amtrak supporter, Cheri Bustos, rather than by outgoing U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling, who supported House Budget Committee Chmn. Paul Ryan in his effort to cut Amtrak’s budget and conform Railroad Retirement.

“Cheri is a longtime friend of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who is among Amtrak’s top two or three advocates on Capitol Hill,” Guy said. “That’s appropriate, because within two years her district will be joined to the Amtrak system when two new daily Amtrak trains start running between Chicago and the Quad Cities.”

Guy pointed out that the UTU didn’t just endorse its candidates, it supported them with PAC money and help.

“In the six targeted congressional districts—8, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 17— and throughout Illinois we made more than 15,000 member-to-member contacts via direct mail, personal letters, local visits and robo-calls,” he said.

Guy lauded Asst. State Director Joe Ciemny for his outreach effort in the Joliet area and his initiative to distribute “Proud Union Home” yard signs to fellow UTU members and locals; and Vice Chairman Mac English for making phone calls in a key State Senate race and for attending a meet-and-greet for Cheri Bustos. He said Secretary Ron Parsons coordinated the union’s effort in the 8th Congressional District and led members of UTU Local #528 in volunteer work there.

“In the Decatur area, which has always been a politically active arena for the UTU, members Carl Draper, Clint Bundy, Steve Woosley and retired board member Lloyd Holman threw themselves into the 13th District congressional race,” Guy said.

“They also were very active in the local State Senate and House races in their part of the state. UTU Local 1402 Legislative Representative Bill Mathes volunteered his energy and political experience in several Illinois House races as well as the 12th District congressional contest. All of these members deserve our thanks for turning out the votes that put our candidates over the top.”

Guy said the volunteer efforts of UTU members in the 2012 General Election were “the most intense and committed” he had seen in any election since he became a union officer.

“And the ones I’ve named here are just a few of the volunteers who went out on the street, manned the phones and licked envelopes to reach out to their fellow members and other voters,” Guy said. “And no effort would be complete without thanking our International leadership and UTU’s ‘political guru’ Dean Mitchell.

“Our members really stepped up to the plate in the months leading up to Election Day,” Guy said. “They understood that our jobs, our safety, our medical care and our pensions were riding on the outcomes of these important elections—and they got the message through loud and clear to their fellow members, their families and their friends. I genuinely believe their work made a difference in the way this election came out, and I’m proud of every one of them.”