September 23, 2002
CHICAGO (Sept. 23) — The United Transportation Union’s Illinois Legislative Board has released its 2002 General Election endorsements, calling on members to re-elect Richard J. Durbin to a second term as the state’s senior U.S. senator and to elect U.S. Rep. Rod Blagojevich to his first term as governor and State Sen. Lisa Madigan to her first term as attorney-general.
All together, the union issued endorsements for 181 candidates. The names can be found by clicking the “Endorsements” link on the UTU Illinois Web page at www.illini.utu.org.
“The board used a very narrow set of criteria in selecting which candidates to endorse,” said Chairman Joseph C. Szabo. “Basically, we reviewed each candidate’s record. Then we identified those candidates who historically have done the best job of supporting legislation that protects the interests of railroad employees and their families.”
Both Republicans and Democrats are represented among the Board’s choices for public office.
“Party affiliation was not an issue when we made our endorsements,” Szabo said. “The real question was whether the candidate historically has favored preserving the right of railroad workers to bargain collectively and whether the candidate has supported legislation that promotes greater economic security for rail employees and their families and a safer and healthier workplace for the employee.”
Among those issues, Szabo said, was the effort to pass the first Railroad Retirement reform bill in a generation, the effort to secure a reliable, long-term funding source for Amtrak and for high-speed passenger-train infrastructure, and the still unresolved effort to manage employee fatigue in the transportation industry.
Szabo said Sen. Durbin clearly took the lead in protecting the economic interests, health and family lives of railroad workers.
“Dick Durbin was an early co-sponsor of the 2001 Railroad Retirement reform bill and used every scrap of his experience, his parliamentary skills and his clout in the Senate to get it passed,” Szabo said. “One reason is that Dick comes from a railroad family and understands the toll that railroad work can take on family life. Dick, his brother, his mother and his father all worked for the New York Central Railroad in East St. Louis, and that background has given him an extraordinary degree of insight into the problems that railroad employees face. Every railroad family in the country owes Dick a debt of gratitude, and I know our members in Illinois will show their gratitude in the voting booth on November 5.”
Szabo praised Rep. Blagojevich on much the same terms, noting his early and undeviating support for Railroad Retirement reform when he served in the U.S. House of Representatives.
“There’s no mystery why the UTU was the first labor union to endorse Rod Blagojevich in the Primary Election,” Szabo said. “And Rod appreciates our taking the initiative. Our union has become part of Rod’s decisionmaking process.”
Szabo said the union also enjoys a positive relationship with Sen. Madigan and looks forward to her election as attorney-general.
“Some people may wonder how the attorney-general of a state can affect the lives of railroad employees,” Szabo said. “The answer is that the attorney-general is the ‘people’s lawyer.’ It is attorneys-general across the nation who have brought lawsuits against companies that manufactured dangerous products, or released toxic emissions into the environment, or permitted unsafe workplaces where employees where injured or killed, or where they developed fatal diseases.
“As a legislator Lisa Madigan has always taken the initiative on behalf of working families,” Szabo said. “We expect she would continue to defend their interests in the attorney-general’s office. I urge our members and their families to give her that chance.”