January 18, 2005

CHICAGO (Jan. 18)—The UTU became a bigger union in Illinois last year, with membership up by more than 5 per cent and member contributions to UTU PAC up by more than 7 per cent.

“We’re not only a bigger union but a more effective one politically,” said Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “Thanks to our members’ increasing commitment, UTU in 2004 was able to offer more campaign funding to candidates who supported legislation that helps working families. And thanks to increased use of our Rapid Response Program, our growing membership was able to reach out to more legislators and win votes for more of the programs UTU members need.”

Chief among those victories, Szabo said, was the passage in 2004 of a law mandating the Illinois Commerce Commission to establish a new Rule that obliges railroads in the state to maintain safe walkways at all points where employees regularly perform work on the ground.

“We got the safe-walkways bill for two reasons,” Szabo said: “We’re committed and we’re well organized to accomplish our political goals. Legislators and decision makers in state government correctly perceive the UTU as a union that understands its members’ needs and knows how to organize its members to influence the political process. They know we have grown to more than 5,000 active members now, and they know that more and more of our members are contributing to UTU PAC. They respect us and they listen to us.”

Szabo stated that members in Illinois are now averaging $2.04 per month in contributions to UTU PAC and moving closer to the statewide goal of $3.00 per member per month. “We continue to move forward,” he said.

The biggest growth in donations came at UTU Local No. 577, which represents employees at Union Pacific’s giant Proviso Yard complex west of Chicago. UTU PAC contributions at this local rose by $338 per month.

The second-largest increase in UTU PAC donations came at Local No. 195, which represents Burlington Northern Santa Fe employees at Galesburg. Donations there rose by $185 per month.

The third-largest increase came at Local No. 1299, representing former Illinois Central (now Canadian National) employees in Chicago. Their contributions more than doubled—up by $162.80 per month.

On a per-member basis, the largest increase in contributions came at Local 1003, representing Norfolk Southern employees in Kankakee. The average donation there jumped from $3.16 per employee per month to $5.83.

“The big jump in donations on the NS at Kankakee probably had a lot to do with the death of Brother Steve Hall in a switching accident last January,” Szabo said.

“Our members in Local 1003 correctly perceived that Brother Hall’s death was due to an unsafe walkway, and they responded by increasing their political activity because they knew that a safe-walkway bill was the only way we were going to make sure these kinds of accidents never happen again,” Szabo said. “They showed real political sophistication and they put their money where it counted.”

Szabo said Local No. 432 in Champaign took second place in raising its contribution-per-member, going from a 2003 monthly rate of $4.24 per member to a 2004 rate of $5.91.

The third-best performance came from Local No. 597, representing Union Pacific locomotive engineers at Proviso. Donations there rose from $3.08 to $4.52 per member per month.

“All of these figures indicate a union that is growing in size and growing in political strength and influence,” Szabo said. “Our members are making good things happen for themselves and their families. We now seem to be in a positive cycle where growing membership enables us to accomplish more, while our accomplishments help us attract more members. It’s been a good year, and our members deserve the credit.”