November 8, 2006

CHICAGO (Nov. 8)—More than 90 per cent of UTU Illinois-endorsed candidates were successful in the Nov. 7 General Election, and the percentage of UTU-friendly legislators in the Illinois General Assembly actually will rise in the 2007 session, said Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo.

“Railroad employees and their families understood their mission and voted in droves yesterday,” Szabo said. “It’s going to be increasingly hard for the railroads to take away the new laws and regulations that protect the safety of our members, because we’ve got a stronger majority than ever in Springfield now.”

Szabo cited the re-election of Gov. Rod Blagojevich as the principal victory for UTU members.

“Rod has always supported our union’s efforts to win safety protection in Illinois,” he said. “He has been there when we needed him and has provided leadership to turn around the 26 years of pro-industry, anti-labor bias that existed in state government.”

Szabo said the railroad industry is continuing in its efforts to overturn the union’s legislative victories in the courts but is unlikely to succeed in the legislature.

“The additional UTU-endorsed candidates now joining the Legislature will make it more difficult for the carriers to prevail,” Szabo said,” noting he was “particularly pleased” to see the defeat of 44th Dist. State Rep. Terry Parke (R-Schaumburg) by Hoffman Estates Village Trustee Fred Crespo.

“Terry Parke was the rail industry’s leader in trying to defeat the Railroad Employees Medical Treatment Act on the House floor,” Szabo said. “I could not believe the way he attacked rail workers and defended rail management’s attempt to interfere with the medical treatment of injured workers. And we made sure every UTU member in that district knew where he stood. Call it ‘poetic justice.’”

Szabo said while he was disappointed to see that UTU-endorsed candidate Tammy Duckworth lost her bid to succeed Rep. Henry J. Hyde as U.S. Representative for the 6th District, the election overall was highly successful.

“UTU members understood what was at stake and actively participated in the process,” Szabo said. “That’s how we win – membership involvement. While we lost the Duckworth battle, we won the war for control of the US House and Senate.

Szabo hailed the re-election of UTU-endorsed candidate, Melissa Bean, as U.S. representative for the 8th District northwest of Chicago, and the election of Phil Hare to the U.S. House in the downstate 17th District.

“In the Congressional races in Illinois we set out with three goals: elect Tammy Duckworth, re-elect Melissa Bean, and elect Phil Hare,” he said. “We succeeded with Bean and Hare, and put up a tremendous fight for Duckworth in a difficult up-hill battle. That 6th District has always been a tough one for Democrats, and Tammy got 49% of the vote.”

Szabo said Bean’s victory in the 8th District was especially gratifying.

“When Melissa Bean won in 2004 a lot of people thought her election was a fluke and that she’d be gone in the next election,” Szabo said. “But Melissa, like Tammy, is a terrific fighter, and the voters proved she was not just a flash in the pan.

“As legislative director I would like to thank all of our members who rallied their friends and family to support UTU endorsed candidates. This was real participatory democracy in action, and working people and their families are going to benefit directly from the choices they made.”