March 13, 2006

CHICAGO (March 13)—Gov. Rod Blagojevich has won the UTU Illinois Legislative Board’s endorsement in the Democratic primary race for governor, while Knox County State’s Attorney Paul Mangieri was named as the union’s Democratic choice for state treasurer.

UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo said the endorsements were issued because of the pro-labor records of both elected officials, including long records of responsiveness to the needs of UTU members and their families.

“We must not forget that some of the most important progress in protecting the rights and safety of railroad workers in Illinois was made under Gov. Blagojevich—and because of Gov. Blagojevich,” said Szabo.

“The Safe Walkways Rule now being enforced by the Illinois Commerce Commission; the Cew Van Safety Act now being enforced by the Illinois State Police; the Whistleblower Act, which protects employees against corporate retaliation when they expose dangerous working conditions; and the Railroad Employees Medical Treatment Act that bars railroad management from interfering with the employee’s doctor-patient relationship—all of this legislation we owe to Gov. Blagojevich,” Szabo said.

“Not all of our efforts had been successful under earlier governors,” Szabo said. “But with Rod it’s been different. He wanted us to have these protections and he came through for us. With his help we’ve started to turn around a whole generation of anti-worker, pro-management policies that previous administrations refused to disturb.

“We are making progress in improving the rights and working conditions of rail workers,” Szabo said. “It is a slow process, but under Governor Blagojevich we are making steady progress. We need—and Rod definitely deserves—a second term in which to complete the work he’s started on behalf of UTU members.”

Szabo said the union decided to give its nod to Paul Mangieri in the Democratic primary for the state treasurer nomination because of the widespread support he already enjoys among the hundreds of railroad families in his home town of Galesburg and because of his pro-labor record generally.

“Paul is widely respected by those railroad workers because as Knox County State’s Attorney he has taken a strong stand toward some of the corporate employers who have tried to move jobs out of the community,” Szabo said.

“Paul also has a personal relationship with hundreds of our members and regularly attends UTU functions. It is a close relationship between Paul and the UTU. We couldn’t be better served than to have him in statewide office.

“And he brings a lot of Downstate presence to the race, which is important,” Szabo added. “Sometimes a ticket can get a little unbalanced and tilt toward Chicago. With Paul we add a good downstate presence. We couldn’t be more pleased to support somebody who has been such a good friend to our members and has such strong support in the western part of the state.”

Szabo reminded UTU members that they need not let an erratic or unpredictable railroad work schedule prevent them from voting in the March 21 primary.

“Anyone who can’t get to a polling place on Election Day has the right to vote early—before March 17th,” he said. “In fact, I voted this morning. Just call your local County Building or City Hall. All County Buildings are open for early voting—and a lot of City Halls are too. The last day is this Thursday, March 16th. Call the one that’s most convenient for you to reach, find out what their hours are—and go vote for Rod Blagojevich and Paul Mangieri. It’s a quick and easy way to keep up the pro-union momentum.”