March 30, 2006

CHICAGO (March 30)—Following the lead of its international union, the Illinois Legislative Board of the United Transportation Union has re-affiliated with the Illinois AFL-CIO.

The re-affiliation at the national level has resulted in UTU International President Paul Thompson being named an executive vice president of the national AFL-CIO. UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo said the re-affiliation “can only make both parties stronger.”

“The Illinois AFL-CIO represents over one million private-sector and public employees in the state of Illinois,” Szabo said. “Their interests are virtually the same as those of our members—job security, decent wages and benefits, and safety in the workplace. UTU’s experience in winning those victories for its members strengthens the AFL-CIO’s efforts to secure the same advantages for all its members, while AFL-CIO’s strengths become a resource that once again can be shared with the UTU. It’s all about solidarity and strength in numbers.”

Szabo said that even during the years when the UTU was not affiliated with the AFL-CIO, “Our informal relationship always remained strong” and that the Illinois Legislative Board remained in cordial and frequent communication with Illinois AFL-CIO President Margaret Blackshere.

“I had promised Margaret we’d be back and they never deserted us,” Szabo said. “Last year they were very helpful to us in making our case in the Illinois General Assembly for the Railroad Employees Medical Treatment Act. They understood how essential that legislation was for our members, and they put their shoulder to the same wheel we were trying to move. They’ve also been helping us work the State House to get funding for four more Amtrak frequencies in the state.”

We look forward to working even more closely with the Illinois AFL-CIO now that we’re once again formally a part of it,” Szabo said. “And that includes not only having their assistance with UTU’s agenda, but committing UTU’s resources to helping our fellow unions achieve their own goals. The AFL-CIO is the one place where the interests of all working people converge.”

Blackshere welcomed the UTU back into the AFL-CIO, saying “We’re certainly very excited about the UTU’s return, and we’re looking forward to working with them on transit issues. Joe Szabo is somebody we’ve worked with for many years in the General Assembly and we have great respect for his skills. We’re just thrilled to be going forward.”