July 19, 2010

SPRINGFIELD (July 19)—The UTU Illinois Legislative Board is proud to announce its participation in this year’s rail exhibit at the Illinois State Fair.

“Illinois: Rail Capital of America” will be the theme of the 2010 State Fair rail exhibit, and volunteers will include employees from the state’s major carriers and the industry’s major labor unions. The UTU will be joined by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees (BMWE) in helping visitors to the tent understand the unprecedented revival of America’s rail industry and its long and distinguished past.

“When Gov. Pat Quinn’s office reached out to me to gauge our interest in participating in an event like this, I was honored,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Robert W. Guy. “I told them I thought it was an excellent idea and that the UTU would be proud to participate.”

Guy said it was a “real privilege” for members to be able to present their industry and their labor affiliation to the general public.

“This is a chance to do something very few people ever get to do—tell strangers what you do for a living and why it’s important,” he said. “Nobody can do a better job of explaining railroad work than the people who do it for a living.”

And 2010 is the perfect time to do it, Guy said, because railroads are returning to a position of commercial success and public popularity they haven’t enjoyed since before the federal highway and airport programs nearly put them out of business.

“For decades railroad exhibits tended to be history oriented, because everybody understood that the great days of railroading were in the past,” he said.

“But today the industry is in a total turnaround, and Illinois is the center of the rail revival. With freight business continuing to creep up nationwide, and with all Class I carriers operating in our great state, Illinois is at the center of a growing shift from highway to rail and rail jobs are starting to grow again.”

Guy said the same thing is happening with passenger trains.

“We have two great stories to tell the people who drop by the rail tent,” he said. “In addition to its boom in freight-train traffic and jobs, Illinois has the second-biggest state-supported passenger-train program in the nation, with seven daily round trips on three routes and all of them growing despite the lingering recession.

“Ridership on the Chicago-St. Louis route continues to show remarkable growth every year.” he said. “And IDOT and the Union Pacific should begin work soon that will make the majority of the route a 110-mph passenger railroad by 2012.

“We’ve already assembled a great bunch of UTU members to represent us at this year’s exhibit,” Guy said. “They’re excited about the opportunity to be able to interact with and educate the public about the important role rail plays in our everyday lives.”

Guy encouraged members to visit this year’s Illinois State Fair, especially if they’ve never attended before.

“And if your schedule allows you to attend, be sure to stop by and say hello and share some stories with your brothers and sisters from rail labor,” he said.

“Any UTU members who visit the exhibit are welcome to ‘hang around’ as long as they want and are encouraged to interact with the visitors as well. The more experience and expertise we show, the better the public will feel about our important role within the industry.”

“It’s a great chance to tell people about your industry, your carrier and your union—and it’s a great chance to see the Fair,” he said. “We’ll all take turns, and when we’re not working we’ll enjoy some of the other attractions the Fair has to offer, like the entertainment, the carnival rides, the agricultural and industrial exhibits, and especially the food. I’m a big Fair guy—always have been. It’s a great event and an excellent opportunity to have fun with the family.”

For more details about the 2010 Illinois State Fair or the exhibit “Illinois: Rail Capital of America” and UTU’s involvement please contact our office at 312-236-5353, or visit the official State Fair website at http://www.agr.state.il.us/isf/.