May 14, 2004

SPRINGFIELD (May 14)—The UTU Illinois Legislative Board has called on members to continue to reach out to their state senators to make sure that the vital union-sponsored walkway-safety bill comes to the Senate floor for a vote in this session.

H.B. 5340, which would guarantee a safe, level and hazard-free walkway to every Illinois railroad operating employee who works on the ground, passed the House unanimously April 1 and was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee 10-0 April 21.

But it hasn’t yet come up for a vote on the Senate floor—the last hurdle before the bill goes to Gov. Rod Blagojevich for his signature.

“There is no need for panic,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo, “but the movement of the bill through the legislative process has been slowed down by the sheer volume of legislation the senators have to deal with at the end of a session. The senators are debating urgent questions of taxation, education, health care and the huge budget deficit.”

Szabo said he remains cautiously optimistic about ultimate passage.

“Most of the members are on record as being if favor of H.B. 5340, but there is always the chance for mischief until final passage,” he said. “Continued phone calls will prevent that.”

Szabo compared the situation of H.B. 5340 to that of a train waiting for a track to open up in a congested yard or on a busy main line.

“Legislating can be like railroading,” he said. “There’s lot’s of ‘hurry-up-and-wait.’”

Fortunately, legislating is different from railroading in one important way, Szabo said:

“Our members can influence the process. They can call up their senator’s office, tell the staff they want H.B. 5340 moved, and urge the senator to vote ‘Yes’ when the vote is called. And members of our families can do the same. Phone-call campaigns work. It’s simple and effective.

“We may not be able to call the dispatcher or yardmaster to get our trains moved, but we sure can call our state senators and get a bill moved,” Szabo said. “Make that call now.”