September 26, 2002

CHICAGO (Sept. 26)– Wise railroaders watch for signals. That’s how they learn what to expect up the road and how to respond to it.

Wise UTU members in Illinois are watching for a different kind of signal these days: the new special-edition TPEL lapel pin worn by Illinois members only and awarded by UTU’s Illinois Legislative Board. It signals that the wearer is committing at least $25 per month to the Transportation Political Education League. That’s the union campaign fund designed make sure that political candidates who support the rights of railroad workers get the financial help they need to win public office.

“Those who wear the new Illinois TPEL pin are UTU’s ‘Leaders of Distinction,'” said Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “These are the union members who understand that in today’s world it’s political clout, not job actions, that enables labor unions to protect the workplace rights and the hard-won wages and benefits their members have enjoyed over the years. These are the members who understand that without the support of elected officials, the gains won by the railroad labor unions can be eroded by politicians who fail to understand the issues affecting railroad workers.”

It will be easy to spot the Leaders of Distinction once all the pins have been mailed out, Szabo said.

“The pin is about an inch long, and it’s in the shape of the state of Illinois in royal blue with a gold border,” he said. “The letters UTU are embossed across the middle of the state in white and red, and the letters TPEL are carved out in gold at the top–right above the Illinois-Wisconsin state line.

“The pin is a limited-edition item for those who have chosen to step forward and make a substantial contribution to the UTU’s support of political candidates,” Szabo said. “TPEL is the union’s mechanism for electing candidates who protect the right of railroad workers to bargain collectively. These are the candidates who support the right of railroad workers to report their injuries and receive proper medical attention without being harassed, who support Amtrak funding, who sponsor legislation to create high-speed rail networks, and who fight for legislation to control fatigue in the transportation industry.

“Members who support our friends in public office have made a special sacrifice to protect the rights of railroad employees,” Szabo said. “The special-edition Illinois TPEL pin identifies these members and signals how much the rest of us owe them.”