United Transportation Union’s Illinois Legislative Board
While collective bargaining
remains a major tool used by labor unions to achieve fair wages
and decent working conditions for their members, another tool
has emerged to become equally powerful: legislation. The UTU maintains
one of the most extensive and effective legislative organizations
in the labor movement to shape new laws protecting the interests
of its members. The National Legislative Director is located in
Washington, D.C. and is assisted by a staff
widely respected for its professionalism in moving needed legislation
while blocking the passage of laws hostile to the interests of
working people. In the U.S., 49 of the 50 states have their own
UTU Legislative Boards, each made up of Local Legislative Representatives
and headed by a State Director.
Illinois is a major
center of UTU legislative activity because it is the hub of the
North American rail network and has one of the largest populations
of railroad employees. Illinois is the only state served by all
five U.S. Class I carriers as well as both Canadian Class I roads.
It has more than 50 short lines and switching carriers, 50 Amtrak
trains per day, and the Metra system serving the six-county Chicagoland
area with the largest commuter-train network outside New York.
Making sure the employees of these railroads receive appropriate
representation in state government—and at the national level
as well—is the responsibility of the UTU’s Illinois
The Board is made up
of 38 Local Legislative Representatives, one from each UTU Local
in the state. Every four years the Board meets to elect a Director,
an Assistant Director, and an Executive Committee consisting of
Chairman, Vice Chairman and Secretary. State Legislative Director
Robert W. Guy and Assistant Legislative Director Joseph Ciemny
conduct an ongoing dialogue with members of the Illinois General
Assembly and the U.S. Congress. They make sure lawmakers understand
the needs of railroaders and their families so that legislation
to protect union members can be turned into law, such as the 2002
Contract Carrier Safety Act, which mandates safety inspections
for vehicles that carry train crews.
In addition, Guy
and Ciemny work closely with state and federal regulatory authorities
to make sure that existing laws protecting railroad workers are
enforced. Such enforcement action has led the state’s rail
carriers to replace many of their dilapidated crew locker rooms
with modern facilities and to cease interfering with employee
access to medical care. At the federal level, Illinois Legislative
Board action has resulted in fines against carriers that instructed
crews to violate safety regulations and the Hours of Service Act.
The Illinois Legislative Board is recognized as a major tool in
the fight for a better workplace and a better life for UTU members
and their families.
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