October 25, 2014

Congressional elections matter to UTU members

By John Risch,
Alternate National Legislative Director -

Congressional elections do matter. They make a difference when it comes to our job security, wages, benefits, retirement and our safety in the workplace.

President Obama and labor-friendly congressional representatives and senators not only believe in supporting public transit, Amtrak and high-speed rail, they assured funding was available to purchase more equipment, expand service, repair equipment, provide training and enhance minimum safety requirements.

One of the most important responsibilities of a president is to nominate members of federal regulatory agencies. President Obama nominated former UTU Illinois State Legislative Director Joe Szabo to head the Federal Railroad Administration; and former UTU Associate General Counsel Dan Elliott to chair the Surface Transportation Board, which determines labor protection in rail mergers, line sales and leases. Then, a Democratic-controlled Senate assured these nominees were confirmed to their posts.

A “President Romney” will nominate management-friendly individuals to regulatory agencies such as the FRA, the National Labor Relations Board, the National Mediation Board, the Surface Transportation Board, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, OSHA and the National Transportation Safety Board. A Republican-controlled Senate would rubber stamp his nominations.

Conservative Republicans who now control the House of Representatives have pushed to reduce, and even eliminate, funding for high-speed rail, Amtrak and transit, with no protections for adversely affected workers who lose their jobs. Some conservative Republicans also want to privatize Social Security, replace Medicare with a voucher program, make it more difficult to join a union, enact a national right-to-work (for less) law, and criminalize many labor union activities.

It is only because Democrats control the Senate (and labor-friendly Republicans who vote with them) that these terrible bills did not become law. If conservative Republicans take control of the House and Senate, they will pass these anti-worker bills; and Mitt Romney, if elected, will sign them into law.

Yes, elections do matter. This election will make a difference in job security, our safety in the workplace, our pensions and whether transportation workers can effectively bargain collectively. 

No matter the result, National Legislative Director James Stem and I, with help from state legislative directors and our new SMART partners in the Sheet Metal Workers International Association, will work to educate all elected lawmakers and appointed regulators.

Our efforts to protect UTU member jobs, paychecks, benefits, retirement and workplace safety will be considerably easier if we elect labor-friendly candidates to Congress and return Barack Obama to the White House.

I urge you to review the UTU voting recommendations in the centerfold of the October issue of the UTU News and recognize the importance to you and your family of voting Nov. 6.

You may also view the UTU’s congressional endorsements by clicking on the following link and scrolling down to “Congressional Endorsements: 2012″:

http://utu.org/2012/08/30/vote-on-november/