Alternate National Legislative Director
John Risch is the former North Dakota State Legislative Director for the United Transportation Union, serving in that capacity from 1986-2009. In 2009, he was appointed to serve as the UTU’s alternate national legislative director and in 2011, he was elected to that position.
Risch, a member of UTU Local 1344 at Mandan, N.D., works on legislative, regulatory and political issues in the UTU’s legislative office on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Risch began his railroad career on the Burlington Northern Railroad, working in the track department two summers while attending college. In the fall of 1978, he hired out in train service and in 1979, he entered engine service in what is now the BNSF Railway. He is a long-time International officer, serving on the Executive Board from 1991 until 2009.
Risch is a graduate of Bismarck State College and earned a bachelor’s degree in Labor Studies from Antioch University of Yellow Springs, Ohio, where he studied collective bargaining, labor history, labor law, world labor movements and other issues related to labor.
While serving as the North Dakota State Legislative Director, he testified hundreds of times at the that state’s legislature. He was also appointed by the governor to the Education Action Commission and Occupational Therapy Board. He was appointed chairman of the state’s Minimum Wage Commission twice, once by a Democratic labor commissioner and once by a Republican labor commissioner. In that role, he led efforts to raise the minimum wage and improve issues of the workplace, including extending minimum wage coverage to farm workers, something the federal law and most states exempt from coverage. In addition, Risch has testified before both the U.S. Senate and House committees representing transportation workers.
Risch has attended nearly every North Dakota Democratic and Republican convention since 1986 and attended both national Republican and Democratic conventions in 2012.
Risch wrote a regular newspaper column for the Bismarck Tribune from 1991 until 1993, where he focused his pieces on labor, economic and tax issues.
Risch has been married for 31 years to his wife, Kathi, and they have two adult children.