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UTU and key legislators tweak language to make sure bill protecting RR employees’ medical treatment will pass House; Members urged to prepare for final push
[03/18/2005]

SPRINGFIELD (March 18)—With the Easter recess looming this weekend, the UTU and a few key members of the Illinois House of Representatives have begun making small adjustments in language to make sure a bill protecting injured railroad workers against interference with their medical treatment passes its post-Easter floor vote.

H.B. 2449, which was approved by the House Transportation Committee and sent to the floor March 8, is now in its Second Reading, the semi-final stage in which members are allowed to make amendments to language before the bill is brought to a final vote on the House floor.

“H.B. 2449 is likely to come up for a vote soon after the members return from Easter recess April 5,” said UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo. “We’re working to ensure the comments of the House Transportation Committee are addressed by tweaking some language and working to make certain we are ready to move after the Easter break.”

Szabo said minor changes are being made regarding the logistics of enforcement, but will not change its essential purpose or principles.

“H.B. 2449 establishes very severe penalties for any railroad and railroad manager who interferes with an injured employee’s access to prompt and effective medical treatment,” he said.

“It prohibits a railroad manager from delaying the application of medical treatment after a workplace injury—such as telling an employee to ‘go home and get some rest first’ before calling a doctor. It absolutely prohibits a railroad manager from calling the employee’s doctor and suggesting a less powerful medication or a less serious diagnosis. And it totally prohibits a railroad manager from threatening an injured employee with discipline or discharge if he seeks independent treatment for it.

“Many, many members of the UTU in Illinois have suffered these kinds of abuses following a workplace injury,” Szabo said. “We are encouraging all of our members to tell their state representatives about their experiences so that legislators will understand how the hazards of railroad work are compounded by the attitudes of many railroad managers.”

Szabo said the Easter recess is the ideal time for members to lobby for H.B. 2449 with a personal visit to the representative’s district office.

“The time to prepare for the final push is now,” Szabo said. “Every member of the General Assembly will be back in his or her district during the recess, and all members use their time in the district to meet with their constituents, so let’s use this time to good advantage. UTU members should call their state rep’s district office and schedule an appointment where they can tell their own stories of how railroad managers delayed, denied or interfered with their medical treatment.

“Better yet, bring along colleagues who have had the same experience,” Szabo said. “It doesn’t matter which railroad or craft they belong to, as long as they can articulate the railroad world and what happens to workers when they are injured on duty.”

Szabo said members can find the name of their state representative and the address and phone number of the district office by going on line to http://www.elections.state.il.us/dis/pages/SelectOfficialSearch.asp

Equally important, Szabo said, the Easter recess allows a little time for Local Officers to prepare phone trees and email trees and get ready for the final push. “Phone calls make a big difference,” he said. “Likewise, the campaign to reach out to House members will be good practice for when we have to repeat our effort later in the Senate.”

“Success builds on success,” he said. “If we reach out to our representatives now and get their vote, building support in the Senate later will be just that much easier.”

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