Illinois Bucks GOP Trend; Eases Voter Registration

At a time when 33 states have already enacted strict voter ID requirements for elections, Illinois decided this week to make it easier, not harder, for its citizens to vote. On Monday, August 28, Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) signed a law Monday authorizing different state agencies to automatically register voters when they interact with them.

Illinois is the 10th state to adopt automatic voter registration, which can significantly strengthen voting rights. Activists are fighting relentlessly for these types of reforms as voter suppression becomes more and more commonplace. For example, this past year’s presidential election was the first in 50 years to be without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act.

In Wisconsin alone, the state’s voter-ID law suppressed 300,000 registered voters who lacked the proper identification. Multiple studies have shown that laws like these, enacted mostly by Republican legislators, led to a significant reduction in voter turnout in 2016, with a disproportionate impact on African-American and Democratic-leaning voters.

It is important for advocates to stay engaged after victories like the one in Illinois. Agencies must be held accountable and activists must push to make sure guidelines for implementation are created with voters’ protection in mind.

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Posted In: Union Matters

Union Matters

Freight can’t wait

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

A freight train hauling lumber and nylon manufacturing chemicals derailed, caught fire and caused a 108-year-old bridge to collapse in Tempe, Ariz., this week, in the second accident on the same bridge within a month.

The bridge was damaged after the first incident, according to Union Pacific railroad that owns the rail bridge, and re-opened two days later. 

The official cause of the derailments is still under investigation, but it remains clear that the failure to modernize and maintain America’s railroad infrastructure is dangerous. 

In 2019, 499 trains that derailed were found to have defective or broken track, roadbed or structures, according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of safety analysis.

While railroad workers’ unions have called for increased safety improvements, rail companies have also used technology and automation as an excuse to downsize their work forces.

For example, rail companies have implemented a cost-saving measure known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which has resulted in mass layoffs and shoddy safety protocols. 

Though privately-owned railroads have spent significantly to upgrade large, Class I trains, regional Class II trains and local, short-line Class III trains that carry important goods for farmers and businesses still rely on state and local funds for improvements. 

But cash-strapped states struggle to adequately inspect new technologies and fund safety improvements, and repairing or replacing the aging track and rail bridges will require significant public investment.

A true infrastructure commitment will not only strengthen the country’s railroad networks and increase U.S. global economic competitiveness. It will also create millions of family-sustaining jobs needed to inspect, repair and manufacture new parts for mass transit systems, all while helping to prevent future disasters.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work