Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
President Obama has chosen Joseph Szabo to head the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The FRA is the agency within the U.S. Department of Transportation charged with, among other things, promulgating and enforcing rail safety regulations, conducting research into equipment design and operating practices, and consolidating government support of rail transportation activities.
Szabo, a fifth-generation railroad worker, is currently the state legislative director in Illinois for the United Transportation Union (UTU), the nation’s largest rail union. In 1984 Szabo was elected as secretary/treasurer of UTU Local 1290, and eventually became the local’s delegate and legislative representative. He worked his way up the union ladder to become vice chairman of the UTU Illinois legislative board in 1991, and was eventually elected to serve as the union’s state director in 1996. In 2006, Szabo was appointed a vice president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, and in October 2008 was elected to a four-year term. Since January 15, 2009, Szabo has worked on an interim assignment in the UTU’s National Legislative Office in Washington, D.C., serving as Alternate National Legislative Director.
In response to Obama’s nomination of Szabo, UTU International President Mike Futhey stated that Szabo is “the first FRA administrator to come out of the ranks of rail labor. It is a validation that this Obama administration is a friend of organized labor.”