Born in 1930, Art Hanford began his railroad career as a darkroom technician for the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) Railway in 1953. While with the C&O, he earned a reputation as a quality photographer and writer. He was a trusted employee of Cyrus Eaton, the C&O Board Chairman at the time, and accompanied him on many trips to The Greenbrier Resort, then owned by the railroad, in White Sulfur Springs, WV.
In 1958 he went to work for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) as photographer-reporter and continued to earn credit for his work on the union’s publications. During this time, Art spent many years working with the BLE Grand Chief, Guy Brown. At that time, the BLE had over 60,000 members.
Early in 1967, Art moved to Chicago as managing editor of Railway Purchasing & Stores, one of several magazines, including Railway Age, published by Simmons Boardman.
Later that same year, Art accepted a position back in Ohio from the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen as Assistant Editor of Trainman News, the official BRT member publication. Charles Luna was president at the time.
In 1969, the BRT merged with three other rail unions to form the United Transportation Union, where Luna was named the new union’s president. In 1971, Al Chesser became Luna’s successor as president of the UTU until 1979, who was then followed by Fred Hardin (until 1991).
Art Hanford retired in 1990, with his last held position being the UTU’s Director of Internal Communications. At that time, the union had approximately 90,000 members.
Among the most memorable trips for Art were those traveling with engineers on steam locomotives, which were fast disappearing. He was also assigned to take pictures of Queen Elizabeth II in 1959 on a Royal train trip through Canada. Other celebrities he photographed in his career were Ben Hogan while playing in a golf tournament at the Greenbrier.
Art wrote several books after he retired, including a yet-to-be-published autobiography titled “Writing on the Railroad.” Art’s son, Guy Hanford, indicated that the family plans to finish publishing the book in honor of their father.
Art Hanford died peacefully surrounded by his family on Friday, March 15, 2019. He is survived by his wife Janice of 66 years.
Lloyd W. “Corky” Swert, who served as United Transportation Union assistant president in the 1990s, passed away at his home in Hillsdale, Mich., on Wednesday.
He was 86.
Swert, a member of UTU Local 2 in Toledo, Ohio, hired on as a brakeman for the New York Central Railroad and joined the union in August 1953. He held a number of leadership positions in the UTU until his retirement in the mid 1990s, including being elected as general chairperson of Conrail North in 1975.
Swert was elected as a UTU vice president at the 1983 and 1987 conventions — he was unopposed in 1983 and re-elected by acclamation in 1987.
At the 1991 UTU Convention, he was elected to serve as assistant president, then retired at the conclusion of that term.
Swert made an appearance at the June 2004 UTU Regional Meeting in Reno, Nev., after a trying period for the union.
“All of us have to believe in ourselves and our union and be salespersons for the UTU,” he told attendees. “Collectively we can handle any problem and straighten out any difficulty.”
Swert is survived by his wife of 65 years, Nancy; two daughters, Lori (Richard) Amato of Mentor, Ohio, and Joy (Alex) Mismas of Santa Monica, Calif.; 12 grandchildren; 26 great-grandchildren; two sisters, Marthanna “Skip” Braman of Hillsdale, Mich., and Marilyn Bartaldo of Whitehouse, Ohio, and his beloved German shepherd, Trinka.
Visitation will be at 1 p.m. with funeral services immediately following at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 16, 2018, at VanHorn-Eagle Funeral Home, 40 S. Manning St., Hillsdale, MI 49242.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are suggested to Hospice of Hillsdale County or Hillsdale Salvation Army.
John Harold Burner, 75, of Robinson, Ill., a former assistant state director for the United Transportation Union, died at 10:50 p.m. Oct. 22, 2017 at the Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Ind. He was born April 21, 1942, the son of Harold & Edith (Comer) Burner, both of whom preceded him in death.
“John was more than an assistant director, he was a true partner when it came to representing rail workers in Illinois,” said Joe Szabo, a former Federal Railroad Administrator who also served as legislative director for the union in Illinois. “His ‘country boy’ manner resonated with members of the Illinois General Assembly, and he was trusted by both Republicans and Democrats. Together we accomplished a lot, and I owe John so much – as does every rail worker in this state. ”
SMART TD Legislative Director for Illinois Bob Guy also said that rail workers in his state are better off because of Burner’s efforts.
“The list of issues and topics that John worked on over the years is far too large to describe, but rest assured that our members are better off today for having John Burner representing us, I know I am,” Guy said. “So on behalf of all of our Illinois members, active and retired, I want to thank John for his service to our union, and I want to especially thank his wife Shirley and the rest of the Burner family for sharing him with us all those many years.
“We owe you, John — you won’t soon be forgotten, rest in peace my friend.”
John was a 1960 graduate of Palestine High School, and went on to further his education at the University of Illinois in Champaign, Ill. In 1962, he started working as an engineer on the Illinois Central Railroad, where he worked for 34 years before becoming assistant state director for UTU. He retired in 2008, and was a man who truly enjoyed his work, as anyone who knew him could attest.
Burner married Shirley Kay Corder on July 28, 1963, and she survives. He is also survived by his son & daughter-in-law, John S. & Kirsten Burner (Ventura, Calif.); by his daughter & son-in-law, Tammy & B.J. Fralicker (Palestine, Ill.); and by his grandchildren, Nick Halterman (Robinson, Ill.), Kiara Fralicker (Palestine, Ill.), and Sophia Burner (Ventura, Calif.); as well as a number of nieces and nephews.
In his free time, John could often be found on the water. In his younger days, he enjoyed water skiing. As he grew older, skiing turned to fishing, and this brought him so much joy through the years. He was also very active locally with the Boy Scouts. A former Eagle Scout, John was instrumental in starting the scout camp north of Palestine years ago. He was also active with girls’ softball for many years. Though John was many things to many people, he was first and foremost a family man. No one could doubt the love he had for his wife, children, and grandchildren, who have lost a friend, partner and patriarch.
John was a member of the Crawford County Bass Club and the Palestine High School Alumni Reunion Committee.
Visitation will be 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26 at Goodwine Funeral Home in Palestine, Ill. Funeral services will be 10:30 a.m. Friday, Oct. 27 at the funeral home, with burial following in Palestine Cemetery. Celebrant Curt Goodwine will be officiating the service.
Memorials may be made to the Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis.
Bruce Robert Wigent, 73, of Prescott, Wis., died Wednesday, May 25 at United Hospital.
A member of Local 1709 in Pontiac, Mich., Wigent hired out as a switchman on the Grand Trunk Western Railroad in December 1964. He was first elected as a local officer in 1970 and then served as general chairperson of GO 377. Wigent was elected as a UTU International Vice President at the 1987 UTU quadrennial convention. He was re-elected to the position at the 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003 conventions. Wigent retired from the position in 2007.
As a vice president, he was instrumental in contract negotiations with SEPTA and also led a strike on the Soo Line in 1994. Wigent wholeheartedly believed in the power of unions and the right of the worker to organize, as evidenced in this 2009 video Wigent made supporting the Employee Free Choice Act.
A time of remembrance and Masonic Service is being held at 11:00 a.m., Wednesday, May 31 at the Old Ptacek’s Store Event Center, 1449 Orrin Road, Prescott, WI 54021. A visitation will be held one hour prior to services. Interment will be at Pine Glen Cemetery in Prescott.
Brother Alfred “Al” H. Chesser, 102, a champion of the American rail worker and first-elected president of the United Transportation Union (UTU), died Sunday, September 25, 2016.
On January 1, 1969, the UTU (now known as SMART Transportation Division) was formed, and Chesser was appointed to the role of UTU national legislative director. In 1971, at the UTU’s first convention, Chesser was elected to serve as president. He won the post again in 1975, serving until 1979.
A brakeman from Wellington, Kan., Chesser’s life was framed by his service to the men and women on America’s railroads as well as his immeasurable contributions to the advancement of labor in every area. His efforts brought concerns and issues of rail members and unions into the national spotlight and onto the law books.
His rare ability to form bonds with members and officers in the UTU’s early days was critical to its success. A leader and mentor, Chesser created an open and positive atmosphere that not only inspired workers to join, but also inspired members to follow in his path of local and national advocacy.
As the voice of transportation members on Capitol Hill, Chesser’s legacy reflects his effective legislative outreach that strengthened the foundation of the UTU and all transportation unions.
His work influenced key safety issues and resulted in legislation that includes The Railway Safety Act and The Hours of Service Act. He also served as a member of the Task Force on Railroad Safety, a committee that developed the most comprehensive industry safety program ever adopted.
His lifelong commitment to the UTU was paralleled by his grace and humility. Whether speaking with a U.S. president or railroad brakeman, Chesser treated everyone with dignity, respect and kindness.
Brother Chesser’s inspiring life and legacy touched the lives of countless people, and he will never be forgotten.
Click here to view a tribute to Al Chesser. This video was created by producer/director Lisa Long of Garrison Ridge Productions Inc., for SMART Transportation Division, in celebration of Al Chesser’s 100th birthday, February 26, 2014.
Visitation and Funeral Services for Brother Chesser:
Visitation is scheduled for Friday, September 30 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Horan & McConaty Funeral Home, 5303 E. County Line Road, Centennial, CO 80122. Funeral services will be held Saturday, October 1 at 10 a.m. at the Littleton Church of Christ, 6495 S. Colorado Blvd., Centennial, CO 80121. A private interment will follow the funeral services at Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Retired former General Chairperson Robert E. Swert, 89, of Port Charlotte, Fla. and formerly of West Chester, Pa. died August 20, 2015, in Port Charlotte.
After serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps, Swert hired out as a brakeman with the New York Central Railroad. Swert began his rail career as a member of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen (BRT), and later became a member of United Transportation Union (UTU) Local 2 in Toledo, Ohio.
Swert served on the BRT Health and Welfare Committee which negotiated the first national health and welfare plan for operating employees.
Later, Swert moved to the management side as director of labor relations and eventually retired as vice president of Conrail Labor Relations. Although Swert moved into management, he kept his union membership with the UTU and paid full dues up until his retirement.
Swert is survived by his wife Connie, one daughter, two stepdaughters, two grandchildren, four step-grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, two sisters and one brother. Swert was preceded in death by his first wife Rexine and his parents.
Swert’s brother is former UTU Assistant President Lloyd “Corky” Swert.
A graveside military service with military honors is planned for 11 a.m., Saturday, August 29, at Toledo Memorial Park, Sylvania, Ohio. Memorial contributions may be made in lieu of flowers to The Salvation Army, P.O. Box 269, Alexandria, VA 22314, or to Tidewell Hospice Inc., 5955 Rand Blvd., Sarasota, FL 34238.
Click here to view Swert’s obituary or to leave condolences for the family.
Retired former United Transportation Union (UTU) General Secretary & Treasurer Daniel E. Johnson III, 67, passed away early May 21, 2015, according to reports received by the SMART Transportation Division.
Johnson, who retired in August 2007 and was living in Lincoln, Cal., had been battling a number of health issues.
Funeral arrangements have not been determined.
Johnson was elected as the UTU’s General Secretary & Treasurer by the UTU Board of Directors in February 2001. He was subsequently re-elected to that position by acclamation at the UTU’s 2003 Quadrennial Convention, and continued to serve in that post until he retired in August 2007.
Johnson began his career in 1966 as a brakeman on the Southern Pacific, and was promoted to conductor in 1970. He joined Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Lodge 460 (now Smart Transportation Division Local 807, in Tucson, Ariz.) in June 1966, and served as Vice Local Chairperson from 1969 to 1972, Local Chairperson from 1973 to 1980, Legislative Representative from 1971 to 1980, Delegate from 1975 to 1979, and Chairperson of the Arizona State Legislative Board from 1975 to 1983.
He also served as Vice General Chairperson from 1981 to 1990, and then General Chairperson of General Committee of Adjustment GO-887, for Southern Pacific Lines (Western) from 1990 to 1997.
Johnson was elected UTU Alternate Vice President-West in 1995, and became UTU Vice President in June 1997. He was re-elected to that post at the 1999 UTU Quadrennial Convention.
In addition, Johnson chaired the Southwest General Chairperson’s Association from 1991 to 1996, the Western General Chairperson’s Association from 1996 to 1997, and was a member of the UTU/BLE Merger Committee in 1993. A member of UTU’s National Negotiating Committee in 1995 and 1996, he also was a member of the National Wages & Rules Panel from 1997 until his retirement.
Johnson was proud to have been a founding trustee of the National Railroad Retirement Investment Trust, serving from its inception February 1, 2002, until January 31, 2004.
He was also proud of a white paper he authored entitled, “We Must Stop the ‘Race to the Bottom,’” which argued for unification of all operating historical railroad crafts as a means of standing forcefully against the carriers in the 21st Century.
A member of the University of Arizona Alumni Association, he received a B.A. in 1969 and attended graduate school there in 1969 and 1970. He served from 1973 to 1975 on the board of directors of Planned Parenthood in Tucson, Ariz.
The family asks that persons wishing to make donations in Johnson’s memory be made to: Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, 110 East 42 St., 16th floor, New York, NY 10017. Checks should be made payable to ‘Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research.’ Donations can also be made online at www.alzinfo.org.
A celebration of life is being planned for July or August.
This is the new United Transportation Union official website.
We’ve changed our look.
This new website design responds to member requests for greater emphasis on materials and news of interest to UTU members.
To the right is an addition members told us is essential: a membership toolbox that contains answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding membership, representation and benefits.
Are there questions for which we have not yet provided an answer? Look to the lower right for the “Feedback” button. Tell us what questions or other materials you would like to see added or changed.
We also welcome other constructive suggestions, which may be sent to us by using the “Feedback” button.
The search engine has been improved. See the “Search this website” button on the upper right of this page, which will take you to older news stories or topics of interest.
Also toward the top of the page, in a grey horizontal bar, are a series of drop-down menus to help you find materials of interest.
At the very top of the page is a red horizontal bar with additional drop-down menus with information about the UTU, plus links to specific UTU crafts.
Other buttons allow you to click and change your mailing address, sign up for email alerts and view current and past issues of the UTU News.
Further additions are coming, including a UTU Facebook page, and an ability to follow the UTU on Twitter. For those with personal Facebook and Twitter accounts, see the “Facebook” and “Twitter” links at the upper right, which allow you to share materials from the website on your own Facebook page and via your own Twitter account.
This is your webpage. Take a test drive. Tell us what you think. Become a frequent visitor.