Retired former Local 911 (Minneapolis) Chairperson Fred J. Croes Jr., 78, a mentor to many United Transportation Union and SMART Transportation Division officers in the Upper Midwest, died Nov. 12 of natural causes.
Croes was born May 18, 1936, in St. Paul, Minn. At age 18, he joined the former UTU predecessor Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Lodge 804 after being hired as a switchman by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road).
During his railroad career, he served his local in a variety of capacities, most notably as local chairperson, legislative representative and delegate. He also served as a vice general chairperson of Soo Line – Milwaukee Road GO 261. He attended UTU International conventions from 1971 to 1999. He retired in May 1998.
Croes was praised by a number of former UTU and current Transportation Division officers.
“Brother Croes was a remarkable leader. He was a fixture at regional meetings and conventions for years. I remember Willis Croonquist once telling me, ‘Croes knows the federal regulations better than the FRA inspectors do,'” said Transportation National Legislative Director John Risch.
“Freddy Croes was a true gentleman. A wily, very effective, low-key local chairperson on the Milwaukee Road at St. Paul Terminal, Fred was the glue that held everyone together during the 1994 UTU-Soo Line strike, which lasted for 44 days. He attended the 1969 UTU merger convention and was a fixture at conventions until 2000. Brother Croes also served on the Minnesota Legislative Board from 1984 to 2000. He will be missed,” said retired former UTU Alternate National and Minnesota State Legislative Director Willis Croonquist.
“Brother Croes was one of the great ones, one of the most effective local chairpersons ever. He has been a trusted adviser and mentored many officers in the upper Midwest. He is a hall-of-famer,” said Minnesota State Legislative Director Phillip Qualy.
“Fred was one of the unsung heroes of this labor union as a local officer. He has set the bar high for conscience-driven representation against unscrupulous carrier management teams,” Canadian Pacific (Soo Line) GO-261 General Chairperson James H. Nelson. “Freddy used to drive Milwaukee Road/Soo Line hearing officers crazy, due to his meticulous procedural standards and cross examination of witnesses. Again, this man was one of the leaders, with a conscience and conviction for the dignity of labor.”
“Fred has helped many, many workers and their families over five decades,” said former UTU Executive Board Member and current Transportation Division Designated Legal Counsel Mike Tello.
Croes is survived by his wife of 59 years, Jan; children Andrea, Denise, Marcia (Ken) Gallaway, David (Sherry), Lisa (Doug) Strenke; 10 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.
Visitation will be held Nov. 17 from 4 to 8 p.m. and one hour prior to funeral services at the Sandberg Funeral Home at 2593 E. 7th Ave. in North St. Paul.
A funeral service will be held Nov. 18 at 11 a.m. at the Sandberg Funeral Home, followed by interment at Evergreen Memorial Gardens.

MINNEAPOLIS — The United Transportation Union and Progressive Rail have finalized a first-time collective bargaining agreement for Progressive Rail train and engine workers represented by the UTU.

Progressive Rail is a shortline with four locations around Minneapolis, interchanging with major railroads.

UTU International Vice President John Previsich, who assisted in the negotiations – aided by a mediator with the National Mediation Board – said the agreement “provides for significant wage increases with pay classifications equal for all, a grievance process and a seniority preference for assignments and bidding. Overall, this is an excellent first agreement that dramatically improves wages, rules and working conditions for Progressive Rail employees.”

Previsich said the agreement received “overwhelming approval by the covered employees, who are to be commended for their solidarity and perseverance through a long and drawn-out negotiating process.

Praised were the negotiating efforts of General Chairperson James Nelson (GO 261), “who was instrumental in obtaining the fair and equitable agreement that the Progressive Rail employees deserve,” Previsich said. “Also deserving of recognition are Minnesota State Legislative Director Phil Qualy and the officers and members of UTU Local 911, all of whom supported the negotiating effort during every step of the process.”