Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Illinois has fewest state employees per resident

From AFSCME Council 31:

December 20, 2011

Contact: Anders Lindall at 312-641-6060

AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer issued the following statement in response to a new national study of state employment by the Associated Press. The AP story follows.

“After all the extreme rhetoric from politicians and pundits attacking public employees, here is the reality: Illinois has the nation’s fewest state employees per resident. It’s been true for years. Yet in recent months politicians of both parties have pushed for thousands of layoffs, pension cuts and limits on collective bargaining, while the governor claims he can’t afford a 2 percent pay increase for frontline workers.

“The men and women who do the real work of state government deserve thanks, not blame. Despite skeleton staffs, unmanageable caseloads and dangerous overcrowding, they care for the elderly and disabled, protect children from abuse, help struggling families and keep prisons safe.

"The state’s fiscal problems are caused by backward budget priorities and an unfair tax structure that offers special treatment for big corporations and rich individuals.”


"Why Marx Was Right": lively challenge to 10 myths » peoplesworld

"Why Marx Was Right": lively challenge to 10 myths » peoplesworld

"We're unemployed and we are united!" at Take Back the Capitol » peoplesworld

"We're unemployed and we are united!" at Take Back the Capitol » peoplesworld

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Harsh Blagojevich sentence leaves corrupt system in place

Some musings about former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's sentence of 14.5 years in federal prison for his conviction.

I can't help but feel this was an overly harsh sentence, even though it was less than the sentencing guidelines would recommend. Some commentators point to the $1.5 million bribe as the determining factor.

And what hypocrisy!

What particularly galls is to date not one Wall Street executive involved in the home mortgage fraud debacle that crashed the US economy has gone to prison despite the fact they knowingly defrauded billions from millions of homeowners and continue to do so.

But this sort of sentence is typical because our criminal justice system is based on punishment rather than rehabilitation. Prosecutors seem to think the harsh penalty will be a deterrent to similar crimes.

To me, this is a pipe dream since the underlying system of corruption largely remains intact, despite a few cosmetic changes imposed by the state legislature. There was a window of opportunity to make some basic changes in campaign finance, but that moment has passed.

With all the attention on Blagojevich, the real culprit has once again been swept under the rug only to reappear at a later date in a more blatant form. It will only get worse with the Citizen's United ruling by the Supreme Court.

And it's based on politics. Blogojevich's attempt to sell the US senate seat of Pres. Obama was too blatant, even though such political connections and favors come into play in any decision like this.

Not to excuse any crimes that Blagojevich committed, but what he did occurs everyday in US politics. His fault was he wasn't a very slick player of the game and had burned too many bridges to too many power players in Illinois politics including his own party. The smartest players don't get caught.

John Bachtell

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Eight minutes when the people of Illinois owned their Capitol (with video) » peoplesworld

Eight minutes when the people of Illinois owned their Capitol (with video) » peoplesworld

Monument Being Created in Bronzeville to Honor the Historic Woman Ida B. Wells

From the Ida B Wells Commemorative Art Committee:

(November 10, 2011, Chicago, IL) The Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee is pleased to announce the development of a monument to honor the life and times of the historic Ida B. Wells - journalist, teacher, anti-lynching crusader, women's rights activist and civil rights pioneer. To celebrate the upcoming 150th anniversary of Ms. Wells' birth, July 16, 2012, world-renowned artist Richard Hunt, who is Chicago based, will create a monument which will be located in Bronzeville on the median strip on 37th & Langley. Once completed, the monument will be donated by the committee to the City of Chicago's Public Art Collection.

Ida B. Wells lived, worked and raised a family in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago from 1895 - 1931. A housing project was named after her and stood in the neighborhood for over 60 years. In 2002 the last buildings were torn down.

A group of residents from the community requested that something be created in the neighborhood to pay tribute to all of the work that Ida B. Wells did. Former Ida B. Wells resident, CHA Commissioner and Committee Co-Chair, Sandra Young said "Ms. Ida B. Wells did so much important work for this city and the world, fighting for justice and equal housing, that we all felt the need to make sure people didn't forget about her. With this monument, current and future generations can come to Bronzeville and learn about the great things that this strong woman did."

The commissioning entity for this important monument is the Ida B. Wells Commemorative Art Committee. It is a subcommittee of the Oakwood Shores Working Group, a committee designated by the Chicago Housing Authority to oversee and provide input in planning, developing and maintaining the mixed-income community replacing the Ida B. Wells public housing development. For many years, the Oakwood Shores Working Group has helped to address a wide range of topics related to the complex work of transforming the community, including relocation and return of former residents, development, lease-up and management of the new housing, services and programs for residents and community-building. The Art Committee was constituted for the purpose of creating a monument to honor Ida B. Wells.

The Commemorative Art Committee is composed of representatives of former Ida B. Wells public housing resident leadership, UJIMA, Inc., the office of Fourth Ward Alderman Will Burns, The Habitat Company, Chicago Housing Authority, North Kenwood-Oakland Conservation Community Council, the Oakwood Shores Development Team (The Community Builders and Granite Development Corporation), Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI), City of Chicago Department of Housing and Economic Development, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events in partnership with the Chicago Office of Tourism and Culture, and Ida B. Wells' family members.

Author and Committee Co-Chair, Michelle Duster, said "As a great-granddaughter of Ida B. Wells, I am the fourth generation of my family to live in Chicago. It is an amazing testament to this city that there is support to build a piece of public artwork to honor her legacy. Through her unrelenting focus to expose and stop injustice, she made an impact on the world. It should fill every resident of this city with pride to know that Ida B. Wells lived here."

For more details, please call 773-382-6115, email info@idabwellsmonument.org or visit www.idabwellsmonument.org.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


From Coalition for Justice and Respect:

On Friday October 14, 2011 the Coalition for Justice and Respect (CJR) and the newly reorganized Coalition for Justice and Respect Foundation (CJRF) held its first Community Recognition Tribute to Warriors of civil rights and social justice diner at the Chicago Theological Seminary. The ceremony was the first of its kind in the African-American community that acknowledged the work of African-American Black Gays Lesbians Same Gender Loving people and allies.

The event recognized and honored the Reverend Willie T. Barrow the mother of the an openly Gay son who was a founding member of the Operation Bread Basket and Operation PUSH and recording artist Keith Barrow could not attend a similarly planned event last year that had to be postponed due to illness, but this year she has roared back and made it to the event as one of two she attended. At age 86 she is still setting the standard for activist.

The awards were presented by CJR’s Board President Susan Watts , Marc Loveless, Executive Director and the wonderful entertainment by Kirk Sanders (Real T Lutha of the Midwest). Entertainment was provided by Nhojj.

The Tribute was one of four events that the CJR organized for October LGBT History month and National Coming Out Day. The other events included a showcase concert held at the Woodsen Regional Library, Community forum with the RainbowPUSH Coalition, and a discussion on Faith that concluded with supporting a play that featured Openly Gay Gospel Singer and HIV prevention speaker Dewayne Woods most noted song Let Go and Let God.

The sponsors of the event were The Chicago Theological Seminary, The University of Chicago Medical Center, and the Committee to Elect Judge Joy V. Cunningham for Illinois Supreme Court.
Food was provided by Honey’s Catering.
The other honorees included:

Jamal M. Edwards, Esq. who is an Attorney and since June of 2010 has taken the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Howard Brown Health Center.
Judge Sophia H. Hall who for over 20 years has been an elected judge in Cook County.

Lakeesha Harris and Janean Watkins our the first couple to Unionized in Cook County under Illinois Civil Unions laws.
Otis Mack (Heavy Diva) for his work in providing safe spaces all over the world where African-American Black Gays, Lesbians and Transperson to express themselves and enrich the world.
Castle Kelley for her work as the Marketing Coordinator for Beta Phi Omega Sorority, Inc. Beta Gamma Chapter and the Black Gay and Lesbian Greek communities.

Cerese Depardieu for her work with MB Bank, Night Ministry and the young adult empowerment of Black LGBT youth in the Lakeview area.
Monica Haslip the Executive Director and Founder of Little Black Pearl Art and Design Center for creating a safe inspiring space that brings together generations to develop their art build self-esteem and ensure community pride.

Joseph Steven McClure for his work As a young promoter that integrates of event promoting and social action in a combined effort.

Rev. Phyllis V. Pennese, M.Div is Founder and Senior Pastor of the Pillar of Love Fellowship United Church of Christ (POLFUCC). Founded in 2003 Pillar of Love is a faith community committed to the radically inclusive justice minded ministry of Jesus Christ.
Michael J. Simmons is the Policy Director for the Mayor of the City of Chicago Rahm Emanuel and is also a former elected official serving on the Local School Council of Brennemann Elementary School.

Lowry S. Taylor the founder and director of Digital Development Corporation a program of second chances. Digital Development Corporation takes donations of used computers refurbishes them and puts them back in use. As well as provide an opportunity for people that have a criminal background to transition back into society with a job and an ability to be functioning contributors to society.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Service workers, policymakers, and faith leaders hold forum on the effects of poverty-wage jobs at Chicago’s airports

Days after Mayor Emanuel’s closed-door meeting with airline executives…

From SEIU Local 1

Chicago—On Thursday, October 6th, airport service workers, along with clergy from ARISE Chicago and the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) hosted a forum on the far-reaching effects of low wage jobs at Chicago’s world-class airports.

Passenger service workers at O’Hare and Midway airports—the majority of whom are immigrants and minorities—are paid so little that most are forced to rely on public assistance programs like food stamps and welfare to survive. Many are paid below the legal minimum wage. Low wage jobs like these contribute to increased poverty, crime, and foreclosures. Chicago currently has the 3rd highest poverty rate of any major city; the second highest foreclosure rate; and the highest level of income disparity between white and black workers.

Forum participants included airport service workers, nationally renowned policymakers, and community leaders. Paul Sonn, Co-Director of the National Employment Law Project, opened the forum with a keynote address on the effects of low wage airport jobs on communities and on airport operations. He kicked off a discussion on how policy changes might help to alleviate some of these effects.

“Airports on the West Coast like LAX, SFO and San Jose have for years been guaranteeing living wages for airport workers,” Sonn says. “They've found that it's improved airport security and workers' lives, without harming competition."

Passenger service workers at O’Hare report that they are often paid below minimum wage and bring home as little as $10,000 a year. The contractors that employ these workers often classify them as “tipped” employees; however, many passengers believe this is a free service as required by the Air Carrier Access Act and do not tip.

Elda Pedraza, an employee of Prospect Aviation Services at O’Hare airport, explains: “They pay me $6.50 an hour because, supposedly, ours are tipped jobs; however, we cannot let the passengers know this and many of them are not aware of it. There are days when we do not make any tips.”

Workers report that when their wages plus tips falls below the minimum wage, contractors like Prospect often do not make up the difference as required by law. The University of Illinois is currently conducting a survey of airport service workers to look into this issue. The study will attempt to assess the quality of working conditions and measure employer adherence to state and federal laws governing the workplace.

Aldermen, community leaders: no more multi-billion dollar aiport deals that leave Chicago communities behind

From Unite Here Local 1:

Chicago, IL - Twenty Chicago aldermen, area community leaders, and more than 300 O'Hare and Midway airport concessions workers and allies rallied at City Hall Wednesday morning as aldermen introduced the Stable Jobs, Stable Airports Ordinance to ensure stability for O'Hare and Midway passengers, City revenue, and Chicago communities as Chicago puts airport concession contracts worth $2.5 billion out to bid. Thirty one aldermen have signed on as cosponsors of the ordinance.

"The last thing the City of Chicago needs is another set of unemployed workers," said Ald. Jason Ervin (28th), lead sponsor of the ordinance. "With 84 million passengers passing through our airports in Chicago, with sales that are six times as much per square foot as any other place in the City of Chicago, and with bulk of these concessions controlled by multinational corporations that take profits away from the City of Chicago, we have to stand up and act."

In the coming months more than 1,500 Chicago residents could be thrown out of work at O'Hare and Midway airports as the City cuts multi-billion dollar deals with big multinational companies in the largest turnover of concessions in Chicago's history.

"I need my job. Where will I go? I need to support my family. I've worked here [at O'Hare] for 23 years. What will I do if I lose my job?" saidAida Olavarria, an O'Hare food service worker and resident of Chicago's Humboldt Park community.

While 70% of O'Hare and Midway concessions are controlled by multinational companies based overseas, they have used a loophole to evade Chicago's "living wage" of $11.18 per hour for contractors, pocketing millions of dollars that should go to Chicago workers and communities.

"It troubles me to see so many people struggling to pay for basic things like food or rent, while these big corporations are pocketing millions," said Jerry Ward, a retail worker at Midway Airport.

Around the country 18 other airports - including LAX, JFK, Miami, and Cleveland - have utilized standards to protect workers and communities, ensure smooth operations for travelers, and/or protect airport revenue from disruptions during big contract turnovers.

The Stable Jobs Stable Airports ordinance would close the loophole that has enabled airport contracts to evade Chicago's living wage, ensure job stability for thousands of workers, and protect airport revenue from disruptions as new contractors take over.

Aldermen Ervin, Thompson, O'Shea, Chandler, Maldonado, Pawar, Osterman, Cappleman, Pope, Sposato, Foulkes, Cochran, Moreno, Waguespack, Arena, Moore, Graham, Reboyras, Munoz, and Cullerton joined the press conference or rally to voice their support for the ordinance.

Occupy Chicago: "For as long as it takes to end corporate greed" » peoplesworld

Occupy Chicago: "For as long as it takes to end corporate greed" » peoplesworld

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Cook County passes historic immigrant rights ordinance » peoplesworld

Cook County passes historic immigrant rights ordinance » peoplesworld

Labor Day protestors demand jobs and fair trade deals » peoplesworld

Labor Day protestors demand jobs and fair trade deals » peoplesworld

Chicago Hyatt workers join nationwide strikes

From Unite Here Local 1:

[Chicago, Ill.] -- In an emblematic fight over the direction of our economy, today Hyatt workers in Chicago join thousands of Hyatt hotel workers in launching week-long strikes in cities nationwide, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu. Workers from the Hyatt Regency Chicago and the Hyatt McCormick are participating in local strikes. By striking, workers are standing up for decent jobs for themselves and their families, but they are also fighting for the right to take a stand against an abusive employer that is destroying good jobs in their North American hotels.

Hyatt has singled itself out as the worst employer in the hotel industry. Hyatt has replaced career housekeepers with minimum wage temporary workers and imposed dangerous workloads on those housekeepers who remain. In July, Hyatt turned heat lamps on striking workers at the Park Hyatt Chicago during a brutal heat wave. In Boston, Hyatt fired its entire housekeeping staff at three non-union hotels, replacing women who had worked at Hyatt for decades with temporary workers earning minimum wage.

Most notably, Hyatt has sparked controversy for its abuse of housekeepers. Injury rates for Hyatt housekeepers are high, and academic studies have shown that housekeeping can lead to debilitating injuries. Housekeepers at some Hyatts clean as many as 30 rooms a day, nearly double what is typically required at union hotels. To date, OSHA or its state counterparts have issued 15 citations against the Hyatt at ten hotels and 3 citations against two of the Hyatt’s housekeeping subcontractors at two of those hotels, alleging violations of safety regulations that protect housekeepers and other employees. The agencies have proposed fines totaling $95,405.00 between Hyatt and its subcontractor.

“Two years ago, the Hyatt Regency renovated the hotel and brought in larger, heavier beds. It makes my job much more difficult. I can't lift the mattress because my left arm feels like it's coming out of the socket,” says Angela Martinez, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Regency with 23 years of service. “We are hard-working women, not machines. I'm on strike because I want the right to stand up to Hyatt wherever it is abusing housekeepers.”

Hyatt workers have called for boycotts at 17 Hyatt properties and have led dozens of public demonstrations all across North America. Already, Hyatt has lost over $20 million in hotel business.

“Hyatt is one of the most abusive hotels in their treatment of housekeepers and has the worst record on subcontracting,” says Henry Tamarin, the President of UNITE HERE Local 1. “They refuse to budge on these important issues, and workers want the right to take on Hyatt wherever these abuses occur.”

UNITE HERE Local 1 represents approximately 1000 workers at the Hyatt Regency and the Hyatt McCormick Place. Contracts for area Hyatt workers expired on August 31, 2009. This week of Hyatt strikes follows other work stoppages at Hyatt properties in Chicago, including a strike at the Park Hyatt on July 21, 2011, a strike at the Hyatt Regency on June 20, 2011, and a one-day strike at the Hyatt Regency in Rosemont in September 20101. In May 2010, Hyatt Regency workers—led by more than 100 housekeepers—walked off the job, protesting worsening working conditions in housekeeping after a major hotel renovation.

Workers in each striking city have reached agreements with other major hotel employers, like Hilton and Starwood. This week’s strike affects approximately 3,000 unionized hotel workers at six hotel properties across North America, including the largest Hyatt property in the world—the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Emanuel and "tough" decisions

At last night's first community meeting around the city budget, Mayor Emanuel once again warned residents really "tough" decisions were going to have to be made to balance the budget.

Whenever I hear words like "tough decisions" or "shared sacrifice" or "everybody's got skin in the game" I immediately wonder if those include the rich and making the rich, large corporations, banking and investment firms pay even their "fair share" of taxes. Maybe it's the cynic in me, but I sincerely doubt it.

The "tough" decisions invariably means the working class of the city must keep making all the "sacrifices."

Taxing the rich, ending the TIF slush funds to private developers and the well connected, imposing a Financial Transaction Tax on the Mercantile Exchange or an emergency tax on the largest of the non-profits, banks, hedge funds and corporations and revoking the disastrous parking meter deal are among those subjects that are sacred cows, not to be discussed, off the table. Instead they are the "tough" decisions that needs to be taken.

TIF taxing districts to be more ‘efficient,’ ‘accountable’ — and still here - Chicago Sun-Times

TIF taxing districts to be more ‘efficient,’ ‘accountable’ — and still here - Chicago Sun-Times

Monday, August 29, 2011

Wild Budget Math




Evanston Citizens Fight to Keep Public Services in Public Hands

From Community Labor Alliance for Public Services

Evanston, Illinois -- The Community Labor Alliance for Public Services (CLAPS) is organizing Evanston residents to stop the privatization of at least nine public services and associated job losses. Such services include Recycling, Street Lights, Street Maintenance, and Parks and Forestry.

At an August 8th Evanston City Council meeting, the City Manager, Wally Bobkiewicz, recommended the possible privatization of services as part of the city’s 2012 budgeting process. According to the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) 31/Local 1891, over 60 jobs are threatened by the proposal, and many of the jobs are held by Evanston residents living in the historically African-American 2nd and 5th wards. The proposed city budget will be made public on October 7th, and City Council will vote on the final budget November 28th.

Besides the job losses, residents are concerned about the loss of accountability and quality as well as increased costs associated with contracting to private vendors. Many Evanston residents have complained about the garbage pick-up services the city contracted to Groot Industries last November. Citizens are now required to talk to the company with service complaints rather than the city, which has created a second level of bureaucracy. Groot also raised its’ price by $700,000 after four months into the contract.

The Community Labor Alliance for Public Services (CLAPS) is an advocacy organization formed by concerned Evanston residents and public sector workers to fight further privatization of City services. CLAPS has successfully organized a petition drive, collecting almost 2000 signatures to date from Evanston residents opposing privatization. CLAPS has been mobilizing residents to attend and speak at City Council meetings and reaching out to various community, student, and religious organizations, who are pledging their support for public sector workers and to maintain quality services. CLAPS' mission is to bring awareness to City of Evanston residents about the value of keeping public services in-house, educate the community about the hidden costs of privatizing public services, keep public service jobs in the community, and lobby local decision makers about the importance of accountability, flexibility and safety in the delivery of services to the community.

If the City Council passes a budget eliminating public services and public sector jobs, CLAPS has vowed to continue organizing and mobilizing citizens until all public services are securely restored.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Uneasy Residents Await Changes at Lathrop Homes - Chicago News Cooperative

Uneasy Residents Await Changes at Lathrop Homes - Chicago News Cooperative

$2,902,029,728 into Illinois Economy

From the New Bottom Line:

Fixing the Housing Crisis Would Create Pump $2,902,029,728 into the Local Economy and Create 42,893 Number of Jobs in State Annually, New Report Finds

Homeowners, Clergy, Unions & Community Organizations Call on Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to Demand Principal Reduction for Underwater Homeowners as Part of Settlement with Banks

(Chicago, IL) While Washington, D.C. gridlocks over job creation, Illinois and Indiana Regional Organizing Network (I.I.R.O.N.) and The New Bottom Line have answers: by writing down all underwater mortgages to market value, the nation’s banks could pump $2,902,029,728 into the state’s economy, create 42,893 jobs in Illinois, save Illinois families $500 per month on mortgage payments, and fix the housing crisis once and for all, according to a new report entitled “The Win/Win Solution: How Fixing the Housing Crisis Will Create One Million Jobs.” Nationwide, the plan would inject $71 billion per year into the economy, create more than one million jobs annually, save families $6,500 per year on mortgage payments, and end the housing crisis.

Grassroots organizations across the country aligned with The New Bottom Line campaign are calling on State Attorneys General who are investigating the banks for foreclosure fraud to stand firm for a settlement agreement that (1) includes large-scale principle reduction for underwater borrowers; and (2) does not to release the banks from claims beyond the robo-signing scandal. This would provide real restitution for homeowners and allow states to sue the banks for wrongdoing connected to the origination of mortgages and the steps leading up to foreclosure.

“The banks are still acting like the economy is robust. Banks need to be held accountable for crashing the housing market and driving the economy into deep recession. Chicago homeowners are struggling to pay their boom-era mortgages with their recession-era salaries. The first bail out was for the banks, now it’s the banks turn to pay back the taxpayers. Writing down the principal and interest rates on all underwater mortgages to market value would bring in over two trillion dollars annually into our state-wide economy, creating over 42 thousand jobs. Its time to fix our economy.”

One in five Americans owe more on their mortgage than their home is actually worth. Collectively, underwater homeowners will have to pay down $709 billion in principal before they can start building equity in their homes. Every effort to reboot the housing market to date has failed because it has not done the most essential thing: reduce the massive debt load carried by underwater homeowners.

If the banks fix what they broke and wrote down principals on all underwater mortgages to current market value, it would inject a direct cash stimulus into the economy, redirecting billions of dollars that cash-strapped homeowners are currently paying on inflated mortgage debt toward other job-creating sectors of the economy. Nationally, the plan would lower homeowners’ mortgage payments by an average of more than $500 per month or $6,500 per year.

Six billion dollars per month that is currently going to mortgage payments would instead go toward buying groceries, school supplies, and other household necessities. As consumer demand picked up, businesses would start hiring again. The report estimates that putting $71 billion into American consumers’ pockets annually would help create more than one million jobs per year.

The report notes that the banks can afford to execute this plan. Last year, the nation’s top six banks paid out more than twice the cost of the plan ($71billion per year) in bonuses and compensation alone ($146 billion in 2010). Currently, the nation’s banks are sitting on a historically high level of cash reserves of $1.64 trillion.


Illinois and Indiana Regional Organizing Network is a grassroots, multi-issue power organization made up of organizations and individuals who seek a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. Current coalition members are: Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, Northside POWER, Northwest Indiana Federation, and the IIRON Student Network.

The New Bottom Line is a new and growing movement fueled by a coalition of community organizations, congregations, labor unions, and individuals working together to challenge established big bank interests on behalf of struggling and middle-class communities. Together, we are working to restructure Wall Street to help American families build wealth, close the country’s growing income gap and advance a vision for how our economy can better serve the many rather than the few. Coalition members include PICO National Network, National People’s Action (NPA), Alliance for a Just Society, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Industrial Areas Foundation of the Southeast (IAF-SE) and dozens of state and local organizations from around the country. Learn more at www.newbottomline.com

Friday, July 22, 2011

Government by sound bite

Reprinted from Newstips:

“This is about sound bites, not good public policy,” AFSCME’s Henry Bayer tells David Moberg at Working In These Times, discussing Mayor Emanuel’s campaign against city workers.

A couple other things it’s not about: actually negotiating with unions over work rule issues, and actually collaborating with city workers on increasing efficiency.

What it does seem to be about, besides bashing unions, is generating headlines; that’s the area where Mayor Emanuel has proven himself particularly adept in his first months in office.

The headlines don’t always correspond to reality. Take Emanuel’s vaunted ideas for “reforming outdate and inefficient work rules.” These were issued in a press release but never presented to city unions.

Most of them involve contractual matters. There’s only one way to address such items: provide the unions with written proposals, and sit down and negotiate.

That never happened. The ideas were shown to CFL’s Jorge Ramirez and Chicago Building Trades Council’s Tom Villanova in a meeting with Emanuel last month, but they weren’t even given a copy to take with them. (They’re not in a position to negotiate, in any case – only the actual unions are.)

The first time AFSCME heard from the city was an after-hours phone call in the middle of last week – a couple days before the mayor’s big press conference — when they were told they had 48 hours to respond to his proposals, Anders Lindall tells Newstips. “We asked, what proposals? They said, the ones you’ve been reading in the papers.”

The very first meeting with city unions came Monday morning — three days after Emanuel announced layoffs, claiming the unions had missed his “deadline.”

Chicago’s city workers have not been oblivious to the city’s financial situation. Most of them (not including AFSCME members) have been working with a pay freeze and furlough days amounting to a 10 percent wage cut for a couple of years.

And the CFL is preparing a report encompassing front-line city workers’ ideas about how to increase efficiency. It’s likely to be a lot more serious than the mayor’s proposals, some of which seem to be for effect, and some of which don’t make sense at all.

For effect: Emanuel proclaims that city workers should be paid time-and-a-half for overtime, not double time. But the vast majority already are. Only a small bargaining unit of a couple hundred workers gets double time.

A headscratcher: require city workers to put in 40 hours rather than 35. (City workers currently work from 9 to 5 with an hour off, unpaid, for lunch.) As Lindall points out, it’s not clear how this saves money, even if you manage to get folks to come in at 8 or stay till 6 without paying them more; you’re still paying them the same, and saving nothing.

Unless you follow this up with layoffs – but Emanuel presented the work rule changes as a way to avoid layoffs.

It’s also not clear, as Moberg points out, how the privatization schemes Emanuel announced Friday will save money.

“I think he wants to put unions on the defensive,” Bayer tells Moberg. (Moberg himself comments that, rather than working on real fixes for the city’s problems, “Emanuel seems more interested in bashing workers.”)

It may be working. “If you stop someone on the street and ask them what’s the cause of the city’s budget crisis, they’re liable to say it’s that work rules are unreasonable and unions refuse to negotiate,” Lindall said. Which simply isn’t true.

But it’s working as a p.r. campaign. It’s doing very little to solve the city’s problems. And it’s setting up a confrontation with unions which are inclined to collaborate, and which are in a position to help.

You’ll be forgiven if you’ve started to suspect that Emanuel views the city’s crisis as an grand opportunity to weaken our unions.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hotel workers strike at the Park Hyatt Chicago

From Unite Here Local 1:

After nearly two years of negotiations, more Hyatt workers in downtown Chicago are going on strike. Hyatt, a company with more cash on hand than most of its major competitors combined, wants to outsource work and impose dangerous working conditions on housekeepers. Now housekeepers and other hotel workers are standing up and speaking out. Thursday’s action at the Park Hyatt coincides with housekeeper protests of Hyatt in nine cities across the U.S.

Hotel housekeepers are the invisible backbone of the hotel industry. The grittier aspects of their jobs—the work of scrubbing toilets, changing sheets, and encountering guests alone behind closed doors—are the hidden foundation on which an atmosphere of luxury and comfort are built. Through UNITE HERE, the union representing hotel and other hospitality workers across North America, housekeepers are stepping forward and breaking the silence on the many dangers they face at work.

Nationwide, Hyatt has caused controversy for its abuse of housekeepers and for replacing long-term employees with workers from temporary agencies at far lower rates of pay. Thursday’s actions represent the latest escalation of the labor dispute with Hyatt. Just last month on June 20, 2011, Hyatt Regency Chicago workers went on strike. Similar actions were carried out last year, when last September Hyatt O’Hare workers carried out a day-long strike and last May when hundreds of housekeepers walked off the job, in protest of worsening working conditions in housekeeping.

Grappling with cuts when Democrats are in charge » peoplesworld

Grappling with cuts when Democrats are in charge » peoplesworld

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Warning: Beach closings on the rise » peoplesworld

Warning: Beach closings on the rise » peoplesworld

Angela Davis: Spare the life of Troy Davis!

Statement by Angela Davis regarding Troy Davis

I urgently appeal to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal and to the members of the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole - L. Gale Buckner , Robert E. Keller, James E. Donald, Albert Murray, and Terry Barnard - to spare the life of Troy Davis, a young African American citizen of your state.

I hope everyone within sight or sound of my words or my voice will likewise urgently call and fax Gov. Neal and the members of the Board. Under Georgia law, only they can stop the execution of Troy Davis.

First of all, there is very compelling evidence that Troy Davis may be innocent of the murder of Police Officer Mark MacPhail in 1989 in Savannah. The case against Davis has all but collapsed: seven of nine witnesses against him have recanted their testimony and said that they were pressured by police to lie; and nine other witnesses have implicated one of the remaining two as the actual killer. No weapon or physical evidence linking Davis to the murder was ever found. No jury has ever heard this new information, and four of the jurors who originally found him guilty have signed statements in support of Mr. Davis.

More importantly, the planned execution of a likely innocent young Black man in the state of Georgia has become a terrible blot on the status of the United States in the international community of nations. All modern industrial and democratic nations and 16 states within the United States have abolished capital punishment. The fact that the overwhelming majority of the men and women on death rows across the country are Black and other people of color, and are universally poor, severely undermines our country’s standing in the eyes of the people of the world.

Most importantly, the execution of Troy Davis will contribute to an atmosphere of violence and racism and a devaluation of life itself within our country. If we can execute anyone, especially a man who may be innocent of any crime, it fosters disrespect for the law and life itself. This exacerbates every social problem at a time when the people of our country face some of the most difficult challenges regarding our economic security and future.

I urge everyone to join with me in urging Governor Neal and the Georgia Board of Pardons and Parole to stay the execution of Troy Davis and commute his death sentence. Give this young man a life, and an opportunity to prove his innocence.

Please, call or fax today. Stop the execution of Troy Davis!

Gov. Nathan Deal

Tel: (404)651-1776

Fax: (404)657-7332

Email: georgia.governor@gov.state.ga.us

Web contact form: web: http://gov.state.ga.us/contact.shtml

Georgia Board of Parsons and Parole

L. Gale Buckner

Robert E. Keller

James E. Donald

Albert Murray

Terry Barnard

Tel: (404) 656-5651

Fax: (404) 651-8502

Angela Y. Davis

July 14, 2011


Arbitrator: Quinn pay freeze violates collective bargaining agreement, wage schedule must be restored

From AFSCME Council 31:

An independent arbitrator has ruled that Governor Pat Quinn’s decision to impose a unilateral pay freeze on nearly 30,000 employees in 14 state agencies is a violation of the master contract and related agreements between the State of Illinois and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31.

Arbitrator Edwin Benn has ordered the state to restore the contractually obligated pay schedule and make whole employees for the 2% increase due July 1.

“Frontline state employees are out there every day doing the real work of state government and the Quinn Administration, as their employer, should keep its commitments to them,” AFSCME executive director Henry Bayer said.

“We have always said what’s at stake here is much more than a pay increase. This is a question of whether the fundamental right of working people to bargain collectively will be upheld in Illinois,” Bayer said. “We welcome this ruling because it makes clear that the governor cannot simply break a contract at will. We call on the governor to keep his word and accept the arbitrator’s clear ruling to avoid further costly litigation.”

Arbitrator Benn’s key finding:

Under the mandatory, clear and simple terms of the negotiated language, the State must pay the 2% wage increase effective July 1, 2011. As a matter of contract, the State has no choice.

The remedy ordered by Benn:

In the exercise of my remedial discretion and to restore the status quo ante and make the adversely impacted employees whole for the State’s clear violation of the Agreement and the Cost Savings Agreements, the State is directed to pay the 2% increase to all bargaining unit classifications and steps and continue to pay that increase and, within 30 days from the date of this award, to make whole those employees who did not receive those increases effective July 1, 2011.

The arbitrator noted the significant efforts by AFSCME-represented state employees to help the state address its budget shortfall:

Recognizing the serious financial circumstances facing the State and in order to avoid layoffs of potentially thousands of employees, the Union responded to the State’s fiscal problems and agreed to concessions from the 2008-2012 Agreement — one of which was to defer 2% of a 4% increase due July 1, 2011. The total concessions agreed to by the Union were in the vicinity of $400,000,000.

Making clear that Governor Quinn’s action strikes at the very foundation of the right to collective bargaining, Benn wrote:

If the State is correct that economic provisions of multi-year collective bargaining agreements are not enforceable or are contingent upon subsequent appropriations for the out years of the agreements, then the collective bargaining process will be, to say the least, severely undermined. If the State is correct, the result will be most chaotic and costly …. If the State is correct in its statutory and Constitutional arguments, the multi-year collective bargaining agreement is, for all purposes, probably dead.

From Benn’s conclusion:

In sum, and notwithstanding all of the arguments presented, this is a very simple case with a very simple bottom line. … [W]hen the State did not pay the increase

effective July 1, 2011 for all bargaining unit classifications and steps (i.e., to the employees in the 14 departments, boards, authorities and commissions), the State did not keep its promise. The State must now keep its promise.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rahm Emanuel treading wrong path

By John Bachtell

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel summoned the Chicago Federation of Labor leadership to his office Wednesday and handed them an ultimatum: agree to certain "work rule" changes that he says will result in $20 million in savings or face 625 layoffs of public workers. The threat comes as a two year concession agreement between Daley Administration and organized labor expires.

Understandably, the threat didn't sit well with labor leaders. In a statement, CFL President Jorge Ramirez said,

"The current city budget deficit was not created by city workers. It was created by politicians unilaterally imposing added sacrifices in a complete disregard for the collective bargaining process and disrespect for workers’ rights. It is unacceptable to assign any cost associated with the expiration of the two-year deal to the current city workforce.

There have been absolutely no negotiations between the city and the unions representing the city’s workforce.

In an effort to address the larger structural deficit in the city’s budget, organized labor has been working to identify significant cost savings through efficiencies and best practices on behalf of taxpayers.

Mayor Emanuel has asked for our ideas and the city’s unions have taken his request to heart. We have contracted with an expert municipal budget analyst to identify logical and sound ways to save the city money. We plan to present this report to the Mayor in the coming weeks."

Even if this further concession is agreed to, the $20 million will hardly put a dent in an estimated $500 million city deficit. In any case, it seems like Emanuel expects the working class of the city to bear the brunt for this economic and fiscal crisis.

On the same day, Emanuel touted new jobs creation when he visited a Walgreens store in the South Side African American community. There the chain announced the hiring of 300 workers over the next two years for stores across the city.

In all likelihood, a substantial number of the public workers Emanuel is threatening to lay off are African American and Latino. Swapping unionized workers making decent wages and benefits with low wage service jobs doesn't seem to help economic development.

Just the other day, Emanuel's new Chicago Board of Education rescinded a wage increase for 32,000 CPS teachers and pushed to weaken pensions of state workers in the last state legislative session.

He has the chance to use his voice to speak up for America's cities and demand massive emergency federal assistance and new federal priorities. Instead, he very publicly decided not to vote on a resolution passed by the US Conference of Mayors calling for a speedy end to the Afghanistan war and redirecting the desperately needed money to our cities.

Instead Emanuel proposed in a speech to cut the tax rate U.S. companies pay on profits earned overseas — or “repatriated” — only on the condition the money is “guaranteed” to be used for infrastructure projects.

Instead of demanding corporations pay their taxes and sacrifice some of their profits, he remained silent when the Chicago Mercantile Exchange threatened to leave the state unless their taxes were cut.

He's also decided to remain silent on renegotiating the privatization of the parking meter deal that handed billions in revenue to Morgan Stanley Bank for a song. It was reported by Bloomberg,

"Chicago drivers will pay a Morgan Stanley-led partnership at least $11.6 billion to park at city meters over the next 75 years, 10 times what Mayor Richard Daley got when he leased the system to investors in 2008."

It's pretty clear which side Emanuel is on and it looks like the Mayor's relationship with organized labor and the working people of Chicago will be a rocky one to say the least.

Blagojevich lesson: take the money out of politics

By John Bachtell
“Politics is a dirty business,” remarked a juror after former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was convicted on 17 counts of corruption June 27. Blagojevich is expected to serve years in prison for attempting to sell Pres. Barack Obama’s US Senate seat among other crimes.

The media feeding frenzy is for the moment over. Left in its wake is the wreckage of Blagojevich’s family whose two children will now have to grow up without him around.

But the long-term damage also includes reinforcing deadly cynicism among voters about politics generally. A lot of people around here shrug their shoulders as if to say, “so what’s the big deal, what did Blagojevich do that isn’t done by them all?”

Dick Simpson, former Chicago alderman and current University of Illinois political science teacher, co-authored a study entitled “Curing Corruption in Illinois.” The study said corruption has been a fact of life for over 150 years in the state. In addition to 3 governors, over 1,000 Illinois elected officials have been imprisoned for corruption since 1970.

This is about more than sending a few bad apples to jail. Unfortunately, swept under the rug with Blagojevich’s conviction is the wider system of corruption rooted in the politics dominated by big corporate money that showers candidates with cash in exchange for bigger returns.

The history of capitalist politics and government has been riddled with corruption. Anytime you have money and greed involved in politics you will have corruption. The more money involved the more corruption.

And socialism historically has not been immune either, although for different reasons. This shows the need for checks and balances, transparency and grassroots democratic watchdogs.

After Blagojevich was impeached in 2009, public outrage was high and there was a lot of support for passage of far reaching anti-corruption reforms.

The General Assembly passed some limited reforms that were signed by Gov. Quinn. But they didn’t get to the crux of the problem and dismantle the system that gives rise to it.

Corruption is not only about an individual elected official benefiting. It’s about the wealthy and well connected benefitting and taxpayers losing.

The jury forewoman in the Blagojevich trial, Connie Wilson said the “veil of corruption in Illinois is one of the reasons the state struggles with solving problems,” she said.

Simpson tied the corruption to the machine patronage system that has dominated Chicago and state politics for nearly as long. Graft and the “pay to play” politics, a nice euphemism for bribery, is deeply endemic to the system.

Blagojevich’s father was a steelworker and he always had liberal inclinations later as a lawmaker. His populist appeal and refusal to always be a “team player” with the political bosses endeared him to a lot of voters.

But once he got introduced to the “Chicago way” through his father-in-law, Alderman Dick Mell, he was on a track that would eventually lead him to his day in court.

Political contributions by wealthy and big corporate interests demand some favor in return. Privatization of public assets widens the door for corruption. Big money pours in to determine who gets the spoils and represents a whole new system of patronage.

The potential for corruption is now far worse with the right wing dominated Supreme Court ruling in the Citizen’s United case. Unregulated and unlimited corporate money is flooding the electoral arena.

Even the best of candidates and elected officials are vulnerable. With the cost of elections at every level making it almost prohibitive for working people to run, raising money is a full time occupation. It’s almost inevitable that promises will be made.

The main solution to corruption in politics is to remove the influence of money through publicly funded elections. It would mean the election of reform governments at the local, state and federal level dedicated to carrying out such a reform.

In fact, the labor-led all people’s coalition that is fighting for jobs, equality, and a green, demilitarized economy that works for all, must make electoral reform a part of it’s program to limit and do away with corruption and to provide transparency.

And reform candidates who represent the labor-led coalition must stick to the grassroots coalition. Once elected, they need an active, mobilized grassroots constituency to ensure they are doing the right thing.

Fighting for our future » cpusa

Fighting for our future » cpusa

Monday, May 23, 2011

Oak Forest Scheduled to Close in One Week

Media Advisory May 24th event

Community Keeps Fighting to Stop Closure, SB40 Goes to Committee Wednesday

On May 24th, religious leaders, organized labor, nurses and patients will hold a press conference and vigil to call on County President Preckwinkle to stop the closure of Oak Forest hospital on May 31st.

What: Press conference and vigil
When: May 24, 2011, 12:00 (Noon) – 1:00 pm
Where: Oak Forest Hospital, 159th and Cicero, Oak Forest, IL 60452

Who: Citizen Action/IL, SEIU Doctors Council, SEIU HC, Religious leaders, patients, nurses, front line organizations.

Last week, President Preckwinkle decided to use all of her political resources to shutdown Oak Forest hospital by pushing SB40, which exempts the County from State oversight. Disregarding warnings from the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board which released two reports highlighting the danger of closing the hospital and voted TWICE to deny Cook County’s plan to close in-patient services at Oak Forest hospital.

The County claims their plan will better serve the community, but the community, staff and Health Facilities Board warned that Southern Cook County is already facing capacity crunches for emergency and long term care. Ingalls, the key hospital in the County's plan, stated that it can not handle more patients.

The County claims that it can't afford to keep the hospital open, yet the County can afford tens of millions for consultants, and $168 million for more administrative offices at old-Stroger.

The County claims it is helping long-term care and rehab patients find alternative health care facilities, yet patients are on their own desperately trying to find alternative care before June1st.

Now, state and county officials claim the county doesn't need to provide services for the people of Cook County.

On May 24th, the community members at the front line of the battle to keep the hospital open will call on President Preckwinkle to halt the closure of the hospital on June 1st and modify her health system plan to better serve the families of Cook County.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Palestinian Community Leader Hatem Abudayyeh and Supporters Claim Victory. Bank Returns Money, Government Involvement Alleged.

From: The Committee to Stop FBI Repression and
The Coalition for People's Rights

On Friday, May 6th, the bank accounts of Hatem and Naima Abudayyeh of Chicago were frozen. The bank manager at the TCF (Twin Cities Federal) branch could not explain what had happened but stated that the Bank Security Act prevented him from releasing any assets.

In a strange turn of events, the bank admitted today that they shut down the accounts, stating they no longer want to provide banking services to the Abudayyeh family. Simultaneously, TCF management informed the Abudayyehs today that they were issuing them a check for the value of their accounts.

Hatem Abudayyeh is one of 23 anti-war, Palestinian and international solidarity activists who have been subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Chicago. Many supporters of the Abudayyehs and the 23 activists suspected that the FBI and grand jury investigation against these activists was the cause of the seizure of the couple’s accounts.

Michael Deutsch, attorney for the family, said, “In my opinion, the bank did not act out of the blue. I suspect that the FBI and U.S Attorney investigation caused the bank to overreact and illegally freeze the Abudayyehs’ banking accounts that had been there for over a decade.”

In response to the seizing of the couple’s accounts, people across the country called the offices of US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in Chicago, and those of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) demanding the return of their money and an end to the repression.

A Code Pink activist from Washington, D.C., called Fitzgerald’s office and was told, “We’ve received hundreds of calls.” The OFAC office was bombarded as well, and journalists from a National Public Radio affiliate, Al Jazeera and other agencies contacted them for an explanation.

TCF is well known for having links to the right-wing think tank the Center for the American Experiment.

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression and the Coalition to Protect People’s Rights see the return of the money to the Abudayyeh family and the admission by the bank of their action as a victory for their efforts and an affirmation of the constitutional right of Americans not to be deprived of property without due process of law. However, they are concerned that the actions of TCF management may violate state and federal public accommodations laws by denying the Abudayyehs banking services on a discriminatory basis.

Hatem Abudayyeh expressed his thanks to the many people who called in over the past two days. “Thank you all for your work. The pressure put on the US Attorney and OFAC no doubt caused them to contact TCF, who subsequently broke their silence and ended this frightening incident.”

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression and
The Coalition for People's Rights

Monday, May 9, 2011

UPDATE: Treasury Department freezes bank accounts of Palestinian human rights activist and his family

From: Committee to Stop FBI Repression

Office of Foreign Assets Control (a division of the U.S. Dept of Treasury) the source of escalated attack on civil Liberties of Anti-War, Palestinian Activists

Call today and Tuesday to demand un-freezing of accounts, end to repression

On Friday, May 6, the U.S. government froze the bank accounts of Hatem Abudayyeh and his wife, Naima. It appears that this is being done by the Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

This unwarranted attack on a leading member of the Palestinian community in Chicago is the latest escalation of the repression of anti-war and Palestinian community organizers by the US government. Hatem Abudayyeh is one of 23 activists from Minnesota, Michigan, and Illinois subpoenaed to a federal grand jury in Chicago, and his home was raided by the FBI in September of last year.

One of the bank accounts was exclusively in Naima Abudayyeh’s name. Leaders of the national Committee to Stop FBI Repression, as well as Chicago’s Coalition to Protect People’s Rights, are appalled at the government’s attempt to restrict the family’s access to its finances, especially so soon before Mothers’ Day. The Abudayyehs have a five-year-old daughter.

Supporters of the Abudayyehs and the other 22 activists have learned that apparently OFAC can block your assets pending an investigation on charges of “material support for a foreign terrorist organization” without a hearing. No evidence is required to freeze assets. In the case of the Abudayyeh family, assets mean money for food and rent. As this statement is written, officials won’t even acknowledge that they are the source of the freeze.

There has been widespread criticism of the FBI and local law enforcement for their racist practices against Arab and Muslim communities across the country. These repressive tactics include infiltration of community centers and mosques, entrapment of young men, and the prominent case of 11 students from the University of California campuses at Irvine and Riverside who have been subpoenaed to a grand jury and persecuted for disrupting a speech by Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the US. There have been no charges against Abudayyeh or any of the other 22 activists; this action by the U.S. government is another example of the criminalization of Palestinians, their supporters, and their movement for justice and liberation.

Six members of the U.S. Congress, including five in the past month, have sent letters to either Attorney General Eric Holder or President Obama, expressing grave concern for the violations of the civil liberties and rights of the 23 activists whose freedom is on the line. Three additional U.S. representatives have also promised letters, as thousands of constituents and other people of conscience across the U.S. have demanded an end to this assault on legitimate political activism and dissent.

The Midwest activists have been expecting indictments for some time. The freezing of the Abudayyeh family's bank accounts suggests that the danger of indictments is imminent.

Take action this afternoon and Tuesday:

Call the Office of Foreign Assets Control at 202-622-1649 or 202-622-2420.


Unfreeze the bank accounts of the Abudayyeh family

Stop repression against Palestinian, anti-war and international solidarity activists.

In solidarity,
The Committee to Stop FBI Repression

For more info go to StopFBI.net

Monday, May 2, 2011

Workers take back May Day » peoplesworld

Workers take back May Day » peoplesworld

Over 100,000 March to Defend the Organzing Rights of Public Workers and Immigrants

From Voces de al Frontera:

Wisconsin Rallies Record Number for Solidarity March

MILWAUKEE-Under the banner of “Wisconsin Solidarity March and Rally for Immigrant & Worker Rights” more than 100,000 protesters took to the streets on Sunday afternoon to fight back against Governor Walker’s attacks on collective bargaining rights, immigrant rights, and dramatic cuts to public education and health care.

After five years of annual May Day marches organized by Voces de la Frontera, this year’s march marked both an unprecedented turnout and collaboration between Voces and organized labor. In recognition of the need for unity amongst all working people, national AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and other local and state labor leaders joined tens of thousands of immigrant and Latino workers and students.

Prior to the march, statements in solidarity were made outside the Voces office by Mayor Tom Barrett, elected state representative Jo Casta Zamarippa, NAACP President James Hall, in addition to other elected officials and community leaders.

At the rally at Veteran’s Park, President Trumka gave a fiery and patriotic speech, concluding “Let this May Day, 2011, herald a new era of solidarity for us. Let it ring in the time when no one is left in the shadows- when the circumstances of your birth do not determine your fate, when the rights and the justice that those who came before us lived and died for are shared by all of us. Side by side, shoulder-to-shoulder, united—We are one!”

Trumka was joined by Wisconsin AFL-CIO President Phil Neuenfeldt, Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin President Mahlon Mitchell, AFT Local 212 President Michael Rosen, and Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES!) representatives Kennia Coronado and Maricela Aguilar, amongst others.

According to Voces executive director Christine Neumann-Ortiz, “For six years now, we have continued to use our collective voice because working people, native-born and those who came from all over the world, gave their blood and sweat to build this country and its democracy and we will not allow it to be stolen and destroyed.”

Voces de la Frontera will again join with organized labor to mobilize the community to the Capitol in Madison on May 14th in opposition of Governor Walker’s budget.

Communist Party shows new growth: Can it be sustained? » peoplesworld

Communist Party shows new growth: Can it be sustained? » peoplesworld

Monday, April 25, 2011

THE CULTURAL WORKER by John Pietaro: OBITUARY of Hazel Dickens

THE CULTURAL WORKER by John Pietaro: OBITUARY of Hazel Dickens: "Hazel Dickens 1935 –2011 An Obituary by John Pietaro The high lonesome sound that touched so many, so deeply, could only have been b..."

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Stop the Execution of Troy Davis


(April 5, 2011)

Troy Davis may soon face execution despite serious doubts that continue to persist in his case.

The Board of Pardons and Paroles is the final failsafe in Georgia that can prevent an execution. They have the power to commute Davis’ sentence to life, preventing the irrevocable step of killing the prisoner. The Board said in this case in 2007 that it would not allow an execution to go ahead “unless and until its members are convinced that there is no doubt as to the guilt of the accused”. Doubts persist in this case.

Davis was sent to death row in 1991 for the 1989 murder of off-duty police officer Mark Allen MacPhail in Savannah, Georgia.

No physical evidence directly links Davis to the murder – no murder weapon was ever found.

The case against Davis primarily rested on the testimony of nine witnesses. Since his trial, 7 of the 9 key witnesses have recanted or changed their testimony, some alleging police coercion.

Davis has faced execution three times, once coming within two hours of execution.

In 2009, the US Supreme Court ordered an evidentiary hearing to review Davis’ actual innocence claim, which took place in Savannah’s federal district court in 2010. The presiding judge ruled that Davis did not prove his innocence under what the judge described as the required “extraordinarily high” standard. However, rather than resolve the doubts about Davis’ guilt, the hearing demonstrated that doubts persist in the case. Without the aid of physical evidence, he had to rely on witnesses whose statements were readily relied upon by the state at trial, but whose post-trial revisions and recantations have been dismissed throughout the appeals process.

At the hearing, a witness offered new testimony that he claimed he was too fearful to offer in the past. He testified to seeing the alternative suspect in the case, a relative of his, shoot Officer MacPhail. Additionally, new witnesses emerged to testify that the alternative suspect confessed to them that he had committed the murder. Their testimony was dismissed by the court as not credible.

The federal judge acknowledged that the state’s case against Troy Davis was not “ironclad”.

Davis is now at risk of receiving an execution date because the US Supreme Court on 28 March 2011 refused to consider his final appeal.

Georgia does not currently have the drugs needed to carry out executions; however, this may or may not cause much delay as authorities may be able to acquire new drugs soon.

Troy Davis’ case underscores reasons why the death penalty should be abolished. 138 people have been exonerated from US death rows since 1973; others may have been executed despite serious doubt about their guilt. There is no convincing evidence that the death penalty has a special deterrent effect and capital prosecutions come with huge financial costs, far higher than ordinary criminal justice cases. The cost of the death penalty diverts resources from more constructive solutions, such as support for law enforcement and crime prevention and services for murder victims’ families. We can have justice without the death penalty.


Please help us spread the word about Troy Davis. Let’s tell Georgia: there should be no executions, not least when there are doubts about guilt. Please sign the petition and help us get signatures on our two sign-on letters – for clergy and legal professionals. Information and of these tools are available at www.justicefortroy.org. [Within the USA:] You can get text alerts by sending the word “troy” to 90999 [“nine zero, triple nine”].

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Battle to save Public Worker’s and Their Unions

By Lance Cohn

In the spirit of Wisconsin the “We Are One” class war spread to Illinois. The Republican proposed $100 billion cuts in the Federal budget, which would include cutting $72.9 million in cuts to education in IL, served as the back drop for a Labor/Community coalition rally and march sponsored by the Chicago Teachers Union held on Saturday, March the 18th.

Anticipating growing pressure on the State legislature as well as from the in coming Chicago Mayor elect, Rahm Emanuel to cut Public Education and to weaken the CTU the call was for transferring Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) funds to the Public Schools. David Orr, Cook County Clerk, spoke to the fired up crowd of 200 people. “Chicago has put $2 billion in tax dollars that the public doesn’t know about into these TIF’s. They were supposed to go to blighted areas.” - I would add, the TIF’s that were originally intended to stimulate business in low income communities instead went to Banks and Corporations. -

The march began at the Jenner School in a newly gentrified neighborhood that was originally home to thousands of African American people who resided at the Cabrini Greens high rise homes, owned by the Chicago Housing Authority. They were recently torn down forcing the residents to find other housing. Among the hundreds of students attending this elementary school around 150 are classified as homeless.

The marchers were joined by other Unions including SEIU, Unite Here and the Teamsters as well as community organizations such as KOCO (Kenwood/Oakland community organization) and ADAPT (organization for the physically challenged.) All of us wore buttons that said, “Chicago Teachers Union Stand with Wisconsin.”

We marched to Bank of America, who received millions in TIF money despite the fact that they made profits last year. We stopped in front of the Bank and chanted, “Banks of America we’re no fools, you harm our city and rob our schools.”

The next and final stop was Grossinger Auto-Plex, one of the largest car dealers in the Country who got $8.5 million in TIF funds. Almost all 200 marchers piled into their huge showroom chanting, “Grossinger Auto we’re no fools, give us back the money save our schools.”

The manager of the Auto-Plex called police and the police came and told us to leave. As we were exiting the manager said he wanted us arrested and charged with criminal trespassing. Two people were arrested, Jackson Potter, chief of staff for the CTU and Amber Smock, a leader of ADAPT. According to Jackson Potter they face a court date on April 15th. He is encouraging everyone to join him in court.

Many of the participants had plenty to say about how their schools could use the TIF monies. Meredith Bowden, a High School teacher in a low-income African American community said, ‘Our school needs money for after-school programs now more than ever.” Jessica Marshall, a High School Teacher, said that “her school needs a library.” Other teachers complained about the unsafe, unsanitary condition of their school.

Jackson Potter, speaking for the Chicago Teacher’s Union summed up the purpose of this demonstration: “We’ve seen the growth of a vibrant Labor/Community coalition that’s focused on economic justice in the City of Chicago. The issue of the TIF funds is a vehicle for bringing up this concern.”

“Hello, Communist Party calling” » peoplesworld

“Hello, Communist Party calling” » peoplesworld

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

11% Say Communism Better Than U.S. System of Politics and Economics

New Rassmussen survey:

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Communism as an ideological force largely died with the collapse of the Soviet Union 20 years ago, but even with many of its horrors increasingly forgotten, U.S. voters overwhelmingly reject the ideology that contended for world dominance for much of the 20th Century.

Still, 11% of Likely U.S. Voters think communism is morally superior to the U.S. system of politics and economics, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey. But 77% disagree and say the U.S. system is morally superior. Thirteen percent (13%) are not sure.

Communism calls for the elimination of all private property with everything owned in common, and voters even more emphatically reject it as an economic theory. Eighty-seven percent (87%) say, in practical terms, free market economies work better than communist economies. Only four percent (4%) say communist economies work better.

Similarly, 80% of voters say the U.S. system of politics and economics is better for middle class workers than communism is. Ten percent (10%) say communism is a better option, and another 10% are undecided.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters nationwide was conducted on March 12-13, 2011 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Seventy-three percent (73%) of voters view communism as a failed ideology. Twelve percent (12%) say that’s not true. Fifteen percent (15%) are not sure.

Voters ages 18 to 29 are much less critical of communism as an ideology than their elders are. Conservative voters believe more strongly than moderates and liberals that communism is a failed ideology, but majorities of all three groups share that view.

In terms of world history, 85% of all voters nationwide believe that the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe was at least somewhat important, with 71% who describe it as Very Important. Only eight percent (8%) say it was not very or not at all important.

While 87% of Mainstream voters rate the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe as important in terms of history, nearly one-in-three Political Class voters (32%) view it as unimportant historically. Generally speaking, however, there’s little difference of opinion between the two groups when it comes to comparing the U.S. economic and political system with communism.

In November 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, 93% of Likely U.S. Voters said the fall of the wall and the collapse of communism were at least somewhat important in terms of world history. That included 70% who said they were Very Important.

The majority of voters across all demographic categories are in general agreement on all of these questions, although there clearly are degrees of passion. Republicans and conservatives, as they have historically in this country, hold the strongest negative feelings about communism.

Socialism with its emphasis on a government-regulated economy is considered a transitional economic phase on the path to communism.

In an April 2009 survey, 21% of American adults said that the U.S. economy is partially socialist, and another five percent (5%) said, generally speaking, the United States already has a fully socialist economy. At the same time, indicative of the suspicions many had following the Wall Street meltdown and the government’s bailout response, only 53% of American adults thought capitalism is better than socialism.

Voters overwhelmingly prefer a free market economy to an economy managed by the government and think government economic control helps big businesses at the expense of small ones.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Quinn signs bill to abolish death penalty in Illinois; commutes death row sentences

Letter to constituents from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn:

Today I have signed Senate Bill 3539, which abolishes the death penalty in Illinois.

For me, this was a difficult decision, quite literally the choice between life and death. This was not a decision to be made lightly, or a decision that I came to without deep personal reflection.

Since the General Assembly passed this bill, I have met or heard from a wide variety of people on both sides of the issue. I have talked with prosecutors, judges, elected officials, religious leaders from around the world, families of murder victims, people on death row who were exonerated and people like you who have taken the time to share their thoughts with me. Their experiences and your words and opinions have made a tremendous impact on my thinking, and I thank you for reaching out to me on this matter.

After this guidance, as well as much thought and reflection, I have concluded that our system of imposing the death penalty is inherently flawed. The evidence presented to me by former prosecutors and judges with decades of experience in the criminal justice system has convinced me that it is impossible to devise a system that is consistent, that is free of discrimination on the basis of race, geography or economic circumstance, and that always gets it right.

As a state, we cannot tolerate the executions of innocent people because such actions strike at the very legitimacy of a government. Since 1977, Illinois has seen 20 people exonerated from death row. Seven of those were exonerated since the moratorium was imposed in 2000. That is a record that should trouble us all. To say that this is unacceptable does not even begin to express the profound regret and shame we, as a society, must bear for these failures of justice.

Since our experience has shown that there is no way to design a perfect death penalty system, free from the numerous flaws that can lead to wrongful convictions or discriminatory treatment, I have concluded that the proper course of action is to abolish it. With our broken system, we cannot ensure justice is achieved in every case. For the same reason, I have also decided to commute the sentences of those currently on death row to natural life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole or release.

I have found no credible evidence that the death penalty has a deterrent effect on the crime of murder and that the enormous sums expended by the state in maintaining a death penalty system would be better spent on preventing crime and assisting victims’ families in overcoming their pain and grief.

To those who say that we must maintain a death penalty for the sake of the victims’ families, I say that it is impossible not to feel the pain of loss that all these families share or to understand the desire for retribution that many may hold. But, as I heard from family members who lost loved ones to murder, maintaining a flawed death penalty system will not bring back their loved ones, will not help them to heal and will not bring closure to their pain. Nothing can do that. We must instead devote our resources toward the prevention of crime and the needs of victims’ families, rather than spending more money to preserve a flawed system.

The late Cardinal Joseph Bernadin observed, “[i]n a complex, sophisticated democracy like ours, means other than the death penalty are available and can be used to protect society.” In our current criminal justice system, we can impose extremely harsh punishments when warranted. Judges can impose sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Where necessary and appropriate, the state can incarcerate convicted criminals in maximum security prisons. These means should be sufficient to satisfy our need for retribution, justice and protection.

As Governor, I took an oath to uphold our state’s Constitution and faithfully execute our laws. Honoring that oath often requires making difficult decisions, but I have found none to be as difficult as the one I made today. I recognize that some may strongly disagree with this decision, but I firmly believe that we are taking an important step forward in our history as Illinois joins the 15 other states and many nations of the world that have abolished the death penalty.


Gov. Pat Quinn

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Republican budget plan would cost Illinois 30,200 jobs

From Americans United for Change:

New Report Finds U . S . Reps . Dold, Schilling, Walsh’s Plan Would Cost 30,200 Illinois Jobs

Republican Plan to Slash Education, Cancer Research Instead of Cutting Corporate Welfare Would Bring Economic Recovery to Grinding Halt

Washington DC -- The funding plan U . S . Representatives Robert Dold (R-IL-10), Bobby Schilling (R-IL-17), and Joe Walsh (IL-08) want to become law would cost 30,200 jobs in Illinois, according to a new study released by the U.S. Senate’s Democratic Policy Committee . Nationwide, the study found that the plan to fund government through September 2011, which leaves in place billions in corporate welfare and tax loopholes for billionaires, would cost 700,000 American jobs .

Numerous nonpartisan economic experts, including a team from Goldman Sachs, have similarly found that the plan approved by virtually every House Republican and no Democrats in the dead of night on February 19, would bring our fragile economic recovery to a screeching halt .

Moody’s chief economist, Mark Zandi, projected that the House proposal would cut real GDP growth by 0.5 percent in 2011 and 0 . 2 percent in 2012 . That, in turn, would lead to 400,000 fewer jobs being created than expected by the end of this year and a total of 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2012 .

And a Goldman Sachs analysis released last Wednesday also concluded that Republicans’ 2011 cuts would be detrimental to the economic recovery . The House GOP’s plan, the analysis found, could cut the nation’s economic growth by 1 . 5 percent to 2 percent during the second and third quarters of this year .

“Under the House Republican spending plan, you’ve got no long-term deficit reduction, no change in corporate welfare and lopsided tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans, massive cuts in disease research, education and transportation, and huge job losses,” said Americans United executive director Tom McMahon .

“Congressmen Dold, Schilling, and Walsh all owe their constituents a very good explanation why they voted to protect Corporate America’s bottom line over 30,200 jobs back home in Illinois . We need a responsible and balanced plan to rein in deficits, not one that leaves in place corporate welfare and lopsided tax breaks in place for the wealthiest Americans but costs jobs, slashes vital education and other services for the middle class and the most vulnerable members of society,” added McMahon .