Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Venezuelan and Chicago leaders discuss creating people’s power

By Pepe Lozano
People's Weekly World

CHICAGO – In an effort to share experiences led by grassroots struggles, leaders from Venezuela and local community groups here on the Southwest Side of the city came together to talk about what it takes to organize residents, fight for people’s power and encourage participatory democracy from the bottom up.

The March 24 event, “People’s organization to solve community problems: Venezuela and the U.S. – comparative experiences” was organized by the Salvation Army in conjunction with local groups here in the Lawndale area and the Venezuelan consulate.

“This forum is an opportunity to share experiences on how to organize communities,” said Luis Edgardo Ramirez with The Salvation Army.

Ramirez welcomed the distinguished panel along with the residents in attendance. He talked about how the Salvation Army center, and location of the forum re-opened five months ago after pressure from the community. The center had been closed for three years.

“Today we work to make fundamental change in our neighborhood and to build unity,” Ramirez said.

Programs to help local residents pay their utility bills and a weekly food pantry that serves 100 people are some of the initiatives provided by the center. Art classes including guitar lessons for youth are also provided.

Eric Hermosillo is the coordinator with the Southwest Community Block Club and presented some activities his group offers area residents. He said one of their aims is to ensure that fair city services are made available to members of the community such as youth programs and information about housing rights.

“We work with area residents to make and build positive relationships,” he said. Hermosillo said sharing experiences and learning about community development taking place in Venezuela will be helpful.

“I know community organizing is not an easy task and change does not happen over night,” he said. “But it must start from the bottom-up.”

Hermosillo said some of the achievements made by his group include getting much- needed speed bumps on local streets, issuing new stop signs and cleaning neighborhood graffiti.

“It’s important that communities work together and form more block clubs in order to create positive change,” Hermosillo said.

Carolina Rivera is a coordinator with the Southwest Organizing Project, a local group that develops community leadership and advocates for immigrant rights and fair housing programs.

Rivera mentioned how her group directs a parent-mentoring program for elementary and high school students.

“It’s very important when children see father figures in the class room with them,” said Rivera. “This is an opportunity as parents to be involved in the lives of our children that ultimately helps every student succeed,” she said.

Jesus Rodriguez-Espinoza, consulate general of Venezuela in Chicago introduced the Venezuelan speakers from the state of Lara. He said what’s happening on a local level in Chicago communities has a lot in common with what’s occurring in Venezuelan neighborhoods. “Grassroots projects in Venezuela could even inspire and encourage change here,” he said.

Edgar Carrasco is the mayor of Carora from the state of Lara.

“The only way to achieve social justice in Venezuela was to transfer power to the people,” Carrasco said. The first thing they did in Carora was to reform the local bylaws.

“It’s important to note that this process was mobilized by the entire community who actively participated in the reform movement in order to gain decision-making power,” Carrasco said. “Once we were in control of the budget, funds were allocated directly toward projects organized by the people. This participatory budget is what we now call ‘popular power.’”

Carrasco added that because of their success the national assembly in the Bolivarian government headed by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez passed legislation in order to assist grassroots reforms across the country.

“This began what we call 'community councils' directed by the people and their priorities,” said Carrasco.

Rafael Enrique Colmenarez is a coffee farmer and producer as well as a community organizer from Lara. He talked about how reforms enacted by the Chavez government have helped small farmers like him make a living without having to compete with corporations in the big business.

“Communal banks directed by the government allow small farmers like myself to stay in business,” he said.

Former mayor of Carora and now state representative of Lara, Julio Chavez, spoke in detail about the Bolivarian movement in Venezuela and building a new society from below.

“There is nothing more important to us then the participatory democracy taking place in Venezuela right now,” Chavez said.

He noted that for too long the city of Carora was controlled economically by the power of the few.

Responding to attacks against the Venezuelan government in the U.S. Chavez asked, “When all the resources are directly put in the hands of the majority of the people, is that really a dictatorship?”

Chavez added, “Are popular clinics that provide free health care services to people who have never had them before really a sign of an autocratic society?”

Through our efforts social programs and missions are providing resources for more and more students to get a higher education that benefits the entire country, he said. “Everyday more people are joining a movement to solve problems facing all Venezuelans.”

Revolutionary laws such as land reform are providing small farmers to grow their own crops for the first time, which is supported by our government, he said.

“Maybe some people don’t agree with Venezuela or our president but how can our reforms refute the democratic process unfolding in communities all across our country. Power in Venezuela is in the hands of the people.”

The Venezuelan path was limited and did not have many options, he added. “We were forced to find an alternative that prioritized people’s concerns first.”

Chavez extended an invitation to audience members and all Americans to visit the towns and cities of Venezuela to witness what is taking place there.

U.S. delegations should organize exchanges from here to there to see that what we want is peace and democracy, he said.

“We understand that we need an alternative system other than capitalism. A structure that puts human beings first before the profits of corporate powers and it must start from the bottom-up,” Chavez said.

“Our path in Venezuela is not an easy one and faces many challenges but it’s always the people who have the final say in this movement or in any democratic process because ultimately ours is a fight to save humanity,” said Chavez.


Monday, March 30, 2009

NLRB says Republic Windows broke labor law

According to the United Electrical Workers (UE) website: The National Labor Relations Board issued a decision that the Republic Windows and Doors Company:

Illegally created an alter-ego company in Red Oak, Iowa in order to avoid its collective bargaining obligations with UE,

illegally shut down operations in Chicago and transferred work to Red Oak, Iowa without notice or bargaining with the Union,

illegally failed to provide information for bargaining or process grievances as required under the collective bargaining agreement.

The findings agree with the charges made by UE when Republic shut down the plant in December and put 230 production workers out of work. The workers sat in to win their severance and vacation pay and health benefits. They were able to prevent Republic from absconding with most of the production assets. Since then Serious Materials has bought the plant and will reopen it eventually rehiring all the workers.

The Labor Board will now approach Republic's owner to seek a settlement of the charges. If there is no settlement, it will then go before an administrative law judge to order resolution.

“All this is too late to change the abuses of our rights by Republic management. We were deliberately denied our rights and protections under the union contract and law, only the occupation of our factory in December 2008 won justice for the workers”, said Armando Robles President of UE Local 1110

UE went on to say that, "Companies routinely violate workers rights with no penalty. There are more fines involved in a parking ticket than breaking federal labor law. Without the passage of The Employee Free Choice Act more workers will have to resort to non-violent tactics like the plant occupation to get their most basic rights respected and to be able to support their families."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Immigrant workers win against "no match" in Dupage County

Immigrant workers in Dupage County, west of Chicago, won an important victory recently against Steak and Shake restaurant. The company was forced to back down after it fired workers whose social security numbers didn't match. "No match" is a tactic used effectively by corporations to stop union organizing drives and undermine worker rights. But there are also so many problems and errors with the so called social security matches that a substantial number of "no matches" are in fact mistaken.

The fight is being taken to other fast food restaurants in the Chicago area who are firing workers including Pizza Hut, where a demonstration was held last week.

Cristobal Cavazos, a leader of Dupage Immigrant Solidarity reported the following:

"I am happy to report that I received a call from one of the workers
from the Steak and Shake restaurant in Glendale Heights thanking Solidaridad Dupage. He told me that management backed down on their threats of "no match" SSA firings and their jobs have been saved.

After receiving word of the pending firings our group wrote letters to the national headquarters in Indiana, called the restaurant on several occasions and spoke to the Spanish language press. Thanks for attention to issue giving by the Spanish language press like Periodico Hoy and Reflejos in addition the special efforts by 1st District Dupage County Board member Rita Gonzalez.

We can organize Dupage County around immigrant rights and the rights of Latino workers and this victory is only the beginning. The workers gained an understanding of the power of unity, and are anxious to join the group and help build for future events.

Their are many more immigrant workers to organize and many more battles to fight in this county so lets build on this victory toward many more!"


Friday, March 27, 2009

Single payer activists lobby in Springfield

The Health Care for All Illinois coalition helped organize a highly successful Legislative Advocacy Day for a state single payer health care system in Springfield on March 24. Here's their account of how the day went:

As the day began, activists arrived by car, bus and train on the East lawn of the Capitol complex. The bad weather kept away, and before long dozens of Health Care for All Illinois (HCAI) activists joined forces with lead organizers the National Nurses' Organizing Committee for a rally on the Capitol steps. A local news crew arrived to take video and do a story.

By the time the press conference was set to begin, so many single-payer supporters had descended on the Capitol that the press room had to be closed off at capacity. A fiery press conference followed, with organizers from NNOC, HCAI, Physicians for a National Health Program, and Champaign County Health Care Consumers calling on legislators to enact real health reform by passing HB 311.

As the afternoon's official legislative hearing on HB 311 in the House Health Access Committee approached, it became clear to Capitol staff that there were far too many single-payer activists to be accommodated in Room 118. The hearing was moved to the largest hearing room in the Capitol, and was still filled to the brim as more than 150 supporters poured in. Tensions ran high as the day's House session ran long, and activists took to the room's microphones and began giving citizens' testimony as they waited for the committee.

When Rep. Mary Flowers, the Chief Sponsor of HB 311, arrived and saw the massive crowd, she told the activists gathered there: "Today this is truly the People's House. I'm fired up and ready to go!" The committee heard testimony from leaders Geri Jenkins and Donna Smith of NNOC, Nicholas Skala of HCAI, Allison Jones of Champaign County Health Care Consumers, and from an array of patients, doctors, social workers and other health professionals.

No vote was taken on HB 311 at that session, but the hearing was a huge success is getting legislative attention to single-payer. Because of the hearing, HB 311 attracted 37 new co-sponsors, including House Speaker Michael Madigan and Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie. The sponsors (in order of sponsorship) are:

Sponsor: Mary E. Flowers; Chief Co-Sponors: Barbara Flynn Currie, Linda Chapa LaVia,
Greg Harris, Michael J. Madigan, Co-Sponsors: Monique D. Davis, Arthur L. Turner,
Kenneth Dunkin, Robert F. Flider, Esther Golar, Eddie Lee Jackson Sr., Mike Boland, Harry Osterman, Al Riley, Kevin A. McCarthy, Jack McGuire, Joseph M. Lyons, John D'Amico, Elizabeth Hernandez, Cynthia Soto, William Davis, LaShawn K. Ford, Constance A. Howard, André M. Thapedi, Daniel J. Burke, Susana A Mendoza, Maria Antonia Berrios, Luis Arroyo, Robert Rita, Eddie Washington, Annazette Collins, Marlow H. Colvin, Jehan A. Gordon, Sara Feigenholtz, Careen M Gordon, Michael J. Zalewski, Keith Farnham

The day wrapped up with a reception and dinner at the Illinois Governor's Mansion. More than 100 attended the event, at which NNOC's Donna Smith and Rep. Mary Flowers were honored and presented awards. The climax of the evening was an appearance by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who paid tribute to the work of Rep. Flowers and the single-payer activists.

Next Steps

Our first Legislative Advocacy Day in Springfield was a huge success, but it was only a first step. Our huge turnout in front of the Health Access Committee put us on the legislative map, but now it is time to move the bill. Please take two actions right now to support HB 311 and the work of Health Care for All Illinois

1. Contact Your State and Federal Legislators: HCAI offers a tool with which you can write directly to your State Senators and Representatives. Visit www.healthcareil.org/writerep

2. Make a Tax-Deductible Contribution to HCAI: HCAI accepts no corporate contributions and nearly all our staff work is volunteer. You contributions ensure that we can continue to be the voice of the single-payer movement in Illinois. Click here to donate via our parent organization, Physicians for a National Health Program.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Warning! Don't privatize city parking meters

Chicago - WARNING! To all cities dreaming of making a killing on privatization deals of your public assets: DON'T DO IT!!

A public rebellion is sweeping the city as Chicago begins leasing its 36,000 meters to Morgan Stanley bank. In many areas, people have stopped parking at meters! (In the stretch of Halsted St above, normally every meter is taken) This is in response to a 400% increase in meter rates overnight. Rates will increase another 400% by 2013. HOLY COW!

Television interviews reflect how angry city residents are over the increase. "We are being nickel and dimed to death!" said one. Another threatened to move out of the city.

The city netted a sweet $1.16 billion on the 75 year lease deal that was championed by Mayor Daley and passed in City Council in 48 hours with only 5 opposing votes. The city will still collect on all parking tickets, determine the number of meters and their rates. But in getting the money up front, they lose a long term revenue stream.

The meter privatization is being called a "watershed" moment by the investor community.

The AMLaw Daily reports: Chicago co-bond counsel Lewis Greenbaum, who was assisted by Katten Muchin public finance partners Milton Wakschlag and Christopher Torem and tax planning partner Ziemowit "Jim" Smulkowski, thinks Chicago's parking meter privatization could provide a roadmap for other municipalities seeking to raise funds in tough economic times. It's a notion seconded by his colleague across the table.

"The municipal bond market is basically closed, pricing is terrible, and [local governments] are running out of borrowing headroom," says Kent Rowey, head of the U.S. infrastructure practice at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in New York."

This is the third major privatization deal in the last few years, making Chicago the leader in privatization of city assets. Chicago is being pressed by growing budget shortfalls and is looking for a short term quick fix to the detriment of long term financial stability. One elected official called it selling off your furniture to pay the rent.

Chicago sweetened the deal even more by installing thousands of new meters at the cost of $500 each. Back in late October (in anticipation of the deal) the city installed 1,250 meters in what is called a "dead zone" in the 2nd ward. The Parking Ticket Geek, who has become an overnight sensation, says:

"Based on a cost of approximately $500 to install each meter, you’re looking at around a $1 million in hardware and no one to park there and feed the meters.

What kind of return on investment is that?

If the city is footing the bill for this when we already have a multi-million dollar budget hole this is an absolutely irresponsible expense."

According to my calculations, had the city kept the meters it would have grossed $1.42 billion over the 75 years. At the rates expected to rise to $4 an hour and with the same usage, Morgan Stanley will gross $11.36 billion. Now that's an eye popping return!

But my prediction is it won't turn out quite like that. People will find every way they can to avoid parking at meters. There will be constant pressure on the city to raise rates further. Morgan Stanley will still make a huge profit. But in the end, the people may just say, "we've had enough" and vote Mayor Daley and his cronies out.

And next time someone tells you privatization is more efficient than public administration, tell them about Chicago.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Union Membership in Illinois at 16.6%

This is being reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

In 2008, the number of workers belonging to a union was 939,000 in Illinois, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today. Union members accounted for 16.6 percent of wage and salary workers in Illinois in 2008, compared with the 14.5 percent posted in 2007. At its peak in 1993, the union membership rate in Illinois was 21.0 percent.

Nationally, the number of workers belonging to a union rose by 428,000 to 16,098,000 in 2008. Union members accounted for 12.4 percent of employed wage and salary workers, up from 12.1 percent a year earlier. In 1983, the first year for which comparable national union data were available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent. Interestingly, Illinois has had union membership rates above the U.S. average since 1989, the first year state data were gathered.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

State Legislature Holding Public Hearings on Capital Investments in Transit

This announcement from Moving Beyond Congestion:

Public hearings on capital investments in transit and other transportation infrastructure are coming to your community. Below is the schedule of meetings being held in the RTA's service area:



Copley Theater
8 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora, IL
10 a.m.

North Suburbs


Northbrook Library Auditorium
1201 Cedar Ln. Northbrook, IL
6 p.m.

Chicago: South


Simeon Career Academy Auditorium
8147 S. Vincennes Ave. , Chicago, IL
10 a.m.

South Suburbs


South Suburban College
Kindig Performing Arts Center
15800 S. State St., South Holland, IL
6 p.m.

Chicago: West


Austin Town Hall Auditorium
5610 W. Lake St., Chicago, IL
10 a.m.

Chicago: North


Advocate Illinois Masonic
Medical Center Olson Auditorium
836 W. Wellington Ave., Chicago,
6 p.m.

We encourage you to attend these hearings and show your support for our regional transit system. The RTA, CTA, Metra and Pace have identified a $10 billion capital funding need over the next five years. These funds will be used to make critical repairs and upgrades to the system, purchase new buses and trains, build new stations and make other critical improvements.

Visit www.MovingBeyondCongestion.org to learn more about transit capital needs.

We hope you can attend and learn more about these important needs and how transit can improve the economy, our environment and our quality of life.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Demanding worker justice at Fillip Co.

Chicago - It's a warm, sunny March day. On a deserted street of windowless factories, suddenly a boisterous protest pops into view. A picketline is circling in front of Fillip Metal Cabinet Co., maker of kitchen cabinets and office files.

"Three weeks ago the company told us they were selling the factory and letting go all the workers," explained Emma Moreno, Teamsters Local 743 union representative and a worker at the factory. "The company is making money with the sale but can't give us any severance pay. Workers made this company profitable. Some have worked here forty years and get nothing."

At its peak Fillip Co. employed over 100 workers and is typical of many small manufacturing companies throughout Chicago. After many layoffs only 15 production workers remain. Fillip Co. was sold and its former owner will land on his feet with the new company. Some of the workers will go, the rest will be dumped on the street.

The workers are demanding severance pay and respecting seniority rights for any workers transferred to the new company.

"He (former owner Chris Fillip) says he hasn't got any money," said Moreno. But the workers aren't buying it. "He's got bills to pay. Well, so do we," said Bob Maldonado, a production worker. "I hope to get something for my 27 years of working at this place.

The workers were joined by strong showing of solidarity from Chicago Jobs with Justice, IBEW, religious activists and workers from the former Republic Windows and Doors (represented by the United Electrical Workers Union) who conducted a six-day sit-in in December to win severance pay and benefits.

"This economy is too difficult not to fight for our rights," said Armando Robles, president of UE Local 1110. "Any struggle we fight, we have to maintain our unity."

"We are here today in search of justice, declared James Thindwa, director of Chicago Jobs with Justice. "We are putting companies on notice that we will fight whenever and wherever there is an injustice like this. If we stick together we can win."


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Help clean up Illinois Politics!

As the Illinois Reform Commission continues its work and solicits input statewide, Citizen Action of Illinois launched a new campaign to clean up the corruption of state politics. Here is their statement on the "Lincoln Agenda", a new legislative initiative:

Recent scandals have only reinforced the need for major reforms to Illinois politics. Candidates for public office should listen to the voters - not pay-to-play donors and their six-figure contributions!

Do you agree? Join us!


Citizen Action/Illinois is working with our allies and concerned citizens across the state to promote the "Lincoln Agenda", a proposal to implement public financing of elections and create limits on campaign contributions. These reforms would clean up Illinois politics once and for all!

We have an excellent opportunity to promote the need for these reforms at the Illinois Reform Commission's series of Town Hall Discussions. The Illinois Reform Commission is an independent advisory group, created by executive order of Governor Patrick Quinn. The Commission has already begun examining government practices and ethics, and will soon deliver deliver its recommendations for cleaning up state government.

Now is OUR opportunity to create real change in Illinois!

Join us!

Thanks for all you do!

Citizen Action/Illinois is encouraging broad discussion in the upcoming town hall meetings being organized by the Reform Commission:

Thursday, March 19, 2009
Time: 6:30 - 8:00 PM
North Central College
Meily-Swallow Hall
30 N. Brainard St.
Naperville, IL

Thursday, March 26, 2009
Time: 6:00 - 7:30 PM
Augustana College
Franklin W. Olin Center for Educational Technology
733 35th St.
Rock Island, IL

Monday, April 6, 2009
4:30 pm - 6:30 pm
University of Illinois College of Law
Max L. Rowe Auditorium
504 E. Pennsylvania Ave.
Champaign, IL

Thursday, April 23, 2009
Time: Evening
East St. Louis, IL

Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Time: TBD
Dekalb, IL

No town hall discussions near you? Tell the Reform Commission that you support public financing! Leave your comments here.

"Lincoln Agenda"

* Establishes a voluntary system of clean election/public financing for the Illinois state legislature, its leaders, and the judiciary.
* Establishes a system of comprehensive campaign contribution limits for the Illinois state legislature.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Sound the alarm for health care reform

The Campaign for Better Health Care is stepping up mobilization for affordable health care reform. Below is a statement by the group about an action by churches, mosques, synagogues and other places of worship recently:


CHICAGO - Over 300 congregations and 50,000 parishioners representing all faith traditions throughout Illinois participated in the Campaign for Better Health Care's 2009 Sound the Alarm program this weekend, drawing attention to the plight of the state's more than 1.8 million uninsured residents, the 18 people per week who die for lack of health care and the effect of exploding health care costs on Illinois' families.

As part of the weekend events, congregations paused during worship services to pray for those in their community who are struggling to get affordable health insurance and who are suffering from the health care crisis; read scripture and liturgies related to healing and justice; held discussion groups on the role of health care as the key to economic security and opportunity for all people; shared personal health care stories to be sent to their local congressperson; and rang a bell or sound a horn or Shofar 18 times.

Faith leaders representing participating congregations from the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim traditions included Rev. Dan Schwick from Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and Lutheran Advocacy-Illinois; Rabbi Paul Kaplan from Moses Montefiore Temple in Bloomington, and Faten Salameh from the Mosque Foundation. Ms. Salameh spoke of the economic impact of the health care crisis on members of her faith community. "More and more, people are not able to afford necessary health care. They struggle to save their home and pay for food, and the stress of not having health care adds to their every day burden."

Rev. Schwick explained that Sound the Alarm 2009 is one of many ongoing health care activities his organization takes part in on a regular basis. "We recognize that in a responsible society that truly values human life, we must ensure that everyone has access to quality, affordable health care," he said. "Our health care delivery system distributes resources unfairly and offers compassion only to those that can afford it. Equal access to health care is a justice issue and a moral necessity that our leaders in Springfield and Washington must address immediately," said Rabbi Kaplan.

Jim Duffett, Executive Director for the Campaign for Better Health Care, remarked, "The faith traditions of the world encourage their members to engage in healing, to act with justice, and to treat one another with compassion. Health care is the key to economic security and opportunity for all people, and a system that provides quality, affordable health care for all is a moral imperative." He can be contacted for further information about Sound the Alarm 2009 or the Faith Caucus at (217) 352-5600 or jduffett@cbhconline.org.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Don't disgrace Chicago say Congress Hotel strikers

Chicago - To its great shame, the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau still promotes the Congress Hotel despite a six-year strike that has garnered national attention and solidarity.

Several dozen strikers and their supporters picketed the group's annual membership meeting March 11 in the frigid cold at McCormick Place. They were joined by a spirited group of McCormick Place restaurant workers who are also members of Unite Here Local 1.

Another group of strikers attended the function by buying a table at the luncheon. They buttonholed guests to win further support and press their point that the Congress Hotel union busting is a disgrace to the city.

Workers at Congress Hotel went on strike June 15, 2003 after the hotel froze wages and slashed benefits. The Congress Hotel went "rogue" by opting out of the pattern wage and benefit agreement that had been reached between the union and all the downtown Chicago hotels. The picket line has been going strong for six winters as has the solidarity of the city's other hotel workers, labor and progressive movements.

With Chicago increasingly in the international spotlight due to its 2016 Olympic bid, strikers are calling on the Convention and Tourism Bureau and potential Congress Hotel customers to "be like Barack" and pledge to refuse to cross the picket line until the strike is settled. President Obama famously walked the picket line in 2007 and pledged his total support.

Even their hospitality industry cohorts get the point. Marc Gordon, President of the Illinois Hotel and Lodging Association said, " ...The Congress Hotel is a substandard hotel and has been for several years. The owners do not care about the guests and consistently the hotel has been plagued by lack of proper maintenance, cleanliness, and proper service. I have received more complaints about this hotel than any other hotel long before there was a work stoppage situation."

The strikers, their union, all of organized labor and supporters will continue to convince potential customers to take their business elsewhere until the fight is won.

For more information: http://www.congresshotelstrike.info/

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A senior responds to the Chicago Tribune's campaign to eliminate free rides to seniors

Dear Editors:

You have written two editorials regarding abolishing the "free rides." Mr. Dennis Byrne's column (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-oped0203byrnefeb03,0,229888.story) was insulting, mean-spirited, and definitely short-sighted. Anyone who feels the way he does is free to pay their fare. Most wealthy people don't ride public transportation.

However, anyone who is against this freebie, is short-sighted is not thinking what this can do for the RTA. I'm a senior. I'm not poor, but I use my card proudly. I'll tell you why. When alone, I walk four blocks, and climb the steps to the "L", I'm always happy to see crowded trains. If I see a car that is almost vacant, I seek out a car that has many people in it.

Usually I take people with me; for example, my teenage grandchildren, when we tak the Red-line to a White Sox game. They are paying customers and love the trip. When I take my children and grandchildren downtown, to museums, concerts, etc, we take the "L" and THEY are paying customers.

There are out-of-town visitors who ride the buses and rails with me. They have heard about crime in Chicago, and are often reluctant to take public trans. When they come with me and see that I'm not afraid, they are also paying customers.

I have season tickets to the Goodman theatre with friends from the suburbs. I've convinced them to take the CTA, to avoid expensive parking. In groups they are willing to do it. They too are paying cutomers.

These are just a few examples. We seniors are not "greedy," just wanting to USE the more interesting, environmentally better, transportation available and show others the way. don't people understand that the higher the fares, the fewer perks, the fewer people will be riding. We want to see those cars and buses full. When services start getting curtailed, and the system becomes unreliable, fewer people will ride, etc. It becomes a downward spiral.

Consider this "freebie" good PR. Not just for the RTA, but for the city of Chicago. Talk about "World Class City"? For the Olympics?

Set your sights on the long-range benefits, especially public relations-wise, of this "freebie."

Joan Elbert, Senior Taxpayer (Redline, bus 151, 147, etc. user)

Monday, March 2, 2009

Former Republic Window plant to reopen – all workers to be rehired

Chicago, IL – Passage of the Obama Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act is already having a jobs creation impact. The United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers (UE) announced Feb. 26 the bankruptcy court approval of the sale of most assets of the former Republic Windows and Doors Company to California based Serious Materials. The sale will allow the plant to reopen.

Two hundred-fifty Republic workers had conducted a six-day sit-in last December when the plant was abruptly closed and the worker’s vacation and severance pay and health benefits were illegally denied. The sit-in, which garnered international solidarity, enabled the workers to win all their demands even though the plant closed.

In its plan to reopen the window factory, Serious Materials also reached an agreement with UE Local 1110 to rehire all former Republic workers at their former rate of pay and allow UE to continue representing them.

Serious Materials is a leading producer of energy efficient windows and other environmental products. The federal stimulus package contains $16 billion for retrofitting existing homes with the type of windows produced by Serious, potentially creating a huge market and thousands of jobs.

“We are happy that the purchase of our former plant by Serious Materials has been approved. Our members are ready to get back to work and make great energy efficient green windows for Serious. We look forward to working together to create green jobs at living wages,” said Armando Robles, President of UE Local 1110.

“We have all been working hard to get our factory re-opened since December 10, 2008. We are so glad this day has come,” said UE Local Vice-President Melvin Maclin.

"The reopening of this factory and the rehiring of these workers provide an excellent example of how the money in the Recovery Act is targeted to spur job creation quickly," said Vice President Biden. "These workers will not only earn a paycheck again; they will go back to work creating products that will benefit America's long-term economic future."

Biden has been charged by President Obama with overseeing the implementation of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

In addition to the stimulus allocation for weatherization retrofitting, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Department of Energy announced a partnership to streamline and coordinate federal efforts to allow homeowners to more quickly tap into the funds.

Serious Materials has other production facilities in California, Colorado and a newly acquired plant in Pennsylvania. The super insulated window designs currently exceed energy efficiency standards in the Energy Star program set by the Environmental Protection Agency and DOE by 200-400%.

Mayor Daley - Where's the stimulus beef?

With $9 billion in the federal stimulus pipeline coming to Illinois, everyone is asking (e.g SEIU IL State Council president Tom Balanoff statement: http://www.progressillinois.com/2009/2/18/columns/balanoff-chicago-recovery) how the money will be spent and suggesting how the money should be spent. But despite pressure from all sides, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley is being silent on the city's plans.

"Yes, we do, we have our list, we've been talking to people," he said. "We did not put that out publicly because once you start putting it out publicly, you know, the newspapers, the media is going to be ripping it apart."

What a bunch of hooey! Just about every other city and town has a list. In fact most municipalities have had lists of shovel ready projects that desperately need funding.

So where's the beef, Mayor Daley?

Everyone can see there is a desperate need in Chicago to upgrade and expand mass transit, insulate public buildings, construct affordable housing, renovate our schools, clean up of the rivers and waterways, expand and improve our parks, preserves and green areas, etc.

One can only speculate. Is Mayor Daley figuring out how to steal as much of the stimulus money for his cronies? Is he trying to find a way to pay for as much of the Olympic construction plans as possible? Is he trying to find a way to pay for downtown development that benefits the tourist industry and wealthy residents at the expense of our working class communities?

Mayor Daley - put it on the table and let us all see. Open up the process so we can all have some input.