Tuesday, September 25, 2012

From the CSO Association and the CSO Nusicians/Chicago Federation of Musicans:


(CHICAGO)—The musicians and management of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have arrived at a tentative agreement for a new, three-year collective bargaining agreement. Ratification of this new contract is still pending by both parties—the Chicago Federation of Musicians and the CSOA Board of Trustees—at which time further details will be announced. When ratified, the new contract will take effect retroactively on Monday, September 17, 2012.

All previously-scheduled CSO activities will proceed as planned.

A press briefing will be scheduled with representatives from both parties when ratification is complete.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

CPS Lunchroom Workers Join Support Rally at Solidarity School
UNITE HERE Local 1 lunchroom workers join community organizations at rally to highlight inequalities in public schools

On Monday, September 10, 2012, approximately 25,000 members of the Chicago Teachers Union walked out on strike to continue their effort to create schools – and workplaces – that can provide the best education for our city’s children. UNITE HERE Local 1, which represents 3,200 lunchroom workers in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS), stands strongly with the teachers. Though we are not on strike, we have been joining picket lines and rallies wherever possible.

Chicago Public School lunchroom workers joined Action Now at a press conference, rally, and march to show support for striking teachers. The press conference was held at one of Action Now’s solidarity schools, and they marched from the solidarity school to Penn Elementary.

Just like when the lunchroom workers of UNITE HERE Local 1 reached an agreement with CPS on their own union contract in April of this year which set a course for school meals in Chicago that incorporate the input of the lunchroom workers, CPS should show that same respect to its teachers. Their voice, experience, and vision for the future of education in Chicago should be considered as teachers are frontline caretakers of the kids, and they always hold the interests of all of our children close to their hearts.

Parents and students back Chicago teachers » peoplesworld

Parents and students back Chicago teachers » peoplesworld

Monday, September 17, 2012

Walmart Warehouse Strike Spreads to Illinois

(at last report, the warehouse workers have returned to work. Actions are being planned this week in Chicago.)

Illinois Workers Walk Off the Job Following Similar Action in Southern California
IL Media Contacts: Leah Fried, Warehouse Workers for Justice 773-550-3022leah@warehouseworker.org,  
Mark Meinster, Warehouse Workers for Justice 773-405-3022mark@warehouseworker.org
CA Media Contact:  Elizabeth Brennan  213-999-2164

For Immediate Release: Monday, Sept. 17, 2012

CHICAGO --- Workers at a key Wal-Mart distribution center in Elwood, Illinois joined warehouse worker from Mira Loma, CA on strike to protest illegal retaliation and other labor abuses.  Today they will visit Walmart's regional offices in Rosemont, IL to deliver tens of thousands of signatures in support of the workers.

On September 12th, warehouse workers in Southern California walked off the job to protest their employers, NFI and Warestaff, for retaliation.  The California workers also move Walmart goods.  Follow this link for more information about the Southern California strike by workers at Walmart warehouses.
In Illinois, workers walked off the job on Saturday September 15th to protest intimidation and retaliation against workers, following the filing of a federal lawsuit on September 13th by workers against Wal-Mart contractor Roadlink Workforce Solutions for wage theft.  It is the sixth lawsuit against a Walmart contractor at their Elwood warehouse. 

We are on strike to protest violations of our rights.  We are tired of retaliation and threats every time we speak up about unsafe working conditions and other abuses”, said Eric Skoglund, a striking warehouse worker.

Wal-Mart has been harshly criticized for the legal violations of its contractors and towards its store associates.  In California, contractors at warehouses serving Walmart were fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for violations of workers’ rights and a federal judge issued several orders and injunctions in favor of the workers, including an injunction stop the mass firing of workers who had filed the lawsuit.  In Illinois, a total of six lawsuits have been filed against contractors operating in the Wal-Mart warehouse for labor violations.

Warehouse workers labor under extreme temperatures lifting thousands of boxes that can weigh up to 250lbs each.  Workplace injuries are common; workers rarely earn a living wage or have any benefits.  Warehouse Workers for Justice is an Illinois worker center dedicated to fighting for quality jobs in the distribution industry that can sustain families and communities.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

In Chicago, a movement is born to reclaim public education » peoplesworld

In Chicago, a movement is born to reclaim public education » peoplesworld

Chicago teachers: “Assault on public education needs to end here” » peoplesworld

Chicago teachers: “Assault on public education needs to end here” » peoplesworld

Striking teachers: ‘The assault on public education needs to end here’

By John Bachtell CHICAGO – “We didn’t start this fight. The assault on public education started here and it needs to end here,” declared Karen Lewis, president of the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).

Lewis was speaking to a solid sea of red-shirted striking educators and their supporters Sept. 11, marking day two of a strike of nearly 30,000 teachers, nurses, librarians, counselors, social workers, aides and paraprofessionals. The teachers were rallying downtown at the Board of Education after picketing 144 facilities that have remained open during the strike.

Picket lines have been visible in every neighborhood of the city and even on highway overpasses. They have received broad public support. According to late reports, the CTU and Board of Education appeared to be making progress toward a new contract. The most contentious issues center on teacher evaluations and rehiring laid-off teachers.

Behind the disagreements lie vastly different views of public education between the union and Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration. The CTU is fighting for a collaborative voice in any education reform and seeks quality, fully funded public education, with smaller class sizes, fully staffed schools and a curriculum rich in art, music, physical education and language at every school.

Teachers see their fight as bettering not only their pay and benefits, but more importantly working and learning conditions benefiting the students.

The Emanuel administration is pushing a corporate driven model of school privatization, which silences the voices of educators and community. It uses student standardized test scores as a significant factor to evaluate teachers. The result is to push out older more experienced and higher paid educators and hire young inexperienced educators who will stay on the job a couple of years. It would constantly churn low-wage workers in the system and prep it for corporate takeover.

“People from the outside have decided they know what’s best for our children. They don’t know our children or communities but they read spread sheets and work in air conditioned buildings,” she said. “They say our children don’t deserve air conditioning, social workers and paraprofessionals.” “We have more in common with our children and parents than we do with these rich people,” she said.

Lewis said class size does matter and fundamentally impacts working and learning conditions. The state legislature took away the right of Chicago teachers to negotiate on it. “When they talk about laying off teachers what they are really saying is they will increase class sizes for our children,” she said.

Solidarity for the striking teachers has been pouring in from around the country. Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, brought greetings from the 1.5 million-member union, to which the CTU belongs.

“This is a struggle people all across the country are watching including New York City. During 9-11 public workers rushed into those burning buildings to rescue people. Every day in Chicago educators are rescuing children and should be treated as heroes,” she said.

“Chicago teachers are fighting for what public education should really be. Parents and kids are supporting you all across this country because they know you are supporting them,” she said. “This is a fight for all God’s children in our public schools to have a decent opportunity to learn,” said Weingarten.

After the brief rally, strikers marched on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME), the largest futures market in the world to illustrate the vast subsidies being handed to corporations and the wealthy at the expense of education and other public services. For example, CME and Sears received tax breaks from the state of $371 million after they threatened to leave.

In addition over $500 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is being diverted each year from schools and parks to, as one protest banner said, “feed the 1%.” In one of the most outrageous examples, $5.2 million in TIF funds was given to the Hyatt Corporation to build a brand new hotel in the Hyde Park neighborhood. Meanwhile, $3.2 million was cut from the budgets to 5 schools in the neighborhood and 27 teachers were laid off.

The Pritzker family, one of the richest in the nation, owns Hyatt. Penny Pritzker sits on the Chicago Board of Education.

“We are fighting for better working conditions because better working conditions are better learning conditions,” said a teacher. “We are trying to save public education.”

Chicago teachers rock

Chicago teachers rock

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Will the "Rust Belt" ever come back?

By Randall Smith

Recently, I was asked a question that struck me very deeply, “Will the Rustbelt ever come back?”. I didn’t find any concrete, real-time answers but did find some interesting and hopeful facts and possibilities. Let’s start by defining the Rustbelt or “Rust Bowl”, most take it to mean the industrial cities of the Mid-western States. That definition is too narrow, as the industrial decline, that started with a recession in 1979-82 travels East at least as far as Delaware Bay ( say, Chester Pa.) North to the Great Lakes, and could be argued goes across the Canadian Border, West at least to the western Borders of Iowa and Missouri, with significant decline as far as Tennessee and, the Carolinas where the textile industry was particularly hard hit.

Under that definition, having that percentage of a Nation in a chronically economically depressed condition, for over 30 years is a significant event, and at present there’s no end in sight. Most of us have some idea of the decline and suffering of cities like Detroit, or in the Pittsburgh Pa. area, but many tend to disregard the fact, that many smaller towns and cities across the region have many, if not all the same issues. The major cities in decline in the area were manufacturing hubs, for every Detroit, Gary or Youngstown, are about 100 towns and cities that made sub-assemblies, and parts for them, or if they had independent industries, they cut-back or closed due to Overseas competition, regional decline, or both. That adds up to many more towns and cities.

Let’s also separate the phrases “Rustbelt” and “Rust-Bowl”, the Rustbelt is the region, and the dominant industry was steel products. The “Rust-Bowl”, was an exodus out of the Mid-West core of the area, to the South and South-West. The phrase was inspired, by the exodus out of the central southern States in the 1930s due to Environmental and Soil conditions. Those conditions improved by the late 30's and many People came back. Many have also returned to the Industrial Mid-West, however conditions have not improved, this exodus largely ended in the mid 1980s, it continues to a very limited degree, most returning finding the prospects aren’t, now, really, any better in those locations either.

To answer the question “Will the area come back?” is complex, and contains several “ifs”.

Steel being the dominant industry in the area, it is a central issue in that question’s answer. As for today, a short answer would be in two parts, one: Not as it was, nor should it. And, two: not without significant planning and investment. This answer has an added irony, in that, in all the World, the raw-materials that make steel are in some of their greatest abundance a fairly equal, and economical shipping distance from the effected communities. It could be argued, that between the savings in mode of shipment, rail and water being many times more economical than Road-way, and the abundance of raw materials close at hand (in a Global sense, Very close), coupled with being also close, if not directly at, one of the Worlds largest markets for steel products, dictates that at some point it will. The simple availability of the resources involved, indicates that at some point it must.

One of the points made since the decline began by the managerial and financial sectors involved in the area’s Industry, has been the cost of Labor, particularly Organized Labor. Many of us who live in the effected area have come to the conclusion that the availability and abundance of resources, economy of transportation, and further economy in that regard to being directly close to a very large market, would render the cost of Labor, a small issue indeed.

 In fact, Labor costs seem to be a central issue in excuses and debates about the issue, to the point of exclusion of discussion of these other factors. If we are to offer any viable future to our Young People, possess a strong economy, and ease many of the social and economical problems the people of our nation face as a whole, the answers are in the “Rustbelt”. Just as it is said that a high tide lifts all Boats.