Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Mark Kirk, You get an F for "War on Drugs" redux!

By John Bachtell

In his latest newsletter to constituents, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) restates a variant of his call for a war on Chicago street gangs that he originally hoped would imprison 18,000 gang members:

"Dangerous drug gangs continue to terrorize our communities at a troubling rate, and the law enforcement officials who are on the front lines fighting against them have identified a key deficiency in state law that we need to fix. That's why I teamed up with local law enforcement officials last week to call on the Illinois General Assembly to pass harsh penalties targeting illegal gun crimes, including those committed by gangs. 

"I joined with Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim and North Chicago Police Chief James Jackson in calling on the Illinois General Assembly to pass legislation stiffening penalties for illegal gun crimes, especially those committed by gang members. The bill would require a minimum sentence of three years in prison for certain gun crimes, including illegal possession of a gun by a gang member or a convicted felon, and mandates that offenders serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. The University of Chicago Crime Lab estimated that the legislation would result in 3,800 fewer crimes per year, including 400 serious violent crimes."

Shame on Mark Kirk! There is not one new idea in this.

This is a continuation of the failed "War on Drugs", a policy imbued with racism which over the past 30 years has resulted in the highest incarceration rates of any country on Earth.  

US prisons are being filled with mainly African American and Latino young males. It is according to author and scholar Michelle Alexander, the "New Jim Crow." Millions of Black and Latino youth are forever in the grips of the criminal justice system.

So instead of getting to the root of the crisis of violence, Kirk doubles down. His original idea was to round up 18,000 gang members in Chicago and imprison them. That went no-where, so he's back with another scaled down idea. But it's the same.

The "War on Drugs" has been a miserable failure. We need to give thought to a new radical and transformative way to address these issues including the mass incarceration and the economic crisis which has devastated whole communities:

1. Creation of a massive jobs program to rebuild and modernize the city, state and country, putting millions to work. Youth in the high unemployment communities should be targeted for special efforts to build affordable housing, new schools, recreation and cultural facilities, rebuild the infrastructure, the electric grid, sustainable forms of energy creation and delivery, environmental clean up, extending mass transit, etc.

2. Open up the universities and trade schools to educate and train a new generation of workers and older workers who have lost their jobs from automation and outsourcing free of charge.

3. Radical reform of the criminal justice system, including elimination of punitive sentences for drug possession, creation of a program for the formerly incarcerated that would include education in professional careers, technical and skilled trades, etc., housing, access to mental health and substance abuse programs and restoration of voting rights.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

228 Bakery Workers Settle Labor Dispute for $200,000

Workers are celebrating the end of an 18-month dispute over severance pay owed to them from their former employer. Lincolnwood-based Rolf's Patisserie closed its doors on December 11, 2011 without giving its workforce advance notice, and issued final paychecks that bounced. 

The workers sought the aid of Arise Chicago, a community-based workers' rights organization, and the law firm of Despres, Schwartz & Geoghegan, Ltd. 

After filing suit in January 2012, the workers were able to recover over $150,000 – the full value of their bounced paychecks – the following month. The workers then advocated for their cause, visiting Lincolnwood Village Hall and prominent Chicago-area religious leaders. 

They also continued to pursue their lawsuit under the WARN Act, which entitles workers to 60 days notice or 60 days compensation before a closing. 

Today, the workers announce their $200,000 settlement of those claims and receive their checks.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Eleventh Hour to Prevent Catastrophe in Syria » cpusa

Eleventh Hour to Prevent Catastrophe in Syria » cpusa

The corporate "Playbook" on how to destroy public education

Richard Eskrow from Campaign for America's Future describes how the corporate "playbook" to destroy public education works. Rahm Emanuel is following it to the T:
1. Pretend that “budgets” are the real crisis – but never mention that corporations and the wealthy are paying less in taxes than ever before in modern history.

2. Make scapegoats of innocent people to draw attention away from yourselves. For Social Security they’ve attacked “greedy geezers,” but it’s hard to come up with a catchy equivalent for kids. (“Insatiable imps”? “Avaricious anklebiters”?) So they vilify teachers instead.

3. Sell a fantasy which says that the private sector can do more, with less money, than government can.  (Never, never mention that private insurance provides far less healthcare than public insurance, at much higher cost. And don’t bring up the mess privatization’s made of prisons and other government services.)

4. Find a name that doesn’t use words like “money-making.” How about “charter schools”?

5. Describe yourselves as “reformers” – rather than, say, “demolishers.” That’s why “entitlement reform” is used as a euphemism for cutting Social Security and Medicare. (Michelle Rhee even called her autobiography “Radical.” Apparently “Shameless” was taken.)

6. Employ the political and media elite’s fascination with (and poor understanding of) numbers. Suggest that “standardized” and “data-driven” programs will solve everything – without ever mentioning that the truly ideological decisions are made when you decide what it is you’re measuring.

7. Co-opt the elite media into supporting your artificial description of the problem, as well as your entirely self-serving solution.

8. Use your money to co-opt politicians from both parties so you can present your agenda as “bipartisan” – a word which means you can “buy” a few “partisans” from both sides.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Workers To Protest Hyatt Shareholders Meeting For Longstanding Labor Abuses

Housekeeper Running for Hyatt Board also to attend Meeting Held at McDonalds' Oak Brook Campus
View the petition calling on Hyatt to amend its labor practices and add a worker to the board at

 Chicago, IL-- On Monday June 10, hotel workers will protest the Hyatt Corporation's annual shareholders meeting taking place at McDonalds Corporation's Oak Brook campus. Hyatt workers have been calling on the prominent hotel chain to reform longstanding labor abuses and to add a hotel worker to the board of directors to provide front-line employee leadership and help reform labor practices from the top.

Cathy Youngblood, a housekeeper at the Hyatt Andaz in West Hollywood, has been running to be added to the Hyatt board with the support of the UNITE HERE union through a campaign called "Someone Like Me." She has been crisscrossing the country since 2012, speaking to workers and community leaders about the need for strong worker board representation to help correct years of abuses at Hyatt and to make it a better hotel for the people who work there, the families who stay there, and the shareholders who have seen the formidable chain decline in revenue and value recently. 

"There's a huge movement of, by and for low wage workers across the globe," says Youngblood. "I and thousands of workers are demanding to be included on corporate boards, like Hyatt and Wal-Mart and McDonalds and others that employ millions of Americans in the lowest low-wage work, and understand that we are the ones that keep the guests and customers coming back. Too often, the odds are stacked against anyone who challenges corporate hierarchy, even though these challenges aim to benefit all--to improve the business, the lives of workers, and service to consumers. Far too many workers are suspended or terminated just for suggesting a better, more efficient, and safer way of completing their daily tasks. Many decisions affecting how a business is run are made among corporate boards and their financial managers. Changes affecting the workforce are implemented without asking what their workers think.  This is the precise reason why American workers have begun to fight back; they are determined to change their working conditions and understand real change will only come when their voices are heard in the boardroom as well as in the workplace."

Workers are protesting Hyatt and supporting Cathy's campaign to be added to the board because the chain has singled itself out as the worst employer in the hotel industry by abusing its housekeepers, replacing longtime employees with minimum wage temporary workers, and imposing health-threatening workloads on those who remain. In a first in the hotel industry, the federal government issued a letter to Hyatt last year, warning the company of hazards their housekeepers face. Workers say that adding someone with recent guest experience to the Board could reshape Hyatt's staffing policies and improve Hyatt's image.

To view Cathy Youngblood's video about her campaign to be added to the Hyatt Board: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6FHI37R8AM


Thursday, May 23, 2013

In response to school closures, a new movement is born » peoplesworld

In response to school closures, a new movement is born » peoplesworld

Obama and the right’s “brave new world” » peoplesworld

Obama and the right’s “brave new world” » peoplesworld

In response to school closures a new movement is born for education justice


By John Bachtell

"Mindless destruction."

That’s the immediate reaction to the vote to close 50 schools by the Chicago Public Schools Board of Education (BOE) on May 22. The BOE voted unanimously for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plan, in reality a continuation of the same policy dating back 20 years.

There was never much doubt about the outcome by the deaf, rubberstamp BOE. It is after all an unelected, unaccountable board appointed by the Mayor and composed of corporate CEOs, millionaires and billionaires.

The closures are the largest in US history and follow similar closures based on similar policies in Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, Sacramento and other school systems.

The closures are a direct outcome of a corporate “market based” approach to public education. No longer are educators in charge of public education, but corporate executives, CEO, millionaires and billionaires who are looting public education and turning it into a profit making venture.

Such an approach involves creating a two tier public educational system, one for the wealthy, which gets showered with abundant funding and resources, a rich curriculum, small class sizes and experienced educators.

And the other is reserved for working class and children of color, which is starved of resources, a bare bones curriculum in which students are considered expendable by society and warehoused accordingly in overcrowded classrooms in dilapidated buildings.

That the policies are patently racist is evidenced by the fact that 90% of children affected are African American. This prompted a lawsuit by CTU that the closures violate the federal Civil Rights Act.

That children with disabilities will be being warehoused and denied funding to address special needs also prompted a similar lawsuit claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Meanwhile the education profession is being destroyed and teachers are becoming merely unskilled low wage classroom managers, easily replaced as they burn out after a couple of years.

The entire system is opened to privatization and looting by Wall Street hedge funds and the likes of billionaires Gates, Waltons, Broads and their ilk.

The BOE approved the plan despite broad based opposition by the Chicago Teachers Union, parents, students and communities around the affected schools and the community at large.

High school and elementary school students boycotted classes and sat-in to protest the plan and joined their teachers, parents and community activists in marching rallying and being arrested in civil disobedience actions.

Emanuel and CPS officials conducted themselves disgracefully throughout the process, presenting shifting reasons for the closures and justifying them on the basis of lies, distortion and omission. When one justification was exposed as a lie, they shamelessly shifted to another.

First it was a billion dollar budget crisis and underutilization. Then it was underutilization and low performance.

Even this was too much for the corporate media mouthpieces like the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times who voiced growing skepticism.

When the expose of the lies became too much, CPS simply imposed a news blackout.

All along they hid the real CPS agenda of privatization.

Those who opposed the closures warned that they would only deepen the education crisis in Chicago; place the children in greater danger of exposure to gang violence; they would mirror past closures and not result in educational gains.

They warned the closures would continue to destroy the fabric of communities that are already reeling from deep poverty and economic crisis.

A school closure is akin to a plant shutdown. It is destruction of human community and public institutions built up over generations from the hard work, blood, sweat and tears and creativity of thousands.

Like a plant shutdown, the consequences are brutal with ripple affects that are widespread and unforeseen. They involve harm to children, families, neighborhoods and the teachers, support personnel, cafeteria workers, maintenance workers and their families – the very fabric of a community.

As CTU president Karen Lewis said “this battle is far from over.” A new movement has already begun in the political arena: register 250,000 voters and unseat Mayor Emanuel and his supporters in city council and pass legislation to establish an elected school board.

To win, such a movement must be far broader than present, reach deeper into the grassroots and go beyond communities so far affected, and unite our multi-racial working class and mobilize the entire labor movement while affectively countering the corporate lies and setting out a vision for the future of public education.

A new national movement for education justice has been born all across the country, to defend public education from those who would destroy it, to end the corporate looting and privatization and to provide a fully funded, equitable public education for all.
At Senate Hearing, Hyatt Workers Oppose Pritzker Nomination for Commerce Secretary

Citing labor abuses and Pritzker’s inaction as Hyatt Director,
workers call Hyatt “the worst hotel employer in America”

For more background on labor abuses at Hyatt, visit www.HyattHurts.org

[Washington, D.C.] Today, Hyatt workers, joined by UNITE HERE President D. Taylor, will be present for a Senate hearing with Penny Pritzker, in opposition to her nomination as Secretary of Commerce. Workers say that Hyatt’s record of labor abuses and outsourcing jobs makes Ms. Pritzker, a longtime Hyatt board member and heir to the Hyatt fortune, a bad choice for Commerce Secretary.  In recent years, Hyatt has drawn criticism for opposing higher wage standards, replacing longtime housekeepers with minimum wage temps, and lobbying against safer working conditions for hotel housekeepers.

Hyatt has singled itself out as the worst hotel employer America, leading the industry in outsourcing practices that destroy good jobs and hurt housekeepers. Some Hyatt housekeepers clean as many as 30 rooms a day, getting paid as little as $2 per room. In a first for the hotel industry OSHA issued a companywide letter to Hyatt warning it of the hazards its housekeepers face on the job.

“Under Ms. Pritzker's leadership, Hyatt has exhibited a broad pattern of labor abuses, including aggressive outsourcing, low wages and the mistreatment of housekeepers,” says D. Taylor, the President of UNITE HERE.  “In order to get our nation on the road to recovery, the Commerce Department needs leadership far different from what Ms. Pritzker has demonstrated at Hyatt Hotels.”

Hyatt workers have been locked in a protracted battle with the company, which has resulted in numerous strikes nationwide and a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels. Earlier this week, hundreds of Hyatt workers led protests against Pritzker’s nomination in Chicago—Hyatt’s hometown. On Wednesday, UNITE HERE published an ad in Politico detailing these abuses and calling President Obama's nomination "A Mistake." UNITE HERE has submitted a statement of opposition to Sen. Jay Rockefeller, Chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

“The Commerce Secretary’s first concern should be to create good, family sustaining jobs for all Americans,” says Cathy Youngblood, a Hyatt housekeeper who has led a national campaign to elect a hotel worker to Hyatt’s Board of Directors. “Under Pritzker’s direction, Hyatt has led the hotel industry in a race to the bottom by aggressively subcontracting out career hotel jobs to minimum wage temps. This is not the model that will lead our country to a bright economic future.”

Nationally, civil rights leaders have championed the cause of Hyatt workers.  The National Organization of Women (NOW), the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) have endorsed the global boycott of Hyatt Hotels.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Burge Conviction for Lying About "Horrific" Torture
By G. Flint Taylor
Posted on April 2, 2013 on peopleslawoffice.com  
The opinion was written by Judge Ann Williams, the only African American judge in the history of the Seventh Circuit. Introducing the 23 page decision, Judge Williams wrote:
Former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge presided over an interrogation regime where suspects were suffocated with plastic bags, electrocuted until they lost consciousness, held down against radiators, and had loaded guns pointed at their heads during rounds of Russian roulette. The use of this kind of torture was designed to inflict pain and instill fear while leaving minimal marks. When Burge was asked about these practices in civil interrogatories served on him years later, he lied and denied any knowledge of, or participation in, torture of suspects in police custody. But the jury heard overwhelming evidence to contradict that assertion and convicted Burge for obstruction of justice and perjury.
Judge Williams further discussed the history of Burge and his confederates' pattern of torture:
For many years a cloud of suspicion loomed over the violent crimes section of the Area 2 precinct of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) located on Chicago's south side. Jon Burge joined the CPD in 1970 and rose to commanding officer of the violent crimes section in the 1980s, but his career was marked by accusations from over one hundred individuals who claimed that he and officers under his command tortured suspects in order to obtain confessions throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Burge was fired in 1993 after the Office of Professional Standards investigated the allegations, but he was not criminally charged. Years later the Circuit Court of Cook County appointed special prosecutors to investigate the allegations of torture, but due to statutes of limitation, prosecutors never brought direct charges of police brutality against Burge. Eventually, the City of Chicago began to face a series of civil lawsuits from victims seeking damages for the abuse they endured.
It was in one of these lawsuits that Burge denied in sworn interrogatory answers that he had knowledge of, or participated in, any acts of torture or physical abuse, and these statements lead to his federal indictment and trial. In the Court's decision, Judge Williams summarized the "horrific" evidence that the Government introduced against Burge at trial:
At trial, the government called multiple witnesses to testify about the methods of torture and abuse used by Burge and others at Area 2 in order to establish that Burge lied when he answered the interrogatories in the Hobley case...[T]he witnesses at trial detailed a record of decades of abuse that is unquestionably horrific. The witnesses described how they were suffocated with plastic bags, electrocuted with homemade devices attached to their genitals, beaten, and had guns forced into their mouths during questioning. Burge denied all allegations of abuse, but other witnesses stated that he bragged in the 1980s about how suspects were beaten in order to extract confessions. Another witness testified that Burge told her that he did not care if those tortured were innocent or guilty, because as he saw it, every suspect had surely committed some other offense anyway.
The Court then went on to dismiss Burge's assertions of trial and sentencing errors, finding that the evidence that he lied was "overwhelming," and summarized its decision as follows:
Burge raises several challenges to his convictions on appeal, which we do not find persuasive because the evidence shows that he lied when he answered the interrogatories, his false statements impeded an official proceeding, and they were material to the outcome of the civil case. Overall, we conclude that no errors were committed by the court and Burge received a fair trial.
For the past 27 years, Taylor has represented numerous police torture survivors, including  Darrell Cannon, and is a founding partner of the People's Law Office, which is a Chicago civil rights law firm, whose attorneys have been fighting for victims of police torture, brutality, wrongful convictions, false arrest and other government abuses for over 40 years. For more information on police torture and other topics, visit peopleslawoffice.com

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Transit Group Concerned About a CTA Credit Card

CTA will pay Cubic Transportations Systems a monthly fee plus a fee per “tap” or paid fare" - "over the life of the 12-year contract"

Citizens Taking Action for transit dependent riders  http://www.ctariders.org/
For Information: Charles Paidock (312) 714-7790, (312) 842-5036cpaidock@hotmail.com transitcatt@hotmail.com
Kevn Peterson (773) 896-8126
Citizens Taking Action, an organization of transit dependent riders, is concerned about implementation of the CTA's new "open" transit fare system, using a debit/credit card, which was simply announced last September as a press release, without any public hearings.  CTA apparently simply approved an agreement with a private company at a monthly meeting of their board.  The contract will pay the company a monthly fee plus a fee per "tap" or paid fare, over the life of a 12 year contract.

CBS 2’s News reported that "one of the companies behind the new card gets an F rating from the Better Business Bureau."

The transit group has affiliated with Privatization Watch: Illinois (PWIL) which works to expose the dangers of, and to stop the spread of, public-private partnerships (PPPs) such as this, as well as Mayor Emanuel's plans for an infrastructure trust.

PWIL points out that when other transit systems that have entered into such pubic-private partnerships, the results were disasterous.  In England, the London Underground’s PPP, for example, is called "biggest transport fiasco of our time."

Charles Paidock, Secretary of the group, stated:  "It is very, very dangerous to allow a private company to have access to the fare box on each bus, and at each el station, which is what CTA is doing.  These companies like nothing better than to have a "steady revenue stream" of money coming in each day.  On top of this, CTA gives them money up front to set in place this operation, apparently $454 million.  You're letting a private company collect passenger revenue, and it doesn't put one bus on the street, or a train on the track.  I thnk we're only beginning to see the start of this story."

Keven Peterson said:  "You are expecting us to trust CTA with access to our personal banking information, our credit cards, our debit cards, and expect nothing bad to happen?  Leave it up to CTA pick the worst company to partner with.  There were no open pubic hearings about any of this.  It's just the status quo with how CTA operates.  Are we expected to just trust them to all do their jobs?  And when something bad happens we're all supposed to be surprised, and CTA will not have seen it coming.  Do you trust CTA with all your personal banking information?  I don't."

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Oliver Stone's "Untold History of the United States" comes to Humboldt Park

Puerto Rican Cultural Center reports:

Over 700 people crowded into Roberto Clemente Community Academy's auditorium last Friday, February 1 to see a chapter of Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznik's "Untold History of the United States". Principal Marcey Sorenson welcomed those present and after the film, a short panel discussion ensued with Stone, Prof. Kuznik and Prof José E. López, Executive Director of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

The panel fielded questions from the audience via index cards filled out after the film. The panelists took turns addressing the questions and all of them talked about the possibilities of the future of struggle in the US. The activity like the press conference and Meet and Greet the next day were part of the Puerto Rican Cultural Center 40th Anniversary series.

To end, both Prof Kuznik and Oliver Stone were gifted mementoes of the occasion, a poster of the Puerto Rican flag and to Oliver Stone, a Free Oscar López t-shirt, a fitting gift from a community of struggle.

We Are One Illinois Statement on Governor Pat Quinn's State of the State Address

The following statement was issued by the We Are One Illinois coalition in response to Governor Pat Quinn's 2013 State of the State speech:

"Governor Pat Quinn presented a false choice today between funding pensions or funding vital services, like education and public safety. We present a different choice. Our plan would generate billions in revenue, share in the sacrifice, and should not be overlooked. Public workers and retirees alone cannot solve decades of the state's pension under-funding.

It would be irresponsible for the state to walk away from the pension debt owed for past services performed by employees. Our Illinois keeps its promises to those workers and retirees who taught our children, protected our families, and paid their fair share for a secure future, even as the state failed to generate sufficient revenue to do so.

We are ready to be part of the solution, and we look to renew this commitment at our summit.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Come home, Mr. President

Rainbow PUSH Coalition

February 4, 2013

Chicago is in a state of emergency. Lives are being lost. Fear is growing. Local officials, ministers and community activists are working diligently but cannot break the cycle. We’re seeing more than one funeral a day. Our children are traumatized. Many are afraid to go to school.

In this crisis, we need the president’s leadership. President Obama can provide the knowledge, vision and inspiration to bring us together to address the crisis. He can speak to the children to calm their fears.

Mr. President, as you know, last week, 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, an honor student who performed in your inaugural ceremonies as a majorette, was murdered, slain when a gunman shot randomly into a group of kids gathered in a neighborhood park less than one mile from your home.

Last year in Chicago, more than 500 lives were lost to gun violence, 175 of those lives under the age of 18. As you know, Mr. President, we don’t make the guns here, they are imported — just as the drugs are imported and the jobs are exported. Children are at risk as a result. Eyewitnesses are too frightened to cooperate. Police brutality has eroded trust. Even those with strong families and strong discipline like Hadiya’s are too often the victims of this emergency.

The threat of violence accompanies the blight of misery. Less than 10 percent of low-income, minority teens in Chicago are employed. The wages of those who have jobs are not keeping up. Hadiya was attending the elite Martin Luther King College Prep High School and headed to college. But too many children are devastated by poverty and dropping out of school, headed to the streets.

The recession has destroyed homes as well as jobs. With mass foreclosures, plywood boards replace windowpanes. Abandoned homes shelter not families, but the desperate. Neighborhoods decline with the loss of hospitals, the closing of schools.

Mr. President, you inspired America with your inaugural call to honor the promise of Martin Luther King. In Newtown and in your gun-violence proposals, you have shown the courage it requires to lead.

After Hadiya’s shooting, more police were pledged to patrol the streets. But as you know from your time on these streets, Mr. President, you cannot police poverty. You cannot police broken dreams or shattered aspirations. Chicago has strong gun laws, but it cannot stop the flow of guns and drugs coming in and jobs going out.

You can issue the summons to America to face this challenge. You can reassure these children that America cares for them and values them, knowing, as you said in your inaugural address, that we are “true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”

We know the fierce resistance you face in Washington, where powerful lobbies already are lining up to block gun-violence reforms. Yet, you have moved forward on gun violence, knowing that the summons to Americans is the first step toward overcoming those standing in the way.

So, too, it is with the crisis of Chicago and our cities. The resistance is clear. But by summoning the country to act, by showing the children that this country cares, you can make the first step toward action. You can ensure that Hadiya’s tragic death contributes not to a continuing spiral of violence, but to the first steps of renewal.

Come home, Mr. President, your city needs you.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Unions and allies to GOP: Stop holding Americans hostage! » peoplesworld

Unions and allies to GOP: Stop holding Americans hostage! » peoplesworld

Response to Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan's Summit Invitation Rejection

January 30, 2013

The following statement is by Michael T. Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, speaking on behalf of the We Are One Illinois union coalition, in response to Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan's rejection of the coalition's summit invitation:

We Are One Illinois regrets that Speaker Madigan has indicated he will not participate in the Pension Summit proposed by our union coalition. Our summit is a demonstration of good faith and commitment to seeking to solve the state’s pension funding problem in a way that is fair and constitutional.

Our coalition has already put forward a plan that addresses the intertwined problems of inadequate revenues and underfunded pensions. It would end the practice of politicians shorting actuarially required payments to the retirement funds; ease state budget pressures by closing wasteful tax loopholes, especially for big corporations; and require active public employees to pay more toward the pensions they earn and rely on.

Our plan would provide at least $2.35 billion a year to stabilize the retirement funds, while preventing cuts to retirees who worked hard and played by the rules.

The We Are One Illinois plan has the potential to be a starting point for participatory discussions around a pension-funding solution. Crucially, we believe that pension legislation supported by all parties is the only way to meet constitutional muster and avert costly and time-consuming court battles.

In downgrading Illinois credit last week, Standard and Poor’s warned that unconstitutional pension cuts “risk … legal challenges” that could take “several years” to resolve, delaying “improved funded ratios and budget relief.” Illinois doesn’t have years to waste. The We Are One Illinois coalition of unions remains ready to work constructively on this problem right now.

We have pointed out that the public employees and retirees represented by our unions are helpers and problem-solvers by trade—the teachers, the caregivers, the protectors and those who respond in emergencies. They are committed to being a part of the solution to the pension problem as well, but they can’t do it alone.

We were particularly surprised and disappointed that the Speaker singled out state employees from our coalition—which includes teachers, police, fire fighters, nurses, caregivers and many others—and decried their efforts to maintain decent wages and affordable health care. In terms of comparison to other states, it is true that Illinois state employees are fairly paid—just as are other public employees , and indeed unionized  private sector workers  in our state. Illinois is a relatively high-wage state and all of our citizens are the better for it. Further, when comparing benefits to private-sector workers, it must be noted that nearly 80 percent of Illinois public employees—including teachers, police, fire fighters and university employees—are not eligible for Social Security. Finally, every serious, academic study has shown that public employees are paid less in wages and earn less in total compensation than comparable private-sector workers with similar jobs and educational attainment.

On the pension issue, the Speaker is correct to recall a series of discussions involving the union coalition, legislative leaders and the governor nearly one year ago. We were disappointed when those discussions were abruptly halted by the elected officials last spring, and despite our invitations throughout the ensuing months, never resumed. Our Feb. 11 Pension Summit is an opportunity to get back to work.

The people of Illinois want and deserve leaders who work together to solve problems. The public employees and retirees who serve the people need and depend on the modest pensions they earn and pay into from every check. A pension-funding solution that is constitutional, sustainable and fair requires openness and dialogue from all parties."

Monday, January 28, 2013

Obama speech heralds new era » peoplesworld

Obama speech heralds new era » peoplesworld


 By Frank Chapman
National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression

We have organized, participated in and will celebrate at this Conference two major victories won this past year: the release and vindication of our national co-chairperson Rev. Ben Chavis and the Wilmington Ten and George Merritt, member of our national board. While we celebrate these victories we are keenly aware of the continued attempts to stifle dissent, to silence every activist in the movements for equality, peace, freedom and solidarity with other peoples. Such dangers are represented by our government's continued prosecution of courageous peace activist David Truong

These threats are also confronted daily by our numerous organizational efforts: the fight for Johnny Imani Harris' release from death row, only miles from Birmingham; the struggle to free Native American activist Leonard Peltier; stopping the mass murder vis-a-vis the death penalty planned for the Pontiac brothers; abolishing the behavior control unit and the brutal persecution of prisoners at Marion, Illinois; and at a thousand other hell-holes from Santa Fe to Leavenworth to MacAlister, Soledad and Parchman. Our Conference will address this continuing barbarism and seek to redress it."

 The above statement was taken from the Call for our Sixth National Conference of The National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression held in Birmingham, Alabama in 1981.

The Wilmington Ten were Rev. Ben Chavis, nine young men who were still in high school and a white woman who were convicted in 1971 of  arson and conspiracy. The NAARPR took the case of the Wilmington Ten up at its founding convention and subsequently launched a national and international campaign making it a cause célèbre.

The 1970s, coming in the wake of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, was the beginning of what became known as the backlash against gains of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The government’s response to the ghetto uprisings (called race riots) that occurred on the eve of King’s assassination and afterwards was punitive, violent and repressive.

In 1969, just a year after the murder of Dr. King and the riots, there was an attempt to integrate the high schools of Wilmington, N.C. The city used this attempted integration as a pretext for closing Williston High School, the pride of the African American community. Black teachers and coaches were laid off and students transferred. The school administrators refused to meet with parents and students. There were no preparations for these abrupt changes. Tensions sprouted up giving rise to clashes between white and black students. There followed arrests and expulsions.

In an effort to exploit these racial tensions the KKK and other white supremacists began patrolling the streets in an attempt to intimidate and terrorize African Americans. Consequently street violence broke out between the Klan and African American men. Also students decided to boycott the high schools. This occurred in January, 1971.

In Feb., 1971 the United Church of Christ sent Rev. Ben Chavis, director of their Commission for Racial Justice, to Wilmington, N.C. to ease tensions and work with students and the community for a peaceful and just solution.

Rev. Ben Chavis advocated non-violence in the manner of the late Dr. King; and upon arriving he immediately proceeded to organize the students and the community. There were regular meetings with discussions on the history of African American freedom struggles and the need to organize a boycott.

Within a week (on Feb. 7, 1971) Mike’s Grocery, a white owned business, was fire-bombed and the responding firefighters claimed they were shot at by snipers. Rev. Chavis and the students were peacefully assembled at the Church. A riot broke out in the community, lasting ‘til the next day and claiming the lives of two people.

On Feb. 8, 1971 the Governor Robert Scott called out the National Guard. They forced their way into the Church, alleging that they found ammunition.

At the end of the day there were two deaths, six injuries and $500,000 in property damages. Rev. Ben Chavis, eight young African American men, who were high school students, and a white woman who was an anti-poverty worker, were arrested and charged with arson. Based on the false testimony of two black men, the Wilmington Ten were tried, convicted and sentenced to a total of 282 years.   One witness said he was given a mini bike in exchange for his testimony. The other witness had a history of mental illness.
Name                                       Age                             Sentence
Rev. Ben Chavis                     24                                34 years
Connie Tindall                        21                                31 years
James “Bun” McKay              19                                29 years
Wayne More                           19                                29 years
Melvin “Chili” Patrick            19                                29 years
Reginald Epps                         18                                28 years
Jerry Jacobs                             19                                29 years
Name                                       Age                             Sentence
Willie Earl Vereen                   18                                29 years
William “Joe” Wright              19                                29 years
Ann Shepard                           36                                15 years

The National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression mobilized tens of thousands in protest through nationwide rallies and demonstrations in New York, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Oakland, Louisville, St. Louis, Newark, Pittsburg, and throughout the state of North Carolina culminating in a national mass demonstration in Raleigh, N.C. in 1976.

From 1977-80 we collected tens of thousands of signatures on petitions to Free the Wilmington Ten directed to Governor James B. Hunt. These petitions were signed by people in the United States and throughout the world. We were supported by trade union organizations, parliamentarians, supreme courts justices, writers, artists, students, people from all walks of life throughout Europe, India, China, Ethiopia, Angola, Cuba, Canada and South Africa.

In 1978 the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and the National Conference of Black Lawyers filed a petition with the United Nations Human Rights Commission charging the U.S. Government with Human Rights violations in the cases of the Wilmington Ten, Leonard Peltier, Johnny Imani Harris, Geronimo Pratt and many other political prisoners.

When President Jimmy Carter visited the Soviet Union in 1978 he was reminded by Soviet leaders of the human rights violations in the Wilmington Ten case.

In 1980, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, a federal court, overturned the convictions, as it determined that (1) the prosecutor failed to disclose exculpatory evidence, in violation of the defendants' due process rights [the Brady rule]; and (2) the trial judge erred by limiting the cross-examination of key prosecution witnesses about special treatment the witnesses received in connection with their testimony, in violation of the defendants' 6th Amendment right to confront the witnesses against them. Chavis v. State of North Carolina, 637 F.2d 213 (4th Cir. 1980).

We adopted the slogan A Luta Continua from our sisters and brothers who led the revolution in Angola against the then Portuguese colonial government. Today more than ever we need to invoke this slogan and inscribe it on our banners as we did in 1973.

The National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression was founded in the city of Chicago 39 years ago. Our formation came in the wake of the movement to Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners and was truly a watershed moment in the history of the democratic struggles of the masses of our people for labor rights, human rights and peace. We also felt an urgent need to respond to the planned destruction of our movement by the FBI and CIA through their counter intelligence program known a COINTELPRO.  We came about as a result of the particular need of our movement to defend itself against the racist and political repression used by the local, state and federal governments to stymie and destroy us. We came together in the light of our deep and abiding concern for the democratic rights and aspirations of the overwhelming majority of the American people. We came together because we realized that government at the local, state and federal level was being used to contain and eliminate any and everyone challenging the status quo. Our mission was clearly to defend and extend the democratic rights of the people.

The recent pardon of the Wilmington Ten by the outgoing Governor of North Carolina is a living testament to the fact that mass, organized struggles can be victorious in the fight against racist and political repression. The NAACP played a decisive and heroic role in waging a successful campaign for the pardon of the Wilmington Ten. They delivered the final blow for justice in this case.

Today as we approach our fortieth anniversary our movement faces new dangers and historically unprecedented attacks against democracy. That is why the struggle must continue. Yesterday it was the Wilmington Ten, today its Mumia abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, Howard Morgan, victim of attempted murder by Chicago Police (shot 28 times), serving 40 years in prison falsely convicted ,  the torture victims: William Atkins, Terrance Brooks, Benson Carter, Sherone Griffin, Leonard Hinton, Delandis Adams, Johnnie Plummer, Carlos Santos, Gerald Reed, Rayshawn Hudgins , and countless others who are in prison due to racist frame-ups and wrongful convictions. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Obama goes head-to-head with gun lobby » peoplesworld

Obama goes head-to-head with gun lobby » peoplesworld

SEIU Local 1 calls for City to void O’Hare cleaning contract that cost hundreds of Chicago workers their jobs

United Maintenance violated terms of city contract, hiding investors…

From SEIU Local 1:

Chicago—SEIU Local 1 called on Mayor Emanuel to immediately terminate the O’Hare cleaning contract with United Maintenance and rebid it. Today’s report from the Chicago Sun-Times makes it clear that United Maintenance violated city requirements by withholding critical information about his company during the contract bid process.

Richard Simon sold 50 percent of his company in December 2011. Over the course of the entire next year he neglected to inform the city of the change in ownership, as required by law, until after he was assured he was awarded the $100 million contract.

“This is a serious deception and a violation of the city’s contract requirements that should result in a termination of the contract with United Maintenance,” said SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff. “We believe this incident is serious enough to warrant a criminal investigation and we call on both City Inspector General Ferguson and Cook County State’s Attorney Alvarez to immediately launch an investigation into this matter.”
United Maintenance has violated the city’s terms for contractors by neglecting to disclose its ownership until after the acquiring the lucrative city contract. This is a company with reported ties to organized crime that has cut wages at O’Hare and cost hundreds of Chicago workers their jobs—sending hundreds more to the unemployment lines and forcing more families onto public assistance.
SEIU Local 1 unites 50,000 property service workers in the central United States, including janitors, security officers and residential doormen. Together we work to build strength for all working people, on the job and in our communities.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Help pass the marriage equality bill that is before the Illinois General Assembly!

There are multiple things you can do to help!

From the Civil Rights Agenda:

1. Make sure to sign our ONLINE marriage equality petition: http://bit.ly/WmUqEN

2. Have you called, written or visited your State Senator and Representative? If not, do it NOW! You can find your legislators at www.votesmart.org. Contact them and tell them to vote 'YES' on the Marriage Equality Bill!!

3. Join The Civil Rights Agenda in Springfield to lobby your legislators on marriage equality. We will be working to lobby the Illinois Senate on Wednesday, January 2 through Friday, January 4 (or until the bill passes). Join us to lobby the Illinois House of Representatives beginning Sunday, January 6 through, Tuesday, January 8 (or until the bill passes). If you want to join, email info@jointcra.org with the date and time you plan to be in Springfield and we will coordinate your visit with you.

4. Join Sheila Simon, "Modern Family" star Jessie Tyler Ferguson, and The Civil Rights Agenda and other marriage equality advocates for a lobby day on Thursday, January 3.
EVENT: Bow Tie Lobby Day
TIME: 10:30 a.m.
PLACE: Rotunda, State Capitol, Springfield

5. Join The Civil Rights Agenda is looking for volunteers in their main office located at 2129 N. Western Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60647. If you are willing to volunteer,to phone bank for marriage equality which will include calling voters to educate them on the Marriage Equality bill and asking them to contact their legislators.
If you are able to donate your time, our phone bank hours are as follows:
Thursday, January 3rd - 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Friday, January 4th - 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM
Saturday, January 5th - 1 PM to 4 PM
Facebook event here: http://www.facebook.com/events/537869239570638/?ref=22