Troubled workers’ comp system shows need for single-payer health care


Illinois Single Payer Coalition

By Johanna Ryan with Anne Scheetz, MD
Johanna Ryan is a workers’ comp paralegal and a member of the Illinois Single-Payer Coalition.
Anne Scheetz, MD, a member of Physicians for a National Health Program and a founding member of the Illinois Single-Payer Coalition, cared for many patients with work-related health problems before her retirement from clinical practice.
Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016

Please sign up as a supporter, persuade your union to do the same, and make sure to get involved. References:
– Number of Illinois workers’ comp claims
– Gov. Bruce Rauner’s turn-around agenda
– Illinois occupational illness and injury statistics

In Illinois and around the nation, big business has labeled workers’ compensation a system in crisis. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has depicted it as a millstone around the necks of Illinois employers, who he claims are shelling out too much money to treat injuries that might not even be work-related. Rauner and other Republican governors have made “reforming” workers’ compensation a key part of their pro-business agenda.

However, any worker who has had to use the system lately knows the real “workers’ comp crisis” is too little health care, not too much. In Illinois, as in most states, your employer is required to carry standard workers’ comp insurance. But it’s private companies like Liberty Mutual, Travelers and AIG/Chartis that provide the coverage — and they would much rather pay lawyers to fight your claim than pay doctors to help you get well.

Under the system they’ve created, a worker hurt on the job is actually at higher risk of being denied medical care (or having their treatment cut short) than a worker who falls getting out of the bathtub at home.

We believe the best way to fight the growing attacks on workers’ compensation is to take private insurance companies out of the picture. A public, single-payer health care system, financed by taxes rather than insurance premiums, would accomplish these goals:

– Eliminate delays and outright denial of care and the resulting long-term adverse effects on workers’ health;
– Take medical decisions out of the hands of insurance companies and place them where they belong: in the hands of patients and their doctors; and
– Make prevention the preferred approach to work-related health problems by strengthening our public health infrastructure.

This is the type of health care system workers in almost every other wealthy industrialized nation take for granted. Here in the USA, it has been endorsed by the United Mine Workers, National Nurses United, the Machinists’ Union, Amalgamated Transit Union and many others. Single-payer health care is a pro-active, rather than a reactive, approach to workers’ health. It is an ambitious program, but workers deserve no less.



To get medical care in a workers’ comp case, it’s not enough to show it’s necessary. You must also prove it’s related to a workplace injury. This can be especially hard for “wear-and-tear” injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome or tendonitis, but it can also affect the worker who falls off a ladder or is struck by a forklift.

Private insurers love to litigate these cases – they know it has a chilling effect on the next worker who thinks about filing a claim. So they’re happy to spend several thousand dollars to have you examined by an employer-friendly medical specialist who will declare your work injury was just a “minor strain,” and your current symptoms are due to chronic arthritis, an old football injury or some other cause. No PT for you, pal, and definitely no surgery.

Rauner wants to make the standard for causation even higher, by requiring that an accident at work must be more than 50 percent responsible for an injury compared to all other causes. He also wants the records made by the treating physician — the one who actually knows the patient and who assessed the problem at the time of its occurrence — to count for less, and the opinions of those employer-friendly “independent medical examiners” to count for more.

Such changes taken together would gut workers’ compensation. Employers who are reckless with workers’ health will be even more confident they can get away with it. Workers’ risk of injury will increase, and their access to care and compensation will decrease.

In theory, workers’ comp expenses should give employers an incentive to make the workplace safer. It would be nice if that were the case. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find anyone in the field who believes it. Workers’ comp costs are much like the legal fines and penalties paid by drug companies — just a cost of doing business, which is never big enough to make them change their ways.

Employers are fond of moaning about the high cost of workers’ comp, and make a public scandal out of any individual case of cheating, real or alleged. But the real root of rising costs is litigation, not featherbedding or fraud. Private workers’ comp carriers have made Illinois a happy hunting ground for insurance defense lawyers, even as the number of workers’ comp claims in the past decade has shrunk by more than a third. The changes Rauner proposes would make this much worse.



Take the example of one injured worker we know: A woman who’s been waiting a year and a half for repair of her torn rotator cuff, precisely because of this type of dispute. She now has neck and back problems too, thanks to months of trying to use her trapezius muscles to compensate for her damaged shoulder. Ask any doctor: when she finally gets her surgery, the results will be worse than average on account of all that delay.

A single-payer health care system would cover the care she needed, with no questions asked. Her lawyers could concentrate on fighting to get her disability payments and an eventual cash settlement; we wouldn’t have to to fight over medical care. Our client could at least get her surgery and physical therapy, even if the workers’ comp carrier denied her weekly benefit checks. She could recover and be working a new job while she waited for her shoulder claim to settle.

Relying on workers’ comp claims filed by individuals (or their next of kin) to enforce respect for workplace safety just doesn’t make sense. Would we depend on lawsuits alone to keep poisoned or spoiled foods off the market? Workplace safety, just like food safety, is a public health issue. We need public enforcement bodies, with real power, and with real penalties for violations.

According to an AFL-CIO report, in 2015, Illinois only had enough Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspectors to inspect all job sites only once every 143 years. The average penalty for a fatality investigation, of which there were 56, was $8,553. This clearly falls short of what’s needed to enforce workplace safety standards and protect workers’ lives. (A few states, such as Washington, have public workers’ compensation insurance funds with some limited powers over workplace safety. Unions in Washington strongly support this system. When Liberty Mutual and other private insurers tried to enter the market a few years ago, labor fought the measure through a statewide referendum and won.)

Wouldn’t we all be better off under a single-payer system that guaranteed treatment for any illness or injury, without a legal battle over the cause? Such a system would not only be cheaper, but it would provide better care. There was a time when most specialists welcomed workers’ comp patients. However, given endless payment delays and litigation hassles, those days are fast becoming history.



Instead of seeing the best doctors, too many injured workers have to put up with pro-employer “occupational health” clinics, or third-rate providers who pad their bills with useless charges to compensate for long payment delays.

Imagine if everyone, from janitors to CEO’s, carried the same health insurance card! You would choose your own doctors and other care providers. No specialist would turn you away because of the type of insurance you had. You and your doctor – not your employer’s workers’ comp carrier, or any other insurance company, would make decisions about tests, surgery, physical therapy, medical equipment, and other care.

All care would be paid for by progressive taxes, and free at the point of service. Hospitals would not shut down in low-income neighborhoods if the residents had the same high-quality insurance as everyone else. No one would lose their health insurance through leaving a job, going on strike, or for any other reason.

Also, injured workers could get immediate care without having to prove to anyone exactly where, when or how they got hurt.

Workers’ comp lawyers (and we’d still need them) could concentrate on fighting for compensation – and we wouldn’t see clients dropping their claims or settling for pennies because they were desperate for medical care.

A strong public health system, the foundation on which primary care and specialty care must rest in order to be effective, would make protection of workers’ health a high priority.

That’s what a single payer system could offer all of us, union or nonunion. It sounds like a better way to us.

Chicago Jobs with Justice honors IFT President Dan Montgomery

Chicago Jobs with Justice

Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery receives the Charlie Hayes award Sept. 15 from Chicago Jobs with Justice Executive Director Susan Hurley. Montgomery was introduced by Karen Lewis. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

You can view Karen Lewis’ introduction of Dan Montgomery by going to the Fox Valley Labor News YouTube channel

You can view Dan Montgomery talking to guests by going to the Fox Valley Labor News YouTube channel

CHICAGO — Dan Montgomery was content on staying an English teacher in Skokie. He entered the profession to teach, but somewhere along the way, he become a unionist. And he’s OK with that.

“Along the way, I became a union leader and it’s been a great honor and privilege. Along the way, I discovered I loved it,” Montgomery said.

He’s OK with being part of a group of people who work hard for the continuance of democracy. “You realize you’re part of something much bigger than just those 40 minutes in your classroom every day,” Montgomery explained.

Since 2010 Montgomery’s been president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) union where he’s fought for justice for teachers, students and working families throughout the state and Chicago. For that, Chicago Jobs with Justice (CJwJ) honored Montgomery with its Charlie Hayes Award Sept. 15.

CJwJ is also celebrating 25 years of activism and organizing.

IFT Vice President Karen Lewis introduced Montgomery and recalled their election as IFT officers and traveling to its convention. “There were people that we defeated that were still on the IFT Executive Board, so, it was a very awkward time,” she said to laughs from guests.


Chicago Teachers Union President and Illinois Federation of Teachers Vice President Karen Lewis addresses Chicago Jobs with Justice honoree Dan Montgomery. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

There were some veteran IFT officials that wanted someone other than Montgomery making decisions, suggesting he act instead as a shadow to the real leaders. Lewis wanted to give Montgomery a shot. She convinced him it would be OK; that they would figure it out together.



When Lewis talks about Montgomery, you can see the admiration and respect she has for him. “I appreciate that he took that leap of faith. He went over that mountain with me, and we’ve been at it ever since,” Lewis explained.

Montgomery has recognized the need to build solidarity with other unions, with the community and with parents.

Teaching in Skokie, he said his students had parents who worked middle-class jobs. The parents were the kind of people Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump doesn’t care about.

Even though Montgomery taught to the best of his ability, nothing would have a greater impact on the lives of his students than if a parent lost their job.

“That will have a bigger impact on their lives than anything I could do as a teacher,” he explained.

Become the best electrical talent out there

DuPage JATC training center

Inside the DuPage JATC training center, students learn through classroom study and hands-on experience of motor and electronic fundamentals, industrial safety and digital fundamentals. Apprenticeship classes are recognized at College of DuPage and can be used towards an Electro-Mechanical Technology associates degree in Applied Science. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

WARRENVILLE — Being an IBEW electrician is about having a viable option for a career, not simply having a job.

With projections of 1/3 of Warrenville’s IBEW Local 701 workforce to retire in the next 10 years, combined with an increased construction cycle for the Chicagloand area, IBEW union officials are looking to train the newest up-and-coming IBEW union workforce.

IBEW Local 701, 28600 Bella Vista Pkwy., is currently taking applications every Tuesday for placement into its apprenticeship program, but you have to act quick. The last day to enroll in the program, for placement next year, is Tuesday, Sept. 27. Accepted applicants will start in May 2017. There are two programs for applicants — inside wireman, and data/telecommunications technician. There is a 3-step process to apply for either.

First: Apply between 8 a.m. to noon; and 1 to 4 p.m. There is a $20 fee ($25 to apply for both programs). You have to be 18-years-old at time of selection; be a high school graduate or GED equivalent; have a C average or better in high school algebra; show proof of citizenship.

Second: Take an aptitude test in November, which consists of reading comprehension and algebra. You have to score four or better, out of a possible nine.

Third: Interview process, consisting of 15 minutes in front of a panel.

DuPage JATC Training Director Hank Zurawski said the inside wireman program is the most popular. This program is a 5-year program, consisting of 8,000 work hours and 900 classroom hours.

“Applicants will learn about the electrical distribution throughout industrial and commercial types of construction,” Zurawski explained.

DuPage JATC training center

Instructors are teaching renewable energy training so students can meet the demand for smart-grid applications or solar and wind for residential, municipal, commercial and industrial properties. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

The data/telecommunications technician program is a 4-year program, consisting of 6,400 work hours and 720 classroom hours.

“Data technicians install voice and data networks, card access, security systems and camera systems,” Zurawski said.

There is an average of 10 to 12 students in the inside wireman program, and six students in the data technician program.

The advantage of apprenticeship programs is it allows students to learn in the work environment and get paid.

Zurawski made it very clear: an apprenticeship program is a 40-hour a week job.

“You’re going to go to work immediately, and you’re going to be paid for it. It’s required that you work 40 hours a week minimum, when work is available. You’re going to be given a competitive wage rate, and a respectable benefit package. You will contribute to three retirement savings account programs immediately,” he explained.



There is no tuition involved, however, there is a $450 initial fee, which covers the cost of tools each apprentice receives. Cost after that is $400 every year for textbooks.

“All we do here, is privately funded through the collective bargaining agreement. Our members and signatory contractors have chosen to find a way to get the financial resources to sustain our posture in the industry,” Zurawski said.

He has a $1.3 million training budget — money that doesn’t come from the government, or the taxpayers.

The IBEW JATC has partnered with College of DuPage to accept apprentice classes as college credit. After completion of the apprenticeship program, COD will transfer 47-50 credit hours towards an Electro-Mechanical Technology associates degree in Applied Science. In essence, the apprenticeship school classes are equivalent to COD’s program requirements. A student will then have to complete 18 to 22 general education credits to acquire the degree.

Fight for $15 joining Trump protest

Bolingbrook protest against Donald Trump

A protest against Donald Trump in Bolingbrook was rescheduled from Sept. 19 to Sept. 28. The protest will show Republican presidential nominee Trump he is not wanted in Bolingbrook when he holds a fundraiser at the Bolingbrook Golf Club. Suburban Families Against Hate will join with Fight for $15 Chicago for the protest from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Photo illustration by Jennifer Rice

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Sept. 15, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

BOLINGBROOK — Donald’s Trump Bolingbrook fundraiser has been rescheduled for the second time, which will now take place Wednesday, Sept. 28.

Trump’s fundraiser and accompanying Dump Trump protest was to have happened Monday, Sept. 19. (Which was pushed back from its original Sept. 12 date.) At Monday’s Sept. 19 protest, Chicago’s Fight for $15 was expected to join Suburban Families Against Hate against the Republican presidential nominee.

Trump’s fundraiser will take place at the Bolingbrook Golf Club, 2001 Rodeo Dr. The protest will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Fight for $15 was going to have buses traveling from Chicago to Bolingbrook to protest against Trump’s anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-minimum wage and anti-woman stance.

Tickets for Trump’s fundraiser are going as high as $250,000. For that, you get a photo op and a seat at a VIP table.

Bolingbrook protest against Donald Trump

Fight for $15 Chicago was set to send buses from Chicago to the western suburb of Bolingbrook Sept. 19 to join Suburban Families Against Hate’s protest of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s fundraiser at the Bolingbrook Golf Club. The fundraiser has been rescheduled for Sept. 28. Photo courtesy of Fight for $15 Chicago

A petition to keep Trump out of Bolingbrook was created by Suburban Families Against Hate, stating, “Trump does not represent the interests nor the values of families in the suburban community of Bolingbrook.

“It is an insult to invite a billionaire to raise funds in a middle-class, hard working, vibrant, and diverse community.”


On the petition, Bolingbrook resident Michael Manolakes said Trump’s rhetoric incites violence.

“Donald Trump is a man who regularly uses rhetoric that incites violence at his rallies, and he condones violence by his supporters against dissenters,” Manolakes said.



“I do not wish to have him speak at a facility built and maintained by my tax dollars,” he added.

According to Suburban Families Against Hate, it sent petitions to Bolingbrook Mayor Roger Claar asking him to cancel the fundraiser, indicating it should not be held at a place supported by village taxes as it “insults our diverse Bolingbrook community.”

Protesters are expected to park on the streets in the nearby South Gate Park Subdivision on Madison Boulevard, east of the Bolingbrook Fire Station.

There also is parking south of the golf course, at Crossroads of Faith United Methodist Church, 1570 Rodeo Dr. No signs can be posted in the church parking lot.

Federal project, or tenant build out?

Obama archives labor protest

A labor dispute broke out in Hoffman Estates at the facility along Golf Road that will temporarily house archives for the future Barack Obama Presidential Center. Union members are trying to find out if the conversion is a federally funded project, or a tenant build out. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

View a video from the Hoffman Estates labor dispute by going to the Fox Valley Labor News YouTube channel

HOFFMAN ESTATES — It seems inconceivable that a temporary archives facility, set to house archives for our DEMOCRATIC president in the Barack Obama Presidential Center, destined to be built in CHICAGO — ground zero for the LABOR MOVEMENT, is currently being worked on by non-signatory contractors.

What’s unclear, and what union leaders are trying to determine, is if the conversion of the archives facility is a tenant build out, or a federally funded project that should adhere to the Davis-Bacon Act.

Until it’s figured out, one thing is clear: Union members will be out along Golf Road with Scabby the Rat fighting this labor dispute.

Davis-Bacon, passed in 1931, requires private contractors to pay “prevailing wages” to employees on all construction projects receiving more than $2,000 in federal funding.

“If this is a federal project, Davis-Bacon applies,” said Sheet Metal Workers Local 73 Organizer Eric Olson.

Obama archives labor protest

Sheet Metal Workers Local 73 Organizer Eric Olson, left, brings State Rep. Marty Moylan up-to-date on the status of the building trades labor dispute against Mid-Continental Management. Moylan came out Aug. 22 to talk to union members about the situation. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Unfortunately, Olson is being told by Mid-Continental Management owner Andrew Staskevicius that it’s not a federal project and that the end-user will be the National Archives and Record Administration.

The building is owned by Hoffman Estates Medical Development LLC, which hired Mid-Continental Management as the general contractor. Local 73 put up Scabby the Rat Aug. 17. A labor rally was held Aug. 22, where several building trades members, retirees and local politicians, like Representative Marty Moylan and State Sen. Laura Murphy, came out.

Obama archives labor protest

From left, Mid-Continental Management owner Andrew Staskevicius talks with Sheet Metal Workers Local 73 Organizers David Sylvester and Eric Olson about signatory contractors that may have bid on the job for the conversion of the former Plunkett Furniture store that will house the temporary archives of the future Barack Obama Presidential Center. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

As he has in days past, Staskevicius came out Aug. 22 to talk with members, specifically SMW Local 73 Organizers Olson and David Sylvester. Again, he indicated the conversion project is a tenant build out.

“I’m getting paid by the owner of the building. He is leasing to the government. There are government funds when the government actually taking over,” Staskevicius said, indicating the project is partially funded by the government.

Obama archives labor protest

State Sen. Laura Murphy, talks with Chicago & Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council President Ralph Affrunti about the situation during the construction at the Barack Obama Presidential Center. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Sylvester said it’s a federally funded job that was a no-bid contract. “This is a 74,200-square foot facility that’s being leased out for $11.6 million for four years, with a two-year extended option.”

Staskevicius indicated women would be working on the project. “For cleaning, and stuff like that, it’s going to be women.”

Obama archives labor protest

State Rep. Marty Moylan gives his full support to union members who are involved in the labor dispute. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Advocates for mesothelioma victims


Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016

Learn more about Vogelzang Law, at Vogelzang Law’s website

CHICAGO — Vogelzang Law is a Chicago based mesothelioma and asbestos law firm dedicated to representing victims of mesothelioma.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you are most likely overwhelmed dealing with medical issues.

Although taking legal action may not be your family’s top priority, it should not be ignored. The sole focus of Vogelzang Law is representing individuals who have been exposed to asbestos, resulting in cancer.


Attorney Nicholas Vogelzang has been working with victims of asbestos-related disease and mesothelioma for nearly 20 years. During this period, he has represented more than 200 families from across the U.S. and from all different backgrounds.

Vogelzang’s interest with mesothelioma victims was sparked by his father, Dr. Nicholas Vogelzang, who also has dedicated his career to the treatment of mesothelioma patients.

Vogelzang Law is committed to serving clients and getting them the reparations they deserve. It has the resources and experience of a large firm, and it is dedicated to giving cases the personal attention only a boutique firm could offer.

Your case will never be part of a class-action lawsuit, and you will never be treated like a case number. Vogelzang Law’s, its commitment to its clients extends well beyond the walls of the courtroom.

Regardless of your location in the U.S., Vogelzang Law will travel to your home or somewhere convenient and comfortable for you. Vogelzang Law will learn about you, your family, your background and do a complete evaluation of your legal options, which is free and without obligation.

Tasting the rainbow at Wrigley

Skittles expansion in Yorkville

The Skittles expansion in Yorkville put members in the building trades to work for more than a year. The $50 million investment adds a new Skittles line and 75 jobs to Wrigley factory in Yorkville. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, June 23, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

Wrigley expansion advances growth for Mars in the US. $50 million investment adds new Skittles line and 75 jobs to Wrigley factory in Yorkville

YORKVILLE — It was sensory overload for guests who were given a tour June 14 through Wrigley’s $50 million Skittles factory expansion.

The overwhelming smells of spearmint and peppermint gave adults a child-like wonder while walking through a guided tour with Wrigley associates.
With precision, machines cut, wrapped, and packaged Wintergreen Extra gum, while other conveyors carried mounds of Doublemint gum dough to its final point of processing.

Natural light and bright colors of wall paint gave no doubt that Skittles were bring manufactured at the facility.

Today, Wrigley is running its Skittle production 24/7, because, well, people need more Skittles. “We need to accommodate the growth of the No. 1 non-chocolate confection in the U.S. market,” said Wrigley Americas President Casey Keller.

Skittles expansion in Yorkville

Wrigley Americas President Casey Keller was pleased to announce production of Skittles is running 24/7 at its Yorkville factory. Wrigley welcomed tours through the Skittles factory after a ribbon cutting event June 14. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer.

Along with creating 75 new jobs, the Skittle expansion project allowed local building trades to put its members to work for more than 1 1/2 years.

Factory Director Brian Pardo said when union members come to work, they came with the core value of safety on their mind. “It makes my job a lot easier,” Pardo explained. “We talk with our associates everyday about safety, and it was mirrored by union members when we went into the construction process.”

Skittles expansion in Yorkville

Packaged Skittles come down an assembly line to await shipment. Keller said Skittles have become the top-selling non-chocolate candy in the U.S. With its annual production, Wrigley could give four pieces of Skittles to everyone in Illinois EVERY day. Photo courtesy of Wrigley

On the electrical end, IBEW Local 461’s workforce reached 30,000 hours without a lost time incident while working on two construction projects at Wrigley — including the Skittles expansion factory. The projects also were completed on time and on budget.

For Continental Electrical Construction Company (CECCo), having members work 30,000 hours without an incident was amazing, said CECCo’s Director of Field Operations Brian Swiatek. CECCo has been performing electrical work at Wrigley for more than seven years — as long as Pardo has been with Wrigley.



“I can tell you, I didn’t have to worry about people not wearing safety glasses or being harnessed off if they needed to be. Everyone followed everything safely,” Pardo explained.

The 145,000 square-foot expansion is an example to how Mars is investing in the U.S. Over the last five years, Mars has invested $1 billion and created 1,000 jobs in new U.S. facilities.

Acting Director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Sean McCarthy said Wrigley has called Illinois home since 1891.

“The state of Illinois is proud to be a partner in your continued growth in the land of Lincoln,” McCarthy said.

United for a Cure

Operating Engineers Local 150 United for a Cure

Organized Labor rose to the calling and helped raise $152,000 to support early detection and pancreatic cancer research during the July 21 United for a Cure fundraiser held at Operating Engineers Local 150. Joe Borrelli and Michael Goldberg, both fighting pancreatic cancer, were the honored guests. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, July 28, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

View videos from the United for a Cure event by going to the Fox Valley Labor News YouTube channel
To learn more about Goldberg Weisman Cairo, go to Goldberg Weisman Cairo’s website
To learn more about the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, go to the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation’s website

COUNTRYSIDE — Joe Borrelli and Michael Goldberg, supporters and fighters of organized labor, received an outpouring of support and love July 21 when they were guests of honor for the United for a Cure fundraiser — benefiting the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation.

Borrelli and Goldberg found themselves diagnosed, only months apart from each other, with pancreatic cancer in the fall of 2015.

Borrelli is Sr. Vice President at Amalgamated Bank of Chicago, while Goldberg is the founding partner of the injury law firm Goldberg Weisman Cairo (GWC).

“I’ve never known anyone in my life with this diagnosis, and now, I have two close friends of mine with the same diagnosis,” explained GWC partner Louis Cairo to a room of 800 guests at Operating Engineers Local 150.

Friends of both Borrelli and Goldberg wanted to help — but what do you do? “We decided to rock the house for [these] two, great men,” Cairo said.

Operating Engineers Local 150 United for a Cure

Goldberg Weisman Cairo partner Louis Cairo was a driving force in organizing the United for a Cure July 21 fundraising event, which was hosted by the Illinois AFL-CIO, Chicago Federation of Labor, Chicago & Cook County Building Trades and GWC Law Firm. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

“We decided to have an evening to celebrate the wonderful lives and accomplishments, and the love and respect that Joe Borrelli and Michael Goldberg have from the people in this room. That’s why we’re here.”

The other reason was to raise money to benefit the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation in order to find ways of early detection and a cure. Right now, there are no test for early detection.

Operating Engineers Local 150 United for a Cure

Joe Borrelli, left, and Michael Goldberg were honored during a fundraising event July 21 for the Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation. Both men were diagnosed in the fall of 2015. With no test for early detection, money raised will go towards research for early detection and finding a cure. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

“With no test available, the only way pancreatic cancer is discovered is by luck,” Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation Executive Director Lynda Robbins explained. The event raised a whopping $152,000 for the cause.



Borrelli addressed the crowd from a wheelchair, a precautionary measure, insisted upon by his doctor. “When I heard the word ‘cancer,’ from my doctor, I don’t think I heard anything after that. It’s a journey you have to take.”

Along his journey, Borrelli reached out to Goldberg for knowledge and insight on his personal journey with pancreatic cancer.

In his capacity at Amalgamated Bank of Chicago, Borrelli is a relationship manager for several unions, allowing him to be extensively involved with organized labor. During his chemotherapy, he said he was amazed at the amount of help, support and respect he has received from unions.

“The unions do so much charitable work that nobody ever finds out about, or knows about — nobody ever seems to care about,” he said.

That night, Borrelli cared. As did Goldberg, who acknowledged the many charitable causes that organized labor helps fund.



“Collectively, unions are the most charitable groups of people on the planet. Union leaders are just hard working, men and women dedicated to making people’s lives better,” he explained.

Describing himself as a half-glass full kind of guy, Goldberg stressed laughter can help make you better. Stay positive, and never give up.

‘Remembering where we came from’

IBEW Local 134 Farewell Block Party

Chicago IBEW Local 134 members said good-bye July 16 to its home for the past 62 years – 600 West Washington Street, with a Farewell Block Party. The union bought the former Drake Elementary School in the Bronzeville neighborhood, and will be moving in November 2017. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, July 21, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

CHICAGO — It will be more than a year until the property at 2722 S. Martin Luther King Blvd., in Chicago is ready to move into, but IBEW Local 134 said its good-byes to its 62 years in the Washington Street building July 16 with a good, old fashioned party.

Dubbed the Farewell to 600 West Block Party, more than a 1,000 members, their family and friends came to listen to music, eat, drink and have a good time.

Business Agent Kevin Connolly said the union recently closed on the former Drake Elementary School property, located in the Bronzeville neighborhood. “We’re going to do a lot of work on it, so we’re in the process of securing demolition permits and zoning permits,” he explained.

Even though the building won’t be move-in ready until November 2017, the farewell party was already planned for July 16. “When we closed on the new space, we were unsure if we would have to be out and find a temporary space until the official transition. This was planned prior to us knowing we were going to be able to stay here,” Connelly said.

IBEW Local 134 Farewell Block Party

Local 134 ReNew President Dawn Sparr sells Farwell T-shirts to IBEW Local 134 member Mike Marchitto. Proceeds of T-shirt sales go to fund future Local 134 ReNew ventures, or is donated to social causes. Recently, ReNew sold buttons for Autism, hosted its first-ever retiree’s pancake breakfast, and sold St. Patrick Day’s T-shirts. ReNew recently donated more than $7,000 to the Henry Miller museum in St. Louis, where work is underway to restore the original boarding house where the National Brotherhood of Electrical Workers was born in 1891. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Local 134’s two story, 116-year-old union hall houses some great memories, but as Connolly put it, the union hall has been getting “pushed out” by surrounding development. “We’re an island,” he said.

It’s easy to agree with his observation. What used to be a parking lot behind the union hall to the north, is now a multi-story, work in progress, building. Parking to the east on property owned by the union is limited to business agents and staff. “There’s no where for members to park,” Connolly explained.

The new property will solve that, with sights set on 400 parking spots.

IBEW Local 134 Farewell Block Party

Grandfathered in, the iconic IBEW Local 134 digital marquee, above, will be staying with the building and not moving to the new property in Bronzeville. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

The new union hall also plans to partner with Dunbar Vocational High School, which is located across the street, and will be home to a comprehensive, citywide construction trades program.

IBEW Local 134 Farewell Block Party

With the White Sox battling it out in Los Angeles, Southpaw made a special visit to IBEW Local 134’s Farewell Block Party to mingle with members and take pictures. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

In a recent IBEW press release, Local 134 Business Manager Don Finn says someone from the local will likely teach at Dunbar. “That was just a happy coincidence,” Finn said of the hall’s location.



The program is expected to begin in the 2016-17 school year and will serve up to 120 students. Students in their junior and senior years will learn skills in fields including general construction, carpentry, heating, ventilating and air conditioning, welding, and electricity.

Upon graduation, students can then enter a pre-apprenticeship program as well as post-secondary education or a certification program.

Celebrating Obama’s legacy

Obama Legacy Initiative

Obama Legacy Initiative Co-Founder Fred Greenwood, left, listens to Congressman Bill Foster, right, discuss President Barack Obama’s legacy during a kickoff campaign event in Naperville June 2. Photo courtesy of Bill Grommel

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, June 16, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

NAPERVILLE — For Democrats, it’s difficult traveling on the Ronald Reagan Memorial Tollway and flying into the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Washington, D.C.

As a frequent visitor to Washington, D.C., Congressman Bill Foster would like to see the airport be named after someone else — perhaps Barack Obama?

Well, it might be able to happen. A grassroots movement has brought together several like-minded individuals for the not-for-profit Obama Legacy Initiative (OLI), formed to name community landmarks after President Obama.

The group held a fundraiser June 2 in Naperville that was well attended by both dignitaries and the public.

Looking to OLI Co-Founder Fred Greenwood, Foster said if Greenwood could at least get the Washington, D.C. airport back to its original name, “[You would] be doing the country a service,” he said to laughter.

Foster would like Obama remembered and honored for bringing the country out from an economic disaster, which was teetering on the onset of a Depression.

Obama Legacy Initiative

From left, Columbia College Chicago history professor Lindsay Huge, Obama Legacy Initiative Co-Founder Sean Tenner, Congressman Bill Foster and Co-Founder Fred Greenwood brought guest together for a kick-off campaign fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Bill Grommel

“I’m very proud to see that President Obama is spending part of his time now, reminding people just how bad it was when he came into office,” Foster explained. “The economic climate between then and now is something our country should be grateful of.”

Greenwood, along with co-founder Sean Tenner, want to commemorate the significance of Obama’s election and presidency in the overall context of American history. They are looking for suggestions to name community landmarks, such as parks, roads and community centers, after Obama.



Columbia College Chicago history professor Lindsay Huge would like to see satellite libraries sprinkled around the SouthSide of Chicago, where the Barack Obama Presidential Center will be located.

Huge joked that something is already named after Obama — Obamacare, penned by the Republicans as a criticism towards the president.

“Perhaps he will not need bridges, or airports named after him, since his opponents did him the favor of naming the Affordable Care Act after Obama,” Huge said.



Unlike the Reagan Legacy Project, which was started by longtime Washington, D.C.-based arch-conservative lobbyist Grover Norquist of American for Tax Reform, OLI was proud to be launched by grassroots volunteers in Obama’s home state.

“We are the exact opposite of the people who put together the Reagan Legacy Project,” Tenner explained. “It’s just folks who think Obama’s presidency needs to be commemorated and serve as an example that anybody in America can grow up to be president.”

For more information to get involved, or to make suggestions, visit