Local 701 mechanics holding strong during strike

Mechanics Local 701 strike
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
This week marks the ninth week striking IAMAW Local 701 union members have been walking the line outside the Al Piemonte Chevrolet dealership in East Dundee. They are fighting for their health insurance and pension.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

EAST DUNDEE — “It’s gotten ugly out here,” said Bill LePinske, Mechanics Local 701 business representative as he walked the picket line Sept. 5 during a support rally at Al Piemonte Chevrolet in East Dundee.

Nine mechanics walked off the job July 9, and this week, the strikers entered their ninth week walking the line in front of the store. They held a solidarity rally to raise spirits of those on the picket line.

LePinske said all the men want is the standard automotive agreement contract, something which mechanics at the other Piemonte group stores enjoy, as well as about 150 other automotive repair shops in the Chicago area.

Mechanics Local 701 strike
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Mechanics Local 701 Business Representative Bill LePinske lifts the spirits of striking union members Sept. 5 outside the Al Piemonte Chevrolet dealership in East Dundee.

The mechanics at the Chevrolet store, 770 Dundee Ave., voted 7-2 in early May in favor of joining the union, but the store owners balked, offering half the insurance co-pay coverage and pension that their other stores have in their contract.

“I think they just don’t want this store to be union,” said LePinske.

He also claims the owners are fighting the mechanics on classification. For example, men that were doing head gasket changes and other advanced repairs before unionization are now relegated to oil change duty, making less money. Federal mediation on the matter was declined by the store owners, and no negotiations have gone forward since the strike.

LePinske said the strike line has had some issues, and now security guards patrol the perimeter of both entrances.

“A salesman punched one of our guys, and after we heckled a customer, he said he was going to go home and get his 9 mm,” he said. “Everybody’s got to learn to get along.”

Mechanics Local 701 strike
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
All IAMAW Local 701 members want is just the standard automotive agreement contract, something mechanics at other Piemonte group stores enjoy.

A restraining order against the union members was filed to make sure they stay on the public easement in front of the car dealership.

“The most discouraging thing is, they’re lying to customers,” said Chris Kujawa, a mechanic who has worked at the store nearly four years. “They’re telling customers we want more than the standard agreement, something we were never even offered. They offer that, and this is over with. The customers want to believe they are not hurting us by shopping there. They are hurting us.”

He said he and the other mechanics don’t want to return to work without union representation.

“There’s no trust there. Our biggest enemy is customer ignorance. We need to overcome that,” said Kujawa.

Across the country, Fight for $15 continues

Chicago's Fight for $15
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
This McDonald’s worker was one of 51 arrested Sept. 4 after engaging in civil disobedience for blocking the streets in front of two McDonald’s locations in Chicago. The Fight for $15 was part of a national day of action.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

CHICAGO — The Fight for $15 movement has been ramping up protests since last year, and fast food workers certainly garnered attention Sept. 4 when 51 were arrested in Chicago as part of a national day of action.
The workers were arrested engaging in civil disobedience for blocking the streets in front of two McDonald’s locations in the city. They are fighting to win $15 per hour and a union without retaliation.

“We’re going to have walkouts all over the country,” said Kendall Fells, organizing director of the movement called Fight for $15. “There are going to be workers who don’t show up to work or who walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. or at noon.”

The Fight for 15 campaign reported that 436 fast-food workers had been arrested nationwide on the day of the protest, which came a day after President Obama highlighted their campaign in a Labor Day speech: “All across the country right now there’s a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity. There is no denying a simple truth. America deserves a raise. Give America a raise,” said Obama in Milwaukee Sept. 1. “You know what, if I were looking for a job that lets me build some security for my family, I’d join a union. If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union . . . I’d want a union looking out for me.”

Chicago's Fight for $15
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
The Fight for $15 is a union-backed campaign where workers are demanding $15 an hour wage and union recognition. Supporters, above, shame big fast-food companies like McDonald’s over low pay and irregular hours.

The action came on the heels of a July convention where fast food workers vowed to do whatever it takes to win $15 and the right to form a union. Clergy, elected officials and community supporters, including Alderman Sawyer of the 6th ward and Alderman Muñoz of the 22nd ward, joined workers and union representatives from Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina the strike lines in front of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s restaurants.

Inspired by the actions of fast-food workers, Service Employees International Union home care workers have also decided to join the nationwide movement for higher pay and better rights on the job. In several cities, including Chicago, both non-union and union home care workers stood with fast food workers.

‘Those killed on the job – we’re connected to them’

74th annual All Faiths Memorial Service
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Rev. Gavin Quinn remembers union members lost on the job during the past year at the Sept. 6 All Faiths Memorial Service at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Darien.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

CHICAGO — “When someone dies suddenly, it squeezes you pretty hard. We come together today as a people, to be with each other and celebrate life, not death. To know that you will be with that person eventually again,” said Rev. Gavin Quinn Sept. 6 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Darien.

Quinn served as celebrant to the 74th annual All Faiths Memorial Service, sponsored by the Chicago and Cook County Building Trades Council. Labor leaders, union members and their families gathered to remember those members lost on the job during the past year.

Remembered were members Gary Beno, Gustavo Briceno Jr., Russell Bull, Jacob Harper, Bruce Kamp, Martin Moreno, Jose Tafoya, Joseph Vandenover, and David Varga.

“It’s important to remember what Jesus said at the Last Supper,” said Quinn. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God, have faith in me.”

Tom Villanova, president of the Cook County Building Trades Council served as a lector along with Ralph Affrunti, secretary treasurer, and Brian Glynn, vice president.

Quinn joked that the reason the services for Cook County members are held at a church in DuPage was due to union disagreements.

“We have the mass in DuPage because the two other churches made mistakes — they used non-union glaziers and roofers,” said Quinn.

The annual mass was first offered in 1941 by Rev. Joseph Donahue.
“Isn’t it wonderful, 74 years ago father Joe started doing this,” said Quinn. “I was 1-year-old. “It’s always good to get together. Those killed on the job — we’re connected to them. It’s all about love. We have to be there for each other.”

The Lord’s prayer was recited along with hymns before Communion was offered.

Final prayers were offered to oppressed workers around the world, for the victims of Sept. 11, for the conflict in Syria, for the safety of those who serve in the armed forces, for those who are suffering from a serious illness in the trades, for tradesmen tragically killed on the job site, and for deceased men and women in the building trades.

CISCO’s “Last Swing”

CISCO's Last Swing annual golf outing
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Former Bulls Center Bill Cartwright was spotted hitting the links at CISCO’s annual Last Swing golf outing in Bloomingdale.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

BLOOMINGDALE — It seems around mid-September is one of the best chances for consistent weather to host a golf outing in the Chicago area.

The Construction Service Industry Corporation (CISCO) kicked off its annual golf outing charity event Sept. 8 to beautiful blue skies and 70 degrees. About 150 golfers turned out, with the designated recipient of the 50/50 raffle being Christmas Without Cancer, a charity based out of Oak Lawn that helps families stricken with cancer.

CISCO's Last Swing annual golf outing
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
CISCO Executive Director Dan Allen tries his hand at winning $10,000 on the Hole-In-One hole.

“We wanted to stay local with our charity,” said Gary Karafiat, communications director with CISCO. “They don’t limit their giving just to Christmastime — it’s all year.”

Christmas Without Cancer is a non-profit organization that was started in 2003 by an oncology nurse at Advocate Christ Medical Center. Over the previous decade, Christmas Without Cancer has helped hundreds of families who are fighting cancer. The charity provides everything from Christmas presents, gifts cards for gas, groceries, medications and more.

“There are a lot of union tradesmen and women who are stricken by cancer, it touches a lot of lives. This is a very worthy charity and we raised $1,500,” said Karafiat.

CISCO's Last Swing annual golf outing
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Members of the Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council support Christmas Without Cancer.

CISCO Executive Director Dan Allen said the last year as head of the organization has gone great, and he’s looking forward to the upcoming Sept. 11 prevailing wage seminar.

“It’s going to be a showcase of all the different union trades. We’ve got 165 people registered. We’re trying to show that skills are what’s needed to get public projects done,” said Allen. “We’re going to talk about the complexity of these projects and what it takes to complete them.”

New this year at the outing was a $25,000 hole-in-one prize sponsored by Amalgamated Life and Health Insurance, which unfortunately, no one won. There also was a $10,000 hole prize sponsored by the Finishing Contractors Association of Illinois. About 50 sponsors overall made the event possible.

‘Sixteen Tons’ captures coal field life

By Mike Matejka,
special to the Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014

Sixteen Tons
by Kevin Corley
Hardball Press
ISBN 97800991163991
www.hardballpress.com

Coal miners were once referred to as the “shock troops of labor,” hardened union members who were often shot at and not afraid to shoot back.

Coal was the fuel of 19th and early 20th century economic expansion. The work was dangerous and poorly paid. Coal miners, often in isolated rural communities, fought hard to build a strong union.

There are battle grounds and disasters that still echo today — Virden, Cherry, Ludlow, Matewan, Herrin and numerous others.

Central and southern Illinois was a critical building block to the United Mine Workers’ success. Drawing all these stories together yet still making them vivid and real is a challenge for any writers. Retired Christian County high school teacher Kevin Corley has successfully done that in his new novel, Sixteen Tons.

Historical figures like Mother Jones and Matewan’s Sheriff Sid Hatfield appear, but Corley has woven together a diverse cast of characters — Italian immigrants, West Virginia miners, African-Americans and native born. Together they do what families do — mature, get married and raise families.

Coal field hard realities continually interrupt their lives. There are mine disasters and grieving widows. There is World War I and the mass flu epidemic that followed. There are miners from central Illinois volunteering to help other miners, bringing them to Colorado, Kentucky and West Virginia to aid strikers.

Finally, the Illinois coal fields erupts in a war — not between the miners and the coal companies, but miner against miner, as union members dissatisfied with their national organization start their own union.

High stakes battles could easily overshadow character in a novel this far-ranging. Corley effectively creates individuals who are not cardboard cut-outs, but real workers with varied viewpoints. The women are just as vivid, showing families debating their risks and next move.

As a teacher, Corley soaked up stories of the Illinois coal fields, translating them into a readable novel of a recent past that should not be forgotten.

The slippery slope of moralism

By Dan Richardson
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014
Email Dan Richardson at danrichardson@foxvalleylabornews.com

“Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? (Galatians 3:2)”

Contrary to what is taught in schools, the slippery slope is no fallacy. If mom says, “Ok, you can go there, but only for an hour,” what happens next? The new boundary is tested again. Days later, mom is asked to extend the time another 15 minutes.

Consider the job site. If the boss allows five minutes late, what happens? It’s stretched to 10. In a political context, groups defend their turf because one inch lost leads to several more. The slippery slope argument makes a lot of sense in curbing unacceptable behavior.

But it works the other way as well. Some religions, including sects of Christianity, try to reform culture by telling people to do what is right. They say, “Don’t drink, don’t divorce, don’t abort, and don’t be lazy.”

Then they say, “Eat healthy, be a good spouse, take care of those kids and be industrious.” The idea is if people would just stop being bad and start being good, God will bless America again. Such is a slippery slope of moralism. It too is a slow slide to misery and hopelessness.

Moralism falls short because it doesn’t have the Gospel. Moralism says, “If we do what’s right, we’ll be blessed.” The Gospel says, “If we place our faith in Christ, we are blessed.” With moralism, the conscious is never at peace because there’s always more good to do and bad to make up for. Alternatively, the Gospel is an easy and light burden because it says the Lord Jesus already did the heavy lifting by bearing the wrath of God on the cross. He only asks us to follow Him.

“Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light (Jesus words in Matthew 11:29-30).”

The goal of moralism is a civility. The goal of the Gospel is to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. Incidentally, increased worship of Jesus leads to peaceful societies. Persecution is the exception, with hundreds of Christians harmed every day. Ultimately, Christians win because of Jesus’ resurrection.

The Gospel works in paradox. As a child of God grows, she is more aware of her sin and subsequently, more amazed at the love of God in Christ. She upholds the Law of God because it is good. She waves the banner of grace that says, “The work of Jesus Christ is sufficient for my forgiveness and my obedience.” Jesus not only removes sin, He credits His obedience to her account. There’s no better, kinder, more supreme love than that anywhere in the universe.

The love of God in Christ is the fuel for worship and work.

Godly Heritage Quote of the Week
“I only look to the gracious protection of that Divine Being whose strengthening support I humbly solicit, and whom I fervently pray to look down upon us all.”
—Martin Van Buren (1782-1861), 8th President of the United States. (Source: presidentialprayerteam.org).

The CFL honors workers, labor movement

Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
The Chicago Federation of Labor’s second annual Labor Day Luncheon fires up labor leaders and various dignitaries after discussions turned to workers’ ongoing labor struggles and fights.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

CHICAGO — The who’s who of labor came out to show worker support and celebrate Labor Day at the second annual Labor Day Luncheon, hosted by the Chicago Federation of Labor.

The Aug. 27 event at IUOE Local 399 proved that Chicago is a labor powerhouse, bringing together, in the same room, CTU President Karen Lewis, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois AFL-CIO head Michael Carrigan, CFL President Jorge Ramirez, and SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff, among many others.

“The struggles that workers faced in the 19th century are still prevalent nearly 130 years later,” said Ramirez. “Today, full time workers are living at or below the poverty level because they hold minimum wage jobs. If the minimum wage would have kept up with inflation, it would be almost $22 per hour.”

CFL Secretary-Treasurer Bob Reiter reminded the crowd of 750 that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner doesn’t know the values learned from being a part of the working class.

“Working people do not exert themselves day after day just to buy the cheapest thing on the shelf for their family. I find it offensive that an out of touch billionaire can go on television and flaunt a work jacket that he wears on campaign stops that has not seen the heat of the sun, falling snow, and driving rain, and you should too,” he said. “He panders to working class people when he talks about his $18 watch, and I find that offensive. Does he really believe that any of us take pride in owning something cheap when we have the capacity and the means to purchase something nicer?”

Chicago Federation of Labor Labor Day Luncheon
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Gov. Pat Quinn, sporting his Jackie Robinson West shirt, takes a moment to shake hands and chat with CTU President Karen Lewis as Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan listens in during the 2nd annual CFL Labor Day Luncheon.

Ramirez railed against corporations who don’t respect their workers.

“In the 1890s, people were fighting to shorten the work day to eight hours to have more time to spend with their families. Today, corporations are using these laws to escape responsibilities to their employees by reducing them to part-time status, cheating workers out of health care benefits, paid sick and vacation time, and retirement packages,” he said.

“Capitalism without a conscience needs to stop. Corporations increasing profits at the expense of their workers is not how to thank workers for their labor,” Ramirez explained.

Chicago’s Pullman site could become a national park

Chicago's Pullman strike
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Bob Reiter, secretary-treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor knows Chicago is an industrial town and would like nothing more than to see the Pullman rail car factory become a national park.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

CHICAGO — The historic Pullman rail car factory on Chicago’s southeast side is getting closer than ever to becoming the nation’s 402nd national park.

About 400 people made their way through a part of the factory on Labor Day to celebrate the labor heavy site, which tells the story of the modern U.S. labor and civil rights movements, as well as the Pullman Strike. A reenactment was performed of the “greatest strike in U.S. history,” which occurred 120 years ago when 4,000 workers went on strike at the factory to protest a reduction in wages.

“When you talk about labor history, you talk about the history of our city, of our state, and of our country,” said Bob Reiter, secretary-treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor, who spoke at the event.

“Chicago is an industrial town. These things that make our economies move — it’s our building infrastructure that allows us to build factories, that allows us to pay taxes so we can pay our teachers to teach our children and keep the community great.”

George Pullman originally bought land on the site for his Pullman Palace Car Company. He created a model community for his workers, including housing with gas and running water, a large hotel, churches, and a market square with indoor shopping.

According to the National Park Conservation Association, during the economic panic of 1893, Pullman reduced workers’ wages without reducing rents, resulting in the strike, disrupting rail traffic nationwide and resulting in the deaths of at least 30 workers at the hands of U.S. Marshals.

Congress passed legislation creating a national Labor Day holiday days after the strike ended. On Aug. 21, south side residents joined National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and city, county, state and federal elected officials to discuss the pathway for preserving the Pullman story by including it in the National Park System.

Director Jarvis listened to the public feedback and said he would recommend the creation of a new national park site to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for an Antiquities Act designation by President Obama — which would make Pullman the 402nd national park and securing it as a mecca for labor.

“The ecosystem of our society revolves around working people and that’s what this factory symbolizes. From the people who laid the brick to the people who move the cars in and out of the factory, we need to preserve that history, and we need to preserve the dignity of workers,” said Reiter.

Holmes doesn’t want a world with no skilled labor

Sen. Linda Holmes
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Sen. Linda Holmes thanked the leadership and members of unions for their dedication to the workforce, which impacts lives everywhere.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com
View speech at Fox Valley Labor News YouTube Channel

AURORA — As the still yet unresolved Illinois pension issue drags on, State Sen. Linda Holmes said she’s going to bat for organized labor in the state.

“It’s a simple black and white issue. A group of people collectively bargained. Promises were made. They did their part. You don’t break a promise. It’s that simple. It was a matter of what is right, and what is wrong,” she said. “I will be back at the table negotiating, and will continue to fight on your behalf simply because it just makes sense. It economically makes sense that we’re out there supporting you, and you guys are making a good living wage.”

Holmes, who is running unopposed this fall, hosted her annual labor breakfast Aug. 28 at Pipers Banquets in Aurora. She is vice-chair of the labor committee in Springfield and said a non-resolution of the pension crisis means people simply don’t know what to count on.

“I was the one dissenting vote on the Pension Conference Committee. The toughest part for people is not knowing,” she said. “It’s a very scary thing, especially if they are close to retirement. That’s the terrifying part. I can ensure you as this comes up again, I will make sure to be an active voice in this.”

She offered a big thank you to her working constituents as the Labor Day holiday approached.

“I celebrate working men and women who made this country what it is. What we’re doing is celebrating what you do because it impacts every minute of our day,” she said.

She imagined a world without skilled labor.

“Think of how we would function without your part in what you do. From the minute we wake up, looking at the alarm taking electricity to function, to taking a shower thanks to plumbers and pipefitters, to the house you live in, putting a roof over your head, all the construction that goes into building that house — think of how every one of you affects every little bit of our daily life, and what would we do without that,” she said. “I don’t want to live in a world without a skilled plumber, or skilled electricians.”

Holmes said a big problem now is people think modern infrastructure can be achieved without using skilled labor.

“Do you really want your houses built, your roads built, your bridges built without someone who is skilled in their trade? We absolutely don’t,” she said.

Gov. Pat Quinn did not take a holiday break

Naperville 2014 Labor Day Parade
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Gov. Pat Quinn spent time walking in Naperville’s Last Fling Labor Day parade. He’s on the campaign trail to announce he’s backing raising the minimum wage in Illinois as a way to drive economic growth.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

NAPERVILLE — No, the “Quinnochio” character wasn’t present at Naperville’s Last Fling Labor Day parade, but the Governor’s race is just as contentious as ever, with Gov. Pat Quinn kicking off the official campaign season with a challenge to survive on the minimum wage.

Quinn is living this week on $79, the amount a minimum wage worker would make in a week after housing costs, transportation and taxes. On Labor Day he called Republican challenger Bruce Rauner the most anti-worker gubernatorial candidate in Illinois history as he continues to paint Rauner as an out of touch billionaire.

Quinn is putting heavy stock that his backing of raising the minimum wage in Illinois will pay off. In June, Quinn signed a law to place a referendum question on the Nov. 4 ballot that asks voters if the state’s minimum wage should be raised to $10 per hour, up from $8.25.

“He [Rauner] had firms that outsourced American jobs to foreign lands,” said Quinn. “I don’t think that’s what we need on Labor Day or any other day in Illinois. We need to raise the minimum wage and keep our jobs right here in our own back yard.”

Quinn’s camp says raising the minimum wage in Illinois is part of the Governor’s plan to drive economic growth, alleviate poverty and ensure all workers are treated fairly.

“Some of our hardest working men and women are living in poverty and that’s not right,” Quinn said. “You can’t raise a family on $17,000 a year. Every worker deserves a fair day’s pay for a hard day’s work. That’s why I won’t stop fighting until we get the job done for our workers.”

Naperville 2014 Labor Day Parade
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Members of Laborers’ Local 149 show their support for Gov. Pat Quinn.

Starting Aug. 31, Quinn will rely on the Illinois minimum wage, $79, to cover his food and other expenses through Saturday, Sept. 6.

By increasing the Illinois minimum wage to $10 an hour, a half-million Illinois consumers will make an extra $4,800 a year and much of that extra income will be spent at local businesses on food, clothing and furniture, providing a strong boost to the local economy.

Nearly two-thirds of small-business owners support raising the federal minimum wage because they believe it will help the economy and, in turn, enable them to hire more workers, according to a poll conducted by the Small Business Majority. Leaders from large companies such as Costco, Starbucks and Stride Rite also have supported increasing the minimum wage as a way to reduce employee turnover and improve workers’ productivity.