Homeland Security chief visits detention center

Illinois Immigration Detention Center
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
From left, Rep. Bill Foster, Rep. Luis Gutierrez and Sen. Dick Durbin met with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security in Broadview June 13 to discuss federal policy regarding deportations.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

BROADVIEW — Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson took a tour of the immigrant detention center in Broadview June 13, viewing some of the impact his agency has on undocumented immigrants in this country.

That private tour, as well as a meeting with Chicago area immigration activists, serves as a basis for information Johnson plans to take back to President Obama as he reviews the ongoing deportation policy. Immigration reform proponents are hoping it’s another small step toward overall immigration reform in 2014.

“I’ve seen firsthand the suffering caused by deportations,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, who joined Johnson in a press conference at the Dirksen Federal Building downtown, along with U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster. “The pain felt by those individuals and their families is vast and not easily shaken by those of us who have witnessed it firsthand.”

The President’s review of deportation policies is expected to conclude in August. Johnson said he saw families being broken up at the detention center, and people who were about to be deported who had been here for years.

“We need to pass the (immigration reform) bill for a variety of reasons from my Homeland Security perspective,” said Johnson, “I’m looking at how we can fix that system within the confines of existing law.”

Illinois Immigration Detention Center
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson visited Illinois at Sen. Dick Durbin’s request to learn more about the local impact of his agency’s policies. Johnson also toured the Broadview Immigration Detention Center to talk with individuals awaiting imminent deportation.

Gutierrez criticized House Republicans for failing to act on a reform bill.

“The facts remain the same: too many families being broken up, too many deportations, too much detention, too few legal immigration avenues, and too little sense of urgency in Washington among House Republicans,” Gutierrez said. “We still have a window to pass sensible border security and immigration reform legislation, but Republicans must act soon or the President will have no choice but to take action within existing law.”

Gutierrez said if a vote in the House were called, enough Republicans support reform that the measure would be passed. A hurdle did surface, however, when Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated May 10 to Tea Party candidate David Brat — meaning a vote is even less likely to be called.

“I’ve always been a supporter of immigration reform, but seeing the ramifications of our broken system at the Broadview Detention Center this morning was a heartbreaking reminder of why we need to keep up the fight,” said Foster. “Our broken deportation system is needlessly tearing families apart. We cannot wait any longer. We must pass comprehensive immigration reform now. Next week I hope House Republicans will appoint new leaders who are ready to listen to the millions of voices calling for action. From businesses leaders, to religious leaders, to law enforcement, the call has never been louder: Congress must take action and pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

Fox Valley Building Trades Council wishes everyone a happy 4th of July

Fox Valley Building Trades Council

Painters District Council 30 wishes everyone a happy 4th of July

Painters District Council  30

Laborers’ Local 149 wishes everyone a happy 4th of July

Laborers' Local 149

SMART Local 265 wishes everyone a happy 4th of July


Sen. Linda Holmes (D_Aurora) wishes everyone a happy 4th of July

Sen. Linda Holmes

GreenFest 2014 caters to tradesmen

Aurora GreenFest 2014
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
The fifth annual Aurora GreenFest focuses on elements related to being green. Dick Damschen, left, and Brad Unger of Newlife Energy Solutions showed vehicles perfect for tradesmen because it saves them money on fuel costs and provides ample interior space.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

AURORA — The city of Aurora held its 5th annual GreenFest June 14, and had interactive exhibits ranging from local farming all the way to high tech electric cars.

One of the premier exhibitors at the ‘Fest was Newlife Energy Solutions out of Plainfield, who specialize in converting gasoline or diesel engined vehicles to run on compressed natural gas. This means far fewer emissions, and much cheaper fuel costs for a fleet of vehicles.

Company CEO Brad Unger said one of his primary customers is tradesmen, and the firm is talking with the city of Aurora to convert some of their vehicle fleet to run on natural gas.

“Some small businesses can save up to $5,000 per month on their fuel costs, which is huge,” said Unger. He said the natural gas equivalent cost, including the energy used to power the pump at home, comes to around $1 per gallon.

The vehicles have identical performance, and only need to use about one tankful of gasoline per year, for cold starts in the winter. The cost per vehicle, including pump installation, comes to about $11,000.

“Most tradesmen need the space, so we put the natural gas tanks under the vehicle. You end up with identical carrying capacity inside the vehicle,” said Dick Damschen, vice president of sales.
The event also featured a children’s eco-village, local organic food, renewable clean energy, nature exhibits, a green car expo, and recycling extravaganza.

Commonwealth Edison was present to tout its Smart Meters, which will soon be installed in the area, with a 2018 completion date. About four million customers have already had their Smart Meters installed, with the company working south from Chicago. The meters are designed to communicate instantly with the power company, to identify outages and spikes in usage, making the whole grid more efficient.

The Solar House from the Illinois Solar Energy Association drew attention for its three 85 watt photovoltaic panels, which generate enough electricity to power approximately 25 percent of the needs of a family of four. It also has solar thermal tubes that can supply roughly half the hot water needs of a family of four.

Mutual Ground of Aurora was collecting used cell phones, which are then distributed to women in need. “We give these to clients who may not have a way to communicate. It’s a great help,” said volunteer Lupe Gomez. For further info, visit Mutual Ground.

The Aurora GreenFest was made possible through a major grant from The Dunham Fund, whose mission is helping build the foundation for a better tomorrow.

What’s a union boss?

By Mike Matejka
Special to the
Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, June 19, 2014

Throughout the primary, Republican nominee Bruce Rauner has targeted what he calls “union bosses.” The Illinois Education Association (IEA) the state’s largest teachers’ union, had a Representative Assembly meeting in Chicago a few months ago, where Democratic Governor Patrick Quinn faced off against Rauner. IEA elected President Cinda Klickna asked Rauner who he meant by union bosses. He replied directly to her, “You’re one.”

It was a gutsy move by Rauner to reply to Klickna in that way. But did he forget that Klickna was elected by the people in the room?

On the job, we don’t get to elect our boss. When we go to work for someone, they are in charge. They rule and we obey, though sometimes we do talk back. However, a labor union is not a business. Union leaders are elected, not self-appointed. Unions are owned by their members, who vote for their leaders.

In that IEA assembly were 1,200 teachers and support staff. Most were building representatives, elected by their fellow workers. The majority still works full-time in schools, but after hours, they represent their fellow workers. This basic workplace democracy is what a union is all about.

In McLean County, the Mitsubishi workers have voted for United Auto Workers representation. Since the union organized at the plant, there have been six different union presidents. No one is the boss and owns the union. Members who feel they can do better run for the office. If they can find support, they win. The union president serves at the workers’ discretion. Every three years the members vote whether or not to retain or replace their elected leadership.

If politicians want to criticize labor union involvement in Illinois politics, feel free to do so. But using the term “union boss” is a cheap shot. Union leaders are elected by the workers, who must approve spending any union funds or contract ratification. In the workplace, we don’t get to elect our boss; but in the union, you do get to elect your leader. I hope candidate Rauner, political commentators and other public voices will respect that basic workplace democracy a union brings and drop the term “union boss.”

Mike Matejka is the Governmental Affairs director for the Great Plains Laborers District Council, covering 11,000 union Laborers in northern Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. He lives in Bloomington with his wife and daughter and their two dogs. He served on the Bloomington City Council for 18 years, is a past president of the McLean County Historical Society and Vice-President of the Illinois Labor History Society.

The delivery worker’s risk of injury

By Dexter Evans
Guest writer
Woodruff Johnson & Palermo
Thursday, June 19, 2014

Most people take for granted the plight of the delivery person. Especially when we make that easy phone call to the local pizza parlor so we can have a nice, comfortable and warm dinner at home.

The people who deliver that pizza or our packages encounter some of the worst weather and road conditions, not only while driving, but also when bringing that package to the front door of homes or offices. Whether driving or walking, if you are injured when making a delivery, you could have a case for workers’ compensation or personal injury.

Assuming your accident arose out of and in the course of your employment, you likely have a claim against your employer who is legally obligated to have workers’ compensation insurance. One of the many benefits of a workers’ compensation claim is you don’t need to show your employer was negligent in causing your injury. If you were doing your job and the injury happened as a result thereof, you are likely covered. The easiest example in the context of the delivery business would be if you were injured in a car accident, regardless of who is at fault. Other examples would include injuries resulting from a slip and fall at a house or business.

You could have a workers’ compensation claim even if you were going to get lunch or dinner at the time of your injury and were involved in a car accident, or if you slipped and fell in the parking lot of the restaurant. Illinois’ courts have interpreted the “arises out of and in the course of employment” standard in favor of the injured worker to allow for claims due to a diversion from one’s job using what are known as the “traveling employee” and “personal comfort” doctrines.

In essence, because the delivery person’s job is to travel, it makes sense the law would protect such workers when they have a slight deviation from their delivery schedule.

Unlike a workers’ compensation claim, a personal injury case requires you to prove you were injured due to someone else’s negligence. However, even if a police officer tickets you as the wrongdoer for the accident, you may still have a claim if you can show the other driver was at least 50 percent negligent. Likewise, even if there was no other car involved, you may still have a case if the accident occurred due to some other negligent conduct. For example, the negligent placement of road signs or errant road construction could support a case against a municipality or construction company for your injury.

Proving negligence becomes more difficult when you suffer an injury due to a slip and fall. This is because you have to show not only someone was negligent, but also they had notice of the condition. Another important distinction is the way in which an injury is treated, depending on whether it occurred on residential property (homes/apartment buildings) versus commercial property (stores).

While there are many hurdles one most overcome to bring forth a case, there are often theories of negligence the layperson would never even consider. In winter months, this includes theories due to negligent plowing/parking lot design or roof leakage, which causes ice to develop. There could be many potential defendants in these types of cases such as the homeowner, property owner, property manager, roofing contractor, snow and ice removal company, etc.

If you are a delivery person and you have suffered an injury, you need to contact an injury lawyer immediately. There are many potential pitfalls that may damage your ability to bring forth a case only an injury attorney can appreciate. Even if you think you might not have a case, consult an injury attorney to make sure your rights are adequately being protected.

Information obtained is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. The material is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The material is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up to date. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation. We invite you to contact us and welcome your calls, letters and electronic mail. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send any confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established.

Restoring the building trades to their former prominence

By Stan Lesniewicz
Special to the
Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, June 19, 2014

As part of acquiring his Bachelor of Arts in Construction Management from the National Labor College, Stan Lesniewicz researched and wrote a paper examining factors which contribute to the decline of union membership, ways membership can be grown and examine the public’s view of unions.

Portions of his paper will be published in installments in the Fox Valley Labor News. This is the final installment.

“It was determined, based on the answers presented in the survey, there is a negative perception of unions among the general public. There is a plethora of reasons for this discontent. However, the greatest example shown for this is a resentment of high wages and benefits that accompany union employment, which are believed to be incommensurate with the work produced. The common retort extolled by the survey takers to counter this perception is to publicly promote the good unions do for America, including raising working standards through higher wages and better benefits.

“I discovered people see unions as only being for themselves, and not for helping better the community or giving back to the community. Of the survey takers, most stated they thought the public perceives unions members make too much money, feel jealousy towards unions, and feel unions are ‘bullies.’

“Media/news coverage of unions striking, along with political outlash towards unions, reinforces the public’s negative view towards unions. Unions can reverse this negative view by showing the public that unions care about them as much as they care about its members. When unions give back to the community, it has a long-lasting effect and begins to change the public’s negative view into a positive view towards unions.

“Along with doing good in various communities, union also need to remind the public how unions provide better working conditions. Unions should start with educating its own members about its history and the changes unions have made over the past century. Union members who understand the concepts of what unions have done to progress our country, along with educating the public about the inner workings of a union, can pass this critical information to the public. In turn, this will educate more people on the changes unions have made to this country in regards to government laws, rules and safety in the work place.

“The American has never been really educated on how bad working conditions were in the early 1900’s. While in school, we were briefly taught about these horrific working conditions, but we were never really educated regarding how hard workers and unions fought, or what workers and unions endured in getting better working conditions. I believe that a well-educated union member can pass on this critical information and educate the American people by giving them examples from our history. Once we are able to educate the American people on this, I believe we will see an upward climb in the favor of unions.

“As long as unions have opportunities to make them look better to the American public, I believe they should take no cost at doing anything possible to make changes for better perception of unions. It all starts within local and international unions making changes in becoming favorable with the American people.

“Unions should consider giving surveys to the public to see how they are perceived and what they could do for their community. They can distribute literature to the community, which explains what unions already do and how they already help their communities. With this literature, they can also educate the public about the history of unions and how unions were able to get laws passed that established the working conditions we enjoy today.

“Unions can only blame themselves for the negative perception the public has for them. Unions must start working together and come up with a solution that is going to work to win back the hearts of the public.”

Stan Lesniewicz is a second generation Sheet Metal Worker with Local 73. He has been a proud union member for the last 14 years. Lesniewicz decided to go back to school when the economy went bad, attending the National Labor College from 2010 to 2013 where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Construction Management.