Battle lines harden as Verizon strike continues

verizon_meme

Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, April 21, 2016

NEW YORK — More than 40,000 men and women went on strike April 13 against Verizon — 30,000 from the CWA and nearly 10,000 members of the IBEW.

“No one ever wants to go on strike — it’s always the last resort,” said International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “But Verizon’s refusal to bargain in good faith with employees and its insistence on gutting job security, retirement security and outsourcing good American jobs overseas gives us no choice.”

Communication Workers of America members march on strike against Verizon in New York

Communication Workers of America members march on strike against Verizon in New York to preserve decent wages, benefits and a dignified retirement. Photo courtesy of Communication Workers of America

Union negotiators met with Verizon officials April 15, but talks broke up less than 30 minutes later when company officials increased concession demands.

“We did not want things to deteriorate to this point, and we hoped Verizon would come to their senses quickly when it did. Clearly they are not ready to accept that the men and women that built this very profitable company know their value,” said Telecommunications and Broadcast Director Martha Pultar.

Negotiations on a contract began last June. At the heart of the conflict is Verizon’s demand the installation and repair technicians, call center operators and clerical workers accept draconian cuts to employee pensions, health care, job security and benefits for workers injured on the job.

Verizon also is demanding workers accept a policy that could transfer service technicians out of their service areas on only a few days’ notice for two months or more.

“If Verizon tried to send me away for weeks or even months at a time, I’d have to look for another job,” said Justin Draper, a member of Cranston, R.I., Local 2323 and a single father of two. “I’ve given 18 years to this company, but being away from my kids just simply isn’t an option for my family.”

Verizon has posted profits of $1.8 billion per month so far this year, and $39 billion over the last three years. Nevertheless, it is asking for concessions by not just workers, but also retirees. Verizon’s proposed raising retiree health care costs by hundreds of dollars.

Phyllis Moniz was a Verizon service representative for 34 years before she retired in 2010.

“I was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2013, and I spend four weeks at a time on chemotherapy. My health care costs are already huge, and now they want to add more on top of that? I’m retired. I don’t know how I’d be able to do it,” Moniz said from her home in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. “If the company was broke, it would be different, but they’re raking in billions of dollars and trying to squeeze every last dime out of the people who built this company.”

Across the region, striking workers watched nonunion and management replacement workers heading to do their jobs, but remained peaceful.

Elected officials, allies from other unions and members of the public joined the strikers in New York City, Philadelphia, and Rhode Island.

Both former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders joined picket lines April 13. During the April 14 democratic candidate’s debate, Sanders called on Verizon’s CEO to return to the negotiating table.

“This is a perfect example of the kind of corporate greed that is destroying the middle class of this country,” Sanders said. “There are some great businesses. Verizon happens to not be one of them.”

International President Lonnie R. Stephenson has announced that the IBEW Unity Fund will provide support for striking workers.

Verizon strikebreakers have been thrown out of three New York City hotels

Verizon strikebreakers have been thrown out of three New York City hotels, thanks to direct action by striking CWA members, solidarity from the hotel workers’ union and Teamsters Local 814. When CWA members found out Verizon was dispatching strikebreakers out of midtown hotels, the strikers got busy. They mounted massive picket lines in front of the Sheraton, Renaissance and Westin hotels in Manhattan’s midtown. Scabby the Rat joined strikers on the picket line. The New York Hotel Trades Council also backed the strikers and promised to honor their picket lines. Photo courtesy of Communication Workers of America

Possible CTU strike? ‘Be prepared’

CTU possible strike

CTU President Karen Lewis talks to reporters about the possibility of a teachers’ strike Monday morning. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Teachers Union

Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, April 21, 2016

CHICAGO — Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said April 18 a report by an independent fact-finder on contract negotiations was “dead on arrival” since it was essentially the same offer the Board of Education had made and the union had rejected.

As to what she would tell parents about the possibility of strike, Lewis said: “Be prepared.”

The proposal Lewis had once said was a “serious offer” from the Board of Education proposed net raises over four years, the phasing out of over two years of a 7 percent pension contribution CPS has been making for members, and a return to raises for continuing education and experience for teachers as soon as next school year.

But now, Lewis said CPS negotiators has even told them the broke school district can no longer even afford that offer. Lewis said CTU has bargained in good faith but argued CPS has not.

“Why are we talking about this as if some magical revenue fix has appeared . . . ? Lewis asked. “CPS is searching for cash under rocks, seat cushions and their uncles’ pants pockets,” she said.

Lewis said union officials will head back to the bargaining table with the Board of Education April 21 and that no decision has been made whether there could be a strike at the end of this school year or the beginning of the next.

The union has another 28 days as part of a cooling off period, then must file a 10-day notice of its intention to strike before doing it, putting a strike near the end of the school year as the earliest CTU could take that action.

IUPAT Community Day of Action

PDC 30_color

Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, April 21, 2016

The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades annual Community Day of Action takes a day to give back

AURORA — International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) members across the U.S. and Canada worked on projects April 16 to better their communities as a part of their annual IUPAT Community Day of Action.

In Aurora, members of Painters District Council 30 members painted the interior of three apartment unions in the 300 block of West New York Street in Aurora.

 Community Day of Action

Members of Painters District Council 30 worked April 16 painting the interior of three apartment unions in the 300 block of West New York Street in Aurora. Photo courtesy of Painters District Council 30

Although the IUPAT has a long tradition of community service, the goal of the Community Day of Action was to come together as one union, on one day, to make a difference in the many communities in which IUPAT members live and work.

The result was a great success as thousands of volunteers renovated shelters, community centers, youth athletic fields, and low income housing, and spearheaded food drives across North America. IUPAT groups also held educational forums on immigration, and workers’ rights on the job regarding wages and benefits.

“Today was a great day,” said IUPAT General President Kenneth Rigmaiden in Baltimore after lending a hand in cleaning and painting in a local neighborhood. “I was proud to see and hear about IUPAT and community volunteers coming together and working as one across the U.S. and Canada to make a difference in our communities. There’s more work to be done, but I think we’ve made it clear we are up to the task, and we are looking forward to being an agent of change within our communities.”

Union members are more than advocates for fair wages, rights and benefits on the job. They are good neighbors in their communities. The IUPAT Community Day of Action is yet one more example of how organized labor is a positive force for working families — both union and non-union.

With hundreds of buckets of paint now empty, an abundance of windows replaced and repaired, dozens of neighborhoods and fields free of trash while sporting a new shine, and IUPAT neighbors now armed with the resources to start a new career in the Trades with full knowledge of their rights in the workplace, the members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the Community Day of Action proved that powerful and lasting changes can be made in just one day when different groups unite to work together.

Taking it to the streets!

mcdonalds_logo

Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, April 21, 2016

CHICAGO — Thousands of low-wage workers, labor organizations and their supporters staged protest marches April 14 throughout Chicago to fight for a $15 minimum wage and union representation.

The action is the first major strike since historic wins for $15 an hour minimum wages in in New York and California.

Fight for $15

A series of Labor protests for the Fight for $15 movement were held in Chicago and across the country April 14. Protestors and their supporters are demanding the minimum wage be raised to $15 per hour and union representation. Photo courtesy of Fight for $15 Chicago

Chicago demonstrations began early April 14 at a McDonalds on the South Side, where people blocked traffic and claimed solidarity with other low-wage workers. McDonald’s was targeted because of its ability to influence pay practices throughout the economy.

Fight for $15

April 14 was a day to demonstrate in support of a $15 minimum wage, with several marches around the city of Chicago. Photo courtesy of Fight for $15.

The protest later moved to Loyola University on the North Side. The groups are all demanding a living wage.

April 13, the Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois (SEIU) nursing home workers, childcare and home health care workers rallied and marched as part of the Fight for $15 movement, going to two nursing homes on the North Side and accusing Gov. Bruce Rauner of “holding the budget hostage in an effort to drive wages and benefits down into the dirt.”

Low-wage workers protested April 14 for a $15 minimum wage and union rights in more than 300 U.S. cities and 40 countries, representing the largest Fight for $15 strike since the campaign began in 2012.

Fight for $15.

A giant banner is seen hanging from the roof of a building to the south of the Rock ‘n Roll McDonalds in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Fight for $15.

The push is being backed by the SEIU and began in late 2012, with striking fast-food workers in New York City. Since then, the growing demonstrations have helped make hourly pay a major political issue.

Chicago already has taken steps to gradually increase its minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2019, but Fight for $15 activists have said that’s not good enough.

Letter Carriers annual food drive needs your help

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Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, April 21, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Saturday, May 14, letter carriers will collect food in every neighborhood across the nation to help stock local food bank shelves that are struggling to keep up with demand.

The annual Stamp out Hunger, sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers, is the largest one-day food drive in the world. More than one billion pounds of food has been donated during its history.

Actor Edward James Olmos, along with NALC members and USPS officials, are getting the word out about this event, showing how easy it is for everyone to help their neighbor by placing a sturdy bag of non-perishable food by their mailbox Saturday, May 14. Letter carriers will collect the food and deliver it to a local food bank.

Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger

Award-winning actor Edward James Olmos, center, is helping to promote the annual Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, taking place Saturday, May 14. Photo courtesy of Stamp Out Hunger

Award-winning actor and producer Olmos — whose father was a USPS letter carrier — was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. Olmos is best known for his acting roles in films such as Stand and Deliver, Selena and Blade Runner; miniseries such as The Burning Season and Hollywood Confidential; and TV shows such as Miami Vice and Battlestar Galactica.

He earned a Golden Globe Award for best actor in The Burning Season and was nominated for both an Academy Award and Golden Globe for his lead role in Stand and Deliver.

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A social activist, Olmos has been a longtime pioneer for more diversified roles and images of Latinos in the media. In 1997, he co-founded the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, and the following year founded Latino Public Broadcasting and currently serves as its chairman. Olmos also co-founded the non-profit Latino Literacy Now and makes frequent appearances at juvenile halls and detention centers to speak to at-risk teenagers. He has also served as an international ambassador for UNICEF.

Olmos has publicly supported the Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive since 2013.

House bill introduced to name post office after former Illinois state chair

Ken Christy

Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, April 21, 2016

AURORA – Reps. Bill Foster (D-IL) and Rodney Davis (R-IL) recently introduced H.R. 4960, a bill that would designate the U.S. Post Office at 525 N. Broadway in Aurora, Illinois as the “Kenneth M. Christy Post Office Building.”

March 26, Christy passed away after serving for more than 31 years as a letter carrier for the Aurora Post Office. At the time of his passing, he was serving as president of the Illinois State Association of Letter Carriers and as Aurora Township’s clerk.

“Ken was a very dear friend who exhibited throughout his career unsurpassed passion, dedication and loyalty to the interests of the members of the NALC,” NALC President Fredric Rolando said. “On both a personal and a professional level, he will be sorely missed. Our deepest sympathy to his wife Bonnie and their entire family.”

Postal-naming legislation requires the entire House delegation from the state (in this case, Illinois) to co-sponsor such bills before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform will consider looking at the legislation.

To honor Christy, NALC urges all letter carriers from Illinois to call their U.S. Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 4960:
Bobby Rush, 202-225-4372
Robin Kelly, 202-225-0773
Dan Lipinski, 202-225-5701
Luis Gutierrez, 202-225-8203
Mike Quigley, 202-225-4061
Peter Roskam, 202-225-4561
Danny Davis, 202-225-5006
Tammy Duckworth, 202-225-3711
Jan Schakowsky, 202-225-2111
Bob Dold, 202-225-4835
Mike Bost, 202-225-5661
Rodney Davis, 202-225-2371
Randy Hultgren, 202-225-2976
John Shimkus, 202-225-5271
Adam Kinzinger, 202-225-3635
Cheri Bustos, 202-225-5905
Darin LaHood, 202-225-6201

Vets Week bringing together everyone for remembering

The City of Aurora's Veterans Advisory Council

The City of Aurora’s Veterans Advisory Council (AVAC) is hosting the first ever Vets Week in Illinois.

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, March 3, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

AURORA — The City of Lights will show its patriotic spirit and true colors when it brings Vets Week to Aurora, starting off on Armed Forces Day May 21, and ending Memorial Day, May 30.

“This event is right where it should be — in Aurora,” said Aurora Veterans Advisory Council (AVAC) Chairman Joe Toma.

The goal of the committee was to make events attractive to everybody. So — there’s a movie, a barbecue dinner, 5K run, classic car show and a parade. The car show runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, May 21 in downtown Aurora.

Sunday, May 29, everyone can participate in the 5K Run, Walk, Woof & Roll run, which starts at 7:30 a.m. Toma describes it as a race for everyone. “You can run it, walk it, bring your pooch, or baby stroller.

Runners can sign-up on-line at eventbrite.com by searching 5K Run, Walk, Woof & Roll.

Last week, AVAC mailed out sponsorship opportunities to hundreds of local businesses. A major focus of Vets Week is getting people out, talking and camaraderie, but another large focus is fundraising.

AVAC’s fundraising efforts serves local veterans in need, AVAC’s scholarship fund and local veteran housing.

Labor organizations like IBEW Local 461 and Pipefitters Local 597 Training Center are helping out, but AVAC member and Local 597 Business Representative Scott Roscoe said more help is appreciated. “We’re hoping the labor community embraces and supports our efforts,” Roscoe added.

Members of the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council

Members of the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council gear up for Aurora’s Vets Week, running May 21 through May 30. Events include a classic car show, 5K run, barbecue dinner and parade. Photo courtesy of the Aurora Veterans Advisory Council

Interested unions can contact Roscoe at 331- 302-5002.

The committee is working on finalizing the details of Vets Week, which includes the viewing of Aurora’s Walter Truemper’s Medal of Honor, an Air Force officer killed in WWII.

Toma stressed the need for volunteers throughout the week and especially for the 5K run. Interested persons can contact Toma via 630-899-9021 or email or email the Aurora’s Veterans Advisory Council at: auroraveteransadvisorycouncil@gmail.com

Residents crowd meeting to show support

Employees of the Bolingbrook Park District Building and Grounds Division joined SEIU Local 73

Employees of the Bolingbrook Park District Building and Grounds Division joined SEIU Local 73 18 months ago, but have yet to see their first contract. Residents showed up at a recent park district meeting to show support and ask why there is no contract. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

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

BOLINGBROOK — The public may not have gotten the answers they were looking for during a recent Bolingbrook Park District board meeting, but they walked away knowing they’re not giving up.

More than 35 park district employees and residents attended the Feb. 18 meeting to show their support of about 52 SEIU Local 73 members who joined the union 18 months ago, but have no contract in place. Members are from the building and grounds division.

“I’m here to understand what’s going on,” said Bolingbrook resident Norman Brown as he addressed board members.

Hammering out initial contracts are no walk in the park, but SEIU Local 73 Field Organizer Rick Loza said the park district is not giving the workers a fair contract.

Bolingbrook resident Norman Brown

Bolingbrook resident Norman Brown, standing, addresses members of the Bolingbrook Park District Board stressing his support for members of SEIU Local 73 who have been negotiating 18 months for their first contract. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

“We want to resolve this issue. We have 99 percent of the contract done, with the exception of wages,” Loza explained.

Both sides have recently met, and will meet again Feb. 25. A federal mediator is involved. At the heart of the issue is the matter of being treated fairly. Part-time employees are upset at seeing full-time positions open up, only to have them filled by outsiders.

They would like to see an adequate pay increase for the work they perform, but instead, are informed of insulting pay raises.

Residents who addressed the board were passionate in their support for the SEIU Local 73 members.

“I would say please give these professional employees a top notch contract to mirror the top-notch organization, board and director that you have,” Bolingbrook resident Kevin Brown said to applause.

Many residents acknowledged the many accolades and awards the park district has received over the years — done through the hard work and dedication of its building and grounds division.

Loza stressed the board has never said anything negative about the quality of the member’s work, yet, “we feel the employer is dragging this along. We’re talking about getting a fair compensation for the value of their work. They are not being respected for that, and I think that is where our members are angry.”

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Board President Denise Allen told residents they are following the bargaining process. “We have come to significant progress in many areas on both sides, but there are some tougher issues, and we are still far apart,” Allen explained.

Loza added members are not asking for unreasonable increases in salary. “What we’re talking about is the respect and dignity they deserve as workers.”