Give America a Raise bus tour raises awareness

Give America a Raise Bus Tour
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
With too many Illinois workers struggling to survive on $17,160 a year, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn, Ill. labor leaders, faith leaders and low-wage workers joined the Give America a Raise bus tour, urging Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

CHICAGO — A nationwide bus tour is hoping to turn the tide in favor of low wage workers.

The 11 state “Give America a Raise” bus tour supporting President Obama’s plan to raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour stopped in Chicago March 31 — with backing from U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Gov. Pat Quinn. There is scheduled to be a Senate vote this week on the issue.

The argument is low wage fast food and retail workers are an integral part of the United States economy, and should be able to make enough money working 40 hours per week to live off of. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a living wage in Chicago is $21,790 to be able to afford housing, medical care, transportation and food. If full-time Illinois workers made $10.10 an hour, they’d earn $21,008 a year.

Illinois currently has a minimum wage of $8.25 per hour. A federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 per hour would increase the wages by $4,800 per year for nearly a half million Illinois workers — money that will typically be spent at local businesses on food, clothing, and furniture.

Give America a Raise Bus Tour
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
With too many Illinois workers struggling to survive on $17,160 a year, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, Gov. Pat Quinn, Ill. labor leaders, faith leaders and low-wage workers joined the Give America a Raise bus tour, urging Congress to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.

Opponents such as Sen. Mark Kirk and Republicans in Congress including Adam Kinzinger, Randy Hultgren, Rodney Davis and Peter Roskam say an increase in minimum wage will hurt small business, decrease jobs, increase prices, and block entry level jobs for those with no experience.

Durbin said companies need to step up and pay a living wage in order for them to not rely on tax subsidies.

“When these big companies don’t pay a minimum wage, taxpayers make up the difference. Food stamps, child tax credit, earned income tax credit are all given to people who are working 40 hours per week. The federal treasury and state treasury are subsidizing low wage workers,” he said.

A recent Public Policy Polling survey found that overall, 63 percent of Illinois voters support raising the minimum wage to $10 — while only 33 percent are opposed, which is troubling for Republican lawmakers opposing the increase.

“Some of the hardest working people in Illinois are working 40 hours a week and living in poverty — that is unacceptable. Raising the minimum wage will empower working families and help build an economy that works for everyone,” Said Quinn.

Leaders from large companies such as Costco, Starbucks and Stride Rite agree, supporting a raise in the minimum wage as a way to reduce employee turnover and improve worker productivity.

“Let’s face reality,” said Durbin. “In America, we say we have respect for work. We say there’s a dignity to work. This is a test. If you believe in the dignity of work, supporting $10.10 an hour is the right thing to do.”

The benefits of Project Labor Agreements

Construction Industry Service Corporation's PLA informational presentation
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Numerous tradespeople listen to Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council President Tom Villanova explain Chicago and Cook County Project Labor Agreements.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

BELLWOOD — There have been 109 project labor agreements in Cook County alone. With their growing popularity and benefit to the union construction industry, the Construction Industry Service Corporation decided to host an informational presentation March 31 to break down some questions about PLAs.

CISCO presented Tom Villanova, president of the Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council at Cement Masons Local 502 in Bellwood.

Villanova went over a sample Chicago and Cook County PLA to 125 tradespeople, and answered questions. He said PLAs are a valuable tool in protecting union jobs in the city, and one facet was area-wide agreements.

A clause in the sample said in regards to a contractor who is the successful bidder, but is not signatory to the applicable collective bargaining agreement, the collective bargaining agreement executed by the bidder will be relevant area-wide agreements regulating or governing wages, hours and other terms.

“You can’t have job A going union, job B going non-union,” said Villanova. “Once the bid is won, you must agree to a local collective bargaining agreement, or subcontract the job to union labor. It is against the law for us to stop the bidding, though.”

Villanova also said the PLA does not allow a work stoppage on a building site, but does allow lockouts elsewhere with other personnel if there is an off site agreement.

“We cannot strike for anything under this PLA,” he explained.

This does not cover different suppliers off site. For instance, manufacturers of cabinets for a job do not have to be union. It’s just too far reaching. The PLA does not guarantee a work stoppage from a secondary labor action, but it does make it extremely unlikely, not having happened in Cook County since 2010.

This allows for projects to be completed on time while also supporting other lockouts. Workers would also get retroactive pay for whatever collective bargaining agreement is settled on during the job.

“You get retroactive pay for whatever’s settled. This allows work to go on fairly,” said Villanova.

Villanova said it’s typical that union drug testing be satisfactory for jobs in the city, and the clause is noted in the sample PLA.

“We don’t want to double test. It’s expensive and time consuming. The PLA does supersede collective bargaining agreements,” he said.

CISCO Executive Director Dan Allen said the presentation far exceeded expectations.

“There’s been a lot of misinformation out there and I’ve been answering a lot of questions about PLAs,” he said. “Every group had a lot of misconceptions and Tom did a great job clearing things up.”

Scam alert: People beware of old and new tricks

Regina Brent informs public of scams
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
The public needs to aware that scammers are out to swindle money away from you. During a recent Naperville Township Democratic Organization meeting, Regina Brent gave ways to protect yourself.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

NAPERVILLE — The office of the Illinois Attorney General wants consumers and homeowners to know not only are scammers up to their old tricks, they are constantly crafting new tricks and swindles to separate people from their money.

Regina Brent, recently retired lead person of advocacy and mediation for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office presented ways consumers can protect themselves against fraud at the March 27 meeting of the Naperville Township Democratic Organization.

Brent said scams range all the way from roof repairs, to car rentals, to colleges that are non-accredited. She learned her lesson the hard way back in 1974 when she didn’t read the fine print on a work order to replace her furnace, which resulted in a high interest loan.

“I didn’t read the fine print. The interest was 18 percent. Before I knew it I was in over my head,” she said.

A judge took mercy on her and dismissed the interest — but many people aren’t so lucky.

The elderly are targets because they may live alone, are trusting, and might not be able to even read a contract before signing it. Brent said shady construction outfits will scope out elderly homeowners and approach them with a repair contract for a roof repair or something else visible from outside.

“They sign blank contracts. It says they’ll fix your house for a payment of $25 per month, but the interest is huge. Many times the payments outweigh their income, and they lose their homes via lawsuits,” she said. “We have to really keep our eyes on our senior citizens.”

Other scams include the popular Nigerian prince scam (people still fall for it,) charitable trust scams, public utilities ripoffs, investments, auctions, and door to door salesman.

“Dollar and Thrifty rental car — we got complaints they would charge a penalty if the return car was not gassed up within one mile of the drop off point,” she said. “That’s unreasonable. Make sure that stipulation is not in your clause.”

Another problem is people posing as a public adjuster, assessing homes that need repair. The homeowner agrees to the work, the “adjuster” hires a subcontractor to do the work, then they vanish. The homeowner is left with the bill, and it can lead to a lien put on the home.

Consumers also have a 72 hour window with which to cancel a contract. This includes weekends, not just business days.

“Send in a certified letter requesting cancellation of the contract,” said Brent.

Lisa Bennett, community outreach and counseling liaison for the Illinois Attorney General’s office, also spoke briefly about cyber crime. She said complaints to her office increased 1,600 percent after the Target data breach was on the news last December.

“We are asking Congress to create an office to oversee digital transactions. Right now there are several divisions that handle it, but no standalone entity,” she said. “There’s no one at this point who doesn’t do something digitally, and consumers need to be careful.”

A previous version of this article included inaccurate, misleading and damaging information presented by Regina Brent, a former employee from the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. Contrary to Brent’s comments, Westwood College is nationally accredited by an agency that is licensed by U.S. Department of Education. Also, Westwood College, which has four Chicago area campuses, has thousands of skilled graduates working in businesses across Illinois, including many in our community. The Fox Valley Labor News regrets the error.”

Foster launches Project Growth series

Bill Foster's Project Growth series
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Congressman Bill Foster, center, wants to spur growth in and around Will County as part of his Project Growth initiative. It will bring together members of the community to develop an agenda to grow the local economy and bring jobs and opportunities to Will County and nearby regions.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

JOLIET — With job growth in Will County stagnant at 2 percent growth from 2012-13, U.S. Rep. Bill Foster has unveiled a plan for cooperation between several county agencies to spur growth in his district.

The “Project Growth” initiative will focus on four key issues to spur growth: strengthening the middle class, transportation, education and manufacturing. Foster launched Project Growth by hosting a discussion with community leaders on these key issues in Joliet March 28.

“Over the past year, I have met with people throughout the 11th District- from local business owners, to mayors and village presidents, to educators, to hard-working men and women- who are doing their part to support economic development,” said Foster. “With the launch of Project Growth, we will bring together members of our community to develop an agenda to grow our local economy and bring jobs and opportunity to our region.”

Foster said he toured the 11th District in the past year, meeting with more than 145 businesses and community groups. As part of the plan, he wants to raise the federal minimum wage, extend emergency unemployment insurance and fund the Workforce Investment Act to offer grants for adults to learn job skills. For further job training, his plan calls for expanding STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education to close the skills gap.

Joining him at the talk were Larry Walsh, Will County executive, John Greuling, president and CEO, Will County Center for Economic Development, Nancy Baldwin, vice-president, HR/IT, Nanophase Technologies Corporation, Joan Wisniewski, HR manager, Pactiv, Brother James Gaffney, FSC, president, Lewis University, and Steve Schilke, project manager, Illinois Department of Transportation.

Walsh said the initiative is critical in finding a solution to work together to mate job seekers with jobs.

“There are jobs out there, good jobs, but we just can’t find the employees that are qualified to fill those jobs,” he said.

The business leaders said the workforce is more diverse than years ago, with a workforce less interested in critical manufacturing jobs.

Greuling said between now and 2023, growth will be in transportation and warehousing, which he said could increase by 30 percent. Other hot areas include real estate, business management and support, and health care.

“We believe that Will County has the complete package. It really represents the economies of the future for communities. We have tremendous transportation assets, we’ve got a good solid core in our workforce, we have tremendous investment going on in our community, and I think you bring that all together, our future looks very strong,” said Greuling.

Schilke, of IDOT, focused on construction and major transportation projects in the district. The Illiana Corridor, improvements to Route 59 in Naperville and the interchange at Weber Road and I-55, the widening of 159th Street in Homer Glen, and Interstate 80 from Ridge Road to U.S. 30 all have brought in jobs.

He said an economic analysis showed massive potential for growth in the district.

“In the short term, we saw over 13,000 construction jobs created from these projects, and over one billion dollars in wages over the next 30 years. What we’re really doing is creating accessibility to the area,” said Schilke. “We have a lot going on, also in rail and air in this area. I feel partnerships are really essential.”

Amendment will disregard fire safety advancements

By Fox Valley Labor News
staff reports
Thursday, April 3, 2014

ORLAND PARK — March 24, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz filed an amendment to Illinois House Bill 4609 that would strip Illinois State Fire Marshal Larry Matkaitis’ ability to adopt or enforce codes including fire sprinklers requirements in any types of occupancies.

Feigenholtz drafted the bill through support from the home builders and relators associations in Illinois.

The amendment to HB4609 would effectively nullify the purpose of the state fire marshal, which is to adopt and enforce fire and building codes that protect residents and visitors statewide, says Tom Lia, fire safety advocate and executive director of the nonprofit Northern Illinois Fire Sprinkler Advisory Board.

“Feigenholtz’s bill is irresponsible and would disregard the safety of the people of Illinois, putting them at risk of fires in all building types, whether residential, commercial or industrial. In particular, it would allow home builders to regulate statewide fire safety standards in their own industry, rather than through the expertise of the Office of the State Fire Marshal and advisors from the state fire service,” Lia explained.

In the aftermath of major fire catastrophes, codes and legislation have continually evolved to include fire sprinkler protection in certain types of buildings. Here in Illinois, those codes have evolved due lessons learned from fires such as: the 603-fatality Iroquois Theater Fire of 1902; the 61-fatality La Salle Hotel Fire of 1946; the 95-fatality Our Lady of Angels School Fire of 1958; the fire destruction of McCormick Place in 1967; the 23-fatality Wincrest Nursing Home Fire of 1976 and the 6-fatality Cook County Administration High-Rise Building Fire of 2003, among others.

All those buildings now include fire sprinklers to protect them. In fact, the national consensus model codes from both the National Fire Protection Association and International Code Council have fire sprinkler components as the majority of their featured fire protection provisions.

“There are over 100 fire sprinkler code trade-offs in the construction process that allow builders, developers and architects to build a more efficient and flexible building,” notes Lia.

“If you remove the fire sprinklers from the codes, all of the cost-saving trade-offs are lost as well,” he said.

To take action, visit Illinois Fire Sprinkler Coalition to sign a petition asking your representative to oppose this devastating bill.

Single Payer health care seems to be inevitable

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, April 3, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

CHICAGO — Single payer health care, or universal health care, is care paid for by the government through taxation. The United States does not offer this, falling woefully behind other industrialized nations in health care, and advocates want to change that through legislation.

“I think single payer is inevitable in America,” said Anne Scheetz, MD, of the Illinois Single-Payer Coalition. “Health care right now in America isn’t sustainable. It’s a terrible system and it’s going to fall apart.”

The Labor News sat down with Scheetz, and another advocate, Hale Landes of IBEW Local 134. Landes said even though many unions offer privatized healthcare, single payer would still benefit them.

“Health care is a huge bargaining chip in union negotiations. Take that away and we have more power. No one likes negotiating, but the thing is, the health insurance company doesn’t care, because they always win,” said Landes.

Single payer would allow for older people only working for insurance coverage to retire and open up the market, and workers comp insurance industry would vanish, because everyone would be covered.

“It really eliminates a lot of problems,” he said.

People who don’t want to pay the increased tax for covering strangers may not know they are already covering the cost. The existing system is operating extremely inefficiently, and hospitals have to raise prices for those uninsured who get treated at the emergency room.

“The vast majority of people would pay less in taxes than they pay now in premiums, co-pays, and services,” said Sheetz, who added the system we have now only serves those at the top, and snubs those at the bottom.

“Low wage workers pay the same now as high wage workers. It’s a huge disparity. And no one has the responsibility now of putting healthcare where it’s needed, so low income and rural areas have either one choice or no choice at all in an emergency,” she said.

Landes cited the efficiency of the VA in delivering quality care to those who say the government is too sloppy to handle single payer.

“The Obamacare rollout was done with private companies. It’s not always the most efficient way,” he said.

The points for single payer are staggering — a 2013 study alone showed massive savings during the first year alone if the United States switches to single payer.

Gerald Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, found that upgrading the nation’s Medicare program and expanding it to cover people of all ages would yield more than a half-trillion dollars in efficiency savings in its first year of operation, enough to pay for high-quality, comprehensive health benefits for all residents of the United States at a lower cost to most individuals, families and businesses.

Friedman said the savings would come from slashing the administrative waste associated with today’s private health insurance industry ($476 billion) and using the new, public system’s bargaining muscle to negotiate pharmaceutical drug prices down to European levels ($116 billion).

“We want people to know they can do something about this,” said Scheetz, who said representatives from the Illinois Single Payer Coalition are available for educational speaking engagements.

“Learn about single payer, contact your state senator or representative. This will help a lot of people,” Scheetz stressed.

To join the Illinois Single Payer Coalition visit Illinois Single Payer Coalition for more information or to schedule a speaking engagement.

Member involvement key to union success – a book review

Save Our Unions by Steve Early

By Mike Matejka
Special to the Fox Valley
Labor News
Thursday, April 3, 2014

Save Our Unions: Dispatch From a Movement in Distress by Steve Early, Monthly Review Press

The numbers are not good — every year the percentage of union members shrinks. Illinois workers still enjoy decent union density, but in adjoining states, labor is fighting survival battles.

So how is this trend reversed? Steve Early, a former Communications Workers of America (CWA) organizer and staff member has a strong prescription — more union democracy.

Using various campaigns, both to win contracts and organize unions, Early sees the labor movement’s salvation in a mobilized, educated and involved membership. A union member who feels they “own” their union is going to respond quicker and more vigorously than someone who views their union as an “insurance policy” against management.

Early documents a number of campaigns, some in which he was a direct participant, where members beat the odds through shop floor mobilization.

He also probes young “salts” who have infiltrated non-union workplaces, hoping to turn them union from the inside.

When those efforts are successful, those workers talk about not just getting union cards signed, but building a workplace culture of resistance. This can include group actions to challenge management or “secret signals” between workers to trigger mutual solidarity.

Much of the book is devoted to two efforts. One, Early was involved in, and that was helping telephone and communications workers maintain their contracts — as the industry shifted away from land-line phones to call centers and cell phone companies. Maintaining existing contracts was one effort, but expanding the union’s reach has been more difficult.

He also shows how inter-country solidarity can help U.S. workers, but it’s no substitute for direct organizing.

He also covers in great depth the battles between the California Nurses Association and the Service Employees International Union. Early is no fan of SEIU’s tactics, which he criticizes as too management friendly, rather than building a true workers’ organization.

There is much to contemplate here; some readers might find the telecommunications and hospital stories too in-depth and too insider, but they are still effective case studies of current labor challenges.

Early makes a strong case for union democracy and involving members both politically and organizationally to make the union strong.

Weakness, fear, trembling and power

By Dan Richardson
Thursday, April 3, 2014
danrichardson@foxvalleylabornews.com

As the culture grows more and more intolerant to the Christian message, fair weather followers fade away. A small minority is left. The numbers game is intimidating. Yet, the LORD wins with a faithful few. Consider the prophet Elijah. God used him to prove the prevailing opinion of Baalism was baseless, empty, and irrelevant (1st Kings 18).

The LORD didn’t rely on the strength of men for victory. He didn’t defeat 450 bad guys with 7,000 good ones. He defeated them with one man. Elijah stood for truth and trusted in God’s word. But Elijah was no superman. James, the half-brother of Jesus, said Elijah was a man with a nature as ours (James 5). In weakness, he learned where to find courage.

The Apostle Paul contended with his culture “in weakness and in fear and much trembling.” He said his speech was “not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” so that those who heard him “might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2).

If you’re hardly afraid, then you don’t need courage. One only needs courage when he acknowledges his fears.

Conversations are critical. Providence puts us around people who know where to find life’s greatest treasure. Distractions impede these important discussions. Followers of Jesus need to pray and prepare for the right time to help someone find saving faith in the Scriptures.

Those who deny the seriousness of sin find no urgency in the Gospel. Without sin, there’s no gravity, no sacred implications, no weighty responsibility to bear.

Everyone peddles post-modern mush these days. But to stand alone and speak for the One who said “let light shine out of darkness” is to speak weighty truth and magnificent declarations.

The Gospel reminds the Christian he is a clay pot. These are lowly, common, breakable and replaceable — but a necessary household ware. As a clay pot, he is filled with precious jewels and spices. As he shares his treasure with others, there are massive implications. The treasure calls one to die. Die to self-lordship and live to God.

It is no wonder a Christian trembles at the thought of sharing his faith. He not only exposes himself to attack, he is asking his friend to lose his life in order to gain something he can’t see. The odds are great. The stakes are high. The will is weak; but there’s power in his message.

Godly Heritage Quote of the Week
“He did not inquire if his name would survive a generation. In his vision of the future, he saw mankind emancipated from . . . the blindness of bigotry, from the cruelties of intolerance. He saw the nations walking forth into the liberty wherewith Christ had made them free.”
—Senator Henry Bowen Anthony’s eulogy of
Roger Williams, a 17th Century
Puritan and early abolitionist
(source: presidentialprayerteam.org).

Non-union labor used on Naperville development

Scabby the Rat sighting in Naperville, Ill.
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Cement Masons local 502, unhappy with Sequoia General Contractor’s use of non-signatory contractors, is protesting Naperville’s Main Street Promenade East development. Several Scabby the Rats outside the site are alerting the public that Core Concrete is not meeting area standards.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

NAPERVILLE — The $30 million Naperville Main Street Promenade East project may mean big business to downtown Naperville, but Cement Masons Local 502 is unhappy with the way the general contractor is handling the construction, namely hiring non-union labor that is not up to area pay standards.

The union set up a couple Scabby the Rats last week at the site at Benton and Main streets to protest Aurora-based Sequoia General Contracting, as well as their subcontractor Core Concrete and Ozinga ready mix concrete — whose cement trucks broke the picket line in their deliveries.

“We don’t want to see a downtown development without responsible contractors,” said Mark Warzecha, business representative for Cement Masons Local 502.

“The problem here is, they’re saving money where they can, and the work quality is going to suffer,” Warzecha explained.

He said the project, which broke ground in October of last year, is paying substandard wages and hiring non-union labor for the concrete work.

Scabby the Rat sighting in Naperville, Ill.
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Cement Masons Local 502 protests in Naperville against Core Concrete for not meeting the area standards and conditions for cement masons in the area.

The two story, 55,000-square-foot retail and office project is expected to be completed this summer in August and is being developed by BBM Inc., which is owned by Dwight and Ruth Yackley.

During the construction, Ozinga concrete trucks pulled in and out of the site, despite being manned by Teamsters.
“Shame on Ozinga. We’re upset and tired of them crossing picket lines,” said Warzecha.

The current construction is phase two of the project, with phase three of the promenade containing more shops and offices on the west side of Main Street extending north.

Many believe the TPP will come at a price

TPP protest outside Bill Foster's office
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
According to the AFL-CIO, fast tracking the TPP would give the executive branch the opportunity to negotiate, out of public view, as many trade agreements as it can and send them to Congress, which may then only vote ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, March 27, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at pat@foxvalleylabornews.com

NAPERVILLE — Unions have stood against it. The AFL-CIO says its threat to labor rights is “cause for great concern.” And now, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is in danger of being fast tracked, meaning the agreement can be negotiated behind closed doors, and the public may not see the outcome until it’s agreed upon by Congress.

The TPP is a sprawling, massive, global trade agreement a decade in the making that is much larger than NAFTA. It aims to simplify trade agreements, taxes and tariffs between the U.S., Canada, and 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, but critics say the agreement is too powerful and benefits the rich, while doing disservice to the poor, and affects everything from prescription drug prices to food safety, Internet freedom, and jobs.

According to the AFL-CIO, the fast track of the TPP is a policy giving the executive branch the opportunity to negotiate — out of public view — as many trade agreements as it can during a given time period and send them to Congress, which may then only vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the agreement.

Congress may not amend the agreement or its “implementing bill,” nor may it send the agreement back to the executive branch with instructions for improvement.

Congress may vote on the TPP as early as this fall.

Protestors from Occupy Naperville, Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice, and the Illinois Fair Trade Coalition gathered March 21 in front of Congressman Bill Foster’s Aurora office to voice their opinions against the implement of TPP.

“There are over 600 corporations that are running this, it’s a situation to take over the rights of Americans,” said Kaye Gamble, a member of Move to Amend.

“This takes our sovereignty away. The corporations will be in charge, not our government,” Gamble explained.

TPP protest outside Bill Foster's office
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Outside Congressman Bill Foster’s office, protesters expressed their concern with the TPP, saying the agreement is too powerful and benefits the rich, while doing disservice to the poor.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is negotiating the TPP along with 11 foreign governments. The public does not have access to the text, but more than 600 corporate advisers do.

It is feared that if the TPP is agreed upon, corporate lawyers will seize power over government regulations regarding fracking, worker protection policies, and environmental protections.

Countries could potentially be in a “race to the bottom” regarding workers rights and good job availability.

“The TPP could place the American workers in competition with slave wage societies like Vietnam,” said Carson Starkey, field coordinator for the Illinois Fair Trade Coalition.

“This is much worse than NAFTA. It’s more welfare for millionaires,” Starkey added.

Congressman Foster was not present at his office, but did release a statement to those outside, saying he has not yet come to a conclusion about the TPP, but will vote depending on how the agreement has a net effect on jobs in his district.

“I believe we have been ill-served by trade agreements pushed by special interests that place the priorities of Wall Street ahead of the interests of U.S. manufacturers, workers, and farmers,” he wrote.

“As a businessman who helped build a manufacturing business with good paying jobs here in the Midwest, I know it is possible for American businesses to compete successfully, but only if U.S. trade negotiators ensure that American companies are not left at a disadvantage,” Foster’s statement added.