Labor builds the foundation of the economy

Construction Industry Service Corporation

Under Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel’s leadership, Chicago has seen a construction renaissance, hosting a record number of building permits, a billion dollar renovation of CTA infrastructure, as well as the billion dollar-plus redevelopment program for both Navy Pier and the McCormick Square neighborhood. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, April 27, 2017
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

CHICAGO — In recent years, Chicago has become first in a lot of areas.

In the short list of accomplishments, Chicago is No. 1 for corporate relocations, as well as direct foreign investments. In fact, Chicago’s economy grew faster than the United States of America and faster than New York and D.C.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel pointed out Chicago’s successes aren’t done with Wall Street or the federal government. “It’s the men and women that make up this room driving that economic growth,” he said to applause.

Emmanuel’s audience didn’t have to be convinced by his remarks. They were members of Construction Industry Service Corporation (CISCO), which makes up signatory contractors and their members.

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CISCO Executive Director Dan Allen added another Chicago accomplish. “Chicago was recently named as a top city for the most profitable start up companies in the country.

To put that into construction terms — the city had a post-recession record of 48 crane permits operating in 2016. “Each crane represents hundreds of union construction jobs helping to revitalize middle-class families,” Allen explained.

Emmanuel was CISCO’s keynote speaker for its 29th annual Luncheon.

Under Emmanuel’s leadership, Chicago has seen a construction renaissance, hosting a record number of building permits, a billion dollar renovation of CTA infrastructure, as well as the billion dollar-plus redevelopment program for both Navy Pier and the McCormick Square neighborhood.

Construction Industry Service Corporation

While speaking at a recent CISCO event, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel said making Chicago an economic success makes everyone involved a winner. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Emmanuel called Chicago’s economic strategy the 5 T’s: talent, training, transportation, technology and transparency.

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“I fundamentally believe we cannot have a 21st century economy running on a 20th century foundation. Every investment you make an infrastructure leads to greater economic growth,” Emmanuel said. That growth in Chicago is done with the best trained, best educated workforce in the building trades, he added.

Acknowledging differences, the mayor discussed the conflict between his office and the building trades, but he hopes it’s in the past. “I wasn’t [the building trades] choice in 2011. Straight up — I wasn’t. They weren’t sure what they were getting. They’re still not sure,” he said to laughs.

There were lawsuits over McCormick Place and heated meetings with leaders of various building trades. But in the end, both sides, and the City of Chicago, came out winners.
“It was because Labor was my partner in solving a problem, removing a cloud, and helping us bring business to McCormick Place,” he explained.

XPO workers in Illinois reject union representation

Aurora, Illinois XPO dockworkers

Teamsters Local 179 show support for Aurora, Illinois XPO dockworkers April 14 vote. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, April 20, 2017

Elgin, Aurora workers turn thumbs down; Trenton drivers join Local 701

AURORA — XPO drivers in Trenton, New Jersey voted to join Teamsters Local 701 April 14, boosting momentum to a nationwide workers’ campaign for fairness at the giant transportation and logistics company.

Also voting April 14, drivers in Elgin, Illinois and dockworkers in Aurora, Illinois were not successful at this time seeking Teamster representation. The actions of XPO and its high-priced union busters has been egregious and suspect throughout the company’s campaigns and will be challenged through the National Labor Relations Board.

The 34 drivers in Trenton join the hundreds of workers nationwide who have already formed their union as Teamsters. The earlier victories were in Aurora (drivers); Miami; Laredo, Texas; Vernon, California; North Haven, Connecticut; and King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

“The victory in Trenton and the company’s desperate actions in Illinois show that the XPO workers’ campaign is getting stronger and stronger, as freight, warehouse and port drivers fight for a more secure future,” said Ernie Soehl, Director of the Teamsters National Freight Division, who is also President of Local 701 in North Brunswick, New Jersey. “The workers help make XPO very successful and they deserve to be rewarded for their hard work.”

The drivers are seeking decent and affordable health insurance, a secure retirement, job security and a voice on the job. Port, freight and warehouse workers at XPO are coming together across the country in their fight for a more secure future.
-International Brotherhood of Teamsters

Helping the community – 1 meal at a time

Giving Back to the Community

Members of the Lake County Building & Construction Trades Council, Great Lakes Construction Association and the Northeastern Illinois Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, participate in another year of Giving Back to the Community April 15, insert, by giving away 150 Easter ham dinners to local families in the Waukegan Public School District 60. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, April 20, 2017
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

WAUKEGAN — Waukegan Mayor-elect Sam Cunningham felt right at home alongside union members and signatory contractors as they all came together April 15 to distributed Easter dinners to local families.

Giving Back to the Community

Union members and contractors, along with teachers and staff of Waukegan Public School District 60, took part in Giving Back to the Community April 15 outside Whittier Elementary School. Lake County union members and signatory contractors purchased enough hams, along with several sides and dessert, for 150 families to have an Easter dinner. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

“What [organized labor] is doing today is going to put them in the focal point in our community,” Cunningham explained. “This allows the public to see why it’s important to have organize labor.”

The Lake County Building and Construction Trades Council, Great Lakes Construction Association and the Northeastern Illinois Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO teamed up, as they have in the past, to purchase 150 Easter dinners for residents of Waukegan Public School District 60. It was part of their Giving Back to the Community project.

Pete Olson, president of the Lake County Building and Construction Trades Council said the event allows the community to see unions for what they really are — a supportive and integral part of the community.

It’s also a way to show their appreciation to the Waukegan Public School District for work awarded to signatory contractors, which have put many union members to work.

“It also shows we’re here to support each other, like we were when the teachers went on strike a few years ago,” said Olsen. “We’re all under the umbrella of the Northeastern Illinois Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.”

Giving Back to the Community

If local families were unable to drive to the donation spot, transportation was provided by the school district and buses were sent to them at various pick-up points. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Giving Back to the Community

After local families received their dinners, they were treated to doughnuts and coffee. If needed, they were helped back to their vehicle with their items. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Giving Back to the Community

Pete Olson, president of the Lake County Building Trades chats with volunteers Sue and Jamie Boller with Boller Construction. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

The distribution site was at Whittier Elementary School from 10 a.m. to noon. For families unable to find transportation, the school district used school buses to pick up residents at certain destination pick-up spots.

Great Lakes Construction Association Executive Vice President Tim Marabella said he loves helping out in his community. “I really love that aspect of my job,” Marabella explained.

Signatory Contractor Boller Construction provided a box truck to pick up the dinners. Family members Sue and Jamie Boller welcomed residents, offering them doughnuts and coffee. Fellow family member Matt Boller, along with Local 150 Training Director Bryan Sorensen, worked inside the box truck getting the hams ready.

“We are big supporters of the Great Lakes Contractors Association,” Matt said. “Whenever they need help, we’ll jump at it.”

Any extra meals were distributed to various community organizations, including Most Blessed Trinity Parish.

IBEW members light the way for food pantry volunteers

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry

The Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry gets a mini-facelift for interior lighting, heating and more, courtesy of a local grant and the dedication of organized labor. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, March 9, 2017
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

AURORA — The dedicated volunteers at the Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry had been working in the pantry’s warehouse with limited lighting, while office personnel worked on the second level in offices with no heat.

But with a grant from the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley along with pro bono work from organized labor, volunteers can now navigate the warehouse in ample light and employees don’t have to wear coats at their desks.

“We’re just so grateful to the Foundation and to the union members,” said Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry Executive Director Marilyn Weisner.

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry

IBEW Local 461 Assistant Business Manager/Organizer Shaun Thomas and 4th year apprentice Bryan Cotes install conduit in the bar joist of the warehouse. This will prevent the conduit from getting damaged by the mast of forklifts when they pull product down. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry

IBEW 461 member Burt Jones assembles a ceiling fan. Ten fans were installed to allow for better air flow in the warehouse. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

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In the warehouse, IBEW Local 461 installed ceiling fans, replaced damaged conduit and moved lighting into the aisles. For the upstairs offices, baseboard heaters were installed.

The circuitry needed for the baseboard heaters wasn’t in the offices, so it was pipped in from the back of the warehouse to circuits near the offices. Even with a heat diffuser on the second floor, it’s primary purpose is to heat up the area near the front entrance, keeping the windows from fogging up. What it didn’t do was bring heat to the back offices.

The work was done during the week the pantry was closed between Christmas and New Year.

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry

Aurora Area Interfaith Food Pantry volunteers work in an aisle of the warehouse with plenty of light. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

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Along with donating labor, affiliates from the Fox Valley Building Trades donated various needed materials and money. SMART Local 265 donated a scissor lift. With the various donations, the pantry was able to use funds earmarked to pay for labor and apply it to other portions of the grant that weren’t necessarily funded.

IBEW Local 461 Assistant Business Manager/Organizer Shaun Thomas said organized labor was more than willing to help the pantry. “In general, unions frequently donate materials and volunteer their time in the community.”

Every year, members from the building trades volunteer to distribute food from the pantry’s mobile food pantry to seniors at local retirement homes.

Members return to work after on strike for 44 days

Strike ends for Teamsters Local 710

Members of Teamsters Local 710 stood their ground day and night on the strike line at Railway Industrial Services in Crest Hill to secure a contract that supports their dedication to their jobs. They stood strong for 44 days and ratified a new three-year contract. They returned to work March 2. Photo courtesy of Teamsters Local 710

Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, March 2, 2017

CREST HILL — The 70 persistent Local 710 Teamsters at Railway Industrial Services have finally secured the benefits they fought for throughout their 44-day long strike and ratified a new three-year contract. They returned to work March 2.

The railway maintenance workers have remained strong on the picket line since Jan. 17 after negotiations reached a standstill.

Enduring a spectrum of harsh weather from subzero wind chills to a severe thunderstorm just last night, they stood their ground day and night to secure a contract that supports their dedication to their jobs.

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“You would be hard pressed to find a group more dedicated than these men,” said Local 710 Business Agent Mike Ramirez.

Their unified stance didn’t falter once, and the atmosphere on the picket line was always positive, no matter how hard RIS pushed. Their persistence has finally paid off, and they have won a strong contract,” Ramirez added.

The Local 710 Bargaining Committee returned to the bargaining table Feb. 22 with optimism, but left with extreme disappointment after RIS made only minor changes to the company’s previous offer. At that time, the Teamsters received a letter from RIS, which withdrew management’s last, best and final offer, a seemingly positive move the company had refused to make during the first month of the ongoing labor action.

Strike ends for Teamsters Local 710

Teamsters Local 710 members are back to work at Railway Industrial Services. They returned to work March 2 after standing strong on the picket line for 44 days and securing a strong Local 710 contract. Photo courtesy of Teamsters Local 710

One of the most important issues for the membership was the cost of healthcare. Local 710 successfully secured a cap on employee contributions towards the monthly premium. Along with that, hourly wages will increase more than five percent on average over the life of the agreement.

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Additional language throughout the contract was also strengthened to better protect the members’ rights in the workplace.

They will now be able to use some vacation days as sick days without disciplinary action. Discipline, which previously had no structure, was adjusted to be progressive with multiple steps.

Upon moving up to a higher job classification, members will immediately receive the higher rate of pay for that job, whereas before, that increase was spread out over five years.

“On behalf of Local 710 and the entire Joint Council 25, I want to extend our congratulations to these men on a battle well fought, said Local 710 Trustee John T. Coli. “They fully embody what it means to be a Teamster, and their solidarity is so incredibly impressive and inspiring to all union members. Well done,” Coli added.
—Teamsters Local 710

Strike authorization vote begins

AFSCME possible strike

AFSCME Council 31 members will decide whether or not to authorize its Bargaining Committee to call a strike. The Strike Authorization Vote will take place in each local union through Feb. 19. If a majority of union members vote ‘yes,’ that does not necessarily mean there will be a strike — as the Bargaining Committee will continue to do everything possible to reach a fair settlement. But it does mean that if all such efforts fail, state employees will be prepared to go out on strike if the Committee issues the call. Photo courtesy of AFSCME Council 31

Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017

SPRINGFIELD – One year ago, Gov. Bruce Rauner walked out on negotiations for a new contract with state employees. Then and now, employees have made clear their willingness to return to the bargaining table and work constructively to find common ground. But the governor has rejected compromise at every turn.

Just as he has refused to work toward a solution to the state’s fiscal woes — harming citizens all across Illinois — he’s taking the same counterproductive ‘my way or the highway’ approach with his own employees.

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These dedicated public servants who protect children from abuse, monitor air and water quality, respond to natural disasters, care for aged veterans, and so much more, stood ready to negotiate, but instead, Rauner asked the Illinois Labor Relations Board, which he appoints, to declare negotiations to be at “impasse.”

When the Labor Board granted his request, it opened the door for Rauner to move forward to impose his own extreme terms on state employees, including elimination of all safeguards against irresponsible subcontracting, a four-year wage and step freeze and a 100 percent increase in employee health care premiums.

The wage freeze combined with such a steep health care hike would mean a $10,000 pay cut for the average state employee. That might not be much to Rauner, but it’s too much for the rest of us.

AFSCME has appealed the Labor Board’s decision and successfully secured a temporary stay that prevents the governor from imposing his terms for the time being. However, the stay could be lifted at any time.

Recently, in an effort to break the year-long stalemate, AFSCME took the unprecedented step of putting forward a new settlement framework that significantly modifies the union’s previous positions on core economic issues. Under this framework, employees would receive no base wage increase for four years—and pay a modest increase in their health insurance costs.

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Unfortunately, rather than welcoming these more-than-reasonable terms, and working to chart a new course to a fair settlement, the governor is still refusing to make any compromise whatsoever. Within hours of receiving the union’s letter regarding the new framework, he dismissed its terms as “superficial” and wildly exaggerated their potential cost to the state.

That’s why AFSCME members will now decide whether or not to authorize their Bargaining Committee to call a strike.

The Strike Authorization Vote will take place in each local union through Feb. 19. If a majority of union members vote ‘yes,’ that does not necessarily mean there will be a strike — as the Bargaining Committee will continue to do everything possible to reach a fair settlement. But it does mean that if all such efforts fail, state employees will be prepared to go out on strike if the Committee issues the call.

The AFSCME Bargaining Committee recommends voting YES. For more information, state employees can visit the State Contract Info Center.
—AFSCME Council 31

The USPS/Staples deal is over

USPS/Staples_deal_is_over

After years of protest and boycott by APWU and allies – the deal between the U.S. Postal Service and Staples to sell postal services ends. Photo courtesy of APWU

Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017

Big win for postal workers who waged a three-year campaign against Staples/USPS partnership

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The boycott against Staples is over. Postal management informed the APWU in writing the “Approved Shipper” program in Staples stores will be shut down by the end of February 2017. This victory concludes the APWU’s three-year struggle.

“I salute and commend every member and supporter who made this victory possible,” said APWU President Mark Dimondstein. “I never doubted that if we stayed the course, stuck together and kept the activist pressure on, we would win this fight.

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“The Staples pilot was an acceleration in the privatization of retail services and a direct assault on our jobs.It was time to draw a line in the sand. We wasted no time swinging into action,” Dimondstein continued.

Early in 2014, the Stop Staples campaign started to put pressure on Staples and the USPS. APWU members staged a country-wide National Day of Action with 56 Stop Staples protests in 27 states. After this, the APWU launched the official Staples Boycott.
“If Staples was going to take our work and jobs for their private profit, we were going to hit back and affect their bottom line,” Dimondstein explained.

The fight continued for another two and a half years, but APWU members did not give up.

USPS/Staples_deal_is_over

In February 2015, the APWU released two research papers critical of Staples’ proposed $5.5 billion merger with Office Depot and met with the staff of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) examining the merger. The FTC eventually blocked the merger and Staples was forced to pay a $250 million penalty to Office Depot.

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The APWU carried out investigations that proved Staples was shortchanging the Postal Service in revenue, undermining the security of the mail and trashing the Postal Service’s brand. The union requested a USPS Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigation that further proved these facts.

“This is not only a victory regarding the Staples’ dirty deal,” Dimondstein said. “In regards to the USPS’s planned retail privatization expansion to dozens of other corporations, those companies have largely backed-off and gotten the message — mess with postal workers and customers and you will have to tangle with the APWU family.”

“With the Staples deal out of the way, there is a fresh opportunity for postal management and the APWU to consider the future expansion and improvement of retail operations without these misguided privatization schemes that undermine great service, good jobs, and a strong postal brand.” Dimondstein added.

“A job well-done, Sisters and Brothers!” said Dimondstein. “The struggle continues and this victory helps strengthen and steel us for the battles ahead.”
-American Postal Workers Union

Federal judge strikes down Lincolnshire’s ‘Right to Work’ ordinance

Right_To_Work_shot_down

A federal judge recently struck down a controversial right-to-work law in Lincolnshire aimed at organized labor, ruling that federal law preempts the local ordinance. The judge issued a summary judgment in the case, siding with four unions that filed the federal lawsuit in early 2016 challenging Lincolnshire’s ordinance.

Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, Jan. 12, 2017

Local 150 lawsuit strikes down local ‘Right to Work’ law

ROCKFORD — In a decision issued Jan. 7, United States District Judge Matthew Kennelly found the local “right to work” law passed by the Village of Lincolnshire in 2015 is pre-empted by federal law, and that only states and territories have the authority to such laws. Local 150 and three other plaintiffs were granted summary judgment, with the court ruling on the merits without need for a full trial.

The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) permits States and Territories the authority to regulate union security agreements via “right to work” laws. Arguing that local units of government have no authority to pass such laws, four unions filed a federal lawsuit against Lincolnshire in early 2016.

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The plaintiffs were the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Locals 150 and 399, the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters and the Laborers District Council of Chicago and Vicinity.

Judge Kennelly concluded the NLRA “does not permit local subdivisions to regulate union security agreements.” Additionally, Kennelly found Lincolnshire has no authority under federal law to regulate union hiring halls or “dues checkoff” agreements between unions and workers they represent.

“We have long argued that local governments simply are not empowered to pass these laws, and we are pleased with Judge Kennelly’s decision,” said IUOE Local 150 President-Business Manager James M. Sweeney.

Right_To_Work_shot_down

“This was a political attack against middle class workers, and we will always take up the fight on behalf of workers who depend on decent wages and benefits to support themselves and their families,” Sweeney added.

The Mayor of Lincolnshire requested the Village Board consider a Right to Work Ordinance that was drafted by the Illinois Policy Institute. Dec. 14, 2015, despite overwhelming public opposition and significant doubt cast upon the legality of the ordinance, the Village Board chose to pass the anti-union partisan policy, which lowers wages and living standards for all workers.

In March 2016, the Northeastern Illinois Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO, endorsed a boycott of all non-union businesses in Lincolnshire for passing Right to Work ordinances.

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At the announcement of the boycott, Northeastern Illinois Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO President Patrick Statter said the labor movement stood in solidarity against the ordinance and strongly encouraged the public to use their purchasing power to send a message to the Village of Lincolnshire.

“Lincolnshire officials have continuously supported Gov. Bruce Rauner and aligned themselves with his anti-worker agenda; while at the same time, attacking Unions and working people,” Statter stressed at the time of the boycott.

The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150 is a labor union representing 23,000 working men and women in Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. Local 150 represents workers in various industries, including construction, construction material development, public works, concrete pumping, steel mill service, slag processing and others.
-Local 150

RENEW-ing a future for others

RENEW Local 701

RENEW Local 701 members participated in its first ever holiday food drive, collecting 550 pounds of food and donating it to Naperville’s Loaves & Fishes food pantry, which serves DuPage County residents. In a bit of friendly competition among the apprenticeship classes, first year apprentices got bragging rights for donating the most pounds of food. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

Donations can be mailed to:
Loaves and Fishes
1871 High Grove Lane
Naperville, IL 60540
Phone: 630-355-3663

To learn more or make an on-line donation, visit Loaves and Fishes

NAPERVILLE — Members of IBEW Local 701’s RENEW (Reach out and Engage Next-gen Electrical Workers) ended 2016 with a gesture that will leave an impact on the DuPage County community.

For two months during the holidays, RENEW members collected food and various household items like diapers, for a friendly competition among the apprentices.

RENEW Local 701

A Loaves & Fishes volunteer, left, helps three IBEW Local 701 RENEW members unload 550 pounds of food and household items Dec. 28 donated by the group during its first ever food drive. First year apprentices won a friendly competition, donating the most food of all the classes. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

“We challenged the apprentices in our five-year program to see which class could donate the most food,” explained Journeyman Jonathan Johansen who heads the RENEW chapter at Local 701. To keep things fair, donated food was weighed. In the end, first year apprentices earned the bragging rights, donating nearly half of the 550 pounds of food collected. They also collected $80.

“RENEW is all about getting the younger members involved and helping the community. Our first year apprentices they really showed us,” Johansen said with a smile.

The mission of IBEW’s RENEW program is to inspire the next generation of IBEW workers to become active in their local union. The program pushes younger members to focus on issues important to them, provide education about the IBEW and the labor movement, and foster relationships with members and local union leadership.

At their last day of collection in December, RENEW members realized they achieved their goal of a successful food drive, but didn’t know where to donate the items. PowerForward DuPage Executive Director Karyn Charvat helped out by suggesting Loaves & Fishes, which provides food and client resources to DuPage County residents.

RENEW Local 701

Loaves & Fishes Communications and Event Manager Michelle Iskowitz gives Local 701 RENEW members Jonathan Johansen, Thomas Imburgia and Tyler Drew a tour of the facility, allowing them to see first hand how their donations helps the community. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Johansen, along with fellow journeyman Thomas Imburgia, second year apprentice Tyler Drew and Charvat, delivered the food, Dec. 28.

Loaves & Fishes Communications and Event Manager Michelle Iskowitz gave them a tour and explained the significance of their donation.

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“A woman who comes here said if it wasn’t for this place, her family would be homeless. With no health insurance, three children and a husband awaiting a liver transplant, all their money goes towards rent,” Iskowitz explained. “Your donation is helping her and hundreds others like her. Having a meal provides such normalcy for a family,” she added.

Motivated by her comments, the RENEW members committed to do more. “With our first year doing this, we didn’t know what to expect. Now we have a goal to double what we donated this year,” Johansen said.

‘Every child deserves a little Christmas!’

kane_county_toys_for_tots

kane_county_toys_for_tots

Kane County Toys for Tots used Pipefitter Local 597 training center in Aurora as this year’s warehouse and distribution site. This holiday season, more than 28,000 toys were donated to nearly 40 organizations that request toys and found loving homes with Kane County children. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

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

Donations can be mailed to:
Toys for Tots
1921 W. Wilson St. #129
Batavia, IL 60510

To learn more or make an on-line donation, visit Kane County Toys for Tots

AURORA — More than anybody, Patrick Kackert understands what it means to rely on the generosity of others. As the Kane County Toys for Tots Coordinator, he is on the hunt every year for donated warehouse space to house and organize the almost 28,000 toys donated for Kane County Toys for Tots. A best case scenario would put his team in a warehouse mid-October.

But after hearing, “no, sorry,” 30 times, Kackert, a Marine reservist, was left wondering what he was going to do. That’s when fate put him together with organized labor. Specifically, Scott Roscoe, president of the Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council and a business representative for Pipefitters Local 597.

After Roscoe, a Marine, Kackert, and mutual friend Brian Dolan initially looked at a spot that was too small, Roscoe suggested space at Pipefitters Local 597 Training Center on Farnsworth Avenue in Aurora. Used for training students in welding and HVAC, the school is usually bustling with students, but it was temporarily empty so the floor could be redone and refinished. For Kackert, the timing couldn’t have been better.

kane_county_toys_for_tots

Volunteer Doris Bolin works on filling an order for Elgin’s Community Crisis Center, which is one of Kane County Toys for Tots biggest clients. This holiday season, it sent the center nearly 6,000 toys. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

“I told [Scott], ‘this is perfect. It’s exactly what we needed.’ We couldn’t do this without the space, and it was all donated by the pipefitters,” Kackert said. He was used to last year’s 35,000 square-foot facility, but it was a blessing to find a 15,000 square-foot facility at the last minute.

The final person to sign on was 597 Training Director John Leen, who was enthusiastic about the opportunity to help Toys for Tots.

Come next year, Kackert will be on the hunt again. He understands the pipefitter’s training facility will probably be bustling with students and not available, but every year brings additional connections, and more opportunities.

kane_county_toys_for_tots

Volunteers at the warehouse facility help unload trucks that are transporting boxes of toys, sort toys and fill orders for organizations. Organizations are responsible for picking up toys. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

In the mean time, volunteers spent the week of Dec. 12 filling orders for Kane County Toys for Tots nearly 40 organizations that request toys.

Kackert’s passion extends to his family. Not only does his wife, Toni, help, so does Kackert’s 79-year-old father George, a Marine.

Beyond family, volunteers at the warehouse facility help unload trucks that are transporting boxes of toys, sort toys and fill orders for organizations. Organizations are responsible for picking up toys.

kane_county_toys_for_tots

After orders were filled, toys are packed in blue bags, indicating they are ready for pick up. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Volunteer Doris Bolin spent hours working on filling an order for Elgin’s Community Crisis Center, which is one of Kane County Toys for Tots biggest clients. The center provides comprehensive services to individuals and families in crisis due to domestic violence, sexual assault, or economic/ financial difficulties.

“It takes a lot longer than you actually think,” she said regarding ‘shopping’ for toys to fill orders. Her goal was to pick out toys for 250 boys, aged 10 to 14 — the age group that receives the least amount of donated toys.

kane_county_toys_for_tots

Not every toy makes it to a child. There was a spot under the Christmas tree by the front door where Booger Balls, Chunky Crunch and a rifle scope lay. “Sometimes we get things that have toilet humor, but the rifle scope — I don’t know what someone was thinking,” Warehouse Manager Dorothy Holland said with a laugh. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Monetary donations to the Kane County Toys for Tots organization goes to purchase toys specific to the 10- to 14-year-old age group.

The warehouse is divided down the middle: boy toys on one side, girl toys on the other. If you ever forget, each side it’s clearly visible with the stark contract of pink and blue colors. Bolin noticed Barbies were popular for the girls, and Star Wars toys for the boys.

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Warehouse Manager Dorothy Holland reminds volunteers to not always think gender-specific. “I tell them to think about including Lego kits and science toys for girls,” Holland said.

Not every toy makes it to a child. There was a spot under the Christmas tree by the front door where Booger Balls, Chunky Crunch and a rifle scope lay. “Sometimes we get things that have toilet humor, but the rifle scope — I don’t know what someone was thinking,” she said with a laugh.

There’s also a spot for ‘misfit toys,’ which are used, torn or unusual donations, like Tattoo Art, and a box of 4-inch Kewpie dolls, each dressed as a character of the Wizard of Oz with a $99 price tag.

“It’s really a judgement call on these items whether or not to give this to a child, but we’re not giving away VHS tapes,” Holland said.