Aurora-based Painters District Council 30 celebrates the holidays with its members

Fox Valley Labor News
Jennifer Rice/staff photographer
Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017

The inside of Painters District Council 30 was transformed into a winter wonderland by its apprentices. In the weeks leading up to its annual Breakfast with Santa event, apprentices paint the structures inside the school to look like the North Pole.

The Plascencia family took a photo with Santa Claus. Parents Juan and Danae brought their sons Max, Elias and daughter Leamsi.

Children were in for a real treat when they saw real, live reindeer at the Christmas event. With the help of Santa’s helpers, children got to touch and take a picture with the reindeer.

The day wouldn’t be complete without making reindeer food! Children could make their own bags by scooping oats with glitter into bags. On Christmas Eve, all they have to do is sprinkle the reindeer food on their lawn. The shiny glitter will sparkle in the moonlight and the smell of the oats will guide Rodolph to their home.

A mother helps her daughter, 4-year-old Nicole, write a Christmas letter to Santa Claus. When asked if she’s been naughty or nice, she stressed to her mother she’s been good! After the letters were written, they were dropped in a special mail box that goes directly to the North Pole.

Along with meeting Santa Claus and getting a picture taken with reindeer, children could also make several holiday crafts to take home. Several tables were set up as crafting stations. Here, two boys make necklaces to take home.

A mother helps her daughter put the finishing touches on her reindeer ornament.

Hillside-based IBEW Local 9 keeps a promise to help a community

Hillside-based IBEW Local 9

Members of Hillside-based IBEW Local 9, from left, IBEW Local 9 Financial Secretary Brian Lewis, Boys & Girls Club of West Cook County Director Keenan White, IBEW Local 9 Business Manager Bill Niesman, Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey, Boys & Girls Club of West Cook County staff member Steve Beranek and IBEW Local 9 Assistant Business Manager Kevin Schuster, along with children from the Boys and Girls Club of West Cook County, helped set up the turkey dinner donation site. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

BELLWOOD — Last year, Hillside-based IBEW Local 9 Business Manager Niesman made a promise to the Boys & Girls Club of West Cook County — his Local would be back again this year with turkey dinner donations for families.

“After [the club] told us how appreciative they were [last year], we knew we’d do it again,” Niesman explained. For Thanksgiving last year, the Local donated turkey dinners to deserving families. And this year, the Local kept its promise.

On Nov. 21, union members pulled up outside the club and carted in enough turkeys, plus all the fixings for a complete turkey dinner. “We tried to think of everything,” said Niesman. “We’ve got applesauce, pop, gravy and stuffing, pies, rolls and vegetables.” The union even provided aluminum pans to cook the turkey in. Food was purchased at Jewel-Osco and Aldi’s.

Hillside-based IBEW Local 9

Families not only took home a turkey for their Thanksgiving dinner, but all the trimmings, including: applesauce, pop, gravy and stuffing, pies, rolls, vegetables and an aluminum pan to cook the turkey in. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

The clubs Director Keenan White said IBEW Local 9 does so much for the kids. A complete turkey dinner at Thanksgiving is a way to help families in the community as well.

Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey stopped by the club to see how things were going. Harvey attended the club when he was a child. “When we moved here, I remember joining the following year — in ‘72 or ‘73,” Harvey recalled.

Many of the volunteers attended the Boys and Girls Club as children. Michael Somone, Assistant Vice President of Amalgamated Bank of Chicago and member of the Club’s Board of Directors facilitated joining IBEW Local 9 with the Club.

“This club does so much for the community. This is a wonderful way for labor to give back,” Somone explained.

Children at the club were eager to help sort and organize bags of food.

Hillside-based IBEW Local 9

Donated food sits in carts waiting to be brought up to the 2nd floor. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Hillside-based IBEW Local 9

Union members start organizing and lining up food on tables. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Hillside-based IBEW Local 9

Brian Lewis works on his handshake with a Club member. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Hillside-based IBEW Local 9

IBEW Local 9 Financial Secretary Brian Lewis, IBEW Local 9 Business Manager Bill Niesman, Bellwood Mayor Andre Harvey and IBEW Local 9 Assistant Business Manager Kevin Schuster pose for a picture in front of the IBEW Local 9 trailer. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

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Governor’s race is heating up

Five Democratic gubernatorial candidates discuss taxes, Gov. Bruce Rauner and education during a recent Oct. 17 forum at Aurora University. Photo courtesy of Aurora University

Bernie Biernacki
Special to the Fox Valley Labor News
Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017

“I wasn’t thinking I was going to discuss climate change, but talking to educators — I should have known better,” joked Sen. Daniel Biss.

AURORA — Both Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan equally shared criticism at the Oct. 17 Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Forum, held at Aurora University.

Candidates Chris Kennedy, JB Pritzker, State Sen. Daniel Biss, Tio Hardiman and Bob Daiber fielded questions from Rick Piarson, a political reporter for both the Chicago Tribune and WGN Radio, which broadcast the event live.

All agreed Rauner’s past, current and future actions will most certainly be detrimental to the state and it’s residents — both union members and non-union.

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Kennedy was concerned the influx of big money is not the way to run any political campaign. Biss added, saying people must come out and vote down big spending.

State taxes were a big part of the evening. The current state flat tax rate is 4.95 percent. Candidates were asked about a graduated income tax, which would require a re-writing of the state’s constitution. Biss said he is worried the poor and middle class pay more, based on their income or lack thereof, than the rich.

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Kennedy worried a simple answer on restricting the tax rate can’t be done today if one doesn’t know what the needs will be for the next budget. “Remember, Rauner is a Libertarian,” Kennedy said. “We don’t know if we will even have a budget next year. It is unfair to ask [what the rate will be] now.”

Pritzker said before any decision on what the rate will be, “I have to view what the expenditure will be, what revenue will be available and what future growth will be. There is no one answer. What I can say is [Rauner] is the biggest wasteful spender we have ever had.”

While not saying what the average family’s tax rate should be, Hardiman said the rich of Illinois are not paying their fair share and should be paying a rate of between 7 percent and 10 percent. Daiber was the only candidate to say exactly what the rate should be — if a graduated tax is approved.

“For those making up to $160,000 the rate should be 1 percent,” Daiber said. “And those making more than $160,000, the rate should be 6 percent.”

Pritzker said Rauner doesn’t understand the necessity of investing, particularly with regards to education. “Spending for education is in reality a good investment for all in the state,” he explained. Pritzker said he would focus on universal preschool, building up all education from kindergarten through grade 12 and re-building the state’s public colleges and universities.

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Hardiman said one way to improve the lives of many in the state would be to educating state prisons, so when they are release they have a real chance of success.

Biss said Rauner’s actions (or lack of) has hurt both public and private higher education. “He helped the University of Wisconsin,” Biss said, referring to the increase of Illinois students going to that institution.

Prtzker said putting money into Illinois higher education keeps students here, not in other states.

Kennedy said rebuilding the state’s high education system and particularly research, will bring on a renaissance.

Both Kennedy and Biss believe combining units of government — local, county and statewide — would be a good financial growth measure.

As for Madigan, all agreed he has wielded much power and while working with him, they wouldn’t work for him. Kennedy said Madigan’s career as a property tax attorney, while not illegal, is has been a problem, as it hurt schools by leaving schools less in taxes. Biss added Madigan has been in power too long. Pritzker said he would seek indecently drawn legislative maps and leadership term limits.

Daiber said Madigan has accomplished a lot for the state. “He has kept it together, particularly with the current governor’s actions. “I take my hat off to him for that.”

Candidates discuss building a progressive Illinois

West Suburban Teachers Union Local 571

From left, Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, Sen. Laura Murphy and Sen. Linda Holmes were honored for their dedication to public education and working families. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

OAK BROOK — When gubernatorial candidates speak to a room full of educators, there’s no doubt they will be asked their opinion on pension reform and the recent passage of a tax credit program to overhaul the way Illinois funds schools.

But three Democratic candidates were surprised when educators also wanted to know their views on fracking, climate change and clean energy.

“I wasn’t thinking I was going to discuss climate change, but talking to educators — I should have known better,” joked Sen. Daniel Biss.

West Suburban Teachers Union Local 571

Educators from western Cook and DuPage Counties gather to hear from three Democratic gubernatorial candidates. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Biss, along with Chris Kennedy and Rep. Juliana Stratton — JB Pritzker’s running mate and candidate for Lt. Gov., were invited guests to the West Suburban Teachers Union Local 571’s 12th Annual Legislative Breakfast.

Local 571 President Jane Russell believes it’s in the best interest of her members to meet and form relationships with local legislators. The annual breakfast encourages members to be aware of current political issues and candidates.

West Suburban Teachers Union Local 571

From left, Rep. Juliana Stratton — JB Pritzker’s running mate and candidate for Lt. Gov., Chris Kennedy and Sen. Daniel Biss were invited guests to the West Suburban Teachers Union Local 571’s 12th Annual Legislative Breakfast. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

All three candidates believe a progressive income tax for Illinois is the best way to fund schools.

Stratton laid out a plan she and Pritzker intend to follow: Make preschool universal, bring back vocational training to high schools and apprenticeships for young adults and invest in financial aid and MAP grants.

West Suburban Teachers Union Local 571

West Suburban Teachers Union Local 571 President Jane Russell is dedicated to educating her members on political issues and candidates. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

“We are ready to increase public funding for education across the board . . . by passing a progressive income tax in Illinois. Those who can afford to pay more should do so,” she explained.

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Kennedy would like to go a step further and eliminate the property tax system, which would eliminate a conflict of interest in both parties where political leaders are property tax appeals lawyers.

“They’re making money on the property tax system. They’re not going to let us switch to an income tax system — they have a conflict of interest and it’s big money,” Kennedy explained.

With one of the most regressive tax codes in the country, Biss would like to start with repealing the flat tax provision in Illinois’ Constitution and move on to a progressive income tax.

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He also pointed out the issues of school funding was an issue prior to current GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner taking office. As he put it, “things weren’t great in Illinois,” reminding guest two Democratic governors prior to Rauner were imprisoned.

“We have to defeat this horrible governor, but if we only defeat him and go back to whatever we had before Rauner — then shame on us. We need to understand what it was in Springfield, on both sides of the aisle, that stopped us from enacting the progressive policies that our state needs.”

Along with the three gubernatorial candidates, three legislators, Sen. Linda Holmes, Sen. Laura Murphy, and Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch, were honored for their dedication and support of public education, labor unions and working families.

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As a member of the Pension Conference Committee Holmes has stayed committed to defending pension legislation, being the one dissenting vote on SB1.

She held fast to Illinois’ Constitution, which indicated pensions shall not be diminish. “You can’t change the terms of the contract once it’s in place. To me that seemed really, really obvious. Why it wasn’t obvious to everyone else [on the committee], I don’t know,” Holmes explained.

SB1 eventually made it’s way to the Illinois Supreme Court, where it unanimously ruled SB 1, unconstitutional.

“The morning I heard that, I really wanted to pour champagne over my cornflakes, I was so excited,” she said to laughs.

Looking ahead, Holmes and Welch are looking at charter schools. Both legislators are moving forward with HB 768, which creates a charter school application process where only locally elected school boards and parents could decide if a charter school is good for their community.

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Welch also is fighting to keep the recently passed tax credit program to five years. “[Republicans] are going to try and make it go even further to where they get vouchers in the public school systems. If that happens, that’s going to destroy the public school systems. We need to be putting more money into our public schools and not taking out money,” he said.

Murphy also voted against the school voucher bill. She knows Rauner’s agenda is to eliminate unions and the pension members have earned. She’s going to continue fighting for public education, jobs, and to close corporate loopholes. “That’s how we make the middle class successful,” Murphy added.

Chris Kennedy honored for his dedication to Labor

Chris Kennedy was proud to receive his award as Man of the Year for his dedication as president of the Merchandise Mart, as well as his leadership involving the development of Wolf Point. With both properties, Kennedy was able to secure thousands of construction and other jobs for Illinois workers. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

ADDISON — When the Italian American Labor Council of Greater Chicago makes the decision to honor an individual as its Man of the Year, it looks for someone who has a lasting effect on the community.

“This person is chosen for their leadership and contributions to improving the well-being of the American worker,” explained IALC President Anthony Guida. This year, honoree Chris Kennedy fit the bill perfectly. He was honored Oct. 14 at a dinner dance in Addison.

During his 12 years as president of Chicago’s Merchandise Mart, Kennedy was able to work with governmental agencies, labor groups and independent small businesses to bring companies and good jobs back to Illinois.

Italian American Labor Council of Greater Chicago

Italian American Labor Council of Greater Chicago President Anthony Guida. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

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As the largest commercial building in the world, the Mart spans two city blocks, sits at 4.2 million square feet and is one of the largest LEED-certified buildings in the world.

While leading Chicago’s Wolf Point development, Kennedy was able to bring in 2,000 construction jobs and other permanent jobs to Illinois.

Around Labor Day every year, Guida recalled the Merchandise Mart would notify the unions and ask that they bring their union hall flags to the Mart so they could be displayed in the lobby.

“That’s something I’ll never forget. That’s one of the reasons we asked you to come — because of your strong dedication to Labor,” Guida added.

Kennedy thanked the 240 attendees at the event who were there to honor him, including several individuals he worked with at the Merchandise Mart. “You made living in Chicago such a pleasure,” he told them.

Lake County Building and Construction Trades Council

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Drawing on his Immigrant ties, Kennedy said our country was a pioneer in a new form of government — a multi-cultural Democracy, which is currently under attack, from outside and inside forces.

“We cannot allow the celebration of our cultural heritage to be attacked and be diminished,” he explained.

The Irish and Italians created unions in America, as well as supported them with laws they passed. “We built the model Democratic Party to work hand in glove with Labor. Democrats and Labor, working together is who we are in our country, when we are at our best in America,” Kennedy said to applause.

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Non-union workers prompts labor rally at Menards

Fox Valley Building Trades rally

An Oct. 12 labor rally by the Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council raised awareness that out-of-state workers are working inside the Plano Menards Distribution Center on a facility that was to be built by organized labor or local contractors. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

PLANO — After two weeks protesting on its own, Elgin-based Laborers Local 582 teamed with Aurora-based Iron Workers Local 393 and called for an Oct. 12 labor protest against work being done at the Plano Menards Distribution Center.

In early September, work began inside the Menards compound on the construction of a facility to treat pressurized lumber — which was to be built by organized labor or local contractors.

“It’s being done by neither,” explained Iron Workers Local 393 Business Manager Dirk Enger, who was at the labor protest.

Fox Valley Building Trades rally

Affiliates from the Fox Valley Building and Construction Trades Council protest Oct. 12 at the Plano Menards Distribution Center where it is using out-of-state workers to construct a building on the Menards compound. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

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Enger attended previous Plano City Council meetings where a Menards representative indicated work would be done by “Fox Valley construction companies.”

“It’s a bad move. Our biggest issues is, the people who are in there doing the concrete right now are driving into work with vehicles with Texas and Missouri plates. They are not local people. The trust the community had with Menards has been lost,” Enger said.

Local, signatory contractors submitted bids, only to find Menards had already awarded the contact to Michigan-based IDH Concrete for 15,000 cubic yards of concrete.

Fox Valley Building Trades rally

Concrete is being hauled onto the property in trucks like the one pictured above. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Laborers Local 582 Business Manager Marty Dwyer said he talked with the project manager regarding the bids. “When I questioned why he was taking bids if the project had already been awarded, he said, “we’re in a hurry to get the job done.”

Fox Valley Building Trades rally

Aurora-based IBEW Local 461 debuted its newest Scabby the Rat, which sports a white button shirt, tie and vest. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

The new, pressurized lumber plant will require a non-drinking water well. During city meetings, a Menards representative indicated the plan is to sink a well to a low aquifer, which will not affect surrounding, deeper farm wells. That has Plano residents and farmers concerned for their water.

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“They’re worried about where Menards is going to dump the treated water, because there is waste treatment in that,” said Enger. “Menards said the water is going to be in holding cells, but there’s nothing on the prints that show holding cells. We’re concerned they’re just going to dump it on the ground, where it will make its way to the creeks, and then it’s an environmental issue.”

The Menards representative assured Plano officials no dumping would occur in storm or sewer pipes, which flow into the Fox River and into the water aquifer, which supplies Plano and other neighboring communities drinking water.

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Fire Prevention Week Luncheon: Oct. 19

2017_firefighter_luncheon

Fox Valley Labor News staff reports
Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017

MT. PROSPECT — Join hundreds of members from the fire service and beyond at the 77th annual Fire Prevention Week Luncheon, hosted by the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance. Get your tickets at the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance website.

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The Fire Prevention Week Luncheon includes a guest presenter, gourmet lunch and networking opportunities. The event also highlights and honors those who have gone above and beyond in fire safety and burn prevention, as each year the IFSA receives nominations and presents awards for various categories.

9/11 changed the way we lived and will be a day forever remembered in the fire service industry – and especially for the FDNY. Sal Cassano will discuss the impact of 9/11 on the department he oversaw, what lessons were learned and most importantly, how the department and the city moved on. While there was a focus to rebuild, the FDNY made sure it increased interaction with the public and placed a renewed emphasis on fire prevention and education.

Cassano served as the 32nd Fire Commissioner in the 151-year history of the New York Fire Department (FDNY), leading the United States’ largest fire department with more than 16,000 fire, EMS, and civilian members and an annual budget of $1.6 billion.

Commissioner Cassano spent more than 44 years in the FDNY and held every uniformed rank prior to his appointment by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in January, 2010. Commissioner Cassano served as the FDNY’s Chief of Department — the highest-ranking uniformed officer — from 2006-10, overseeing many of the agency’s most important bureaus including Fire & EMS Operations, Training, Safety, Fire Prevention, and Communications.

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From 2001-06, he served as Chief of Operations — a position to which he was appointed immediately after Sept. 11, 2001. Both as Chief of Operations and Chief of Department, Commissioner Cassano played a crucial role in rebuilding the department in the wake of September 11 and the loss of 343 members of the department.

In the years that followed, more than 6,800 new firefighters were hired and more than 6,000 others were promoted to various officer ranks as the department went through a difficult but remarkable resurgence. Under his leadership, the FDNY became better equipped, trained, and prepared than ever before in its history, and achieved unprecedented success with the fewest civilian fire fatalities ever and the fastest response times on records.

Headed in the wrong direction

Painters District Council 14

Fox Valley Labor News staff reports
Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017

CHICAGO — The Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is subcontracting the mylar wrapping of buses, train cars and platform advertising to a non-signatory, New York-based Intersection Media, which specializes in digital, narrative, branded content and documentary projects.

Painters District Council 14

Organized labor held a labor rally Oct. 1 against the Chicago Transit Authority, which is subcontracting the mylar wrapping of buses, train and platform advertising to New York-based Intersection Media. Painters District Council 14 says mylar wrapping falls under its jurisdiction. Photo courtesy of Painters District Council 14

According to Painters District Council 14 (PDC 14), the CTA is claiming Intersection Media’s work is NOT construction work, and therefore, does not fall under the jurisdiction of PDC 14.

Painters District Council 14

Painters District Council 14 members rally Oct. 1 against the CTA in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Painters District Council 14

The union disagrees, saying the work in question falls under PDC 14’s jurisdiction — and has for more than 11 years. The union said mylar wrapping is merely a different form of paint or protective coating.

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Since early September, PDC 14 has been protesting Intersection Media, but the union ramped up its efforts Oct. 1 with a large labor rally, which coincided with the CTA’s 70th Anniversary celebration at Daley Plaza.

PDC 14 has a Project Labor Agreement with the CTA, which the CTA is refusing to honor with the union.

Voice your displeasure with the CTA by contacting them:
Phone: 888-968-7282
Online: Web: CTA feedback and Facebook

Justice Spotlight: Wealthy attack worker freedom

janus_v_AFSCME

The forces behind this case know that by joining together in strong unions, working people are able to win the power and voice they need to level the economic and political playing field. However, the people behind this case simply do not believe working people deserve the same freedoms they have: To negotiate a fair return on their work.

Fox Valley Labor News staff reports
Thursday, Oct. 5, 2017

In a rigged economy, workers say the freedom to come together in strong unions is more important than ever

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court announced it would decide Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, a lawsuit which aims to take away the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions to speak up for themselves and their communities.

Janus — which the nation’s highest court will take up in the October 2017-June 2018 term — is a blatantly political and well-funded plot to use the highest court in the land to further rig the economic rules against everyday working people.

janus_v_AFSCME

The U.S. Supreme Court will take up the anti-union Janus case this term. The case is a blatant, years-long campaign to weaken unions. The case started with an overt political attempt by Illinois’ Republican billionaire Gov. Bruce Rauner to attack public service workers through the courts. Photo courtesy of AFSCME Council 31

The billionaires and corporate special interests funding this case view unions as a threat to their power, so they are trying to get the U.S. Supreme Court to rig the system even more in favor of those already at the top. This case started right here in Illinois when billionaire Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner attacked public service workers through the courts.

Rauner originated this case in a lawsuit he filed against AFSCME Council 31 to try to weaken the union by banning Fair Share fees in state government.

janus_v_AFSCME

When the federal court said Rauner didn’t have standing to bring such a suit, he found a lone state employee — Mark Janus — to allow the legal challenge to proceed in his name.

AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said billionaires like Rauner are trying to rig the rules to take more power and influence for themselves.

“The forces behind this case know that by joining together in strong unions, working people have the voice they need to level the economic and political playing field.”

The merits of the case are clear. Since 1977, a Supreme Court case called Abood v. Detroit Board of Education has effectively governed labor relations between public sector employees and employers, allowing employers and employees the freedom to determine labor policies that best serve the public.

janus_v_AFSCME

When reviewing the legal merits of Janus, it is clear this attempt to manipulate the court against working people should be rejected.

AFSCME, along with three other public service unions — the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) – issued a joint statement opposing Janus.

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AFSCME President Lee Saunders said the merits of the case, 40 years of Supreme Court precedent and sound law, are on organized labor’s side.

“This case is another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor. When working people are able to join strong unions, they have the strength in numbers they need to fight for the freedoms they deserve, like access to quality health care, retirement security and time off work to care for a loved one,” Saunders added.

Here to serve union members

eye_boutique

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

SCHAUMBURG — When you’re shopping for eyeglasses, you may be wondering if the typical optical store at the mall accepts your insurance, and if they will give you the attention you need for your glasses or contacts.

And what about those ‘2 glasses for $100’ bargain? Is it really a good deal?

After working a few months at a major optical store, Brandon Horndasch can tell you the price advertised at the mall optical store isn’t always the price you pay.

eye_boutique

With a strong history of servicing union members, Eye Boutique optical centers work closely with unions through VSP insurance. It offers extended hours, weekend and holiday hours to accommodate union members. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

“They present those packages because they are a loss leader. They want to talk the customer out of the package, and to go with something more expensive,” Horndasch explained. “If they don’t have to, they really don’t want to take your insurance,” he added. Horndasch is an account manager and labor liaison for Eye Boutique.

What started as a single store in Kenosha, Wisconsin to handle the needs of UAW workers in that town, Eye Boutique has now grown into 40 stores in Wisconsin, Indiana and Illinois.

eye_boutique

Eye Boutique carries a large selection of eyewear suitable for all lifestyles, as well as a wide variety of contacts and prescription safety glasses. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Eye Boutique Sales/Marketing Representative Dan Emerick said the original Kenosha, Wisconsin store received such positive feedback from UAW members, management decided to focus on other Locals. “The next thing you know, we opened stores in Sheboygan and Janesville, Wisconsin, which led us to service Caterpillar UAW members in Peoria.”

In 2008, Eye Boutique opened its first optical store in Illinois. Among the three states, the Eye Boutique lab manufactures between 400-500 eyeglasses a day. It doesn’t source work out to different labs. “Everything we do, from anti-reflective coating to sunglass lenses to sunglass tinting — it’s all done at our lab, in-house, by UFCW Local 1473 union members,” Horndasch explained.

eye_boutique

Everything Eye Boutique does, from its anti-reflective coating, to sunglass lenses and to sunglass tinting — is all done at its lab, in-house, by UFCW Local 1473 union members. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Eye Boutique is an optical company that welcomes, with open arms, groups with insurance; including unions. Eye Boutique goes over customer benefits with the patient over the phone — an appointment isn’t needed. “We have no trouble helping customers over the phone. We can look up their insurance and give them a run-down of their benefits,” Horndasch said.

Eye Boutique has built relationships with, and work closely with, unions through VSP insurance like the UAW, Postal Workers, Letter Carriers, Teamsters, Tile Workers and the IBEW.

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With a strong focus on servicing union members, Eye Boutique understands it isn’t in the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. market, so it offers extended hours, weekend and holiday hours to accommodate union members.

Eye Boutique carries a large selection of eyewear suitable for all lifestyles like Ray-Ban, Oakley, Coach, Nike and Flexon, as well as a wide variety of contacts. They also carries prescription safety glasses.

“We tailor to the needs of our customers,” Emerick said. “Customers who have vision benefits, we can work to create a plan for them,” he explained.