Fighting like hell against Rauner

Bruce Rauner

Aurora community leaders came together to discuss the effects Gov. Bruce Rauner’s cuts is having on area communities. Not only did lawmakers participate in the event, but also union leaders and church representatives. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

AURORA — Looking for answers to tough questions on how to help less fortunate individuals in her community, Lake in the Hills resident Paula Yensen traveled to Aurora’s Painters District Council 30 Sept. 3 to listen in on a candid discussion regarding the effects of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s cuts to Illinois’ communities.

Yensen, who wears many hats, including executive director of the United Way of Central Kane County, asked a panel of politicians, community and labor leaders the $64,000 question: “What can we do?”

The response seemed unanimous: You get educated and fight like hell.

Sen. Linda Holmes said the Democratic Party needs to get back to its values and what is important to Illinois. “Our social services are in dire straits. We’re hurting our veterans, our seniors and children with developmental disabilities,” she explained.

Bruce Rauner

More than 50 union leaders, community members and elected officials turned out to be part of an event that looked at the effects of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s cuts to Illinois’ communities. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Without the passing of a state budget since July 1, an impasse has affected vital human service agencies that receive state funding.

Even though Gov. Rauner’s actions and policies have attacked organized labor again, and again, the true entity walking the line of extinction is the middle class — the people who pay the bills in Illinois.

“When the 1 percent makes a little bit more money, I don’t think that money is coming back to Illinois. But when you and I are making money, we spend that money on our kids, on computers, on clothes, and that money comes back into Illinois’ economy. That’s what we need right now for our state to grow — not people being unable to work,” Holmes explained.

Illinois State Association of Letter Carriers President Ken Christy, above, said his members see first hand the effects of poverty when his members deliver mail to homes that contain welfare checks and WIC documents. United Way of Central Kane County Executive Director Paula Yensen, below, came to the recent press conference with questions on how to help less fortunate individuals in her community. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Illinois State Association of Letter Carriers President Ken Christy, above, said his members see first hand the effects of poverty when his members deliver mail to homes that contain welfare checks and WIC documents. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

There is no argument the middle class is made up of union members — an organization Gov. Rauner is trying to destroy. Instead of focusing on moving Illinois’ budget forward, he is more concerned with pushing his Turnaround Agenda, which consists of anti-worker tactics, the elimination of prevailing wage and the implementation of right to work zones.

Ironworker Local 393 member Dirk Enger said the median income of Kane County was $69,000, which comes from, “hard-working, middle-class families. If we do what the governor wants, and get rid of prevailing wage, how many people do you think would remain within that median income?” He questioned.

Organized labor is here to help, Enger stressed. “When organized labor works on a project, it comes in on budget, under budget and on time.”

Mediator Mark Guethle, the Kane County Democratic Party chairman said there has never been a study done that shows that by repealing prevailing wage, a project will be less expensive.

What you do see in municipalities that don’t have prevail wage policy is out-of-state workers taking projects away from local workers. “What we see is our tax base going out-of-state,” Guethle said.

In the last election cycle, Illinois Federation of Teachers Vice President Dick Manley said his union told its members to vote their pocketbook and to vote the bread and butter issues.

“Unfortunately, we found that some of our members did indeed vote for Rauner. We can only hope they see the error of their ways now,” Manley said.

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia asked those in attendance to be the goodwill ambassadors for the middle class people in the state. “There are people that can’t even get out of the class they are in. We’ve shut the doors, and slammed the doors in their face, and on their fingers. It is an all out assault on Democratic values of our state.”




Kishwaukee College faculty files intent to strike

By Fox Valley
Labor News staff
Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015

Kishwaukee College teachers may strike

Kishwaukee College teachers used the recent winter break to distribute literature pertaining to the status of negotiations. Photo courtesy of Kishwaukee College Education Association

After months of the school’s bad faith bargaining, faculty takes an important step in the direction of a work stoppage

MALTA — The Kishwaukee College Education Association (KCEA) filed an intent to strike Jan. 5 with the Illinois Education Relations Board (IELRB), allowing the faculty to walk off the job as early as Jan. 16 if they do not reach an agreement with the School’s Board of Trustees. The filing does not guarantee the faculty will strike, but it gives the faculty that option if the college continues to bargain in bad faith.

Last week the faculty filed unfair labor practice complaints with the IELRB against the administration for violating the terms of bargaining and interfering with the faculty’s free speech rights. College representatives threatened to have faculty arrested for distributing literature pertaining to the status of negotiations.

Faculty members used the winter break to inform the public about the status of negotiations through public leafleting. The KCEA bargaining team also used winter break to work on its latest proposal, which it will present to administration. The two sides are set to meet with a third-party mediator Jan. 12.

“We hope it doesn’t come to this, but as the school administration continues to spread half-truths and misinformation about the negotiations process, we have little choice but to file an intent to strike,” said KCEA negotiator and history teacher Jennifer Jossendal.

“The administration keeps repeating to the public that they are offering us a proposal that includes raises. We crunched the numbers over and over again and we found that the current proposal does not include a raise for most of our educators and many of them will see a decrease in pay in addition to dramatic decreases in benefits. Kishwaukee College has nearly a million dollar surplus that increases by almost half a million dollars each year. We aren’t asking for the world, just a contract that reflects the work we put in every day to give our students the education they deserve,” Jossendal explained.

“I am a graduate of the College and I became an educator here because of the world-class education I received from Kishwaukee faculty. I fear that the cut backs the administration is trying to push on the faculty will prevent people like me from returning here to teach when other comparable schools offer salaries that are far more competitive,” said KCEA President and math teacher Matt Read.

“Kishwaukee College faculty includes a Jeopardy champion, a published award-winning author, and scores of educators who go above and beyond every day for the students they serve. The administration risks pushing out these outstanding educators through the games it plays at the negotiating table,” Read added.
—Kishwaukee College Education Association

Unions making things better for the future

Scabby the Rat

A new restaurant, Twin Peaks, is coming to Warrenville, but it’s starting to be built mostly with out-of-state and non-signatory contractors. Members of IBEW Local 701 brought Scabby the Rat to the job site to alert other trades. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

WARRENVILLE — The driver of a pick-up truck said it best as he drove past protesting union members Oct. 22 and a Scabby the Rat inflatable which was put up outside a construction site.

“Lousy rats!” the driver yelled from his truck.

Twin Peaks, a new restaurant is coming to Warrenville, but it’s starting to be built mostly with out-of-state and non-signatory contractors. It’s housed in the old Stir Crazy restaurant at Diehl and Winfield roads.

Members from IBEW Local 701 were protesting Dave’s Electric for violating area standards.

“We’ll be out here as we need to be,” said IBEW Local 701 Business Representative/Membership Development Anthony Giunti.

He explained without Responsible Bidder language at the village or city level, it’s going to be a struggle for union members to work on projects.

“We’d love to see every village in DuPage County with a Responsible Bidder language, because it would cut down on this,” indicating the Scabby the Rat presence.

Scabby the Rat

Members of IBEW Local 701 were protesting Dave’s Electric Oct. 22 in Warrenville for violating area standards on the construction of a new Twin Peaks restaurant on Diehl and Winfield roads. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

But it would also protect the public and cost less money in the long run through the trained union members working on the project.
DuPage County Joint Apprenticeship Training Committee IBEW Local 701 Training Director Henry Zurawski said his apprentices are worth it.
“We have five years of training; 8,000 hours. I have a $1.4 million annual training budget, which is all funded from membership — not taxpayer money,” Zurawski explained.

The construction is currently being done with non-union electrical. But that’s not to say things couldn’t change, and that what Giunti and others are hoping.

Several other Twin Peaks are scheduled to go up. If opening the lines of communication with general contractors now helps with future jobs, then the protest will be worth it.

“After you do something like this, you’d be surprised to find that the next ones are good. And that’s what we’re shooting for,” said IBEW Local 701 Business Representative/Membership Development Bob Perreault.

Even if signatory electricians don’t get in on the job, they are hoping others do.

“We might get the security, fire alarms or the cameras — we still have a shot at those,” Giunti explained.

Non-union labor triggers union protest

By Fox Valley Labor
News staff reports
Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014

CHICAGO — Multiple building trades visited the offices of Vivify Services and Michigan Avenue Real Estate Group to protest outside their offices on West Madison Street in Chicago Sept. 3.

LiUNA's Scabby the Rat protest
Photo courtesy of LiUNA
Scabby the Rat and the Fat Cat use their presence to shame Vivify Construction for building non-union in Chicago.

LiUNA's Scabby the Rat protest
Photo courtesy of LiUNA
Inflatables from several building trades line West Madison Avenue.

LiUNA's Scabby the Rat protest
Photo courtesy of LiUNA
Union members from several different building trades came together in solidarity to shame Michigan Real Estate for employing Vivify Construction to building non-union in Chicago.

Across the country, Fight for $15 continues

Chicago's Fight for $15
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
This McDonald’s worker was one of 51 arrested Sept. 4 after engaging in civil disobedience for blocking the streets in front of two McDonald’s locations in Chicago. The Fight for $15 was part of a national day of action.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at

CHICAGO — The Fight for $15 movement has been ramping up protests since last year, and fast food workers certainly garnered attention Sept. 4 when 51 were arrested in Chicago as part of a national day of action.
The workers were arrested engaging in civil disobedience for blocking the streets in front of two McDonald’s locations in the city. They are fighting to win $15 per hour and a union without retaliation.

“We’re going to have walkouts all over the country,” said Kendall Fells, organizing director of the movement called Fight for $15. “There are going to be workers who don’t show up to work or who walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. or at noon.”

The Fight for 15 campaign reported that 436 fast-food workers had been arrested nationwide on the day of the protest, which came a day after President Obama highlighted their campaign in a Labor Day speech: “All across the country right now there’s a national movement going on made up of fast-food workers organizing to lift wages so they can provide for their families with pride and dignity. There is no denying a simple truth. America deserves a raise. Give America a raise,” said Obama in Milwaukee Sept. 1. “You know what, if I were looking for a job that lets me build some security for my family, I’d join a union. If I were busting my butt in the service industry and wanted an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work, I’d join a union . . . I’d want a union looking out for me.”

Chicago's Fight for $15
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
The Fight for $15 is a union-backed campaign where workers are demanding $15 an hour wage and union recognition. Supporters, above, shame big fast-food companies like McDonald’s over low pay and irregular hours.

The action came on the heels of a July convention where fast food workers vowed to do whatever it takes to win $15 and the right to form a union. Clergy, elected officials and community supporters, including Alderman Sawyer of the 6th ward and Alderman Muñoz of the 22nd ward, joined workers and union representatives from Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina the strike lines in front of McDonald’s, Burger King, and Wendy’s restaurants.

Inspired by the actions of fast-food workers, Service Employees International Union home care workers have also decided to join the nationwide movement for higher pay and better rights on the job. In several cities, including Chicago, both non-union and union home care workers stood with fast food workers.

‘Those killed on the job – we’re connected to them’

74th annual All Faiths Memorial Service
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Rev. Gavin Quinn remembers union members lost on the job during the past year at the Sept. 6 All Faiths Memorial Service at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Darien.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at

CHICAGO — “When someone dies suddenly, it squeezes you pretty hard. We come together today as a people, to be with each other and celebrate life, not death. To know that you will be with that person eventually again,” said Rev. Gavin Quinn Sept. 6 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Darien.

Quinn served as celebrant to the 74th annual All Faiths Memorial Service, sponsored by the Chicago and Cook County Building Trades Council. Labor leaders, union members and their families gathered to remember those members lost on the job during the past year.

Remembered were members Gary Beno, Gustavo Briceno Jr., Russell Bull, Jacob Harper, Bruce Kamp, Martin Moreno, Jose Tafoya, Joseph Vandenover, and David Varga.

“It’s important to remember what Jesus said at the Last Supper,” said Quinn. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Have faith in God, have faith in me.”

Tom Villanova, president of the Cook County Building Trades Council served as a lector along with Ralph Affrunti, secretary treasurer, and Brian Glynn, vice president.

Quinn joked that the reason the services for Cook County members are held at a church in DuPage was due to union disagreements.

“We have the mass in DuPage because the two other churches made mistakes — they used non-union glaziers and roofers,” said Quinn.

The annual mass was first offered in 1941 by Rev. Joseph Donahue.
“Isn’t it wonderful, 74 years ago father Joe started doing this,” said Quinn. “I was 1-year-old. “It’s always good to get together. Those killed on the job — we’re connected to them. It’s all about love. We have to be there for each other.”

The Lord’s prayer was recited along with hymns before Communion was offered.

Final prayers were offered to oppressed workers around the world, for the victims of Sept. 11, for the conflict in Syria, for the safety of those who serve in the armed forces, for those who are suffering from a serious illness in the trades, for tradesmen tragically killed on the job site, and for deceased men and women in the building trades.

The CFL honors workers, labor movement

Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
The Chicago Federation of Labor’s second annual Labor Day Luncheon fires up labor leaders and various dignitaries after discussions turned to workers’ ongoing labor struggles and fights.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at

CHICAGO — The who’s who of labor came out to show worker support and celebrate Labor Day at the second annual Labor Day Luncheon, hosted by the Chicago Federation of Labor.

The Aug. 27 event at IUOE Local 399 proved that Chicago is a labor powerhouse, bringing together, in the same room, CTU President Karen Lewis, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois AFL-CIO head Michael Carrigan, CFL President Jorge Ramirez, and SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff, among many others.

“The struggles that workers faced in the 19th century are still prevalent nearly 130 years later,” said Ramirez. “Today, full time workers are living at or below the poverty level because they hold minimum wage jobs. If the minimum wage would have kept up with inflation, it would be almost $22 per hour.”

CFL Secretary-Treasurer Bob Reiter reminded the crowd of 750 that Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner doesn’t know the values learned from being a part of the working class.

“Working people do not exert themselves day after day just to buy the cheapest thing on the shelf for their family. I find it offensive that an out of touch billionaire can go on television and flaunt a work jacket that he wears on campaign stops that has not seen the heat of the sun, falling snow, and driving rain, and you should too,” he said. “He panders to working class people when he talks about his $18 watch, and I find that offensive. Does he really believe that any of us take pride in owning something cheap when we have the capacity and the means to purchase something nicer?”

Chicago Federation of Labor Labor Day Luncheon
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Gov. Pat Quinn, sporting his Jackie Robinson West shirt, takes a moment to shake hands and chat with CTU President Karen Lewis as Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan listens in during the 2nd annual CFL Labor Day Luncheon.

Ramirez railed against corporations who don’t respect their workers.

“In the 1890s, people were fighting to shorten the work day to eight hours to have more time to spend with their families. Today, corporations are using these laws to escape responsibilities to their employees by reducing them to part-time status, cheating workers out of health care benefits, paid sick and vacation time, and retirement packages,” he said.

“Capitalism without a conscience needs to stop. Corporations increasing profits at the expense of their workers is not how to thank workers for their labor,” Ramirez explained.

Chicago’s Pullman site could become a national park

Chicago's Pullman strike
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Bob Reiter, secretary-treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor knows Chicago is an industrial town and would like nothing more than to see the Pullman rail car factory become a national park.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at

CHICAGO — The historic Pullman rail car factory on Chicago’s southeast side is getting closer than ever to becoming the nation’s 402nd national park.

About 400 people made their way through a part of the factory on Labor Day to celebrate the labor heavy site, which tells the story of the modern U.S. labor and civil rights movements, as well as the Pullman Strike. A reenactment was performed of the “greatest strike in U.S. history,” which occurred 120 years ago when 4,000 workers went on strike at the factory to protest a reduction in wages.

“When you talk about labor history, you talk about the history of our city, of our state, and of our country,” said Bob Reiter, secretary-treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor, who spoke at the event.

“Chicago is an industrial town. These things that make our economies move — it’s our building infrastructure that allows us to build factories, that allows us to pay taxes so we can pay our teachers to teach our children and keep the community great.”

George Pullman originally bought land on the site for his Pullman Palace Car Company. He created a model community for his workers, including housing with gas and running water, a large hotel, churches, and a market square with indoor shopping.

According to the National Park Conservation Association, during the economic panic of 1893, Pullman reduced workers’ wages without reducing rents, resulting in the strike, disrupting rail traffic nationwide and resulting in the deaths of at least 30 workers at the hands of U.S. Marshals.

Congress passed legislation creating a national Labor Day holiday days after the strike ended. On Aug. 21, south side residents joined National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, and city, county, state and federal elected officials to discuss the pathway for preserving the Pullman story by including it in the National Park System.

Director Jarvis listened to the public feedback and said he would recommend the creation of a new national park site to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell for an Antiquities Act designation by President Obama — which would make Pullman the 402nd national park and securing it as a mecca for labor.

“The ecosystem of our society revolves around working people and that’s what this factory symbolizes. From the people who laid the brick to the people who move the cars in and out of the factory, we need to preserve that history, and we need to preserve the dignity of workers,” said Reiter.

Holmes doesn’t want a world with no skilled labor

Sen. Linda Holmes
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Sen. Linda Holmes thanked the leadership and members of unions for their dedication to the workforce, which impacts lives everywhere.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at
View speech at Fox Valley Labor News YouTube Channel

AURORA — As the still yet unresolved Illinois pension issue drags on, State Sen. Linda Holmes said she’s going to bat for organized labor in the state.

“It’s a simple black and white issue. A group of people collectively bargained. Promises were made. They did their part. You don’t break a promise. It’s that simple. It was a matter of what is right, and what is wrong,” she said. “I will be back at the table negotiating, and will continue to fight on your behalf simply because it just makes sense. It economically makes sense that we’re out there supporting you, and you guys are making a good living wage.”

Holmes, who is running unopposed this fall, hosted her annual labor breakfast Aug. 28 at Pipers Banquets in Aurora. She is vice-chair of the labor committee in Springfield and said a non-resolution of the pension crisis means people simply don’t know what to count on.

“I was the one dissenting vote on the Pension Conference Committee. The toughest part for people is not knowing,” she said. “It’s a very scary thing, especially if they are close to retirement. That’s the terrifying part. I can ensure you as this comes up again, I will make sure to be an active voice in this.”

She offered a big thank you to her working constituents as the Labor Day holiday approached.

“I celebrate working men and women who made this country what it is. What we’re doing is celebrating what you do because it impacts every minute of our day,” she said.

She imagined a world without skilled labor.

“Think of how we would function without your part in what you do. From the minute we wake up, looking at the alarm taking electricity to function, to taking a shower thanks to plumbers and pipefitters, to the house you live in, putting a roof over your head, all the construction that goes into building that house — think of how every one of you affects every little bit of our daily life, and what would we do without that,” she said. “I don’t want to live in a world without a skilled plumber, or skilled electricians.”

Holmes said a big problem now is people think modern infrastructure can be achieved without using skilled labor.

“Do you really want your houses built, your roads built, your bridges built without someone who is skilled in their trade? We absolutely don’t,” she said.

Labor scholarship helps send student to Drake University

Woodruff Johnson & Palermo Labor Scholarship
Jennifer Rice/staff photographer
Mitch Feltz was awarded a $2,500 scholarship made possible by the Woodruff Johnson & Palermo Labor Scholarship. He is attending Drake University to study journalism. Feltz is pictured with his mother Lisa, and attorneys Jay Johnson, left, and Casey Woodruff, right.

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014
Email Jennifer Rice at

AURORA — Coming from a working class family, Mitchell Feltz (Mitch to his friends) understands and appreciates the value of hard work — something his father Dale exemplifies as a member of Teamsters Local 673.

And because Dale is a union member in the Fox Valley, his son was able to apply for, and be awarded, a $2,500 Woodruff Johnson & Palermo Labor Scholarship. (The law firm was not involved in the selection process for scholarship recipients.)

The injury law firm created the scholarship in 2012 to give back to organized labor and to the Fox Valley community — which has helped make the firm the largest injury law firm in the greater Fox Valley area.
Because the scholarship is a labor-minded scholarship, in order to be considered, one of the criteria was Mitch had to have a parent who is a union member.

Dale hasn’t known anything other than working in a union. In his younger years, he worked at Barber-Greene in Aurora, then quickly moved to Caterpillar. In 1988 he started with Colonial Bread and with the Teamsters. The company is now called Cement Transport Company, which is owned by Kennedy Trucking, and it’s keeping him very busy.

“With all the cement paving going on I-90, I’m driving all the time,” he explained. He’s “100 percent for union,” because they help blue-collar workers. And now being in a union is helping his son, Mitch.

The younger Feltz started classes at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa Aug. 25. He wants to study journalism. Even though it may be 300 miles from his hometown of Bristol, he’s got lots of friends already there, and those friends are upperclassmen from Marmion Academy.

In his junior year at Marmion, an upperclassman talked of going to Drake. “He had great things to say about Drake,” Mitch explained.

An overnight orientation at Drake sealed the deal for him. “It was a really neat experience. I had a freshman take me around the campus and I got a wonderful perspective from students who have already been there,” Mitch said.

During his journey to find the right college for him, Mitch also looked at other colleges like Marquette and Loyola, but Drake overruled them all.

Mitch’s mom Lisa also like Marquette, due to its closeness to home, but she stressed it was a choice her son had to make.

“He had to make this commitment and with that comes tuition. He knew he had to strive to get some scholarships because we can’t financially help him fully with college,” Lisa added.

Mitch said he was “relieved and overjoyed” to hear he was the recipient of the Woodruff Johnson & Palermo Labor Scholarship.

Attorney Casey Woodruff said the law firm is always excited to learn who the recipient is. “We’re always pleased to see the benefits of being a union member.”

Even though Mitch played football and ran track at Marmion, he won’t be pursuing sports at Drake, but you’ll be sure to find him on some intramural leagues at college.