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

Ken Christy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Midwest training facility ramping up for students

United Association/Local 597 Midwest Training Facility

At the United Association/Local 597 Midwest Training Facility, students learn the skills needed to take them to the next level and secure a job in the pipe welding industry. Photo courtesy of “SMAW” by Mgschuler via Wikipedia

United Association/Local 597 Midwest Training Facility

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley

AURORA — Since October 2014, the United Association Local 597 Midwest Training Facility has been in the state of a “soft opening,” bringing in hand fulls of welding students on a weekly basis, teaching them on state-of-the-art equipment, and polishing their skills, but now, the facility is ready to take on an influx of students.

Recently, the Aurora training center has been ramping up its efforts to get the word out — nationwide — on what UA Marketing Representative Chad Dawson calls, “the best kept secret in the Midwest.”

“We’re reaching out to everybody we can — people in the nonunion sector, students from welding schools, unions, anyone we can reach out to, to tell them about this opportunity. We’re offering to bring them in, evaluate their skills, and then better their already existing skills. We’ll certify them, make them a member in a local union somewhere across the country, preferably where they live, or where there’s a high demand for work,” Dawson explained.

United Association/Local 597 Midwest Training Facility

At the Aurora United Association Local 597 Midwest Training Facility, students get the highest quality of training to keep their skills up-to-date. No other organization serves the training needs of the piping industry. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Pipe welders are in high demand, especially in heavy industrial.

In December, both Rep. Bill Foster and UA International Representative Mark Buss toured the facility for the first time. Buss said all you have to do is look at the current, nation-wide domestic energy boom to see that pipe welders are in high demand. “Opportunities out there are just tremendous,” he said, pointing to the Northeast in the Utica and Marcellus shales area in New York; the Gulf Coast, such as Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi, and North Dakota.

Dawson said the majority of the vehicles in the training facility’s parking lot are from out-of-state.

Students currently undergoing training are expanding their welding skills, learning from leading industry professionals, and getting it all for FREE, which can be difficult to believe.

United Association/Local 597 Midwest Training Facility

Welding instructor Monte Kimes shows Rep. Bill Foster the main computer control panel where adjustments can be made to make sure exact airflow is maintained, based on the number of welders in operation. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Even though a student doesn’t have to pay, it doesn’t mean that he won’t be giving of themselves. Students are required to train four days a week at 10 hour days, and train Saturday and Sunday at 8 hour days. They also are responsible for their own housing, food and entertainment. Local 597 member William Hite Jr. said, “If [students] are under the hood for that many hours, it means they are out of here sooner and working.”

The training center houses 75 weld booths. Instructors also teach the hybrid welding program. At night, HVACR is being taught.
Upon arrival, students are given an evaluation, which will determine where their skill set is at. Hite said the goal is for students to achieve as many certificates as they can.

United Association/Local 597 Midwest Training Facility

From left, welding instructor Monte Kimes, UA International Representative Mark Buss, Rep. Bill Foster, UA Marketing Representative Chad Dawson and Local 597 Business Representative Scott Roscoe. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

The cost of a for-profit welding school can cost between $18,000 and $30,000 and skills learned can be subpar. “The students that went to for-profit schools are not up to our standards, Dawson said. “The are employed with contractors who never let them better their skills, and they get stuck. At this training facility, we want to catch them before they get stuck in that position and actually show them how to weld pipe on a standard that they never knew they could achieve.”

Three full-time instructors handle any skill set a student has.

“We’re here to welcome the most talented individuals we can come up with,” welding instructor Monte Kimes said. “The opportunity is here, for anybody willing to work hard and has the aptitude for welding.”

Critical minimum wage ballot question for Illinois voters

Illinois' minimum wage referendum

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, second from left, shakes hands with Sen. Dick Durbin as Rep. Bill Foster, second from right, looks on. With a minimum wage referendum on the Illinois ballot this November, all the men recently met in Aurora to discuss raising the minimum wage. Pat Barcas/staff photographer


By Pat Barcas
Staff Writer
Thursday, Oct. 9, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at: pat@foxvalley

AURORA — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, and U.S. Rep. Bill Foster hosted a discussion Oct. 8 at Foster’s Aurora office, encouraging a national minimum wage increase to $10 per hour.

Mayor Tom Weisner, and two local minimum wage workers struggling to make ends meet financially, joined them at the press conference. There is a minimum wage referendum on the ballot in Illinois this November.

“It’s unacceptable in America, that you can get up and go to work every day, and still be living in poverty. That’s why we believe, we ought to raise the minimum wage in this country,” said Durbin.

Illinois is currently at $8.25 per hour, above the national average of $7.25 per hour.

“That’s not enough, we’ve got to move this up to at least $10 per hour,” said Durbin. “We’re encouraging voters to stick with it. Down at the bottom of the ballot, this is one of the critical questions.”

Durbin said his challenger this fall, Jim Oberweis, has one of the most “bizarre ideas in history about minimum wage.”

“He says it will be against the law to give an increase in minimum wage to anyone under the age of 26. Who would that include? Students, single moms raising kids, a lot of women, and it would include returning veterans under the age of 26. What is he thinking?” questioned Durbin. “He’s completely out of touch with the reality that people are facing today.”

Two constituents currently working minimum wage jobs joined the press conference to explain how a hike would help them in their day to day lives.

Joliet, Ill. resident Donna Dyxin

Joliet resident Donna Dyxin shares her story of financial setbacks with Sen. Dick Durbin. She earns $8.46 an hour. Pat Barcas/staff photographer

Jesse Garner of Aurora is a student who works at Home Depot and has to commute to Sugar Grove. Donna Dyxin of Joliet said she and her husband were laid off, and now struggle to support her four children.

She said she suffered financial setbacks right when getting ready to retire. Her house has been in a no default foreclosure for the last six years.

“To say that money has been tight in the recent years is an understatement,” she said. “We have tried many ways to make ends meet. I now work retail for $8.46 an hour. I call it my slave labor job.”

She said she works as many hours as possible, only up to 39 and three quarters.

“Otherwise, I would be considered full time,” she said. “A raise to even $10 would be a big boost for us. It would at least mean an extra $65 per week. That money would help us pay some of our medical costs before we get to retirement.”

Weisner said the minimum wage increase is critically important to Aurora and to the entire nation.

“I am reminded of some words from Abraham Lincoln. He talked about the idea of ‘you work the fields, you harvest the crops, but you bring the fruits of your labor to someone else.’ That is fundamentally wrong. In order for democracy to thrive, it has to recognize the inherent dignity of work,” said Weisner.

If you host a job fair, job seekers will come

Joliet, Illinois, job fair
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
Pipefitters Local 597 Training Program Admissions Director Adam Sutter was looking for qualified candidates at a recent Joliet job fair. More than 50 area
employers were on site. Veterans received advanced entry.

By Pat Barcas
Staff writer
Thursday, June 12, 2014
Email Pat Barcas at

JOLIET — Most politicians will tell you jobs are priority No. 1 for most of Kane, Will, and Kendall County voters. With an 8.8 percent unemployment rate in Aurora, voters agree, as they turned out for a Congressman Bill Foster-hosted job fair at Joliet Junior College June 5.

The fair featured more than 50 employers ranging from IKEA, to Fermilab, to Pipefitters Local 597. Adam Sutter, admissions director for the Pipefitters Local 597 training program, said his organization is looking to fill a lot of positions as the economy rebounds.

“We’re looking for as many qualified candidates as we can find,” said Sutter. “We push for quality employees, someone with the desire and motivation to work in the trades. We’re seeing more construction pop up, it’s a definite rebound, and we work year round, so that helps.”

Foster co-hosted the event with the Illinois Department of Employment Security as part of his Project Growth initiative, which aims to support jobs and economic development in the 11th District of Illinois by focusing on four key issues: education, transportation, manufacturing and strengthening the middle class.

Joliet, Illinois, job fair
Pat Barcas/staff photographer
More than 50 area employers met with area job seekers June 5 as part of Congressman Bill Foster and the Illinois Department of Employment job fair.

“As the voice of Illinois’ 11th District in Congress, supporting jobs and economic development in our region is my top priority,” said Foster. “So I am pleased to be working with the Illinois Department of Employment Security to provide this opportunity for job seekers to connect with area employers.”

The fair had a special one hour preview session for veterans, who are especially vulnerable after returning from service abroad.

Joe Schulte of Primerica financial planning said his company specifically works with veterans to plan their financial future. With suicide of young veterans rising at a drastic rate, Schulte said some of it is preventable.

“Some people find themselves in a financial hole, they view it as insurmountable. We specifically work really hard to avoid that financial crisis. There’s always a way out,” he said.

He said his company is opening another 30 offices in the next five years, and they are looking for applicants in the area.

Fermilab is also hiring, with 29 jobs open due to a Department of Energy-funded 12 project expansion.

“The jobs are booming this year, and we’re looking for qualified people,” said Cara Brown, recruiter for Fermilab. “The economy is definitely bouncing back, and it’s an exciting time for the science segment.”