Volunteering is good for the soul

An Aurora homeowner receives new roof

An Aurora homeowner received a blessing from organized labor when several building trades volunteered their time and skills over three days to replace an old, leaky roof that was costing the homeowner higher insurance premiums. Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia contacted the Carpenters and Laborers union in Lisle and Elgin for help. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Nov. 17, 2016
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

You can view members of the Fox Valley Building Trades doing work on the roof by going to the Fox Valley Labor News YouTube channel

AURORA — As Aurora’s Veterans Day parade was winding its way through Aurora Nov. 11, members from several labor unions were taking advantage of the sunny, unseasonably warm day, ripping shingles off a roof that was in long need of repair.

The home, in the 600 block of Adams Street, is owned by a low and fixed income senior who was caught in a cycle of paying higher insurance premium because her roof leaked. Unfortunately, the higher monthly insurance bill made it impossible to save money for the repair needed to be done.

Early this year, repairs were done made on her home through Rebuilding Together Aurora, but after a second request was made, help couldn’t be given.

An Aurora homeowner receives new roof

An Aurora senior in need received a new roof with help from Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia and members from Carpenters Local 916, 1307 and Laborers Local 582. Photo courtesy of Laborers Local 582.

That’s when Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia stepped in. She represents the 83rd Representative District, which includes Aurora, Montgomery and North Aurora.

She knew the best and fastest way to get the job done was with organized labor, so she reached out to the carpenters for help.
“Many people don’t need a hand out — they just need a hand, and that’s what the unions were able to do for this homeowner,” Chapa LaVia explained.

Members of Elgin’s Laborers Local 582, and Lisle’s Carpenters Local 916 spent two days ripping off layers of old singles, repairing holes and getting the roof ready for the final day, when members from Lisle’s Carpenters Local 1307 shingled the 2,800-square foot roof.

An Aurora homeowner receives new roof

Union members volunteer their time for three days, tearing off numerous layers of shingles, doing roof repairs and re-shingling her roof. Jennifer Rice/staff photography

“When Linda contacted us to volunteer, we said, ‘of course,’” explained Local 916 Business Representative Brian Hooker. This summer, his members volunteered with Rebuilding Together Aurora working on homes for the community, so they knew what needed to be done.

Chapa LaVia herself donated money for materials and Republic offered a less-expensive rate for its Dumpster services.

An Aurora homeowner receives new roof

Union members did fine work and the finished product looks great. Jennifer Rice/staff photography

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“This is Aurora. This is what we do in Aurora — we work together to solve issues so people’s lives are better,” Chapa LaVia said.

She firmly believes the quality of work organized labor does is second-to-none. “It’s the best training you can get in a vocational arena,” she added.

If the community looked to each other more often, it would rely less on federal or state government, which is something LaVia would like to see more of.

“Our community is our brothers and sisters,” she said.

Indian Trail bridge is (finally) open!

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

AURORA — The City celebrated the end of five-year journey of planning, permitting engineering and constructing the Indian Trail bridge with a ribbon cutting ceremony Oct. 16, which included the mayor, dignitaries and the public.

“Indian Trail really is an artery in our community . . . that is a critical, critical street,” Mayor Tom Weisner explained.

Eighty percent of the $9.5 million project was funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation Highway Bridge Program fund. The remaining 20 percent was paid for using local motor fuel tax funds.

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, center, along with officials, celebrate the Oct. 16 opening of the Indian Trail bridge. Originally constructed in 1963, the bridge was in much needed repair. More than 21,000 vehicles travel across the bridge each day. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner, center, along with officials, celebrate the Oct. 16 opening of the Indian Trail bridge. Originally constructed in 1963, the bridge was in much needed repair. More than 21,000 vehicles travel across the bridge each day. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said in 1963, when the Indian Trail bridge was first being constructed, he rode his bike past the bridge construction on his way to Marmion Academy, then located on Lake Street. The bridge opened to traffic Oct. 16.   Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said in 1963, when the Indian Trail bridge was first being constructed, he rode his bike past the bridge construction on his way to Marmion Academy, then located on Lake Street. The bridge opened to traffic Oct. 16. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Aurora’s Director of Public Works Ken Schroth said there were 40,000 man hours needed to construct the bridge, and nearly 10,000 hours of design engineering an supervision.

He explained millions of dollars were saved after the bridges existing piers, and majority of its steel were reused. Despite weather-related delays, the project was completed on time through the efforts of D Construction.

The bridge now has wider sidewalks, outside lanes to help facilitate bicycle traffic and LED lighting.

In the past 10 years, the City of Aurora has rebuilt 10 bridges. Weisner said nationally, out of every nine bridges in the nation is considered structurally deficient. Even if that is the national statistic, Weisner said that number won’t be seen in Aurora. “Not on our watch,” he added. “You cannot ignore infrastructure. If you do that, you do it at great cost to the community, and to the future of your community.”

Officials, including Reps. Linda Chapa-LaVia and Stephanie Kifowit, Sen. Linda Holmes, and Rep. Bill Foster collectively thanked the taxpayers of Aurora, who, through their tax dollars, funded the motor fuel tax.

“Without the tax dollars [taxpayers] pay into the coffer of the state of Illinois, we would not be standing on this amazing, beautiful bridge. The taxpayers make the blood pump within the hearts that exist in this community,” Chapa LaVia explained.

Unions can help the vision of Aurora’s future

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

AURORA — Aurora is billed as the second most populous city in Illinois, but Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia doesn’t think the city looks like it houses almost 200,000 people.

“We have no skyscrapers. We have no convention centers. We’re on our way, but we’re not there yet,” she explained.

With the help of organized labor, Chapa LaVia wants to “build up” Aurora. “We can get it done. We can live somewhere we’re proud of,” she added, during a recent Labor Breakfast Fundraiser Sept. 18 for her bid as Aurora Mayor, held at the Painters District Council 30. She announced her mayoral bid June 22 to friends and supporters during a press conference at the Copley Theater in Aurora.

With the help of organized labor, Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia wants to ‘build up’ Aurora. She announced her bid as mayor of Aurora in June. She would like to see Aurora with skyscrapers and convention centers. Jennifer Rice, staff photographer

With the help of organized labor, Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia wants to ‘build up’ Aurora. She announced her bid as mayor of Aurora in June. She would like to see Aurora with skyscrapers and convention centers. Jennifer Rice, staff photographer

linda chapa la via_4

This SEIU 73 member said his union is happy to support Rep. Linda Chapa La Via. “I’m proud to have a high-ranking Latina enter this race,” he explained. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

PDC 30 Director of Membership Services Brian Dahl said Chapa LaVia has been a strong voice for labor in Springfield for organized labor. “We appreciate everything she does for labor. Her votes have been very strong for organize labor. She’s looking to take that to the city of Aurora.” Dahl added labor is backing and supporting her in her mayoral bid.

 Members of organized labor listened to Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia during a labor breakfast fundraiser Sept. 18. In planning for her upcoming mayoral bid for the city of Aurora, she discussed her vision of Aurora and stressed she needs the help of unions to see her vision through. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Members of organized labor listened to Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia during a labor breakfast fundraiser Sept. 18. In planning for her upcoming mayoral bid for the city of Aurora, she discussed her vision of Aurora and stressed she needs the help of unions to see her vision through. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

Chapa LaVia is comfortable with maintaining her position as state representative, along with planning her upcoming mayoral bid — a format Republican candidates Chris Lauzen and Jim Oberweis have finessed over the years.

“Why is it different for Linda Chapa La Via to run this way?” she questioned attendants of her fundraiser. “Republicans will answer, ‘because she’s a Democrat.’ I don’t want it all — I just want to move families forward,” she explained.

Chapa LaVia’s father was a UAW member, working for Catapillar. “He had a fifth grade education, but the unions gave him a shot,” she said. “I have a lot of respect for unions. I want to lift you up on my shoulders, wherever I need to take you,” she told union members.

 AFSCME Local 3298 member Anna Ishmael told attendants she looks forward to working with Rep. Linda Chapa La Via. Local 3298 represents the Professional, Technical and Clerical Employees in the city of Aurora. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

AFSCME Local 3298 member Anna Ishmael told attendants she looks forward to working with Rep. Linda Chapa La Via. Local 3298 represents the Professional, Technical and Clerical Employees in the city of Aurora. Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

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
labornews.com

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.”