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.

Goldberg, Weisman and Cairo

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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.

No end in sight for state’s budget impasse

Jennifer Rice Managing Editor

By Jennifer Rice
Managing Editor
Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015
Email Jennifer Rice at: jen@foxvalley
labornews.com

AURORA — Illinois’ budget impasse could have long-lasting consequences on its most vulnerable residents as a number of government vendors haven’t been paid for their services since the fiscal year began on July 1.

Sen. Linda Holmes has had conversations with parents who need help from the state caring for their mentally disabled child and parents who need to put their children in day care — but there is no assistance to help them. “The only thing moving are court-ordered mandates for human services,” Holmes explained.

Vouchers were issued for community bases services only after a U.S. District Judge ordered it after attorneys for the people with disabilities asked the judge to hold state officials in contempt of court.

As a legislature, Sen. Linda Holmes said it’s frustrating to take no action on the state’s budget, especially when she has people suffering in her districts. “I sincerely care about what I do. I really care about the people of my district.” Jennifer Rice/staff photographer

“These are issues that literally, keep me awake at night. I have never worried this much about my budget. This is a huge crisis and unfortunately, I don’t see an end to it,” she said.

Holmes spoke to supporters Oct. 1 at a fundraiser at Hopvine in Aurora, which consisted mostly of union members and organized labor supporters.

With the budget at an impasse and nothing moving, Holmes understands municipalities and schools in her district are kept wondering what is going on, and more importantly, when is it going to change?

“We don’t know what is going to happen — and I hate telling you that because typically, in my job, it’s about fostering an ability to work together — to work across the aisle and come up with solutions that work for everybody. Unfortunately, we’re seeing things at the biggest standstill I’ve ever seen in my entire life. And it’s very discouraging,” she explained.

Legislatures are not expected back to Springfield until Oct. 20 — but when she returns, Holmes promises to continue to be an outspoken advocate.

Effects of the current budget crisis:

  • State employees are paying for medical care out-of-pocket.
  • Fewer parents can send their children to day care.
  • Low-income families have lost their energy assistance.
  • More than 100 state workers could soon be laid off.

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.”

 

 

 

With a budget still not passed, Springfield is a mess

Sen. Linda Holmes

Sen. Linda Holmes was disappointed with the creation of SB 1229, known as the AFSCME bill, which forfeits the right for members to strike, and forbids a lockout of workers by the governor. 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

NAPERVILLE — Compared with the federal government, Sen. Linda Holmes used to think Springfield had its head on its shoulders. But now, with an impasse on the state budget and Illinois heading for a possible shutdown, Holmes feels Springfield has become as equally dysfunctional as Washington.

During the Aug. 28 Naperville Township Democratic Organization’s (NTDO) meeting in Naperville, Holmes fielded questions from members and guests, trying to keep everyone abreast of what is going on in Springfield.

With 82 percent of the budget passed, all that’s left if 18 percent, and that 18 percent is really, really important.

“What needs to be voted on are bills for social services, plans to take care of our veterans and our seniors, along with funding for autism — issues that affect our communities. The situation is simply horrendous,” Holmes explained.

Aug. 27, attorneys for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration and comptroller Leslie Munger complied with U.S. District Judge Sharon Coleman’s order, which was issued after attorneys for the people with disabilities asked her to hold state officials in contempt of court.

“As of Aug. 28, the Department of Human Services has processed all vouchers for community-based services . . . that would have been provided in July and August 2015, on the same schedule as in previous years,” the lawyers for the state said, and “as of Aug. 28, the comptroller has paid all of the vouchers.”

As the Senate Labor Committee Vice-Chair, Holmes is outraged about SB 1229, also known as the AFSCME bill, which states if an impasse is reached in negotiations, instead of striking, or the governor being able to lock out workers, it will go to binding arbitration.

“When I first heard about this bill, I didn’t get it. AFSCME wanted this bill passed, but why would you want to give up the most powerful tool in your toolbox, which is the ability to strike in order to achieve a fair negotiation?” she questioned.

You only have to look to what Rauner said on the campaign trail, which was cite what President Ronald Reagan did in the 80’s with the striking air traffic controllers — he fired them all.

“This is what he wants — to force AFSCME to strike, so he can fire them, and start all over,” Holmes said.

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 pat@foxvalleylabornews.com
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.