2015 Fox Valley Labor News Top 10 stories

Fox Valley Labor News staff reports
Thursday, Dec. 31, 2016

Staff at the Fox Valley Labor News looks back at 2015’s Top Ten stories that impacted Labor and you – was your pick No. 1?

2015 Fox Valley Labor News Top 10
‘If we must, we will withhold our labor’

‘If we must, we will withhold our labor’

The call for a strike by members of the Chicago Teachers Union came weeks before the year ended, but it’s still important enough to make our Top Ten lest this year.

An overwhelming majority of the Chicago Teachers Union, 88 percent, voted Dec. 14 to allow union leaders to call for a strike. It will be several months before the union decides whether to actually begin a strike. First, they’re going on a “fact-finding mission” in one last effort to resolve the negotiations.

If they do decide to walk out of their classrooms, it will be the second time the union — which has 27,000 members and serves the nation’s third largest school district in the nation — has gone on strike in just a few years.


Archbishop Blase Cupich supports labor

2015 Fox Valley Labor News Top 10

In a speech to union members in September, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich pledged his support and that of the Catholic Church to strengthening the labor movement, talking about the principles of solidarity and the protection of the dignity of workers that link the labor movement and the Catholic Church together.

The Archbishop detailed expectations union members can have of the Archdiocese, pledging the church will be a prominent voice and ally in standing up for workers’ rights. Cupich directly challenged the measures of Right to Work laws.


Secret TPP text unveiled – it’s worse than we thought

2015 Fox Valley Labor News Top 10

As one would expect with a deal negotiated behind closed doors with 500 corporate advisers and the public and press shut out — the agreement helps big business — not everyday Americans.

It’s predicted the deal will cause a massive trade deficit in manufacturing, which would result in hundreds of thousands of job losses.

The TPP would make it easier for corporations to offshore American jobs and would push down wages by throwing Americans into competition with Vietnamese workers making less than 65 cents an hour. It does nothing to stop international rule breakers — and countries like China will once again be the winners.


Scabby the Rat stands strong

2015 Fox Valley Labor News Top 10

We couldn’t have a complete Top Ten list without the mention of Scabby the Rat and his Fat Cat counterpart. Without fail, these inflatables have stood strong for union members, helping secure union contracts and raising awareness of businesses using non-signatory contractors.

Scabby shows up everywhere! He’s been spotted at Twin Peaks restaurant in Warrenville; in Schaumburg protesting Miller Concrete Construction; in Niles supporting Chicago-area Coco-Cola refreshment workers on strike; in Westmont where LiUNA Local 68 was protesting Prime and in East Dundee where he was supporting locked out members of IAM Automobile Mechanics Local 701 when members picketed Al Piemonte Chevrolet.


CPS financial mess

2015 Fox Valley Labor News Top 10

The mess that is the Chicago Public School system has suffered one blunder after another. The federal investigation into CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett role in a $20 million no-bid contract to the SUPES Academy was a major shady deal. Her departure hasn’t helped matters. After a year-long talk of a possible strike, teachers voted this month to authorize a strike.

After years of budget gimmicks and massive borrowing, CPS approved an operating budget, but it depended on a half-billion dollars’ worth of money from Springfield — which has yet to materialize. CPS is now looking at laying off thousands of teachers. Parents have turned to hunger strikes to get recognition for the plights of their children and their schools. Special education spending was cut and parents are still feeling the pain of 50 school closings in 2013.


Fast food and retail workers Fight for $15

2015 Fox Valley Labor News Top 10

For the third year in a row, the call-to-action Fight for $15 campaign shows up in our Top Ten. This year, we saw Los Angeles, New York and other cities raise the minimum wage for their citizens.

Locally, the Fight for $15 campaign delivered 1.4 million petitions to McDonald’s shareholder meeting, urging hourly wages for the burger giant’s front-line workers be increased to $15 an hour.

In April Tens of thousands of workers from all low wage sectors and communities across America and the world made history in a massive mobilization for better pay, respect, and corporate accountability.

Effective July 1, McDonald’s increased starting wages to $1 above the local minimum at 1,500 company-owned restaurants. It does not effect franchisees, which operate the majority of U.S. restaurants.


Organized labor takes on big projects

2015 Fox Valley Labor News Top 10

Organized labor rose to the challenge when it came to constructing projects in 2015 throughout the Chicagoland area. This month, CISCO will present its 2015 Pride in Construction Awards, which range from medical centers and parks to apartments and lofts.

In Aurora, the building trades were praised for their craftsmanship on the new Aurora library, a $28 million project, and for expansions to the Premium Outlet Mall and the Wrigley Manufacturing Co. in Yorkville.

Some Chicago construction included the Madison Racine Apartments, Cancer Treatment Center of America, Maggie Daley Park, Lemont Wet Weather Treatment Facility & Reservoir, Bensenville Police & Emergency Management Headquarters and AMLI Lofts.


Sanders VS Clinton

2015 Fox Valley Labor News Top 10

Who’s going to win the Democratic nomination for president — Sen. Bernie Sanders or former Sec. of State Hillary Clinton? Time will tell. Top national labor unions have backed both candidates for different reasons. National leaders at SEIU announced an official endorsement of Clinton, despite Sanders getting a lot of support from local chapters. The American Postal Workers Union, the United Electrical Workers and the National Nurses United are backing Sanders. Former Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen is also helping lead the effort for Team Bernie.

At first, organized labor was hesitant to back Clinton — due to her opposition to the Keystone Pipeline and hesitance to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But along with SEIU backing Clinton, so is the American Federation of Teachers, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees.

Both Clinton and Sanders are succeeding by addressing some pretty mainstream issues: raising the minimum wage, equal pay protections for women, paid family leave, making college affordable, and universal background checks for gun purchases. The Democrats are not insulting each other and they are not spinning fantastic conspiracy theories — unlike the candidates on the GOP side.


Who’s the craziest GOP presidential nominee?

2015 Fox Valley Labor News Top 10

The opportunity to run for president on the GOP ticket has turned into 3 ring circus. The presidential hopefuls have been whittled down from 17. Hands down, Donald Trump leads the pack of dimwits. Unfortunately, little can stop the rise of Trump. No matter how offensive or nonsensical his views, the millionaire businessman keeps doing better and better in the polls. From his views on Hillary Clinton’s inability to please her husband to his attacks on the physical appearance of other women, Trump proves time and time again what an ass he is.

We can’t forget how he suggested John McCain wasn’t a war hero because he was captured, or how he characterized Mexican immigrants as “rapists.” Trump would also like to date his daughter Ivanka, you know, if she wasn’t already his DAUGHTER.


Gov. Bruce Rauner’s anti-worker obsession

2015 Fox Valley Labor News Top 10

Illinois closes out 2015 and heads into 2016 without a state budget and with a governor at the helm doing nothing to remedy the issue. All year, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has pushed his Turnaround Agenda onto cities and municipalities, all in the hopes it will be approved so he can limit collective bargaining and the rights of workers injured on the job – hurting the middle class. Without a budget since July 1, vital human service agencies that receive state funding are hurting. As cities and municipalities consider Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda, organized labor has shown up in droves to voice their concerns on Rauner’s anti-worker tactics, the elimination of prevailing wage and the implementation of right to work zones, which would strip workers of their right to form strong unions and bargain for a better life.

2014 Top 10 stories that effected Labor and you

By Fox Valley
Labor News staff
Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014


Unions fight right-to-work in Illinois

With Illinois’ governor-elect Bruce Rauner coming into office next month, it’s feared Illinois will walk the path of Wis. Governor Scott Walker and turn into a right-to-work state, something that will devastate unions, lower wages and limit rights in the workplace. A right-to-work law would end mandatory payment of dues for workers in companies or government organizations with a union presence. While campaigning, Rauner, a venture capitalist, promised to establish “right-to-work” zones in Illinois. Such zones could pit workers against each other.

Rauner says the plan offers fewer tax and regulatory burdens and told the Associated Press that an example of his plan could let municipalities or counties decide on whether to make paying union fees voluntary for unionized workers. Under right-to-work, workers face decreased earnings, unionization rates, and benefits. There is increased inequality and worker fatalities. Tax revenues would also decline by a projected $1.5 billion over the next five years.


Walmart faces unrelenting protests against worker disparities

Nationwide this year, Walmart workers organized strikes on Black Friday, in protest of low wages and work hours. Chicago took part in the biggest strike ever, with OUR Walmart (Organization United for Respect at Walmart) leading the charge, a group of former and current employees who is supported by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
In the downtown Chicago protest, several Walmart Black Friday protesters were arrested after blocking a street with peaceful, non-violent civil disobedience.

Members of OUR Walmarts want a future where the company treats Walmart associates with respect and dignity. They have helped build the Walton family fortune, yet are struggling just to get by put food on their table. They are looking for a fair shot, but the silver-spooned Walton family is robbing them of a decent living.


Fast food and retail workers Fight for $15

In our Top Ten last year, the Fight for $15 shows up again in 2014 after he call-to-action ramped up protests. Chicago took part in the national Fight for $15 protests several times this year, with 2,000 people flooding the McDonald’s corporate campus in May, and about 50 being arrested for civil disobedience outside fast food locations in September.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, McDonald’s said worker protests might force it to raise wages in 2015. A recent report shows the industry has by far the largest disparity between worker and CEO pay.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer said, “Excessive pay disparities pose a risk to share owner value,” and that conversations around inequality should move into the boardrooms of profitable fast-food companies.


National and local Post Offices to close

The four postal unions, the National Postal Mail Handlers Union (NPMHU), American Postal Workers Union (APWU), National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC), and National Rural Letter Carriers Association (NRLCA) are urging their members and postal customers to send a message to outgoing Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe and the USPS Board of Governors: Stop delaying America’s mail.

According to the APWU, on Jan. 5 2015, the United States Postal Service is slated to lower “service standards” to virtually eliminate overnight delivery — including first-class mail from one address to another within the same city or town, as well as close 82 mail processing and distribution centers. This will delay the mail and cost union jobs.


Scabby the Rat, union members battle for better contracts

From teachers to laborers and from funeral workers to sheet metal workers, Scabby the Rat has been standing strong for union members, so it wouldn’t be a Top 10 if Scabby the Rat wasn’t included. Scabby backed several unions in 2014 as union members battled for better contracts.

After more than 18 months of negotiations, UIC faculty held a two-day strike in February, just days before they met with the university for additional negotiation talks. About 1,150 full-time tenured and non-tenured faculty walked out — the first in UIC history.
In Waukegan, schools reopened for students Nov. 3 after Waukegan Teachers’ Council (IFT Local 504) and the Waukegan Community Unit School District #60 reached a three-year contract agreement.

Teamster Local 727’s members have continued to fight Service Corporation International since July 2, 2013 after Service Corporation International (SCI) locked out Chicago-area funeral workers. In late October, SCI accepted Teamsters 727’s offer to enter federal mediation as the union attempts to reach an agreement on a new contract.

Scabby took main stage in May at the Arlington Downs construction project in Arlington Heights. A constant presence by Scabby and other inflatables, motivated contractors to impose a Project Labor Agreement.


Northwestern football votes to unionize

Their votes may not be counted for years to come, but in April 2014, Northwestern University football players were allowed to vote in secret whether or not to unionize their non-professional team, the first in college sports to do so.

The player vote followed a March decision by the regional director of the NLRB in Chicago, who ruled players could be considered employees and are eligible to form a union. The decision is being appealed by Northwestern University to the full labor board in Washington.
Former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter helped lead the effort with the help of the United Steel Workers. Supporters say a union would help athletes obtain better compensation, medical care for injuries and other benefits.


The 2014 election was a tough pill to swallow

In the 2014 election, Labor didn’t go down without a fight, but try as the might, Labor couldn’t deliver voters to the polls, allowing Bruce Rauner to walk his way right into the Governor’s seat. Rauner is everything labor unions in Illinois fear.

He has promised to establish “right-to-work” zones in Illinois and dramatically revise the state’s public employee retirement system. He’s launched bromides against “government union bosses” and touted his donations to charter schools.

“Organized labor did their part, I can tell you that much,” Kane County Chairman Mark Guethle. He manned countless evenings phone banking events. “This is what happens when people don’t vote,” he explained.


Illinois’ pension reform bill ruled unconstitutional

Illinois’ pension trouble was our 2013 No. 1 story impacting labor. This year, it remains on the Top 10 list.

Senate Bill 1, known as Illinois’ pension reform bill, was ruled unconstitutional in November by a Sanagamon County Circuit Court Judge, setting up an immediate appeal to the state’s highest court. The bill was originally passed Dec. 3, 2013.

We Are One Illinois said it is gratified by the court’s ruling, which makes clear the Illinois Constitution means what it says. “The court held, as our unions have long argued, the state cannot simply choose to violate the Constitution and diminish or impair retirement benefits if politicians find these commitments inconvenient to keep.”


Illinois voters approve minimum wage hike

In mid-November — after 64 percent of voters agreed that the baseline should be lifted in an election day referendum — state Democrats advanced legislation that would raise the hourly minimum wage in the state from $8.25 to $11 by 2017.

In December, Chicago’s city council voted to raise the city’s minimum wage from $8.25 per hour to $13 per hour by 2019 under a mayor-backed plan that cleared the full city council by a 44-5 vote. The law will close a loophole that previously exempted domestic workers from the law, meaning nannies will now be included in the minimum wage ruling. As of Jan. 1, 2015, 29 states and D.C. will have minimum wages above the federal minimum wage. Four states — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota — approved minimum wage increases through ballot measures in the 2014 general election; Illinois voters approved an advisory measure.

The state of Illinois ranks 9th in the top-to-bottom measure of income inequality. This means that the top 1 percent of households made 24.5 times the average income of the bottom 99 percent in 2011.


President Obama streamlines legal immigration

In 2014, fighting for immigration was our No. 10 story impacting labor. In the course of 12 months, it reached our No. 1 spot. President Obama took action through Executive Order to deal responsibly with the millions of undocumented immigrants living in our country. His decision to exercise “prosecutorial discretion” in the enforcement of federal immigration law means as many as five million undocumented immigrants will not face deportation.

The GOP is at a standstill in figuring out ways to counter Obama, and the House has yet to consider passing an immigration reform bill.

By extending relief and work authorization to immigrants, the Obama Administration will help prevent unscrupulous employers from using unprotected workers to drive down wages and conditions for all workers in our country. During the year, nationwide events were used to convince Obama to use his executive authority to stop deportations, acknowledging the president didn’t have to wait for full immigration reform law to be passed by Congress.