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Republic workers to visit ‘Bainport’

Workers from Chicago’s Republic Windows are joining Freeport factory workers fighting the outsourcing of their jobs by Bain Capital.

Republic workers attend hold a solidarity meeting on Sunday, October 21, at 1 p.m. at the “Bainport” encampment in the county fairground across the street from the Sensata plant on Freeport’s south side.

While Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has promised to “get tough on China,” he turned a deaf ear to Sensata workers’ pleas for his help to save their jobs from being outsourced to China, said Tom Gaulrapp, a 33-year employee of the automotive sensor plant.

Romney stands to profit from the outsourcing of Freeport workers’ jobs through Bain Capital stock he owns, and he continues to profit from Bain’s offshore holdings and tax avoidance strategies, Gaulrapp said.  The plant closing is now becoming an issue in the presidential campaign.

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Walmart warehouse workers declare victory

Striking warehouse workers at Walmart’s distribution center near Joliet have won an agreement for an end to retaliation against employees protesting working conditions, and are returning to work with full pay for the three weeks they were out, Warehouse Workers for Justice reports.

“We forced the company to respect our rights,” said striker Ted Ledwa.  “We showed that when workers are united, we can stand up to the biggest corporations in the world and win.”

Members of the Warehouse Workers Organizing Committee walked out September 15 to protest the firing by the Roadlink employment agency of a plaintiff in a new lawsuit  – the sixth filed against Walmart subcontrators in Elwood, Illinois – charging wage theft.  They won widespread support.

Last Monday, strikers and their supporters shut down the Elwood warehouse – Walmart’s largest distribution center on the continent – with hundreds rallying as clergy and community and labor leaders blocked the road.  On Friday, strikers delivered a letter demanding an end to retaliation and improvement of conditions signed by 100,000 supporters to the Walmart store in Presidential Towers.

During the teachers strike, CTU members joined warehouse strikers in a march to the new Walmart in Chatham, noting support by the Walton Family Foundation for anti-union “school reform” groups like Stand For Children.

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Walmart warehouse strike, week 3: rally, civil disobedience planned

Ten busloads from Chicago will join hundreds of Joliet-area supporters – including clergy who will block an access road and face arrest – to rally Monday for Walmart warehouse workers whose strike is now in its third week.

Buses leave Chicago at 12 noon from the Workers United hall, 333 S. Ashland.  A rally in a public park on Deer Run in Elwood, Illinois, across from Walmart’s distribution center at 26453 Centerpoint Drive, starts at 2 p.m., with a march and civil disobedience to follow.

The action will “bring out of the shadows” some of the abuses taking place in Will County’s vast warehouse district, the third largest container port in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, which supplies virtually all major retailers, said Leah Fried of Warehouse Workers for Justice.

Warehouse workers walked out on September 15 when several workers were fired by Roadlink Workforce Solutions, a Walmart subcontractor, after they tried to present demands for improved conditions to management.  One of the fired workers was also a plaintiff in a wage theft lawsuit filed against Roadlink days earlier that week.

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Strike notes

The teacher walkout was entirely a result of the mayor’s bumbling. Bumbling on the longer school day and bumbling on the contract negotiations.

That was clear to the two-thirds of CPS parents who supported the teachers in the strike.

His statement yesterday focused on the longer day, as if that was what he had won with the strike. It wasn’t at all – that had already been decided, after he cut it back to seven hours in April and reached an interim agreement on staffing in August.

A year ago, he could easily have made the longer day a collaborative project. Let parents weight in on what the optimal length would be and what it should cover. See what teachers needed – they were already on board with restoring recess, which got you halfway there at no cost. Give the school district, principals, teachers and parents a year to plan it and do it right.

Listen, consult, give and take. But that wasn’t his style.

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About that injunction

By angering teachers with a motion for an injunction declaring the teachers’ strike illegal, Mayor Emanuel may have made passage of the proposed teachers’ contract even more difficult, said Rod Estvan, education policy analyst with Access Living.

If so, it would be just the latest in a series of mayoral moves that have backfired.

Teachers on the picket line are talking to parents about how you’d want to read a contract for a new home before you signed it – and about how the City Council failed to read the contract that privatized Chicago’s parking meters.

They also recall their experience with SB 7, the bill designed to make school strikes in Chicago impossible.  According to a union attorney at the time, language that “satobtages union bargaining rights” was slipped into the bill at the last minute, after negotiations had been concluded.

And of course they recall the 4 percent raise rescinded based on an obscure contract provision last year – while CPS voluntarily stepped up payments to city agencies by tens of millions of dollars.

“CPS’s spur-of-the-moment decision to seek injunctive relief … appears to be a vindictive act instigated by the mayor,” reads a statement from the union.  “This attempt to thwart our democratic process is consistent with Mayor Emanuel’s bullying behavior toward public school educators.”

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Teachers demand respect

Entirely aside from what the school strike has revealed about Mayor Emanuel’s executive incompetence – or how he intends to spin the eventual outcome – and far more important, there are several layers of historic significance to the teachers’ fight.

Here are three:  it’s marshalled broad popular support in a period when public-sector unions are under assault on many fronts; it’s dramatized and exposed the costs and compromises of the corporate school reform agenda; and – particularly going forward, as the outcome unfolds – it represents a signal battle in the fight against the austerity agenda of the world’s elites.

They’re also teaching us about an old-fashioned value that we may hope is not yet out of date: respect.

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Walmart warehouse workers strike

Workers at a Walmart distribution center near Joliet went on strike Saturday to protest what they say is illegal retaliation.

According to a release from Warehouse Workers for Justice, they’re protesting intimidation and retaliation following the filing of a federal lawsuit charging violation of wage laws earlier this week.

On Thursday, workers at Walmart’s huge warehouse complex in Elwood, Illinois, filed suit against Walmart contractor Roadlink Workforce Solutions alleging they hadn’t been paid for all hours worked, hadn’t been paid for overtime, and in some cases were paid less than minimum wage, according to their attorney, Chris Williams of the Workers’ Law Office.

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On teacher evaluation, a teacher’s perspective

Teacher evaluation — based partly on students’ standardized test scores — has emerged as one of the key issues in the school strike, a “dramatic illustration of the national debate on how public school districts should rate teachers,” according to the New York Times.

But teacher voices and teacher perspectives have been largely missing from the public debate.  You may have gotten the impression that teachers oppose being evaluated altogether.

That’s not the case, said Bill Lamme, a social studies teacher at Kelly High School and part of a CPS-CTU committee that negotiated over a new evaluation system earlier this year.

“I’m an advocate for the idea that teachers unions need to protect teaching,” he said.  He wants an evaluation system “that helps teachers identify deficiences in their teaching and helps them improve.”

He just doesn’t think that’s the purpose – or the motive – behind the system proposed by CPS.

New system

Two years ago a state law mandated new teacher evaluation systems throughout the state.  CPS pushed hard for separate provisions for Chicago:  instead of launching a new system by 2016, as other districts are required to do, CPS must — under provisions it advocated — do so this year.

And while other districts are mandated to negotiate with teachers representations for 180 days – and to use a state-designed evaluation template if they fail to reach an agreement – CPS was required to negotiate for only 90 days. And if no agreement was reached, CPS was entitled to implement its own proposal.

“That doesn’t set the stage for serious negotiations,” Lamme said.  Still, teachers met with representatives of the administration, and won some minor adjustments, he said.  “Basically they had their plan, and they weren’t very receptive to our larger, more substantive objections.”

Those center in particular on the use of statistical programs to measure “value added” based the scores a teacher’s students get on a standardized test.

Bogus

Those tests “are not designed for that purpose,” Lamme said.  “They do not have statistical reliability.  Teachers can be at the top one year and the bottom the next year.  They’re methodologically bogus.  They’re not defended by serious scholars in the field.”

They can’t account for the multitude of factors that go into teaching and learning.  “They do not have a good system to compensate for teaching in a difficult school, with high mobility, transient students, poor attendance.  A teacher can be teaching at their best every day, but the kids aren’t there every day.”

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