Latino Union of Chicago – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 08 Jan 2018 18:45:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.13 Second term: immigration, climate, foreclosures http://www.newstips.org/2013/01/second-term-immigration-climate-foreclosures/ Sun, 20 Jan 2013 02:24:45 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6934 Immigration reform, climate change, the foreclosure crisis: with some disappointment over limited progress on these issues over the past four years, local activists hope more will be done in President Obama’s second term.

While support for comprehensive immigration reform has broadened noticeably since the November election, immigrant rights groups are concerned over dramatically stepped-up deportations under Obama, which reached 409,000 last year.

They’ll march on Inauguration Day (Monday, January 21, starting at 11 a.m. at the Daley Plaza and rallying at 12 noon at the Federal Plaza) calling on Obama to declare a moratorium on deporations.

A moratorium would be a first step toward comprehensive reform, said Eric Rodriguez, executive director of the Latino Union of Chicago.

“We want the president to be on the right side of history,” he said.  “His second term will define his legacy.  Will he be the president who deported more people than any other in history, or the president responsible for championing inclusion and equality?”

Immigration raids are a constant threat in Chicago communities today, said Tania Unzueta of the Immigant Youth Justice League; just last week scores of local residents were picked up in raids on a factory and two gathering places for day laborers.  IYJL is working to support several families who have members in detention, she said.

“Obama says he wants to do the right thing and keep families together, but we aren’t seeing it in our communities,” she said.

What should reform look like?  It should be comprehensive rather than piecemeal, and it should include a path to citizenship — not some kind of extended residency — that does not exclude large numbers of people, said Fred Tsao of the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

“It needs to fix the current legal immigration system, so people aren’t waiting in line for ten or twenty years,” he said.  Reform should extend to enforcement policies, which have been cited for human rights violations, for impairing community safety, and most recently for exorbitant costs, with immigration enforcement spending outpacing the combined budgets of the FBI, DEA, Secret Service, and BATF.

Immigration reform should also include measures aimed at integrating immigrants, including English language education and citizenship training, Tsao said, pointing at Illinois’s New Americans Initiative as a model.

He adds that the support of Republican leaders in Springfield for a measure providing drivers licenses for undocumented residents during the recent veto sessions offers another model for politicians in Washington.

(For more, Colorlines has a guide to immigration reform.)

 

Chicagoans will be among thousands of protestors in Washington D.C. on February 17 for Forward on Climate, called by 350.org, the Sierra Club, and the Hip Hop Caucus, urging Obama to reject the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline as “the first step in putting our country on the path for addressing the climate crisis.”

After 15,000 protestors circled the White House a year ago, Obama postponed a decision of approval for the pipeline. Tar sands oil emits far more carbon than conventional oil, and a new study points out that the use of a refinery byproduct as a coal substitute – even more carbon-intensive than coal – will add dramatically to climate damage.

“We’re trying to start the new session of Congress and President Obama’s second term by showing that the public is beyond ready for serious action on climate and clean energy,” said Jack Darin, executive director of the Illinois Sierra Club.

On clean energy, “we need to level the playing field; it’s been titled toward fossil fuels for decades,” he said.  “If we give the market a clear signal we’re going to support and buy clean energy, it will respond.”

Darin praised departing EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and several initiatives in the administration’s first term, including raising mileage standards for cars — “the single largest reduction of pollution ever” – and regulations on toxic emissions from coal plants and on carbon emissions from new sources.  “The key now is finding ways to reduce carbon from existing sources,” he said.

Obama’s “all-of-the-above” energy policy, which seeks development of renewable energy along with oil, coal, and natural gas, came in for criticism from Len Richart of the Eco-Justice Collaborative.

He points out that destructive new “extreme” technologies like fracking and tar sands extraction are making additional sources of fossil fuels available, adding to carbon emissions when we should be reducing them.

“We really need a transitional plan,” Richart said.  “We’re going to be dependent on fossil fuels for the foreseeable future, but there’s a big difference if we agree on a transition to renewables.”

He’s particularly skeptical of the “clean coal” technology that Obama supports.  “They talk about it as if it’s up and running, and that’s not the case at all.”  In the meantime, he said, coal continues to be mined and burned, contributing a third of the nation’s carbon emissions.

Working with the Heartland Coalfield Alliance, EJC sends delegations of local activists to learn about the impact of coal mining in central and southern Illinois, which includes destruction of farmland, natural areas, and entire communities, and groundwater pollution from coal slurry and unlined pools of coal ash and sludge.

Like tar sands oil, much of Illinois’s high-sulfur coal is being exported to developing countries – which Richart argues should put to rest the argument that “all-of-the-above” development is needed for “energy independence.”

 

Housing advocates seem unanimous in their top priority for Obama’s second term: replacing Edward DeMarco as interim director of the Federal Housing Finance Authority.  “We need someone there who’s looking out for homeowners and communities and not the bottom lines of banks,” said Liz Ryan Murray, policy director for National Peoples Action.

DeMarco has blocked Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which FHFA regulates and which control a huge chunk of the nation’s mortgages, from carrying out loan modifications with principal reductions to reflect the collapse of housing prices.   That’s a key step if the foreclosure crisis is to be stemmed.

In the Chicago area, the foreclosure rate has been up and down, said Katie Buitrago of the Woodstock Institute.  Last year several poor communities where foreclosures had been dropping saw sharp increases: up 60 percent in West Pullman, 25 percent in Englewood, she said.

If the employment situation doesn’t improve – and if long-term unemployment benefits are cut – foreclosures could continue at high levels, she said.

Obama tried to replace DeMarco, a Bush administration holdover, two years ago, but the appointment was held up in Congress.  If Congress won’t approve a replacement, Obama should made a recess appointment, Murray said.

Principal reduction has been a key proposal for housing groups since the start of the crisis, when they pushed for bankruptcy reform, a proposal that Obama supported and then backed away from.

The administration’s early efforts at foreclosure prevention were largely ineffective, in part because they sought voluntary participation by banks.  Mortgage services seemed to lack both the capacity and the interest to address the crisis on their own.

Recent settlements by state attorney generals and federal regulators have improved the framework, though according to Murray, “legal aid attorneys say the on-the-ground experience hasn’t changed dramatically.”

New servicer regulations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau may help, establishing strict timetables for servicers to act on modification requests and ending “dual tracking,” in which homeowners on trial modifications were simultaneously foreclosed on.

The future of Fannie and Freddie, now in government receivership after being bailed out, is under debate. The agencies should be reformed “in a way that maintains wealth building opportunities for the low-wealth communities of color that were targeted by predatory lending and really hurt by foreclosures,” Buitrago said.

“Completely privatizing the housing market and handing it all back to Wall Street couldn’t be a worse idea,” Murray said.  “We’ve already seen what that would mean.”

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Workers mobilize on wage theft law http://www.newstips.org/2011/07/workers-mobilize-on-wage-theft-law/ Fri, 08 Jul 2011 20:39:24 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4560 Low-wage workers will be trained in the state’s tough new anti-wage theft law – and workers with their own cases will file claims – at a training Saturday.

Sponsored by the Just Pay For All Coalition for worker leaders from the Centro de Trabajadores Unidos of South Chicago, Chicago Workers’ Collaborative  and Latino Union of Chicago, the training takes place at 10 a.m., Saturday, July 9 at CWC’s Chicago office, 5014 S. Ashland.

Joe Costigan, the new director of the Illinois Department of Labor, will discuss implementation of the law, and training will be conducted by staff from the Working Hands Legal Clinic, which drafted the law.

The new law – possibly the toughest in the nation — provides stiffer penalties for employers who short their workers on wages and provides for an administrative hearing procedure under IDOL for wage claims under $3,000, which account for the vast majority of cases.  That system is still being set up.

It also makes it easier for workers to pursue civil lawsuits against their employers.

Coalition members say IDOL officials have told them that successful collections on judgements are up already as employers react to the threat of penalties for failure to respond.

A study last year found that minimum wage and overtime violations are “prevalent in key industries” in Chicago’s economy, estimating that such violations cost Chicago area workers over $7 million each week.

“After the training we’ll have a bunch of workers and organizers trained in the new law and we can start to get the word out,” said Eric Rodriguez of the Latino Union.

He said wage theft is a “constant” problem for street-corner day laborers.  “We can go out there any morning and start talking abaout wage theft and people will come and approach us.”

“We’re psyched,” said Leone Bicchieri of CWC.  “We’re telling workers, now you have a new tool in your tool box to fight back.”

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Study: Wage violations cost millions http://www.newstips.org/2010/04/study-wage-violations-cost-millions/ Wed, 07 Apr 2010 21:40:30 +0000 http://communitymediaworkshop.org/newstips/?p=1609 Minimum wage and overtime violations are not confined to marginal employers but are “prevalent in key industries and occupations that are at the heart of Chicago’s regional economy,” according to a new study.

Nearly half of the low-wage workers surveyed reported pay-related violations in the previous week, averaging $50 out of weekly earnings of $322, according to “Unregulated Work in Chicago” from the Center for Urban Economic Development at UIC.

With over 310,000 low-wage workers in Cook County, that could amount to $7.3 million in lost wages due to employment law violations in the Chicago area — each week.

The study found that foreign born workers were 1.5 times more likely than those born  in the U.S. to face wage violations, and that among U.S.-born workers, African Americans were 27 times more likely than whites (and 3 times more likely than Latinos) to face workplace violations.

Over a quarter of workers surveyed reported being paid below minimum wage; two-thirds who worked overtime didn’t get the required time-and-a-half pay; and of those who worked outside their regular shift, 69 percent said they weren’t paid for it.

Three-fourths of childcare workers reported minimum wage violations.

Pervasive workplace violations keep working families in poverty, reduce consumer spending and tax revenues, and force responsible employers into unfair competition, threatening standards throughout the labor market, said researcher Nik Theodore.

He called for strengthening legal standards and stepped-up enforcement.

CUED and local worker advocacy centers will discuss rising workplace violations and initiatives to address them – including “high-road” economic development campaigns – at a conference tomorrow, Thursday, April 8, 1 to 4 p.m. at UIC Student Center, 750 S. Halsted.

It comes as a growing movement to fight wage theft charts new victories.  Last week U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis was in town to announce stepped up enforcement after eight years of neglect.  And last month the Illinois State Senate voted unanimously for SB 3568, a bill that would increase employees’ recourses against wage theft and establish criminal penalties for repeat offenders.

The movement grew out of a multitude of workers centers established in the past decade to organize and empower low-wage and immigrant workers.  A number of them were represented at the study release today, and will be at tomorrow’s conference – and will join the Just Pay For All Coalition in Springfield on April 14 to lobby for passage of SB 3568 by the House.

They include:

Arise Chicago, part of a national network of workers centers of Interfaith Worker Justice, works with immigrant workers including Latinos and Poles including workers in factories, construction and maintenance.  The group recently mapped law-breaking by employers in 43 of Chicago’s 50 wards.  (IWJ’s Kim Bobo is author of the authoritative book on the subject, Wage Theft.)

Centro de Trabajadores Unidos – Immigrant Workers Center of South Chicago – which recently won a campaign to get a major local merchant to clean up his act and sign an employer’s code of conduct.

Chicago Workers Collaborative reaches workers through workers rights trainings at churches and commuity centers, has worked with street vendors, day laborers and fast food workers, and is also organizing temporary workers in the northwest suburbs (including at Duraco, who they charge workers are owed hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid wages).

Korean American Resource and Cultural Center has a workplace justice campaign to educate Korean American workers and small business owners and promote solidarity among Korean, Latino, and African American workers.

Latino Union works with day laborers at temporary agencies and on street corners on the Southwest and Northwest Sides, with a workers center in Albany Park which facilitates fair hiring practices for construction day laborers.

Restaurant Opportunities Center – Chicago (CHI-ROC) works with front- and back-of-the-house staff of restaurants, organizing against wage theft and providing training and job placement; chapters in other cities have opened their own restaurants.  The group released a survey of the restaurant industry in Chicago; a majority of workers surveyed reported workplace violations, as In These Times reported

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