Workers United – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop http://www.newstips.org Chicago Community Stories Mon, 14 Jul 2014 17:31:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.4.12 Bucking trend, garment workers win union victory http://www.newstips.org/2013/01/bucking-trend-garment-workers-win-union-victory/ Wed, 30 Jan 2013 22:50:54 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=6954 While union membership is at historically low levels, with organizing campaigns mired in an increasingly hostile legal terrain, workers at a Northwest Side garment plant won union representation in a swift victory last week.

One factor was the support of a local group that helped pioneer the worker center movement, which utiliizes community organizing strategies to assist low-income and immigrant workers with workplace issues.

Workers at Artistic Stitches Inc., joined by leaders from Arise Chicago, will discuss the significance of their victory at a media event Thursday, January 31 at 12:45 p.m. outside their plant at 2639 W. Grand.

The mainly Latino packers and machine operators voted last week to join Workers United, a union with roots in historical garment and textile industry unions that’s affiliated with SEIU.

Stitches workers contacted Arise after they staged a spontaneous walkout to protest working on Thanksgiving without holiday pay, said organizer Jorge Mujica.  He explained their protections from retaliatory firings under labor law.

But when they started discussing their problems in the workplace,”there were so many different issues that we could never solve them one by one,” Mujica said. “It would take months, years.”  He told them, “You guys need a union.”

Among the issues was the company’s practice of laying off its workforce every December and hiring them back the next month, without seniority and sometimes at substandard apprentice wage levels, Mujica said.  Other issues ranged from hygiene to preferential treatment – and a holiday pay policy that changed from year to year, he said.

Workers United is seeking a meeting with management to begin negotiating a contract, said Margarita Klein of the union’s Midwest regional board.  Otherwise the union will launch a “first contract campaign.”  “We’re really hoping they will try to have a smooth transition,” she said.

It’s the first organizing victory for the union in some time, and the partnership with Arise Chicago was crucial, Klein said.  “It was a perfect relationship,” she said.  “And this is only the beginning.”

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’99 Percent’ vs. CME tax break http://www.newstips.org/2011/10/99-percent-vs-cme-tax-break/ Tue, 25 Oct 2011 21:10:57 +0000 http://www.newstips.org/?p=4856 CME has been successfully bidding for the attention of Illinois politicians – and now regular folks are starting to notice.

On Tuesday, a statewide allliance is protesting at City Hall and then marching to State Senate President John Cullerton’s office to protest his legislation granting a $50 million tax break to CME, owner of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Chicago Board of Trade.

On Wednesday, a coalition of community and labor groups will launch a campaign to derail CME’s tax break – and press for a small financial transaction tax on CME trades – with a march on protest at the Chicago Board of Trade and a stand with Occupy Chicago.

“It’s a shakedown,” said Mehrdad Azemun of National Peoples Action, of the new tax break.  NPA is one of several regional and statewide networks of community and church groups that are joining to protest the measure on Tuesday.

“Corporations as large as these need to pay their fair share, especially at a time when every day brings news of more cuts to state and city programs, more police stations being closed.”

He points out that just a few years ago, CME threatened to leave – and then promised to stay, after it received a $15 million TIF subsidy and millions more in property tax breaks.

“Our sense is that the state leaders and the Chicago mayor are just giving in to threat after threat,” he said.  “It’s really not a responsible way to govern – and it’s not a responsible way to run a budget.”

To Cullerton and Mayor Emanuel, who have made the tax break a top priority for the veto session, Rev. Marilyn Pagan Banks of Northside POWER said, “We are demanding that you reverse your position, and stop acting only for the 1 percent.  We need you to stand with the 99 percent.”

On Wednesday, the community-labor coalition Stand Up Chicago will march from the Chase Plaza at Dearborn and Monroe (starting at 11:45 a.m.) and join Occupy Chicago at LaSalle and Jackson for a press conference.  Members of Workers United will be donating winter wear and sleeping bags to Occupy Chicago.

Speakers will include Workers United president Noel Beasley.

They’ll proceed for more activity across the street to the Chicago Board of Trade, where they’ll protest Cullerton’s tax break and continue building a campaign for a financial transaction tax.

“In this age of austerity, it’s obvious that we can’t afford to be offering more tax breaks to corporations that are most assuredly in the black,” said Susan Hurley of Chicago Jobs with Justice, part of the Stand Up coalition.  (CME’s profits last year were over $950 million, and they’re even higher this year.)

“And we need to create tax instruments to generate funds to keep our ship of state afloat,” she added.

The transaction tax – just 25 cents on an average trade of $233,000 – would be charged to traders, not the exchanges themselves.  But with 12 million trades a day, the fee would generate over a billion dollars a year, supporters say.  (See our earlier report for more detail.)

Cullerton’s tax break would also apply to the Chicago Board of Options Exchange; with additional tax breaks in the legislation, its total cost could be $100 million a year.  The transaction tax would also apply to trades on the CBOE.

NPA’s Azemun and Stand’s Catherine Murrell said members of their coalitions would be contacting their legislators to oppose Cullerton’s bill.

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