Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner Steps Up Attacks on Working Families

Not content to just verbally attack working families, as he did in his recent State of the State address, new Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) has taken action to strip rights from workers. He signed an executive order that prevents public employee unions from collecting fair share fees from nonunion workers. He also has hired a legal team to pursue a federal court ruling that the fees are unconstitutional.

While the law requires public employee unions in Illinois to represent all workers in collective bargaining efforts, fair share fees make sure that nonunion workers pay for that representation. Rauner argues that fair share fees are being used for political activity, but local unions dispute that claim and say that Rauner’s move is “a blatantly illegal abuse of power.”

Roberta Lynch, executive director of AFSCME Council 31, said Rauner’s action was based on “a paper-thin excuse that can’t hide his real agenda: silencing working people and their unions who stand up for the middle class.”

Writing on Huffington Post, political organizer and strategist Robert Creamer said:

Since unions—and collective bargaining—are the major weapons everyday people have to raise their wages, his assault on unions is a direct attack on the middle class and its future in America.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Chicago to Raise Minimum Wage to $13 Per Hour

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In the wake of federal and state inaction, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (D) recently proposed raising the minimum wage within the city limits to $13 per hour. A key City Council committee advanced the measure on a 16–3 vote Monday and the broader council passed it 44–5 Tuesday. The current wage of $8.25 will move to $10 early next year and will rise in increments until it reaches the full $13 in 2019.

The increase could affect more than 400,000 workers in the city. Emanuel fast-tracked the higher wage out of fears that the legislature and governor might pre-empt local increases. A bill to raise the statewide minimum wage recently stalled.

Emanuel said:

A higher minimum wage ensures that nobody who works in the city of Chicago will ever struggle to reach the middle class or be forced to raise their child in poverty. Today, Chicago has shown that our city is behind a fair working wage.

Action Now, a local working families organization that championed the measure, applauded the measure and noted that it included domestic workers, unlike previous laws:

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Bruce Rauner: of, by and for Illinois’ Richest 1%

It’s an election year and we are quickly approaching the time when working families will have the opportunity to go to the polls and vote against a whole host of extreme candidates who support policies that limit rights, make it even harder to afford a middle-class life and pad the pockets of their corporate buddies. Candidates like Bruce Rauner in Illinois.

Bruce Rauner has made it clear he wants to be governor for the richest 1% of people in Illinois. Rauner has made millions outsourcing America’s jobs and firing workers. He denied workers’ benefits while profiting off pensions. Here are the details.

  1. Outsourced American Jobs: Rauner co-founded a company that outsources America’s jobs and assists corporations with dismantling operations in the United States [Polymer Group, S-4A, 9/3/97, SEC filing 424B4, 5/10/96; Chicago magazine, 6/3/11; VeneFone Holdings, SEC 424B4, 9/20/05; H-Cube press releases, 4/4/06; AP, 6/6/14]
  2. Supports Stripping Collective Bargaining: Rauner believes union contracts are “corrupt” and wants to end collective bargaining for public employees. [Chicago Tribune, 11/1/12]
  3. Cutting Pensions and Jobs: Rauner wants to shut down the state government to cause massive layoffs of public employees. He is also on the record saying recent cuts to pensions for teachers and public employees didn’t “go far enough.” [International Business Times, 8/14/14; WJBC, 12/6/13.

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Under Pressure, Chicago Task Force Recommends $13 Minimum Wage

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The task force assembled by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to study raising the city’s minimum wage reached a final recommendation Monday: $13 an hour by 2018. Chicago’s minimum wage is currently $8.25.

The group also recommended raising raising the tipped minimum wage to $5.95 over two years, and pegging both wages to inflation. More importantly, they suggested the Chicago City Council not take any action before November, when Illinois voters will consider an advisory referendum raising the wage statewide to $10.

The Minimum Wage Working Group passed the plan 13-3, with representatives from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Chicago Retail Merchants Association, and the Illinois Restaurant Association dissenting.

The broad Fight for 15 coalition has been pushing Chicago elected officials to establish a $15 an hour living wage and right to organize without retaliation. “[Mayor Emanuel says] America is due for a pay raise” they tweeted, “absolutely. We need $15 now, not $13 in 2018.”

Photo by Fightfor15 on Instagram

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“If They Raised the Minimum Wage, I Wouldn’t Have to Ask Anyone Else for Help”

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Robert Lee a father of four living in Chicago, isn’t asking for a lot. “I get paid $8.25 an hour,” he says in a new video from Raise Illinois Action. “I was struggling with the light bill last month. Somebody helped me out to pay it…but if they raised the minimum wage, I wouldn’t have to ask anyone else for help.”

Robert is one of 400,000 Illinois workers to earn that state’s minimum wage of $8.25. The Illinois legislature is considering a bill that would raise the wage to $10.65 by July 2016. In addition, voters in the city of Chicago approved a non-binding referendum in the March primary to raise the city minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Like approximately 27 percent of low-wage workers, Robert is a parent. “They look at me as a giant,” he says of his two daughters, “but when I go in my room at night I feel small because I really can’t afford to take care of my family.”

Watch and share Robert’s video, and text RAISE to 30644 to join the fight to raise the minimum wage in your state.

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10 Lessons Every Government Official Should Learn Before Considering Privatization

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Privatization of services has long been a favorite “solution” of right-wing extremists looking to profit off of taxpayer funds. In attempts to sell the government service provision to private companies, many promises are made about the cost-effectiveness and superior quality product that can be offered by the private sector. But most of those promised benefits fail to materialize. Here are 10 lessons that government officials should learn before considering the privatization of services based on the experience of Chicago’s privatized parking meters (and other examples), as outlined in a recent Atlantic article:

1. It could cost you more than you think: Chicago residents saw parking meter rates rise as much as fourfold after meters were leased to a private company.

2. Things that worked before might stop working right: New electronic meters were installed in Chicago, but many of them didn’t give receipts or failed to work.

3. You could lose current benefits: Free parking on Sundays in the city was eliminated.

4. Constituents could get really upset: Once the parking meter system in Chicago began experiencing problems, the people began having protests and threatened a boycott of the lease.

5. You may not be able to change things back: The lease for the Chicago parking meters was 75 years long in exchange for $1.2 billion in up front revenue. Getting out of that lease could be very costly.

6. Revenue could be depressed: An inspector general found that the city of Chicago should’ve gotten nearly $1 billion more than it did from the private company.

7. Even if things get better, costs could go up: Hidden clauses in the Chicago contract require the city to reimburse the company for lost revenue, and the city was on the hook for a host of other costs, including construction, distribution of parking permits for people with disabilities and other possibilities.

8. Lowered costs could mean undercutting public workers: John D. Donahue, a privatization expert at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, says that cost savings are often achieved by undercutting public-sector wages and pensions.

9. Private companies often don’t take into account the same moral arguments that government does: Privatized prisons are the perfect example here, where the profit motive drives companies to demand that governments lock more citizens up.

10. Oversight, accountability and transparency are weakened or eliminated: While government activity is covered by laws that open up much of what an agency does to public scrutiny, most privatization contracts don’t include such measures and it becomes more difficult to know what companies are doing with taxpayer money and hold them accountable when they fail to produce adequate results.

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Northwestern Football Players Win Big Labor Case

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In a decision that could vastly improve the treatment of collegiate athletes, National Labor Relations Board just ruled in favor of the Northwestern University football team starting a union.

Just last week the case was deemed as an unlikely win for the athletes, and the decision will likely go through multiple appeals, but as of right now the team is considered a group of laborers which means that they’re eligible to unionize.

If the decision is upheld it would only apply to private institutions, and doesn’t include walk on athletes.

Photo courtesy of Jim Longstreet on Flickr. 

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Mark Kirk Could Single-Handedly Break The Senate Stalemate on Unemployment Insurance. But He’s Focused on Other Things.

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In January, Republican Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois was one of six Republicans to allow a bill extending unemployment insurance (UI) to proceed in the Senate.

But when the bill was coming up for a cloture vote, Kirk said that he would only vote for it if the costs were offset by spending cuts.

After much negotiation, Democrats and Republicans figured out a solution to pay for extending unemployment insurance. That bill was expected to break the filibuster on February 6, but it fell one vote short. Going back on his promise, had Kirk remained with the filibuster. On Twitter, he said it was because the negotiated offsets were “political gimmicks.”

Let’s get back to gimmicks in a second. First, here’s what’s happening while the Republican-led filibuster of UI remains in place.

The number of Americans without emergency unemployment benefits continues to grow. 1.3 million Americans, including 20,000 recent veterans, lost UI when the benefits first expired last December. Since then, another 400,000 Americans have joined their ranks.

Illinois has an unemployment rate higher than the national average, 8.9 percent as of October. More than 119,000 Illinois residents will lose benefits by the end of next week if UI is not extended. Not surprisingly, polling shows they support a UI extension 63-31.

The same poll showed that 40 percent of respondents say they are less likely to vote for Kirk because of his obstruction of UI.

It’s not clear what Kirk is waiting for. It is clear, however, how he has been spending his time and office resources.

Other than the one tweet, Kirk didn’t issue a press release about his vote. On his official website, there is no information on why he voted for, then twice against, extending unemployment insurance.

But there is an extensive Flash-powered page dedicated to the 11 Olympic athletes who hail from Illinois.

Kirk’s office also posted extensively on all his social media channels for the two week duration of the Sochi games.

Seems like Senator Kirk is plenty familiar with “political gimmicks.”

By April 5, the total number of Americans cut off from emergency unemployment insurance will reach 2.3 million. At any time, Senator Kirk can drop his support for the Republican-led filibuster and allow the bill to proceed on an up-or-down vote. Like he said he would.

Isn’t that the least he can do for 1.7 million job-seekers? Or do unemployed Illinoisans have to be Olympic athletes to get their Senator’s attention?

Tell your Senator to end the games: renew unemployment insurance now.

Photo by juggernautco on Flickr

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Tell Kirk, Other Senators: Support Unemployed Workers, Restore Jobless Benefits

Call your Senators TODAY: 845-809-4509

In the past few weeks, U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) has shown a lot of love and respect for the 11 Illinois residents who recently competed for the United States at the Winter Olympic Games. Check out his Facebook page.  But, as many people who have left their comments there say, it’s time for Kirk to show some of the same respect and compassion for the state’s more than 99,000 jobless workers who lost their emergency unemployment benefits in December.

Call Kirk at 845-809-4509 if you live in Illinois and tell him the same thing.

You see, like the more than 1.7 million unemployed workers across the country, many jobless Illinois workers are no long receiving unemployment benefits because Republicans in Congress allowed the federal  emergency unemployment benefits program to expire Dec. 31, and Kirk was one of the majority of Republicans who voted against renewing the program in January and again this month.

But, as soon as Thursday, Kirk and other Republicans will have a chance to do the right thing and vote on a bill to restore the emergency unemployment benefits program that provides a lifeline to workers after their state benefits run out—usually 26 weeks, but now less than that in many states, thanks to Republican state lawmakers.

Kirk—who has indicated he might support a restoration—is a key vote, along with Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Dan Coats (R-Ind.).  If you live in Illinois, Ohio or Indiana, please call Kirk, Portman or Coats today at 845-809-4509 and tell them hundreds of thousands of their constituents and more than 1.7 million Americans need their votes. No matter where you live, please call your senators using the number above and tell them the same thing.  Another 1.9 million Americans will out of benefits by June if the program is not restored.

Here are just a few examples of what Illinois voters are telling Kirk on his Facebook page:

Annie Kiser: You have MANY Republican constituents out of work 26+ weeks. THEY VOTE and your “no” on #EUC will cost you, Mr. Kirk #RENEWUI

Annemarie Purcell Diola: Please push for the extended unemployment benefits as soon as possible. My unemployment ran out the 3rd week of December, where I was approved for 10 weeks of Tier 1 EUC, was only able to collect 1 week of it. I have worked my entire life and followed the rules, but my family is suffering!

Michael Greenberger: And A LOT of veterans were unemployed when you PULLED THE RUG OUT FROM UNDER THEM. Why don’t you support jobless people?

portman et all

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Winner and Loser of the Week

In a new weekly feature, we’ll be taking a look at the winners and losers of the week in the struggle for the rights of working families. The winner will be the person or organization that goes above and beyond to expand or protect the rights of working families, while the loser will be whoever went above and beyond to limit or deny those rights.

Winner of the Week: Kain Colter and the Northwestern University Football Players

College athletes, who balance a full-time school load with intense athletic workouts are some of the hardest-working people in the United States. Yet the NCAA says it has no responsibility to protect them from potentially deadly injuries, such as concussions, and allows players to lose educational opportunities if they get injured. Colter and a number of his teammates are standing up and saying they deserve better and are attempting to organize a union that would address these and other concerns.

Loser of the Week: Uintah, Utah, Elementary School District Official

A Utah elementary school district official apparently thought the best way to deal with parents who hadn’t given their kids enough lunch money was to order cafeteria workers to give those kids lunches and then take them away and throw them in the trash in front of everyone. Taking food away from children is bad enough, but doing it in a publicly humiliating way is truly despicable. Poverty and hunger matter in the classroom.

Photo by Northwestern Wildcats on Facebook

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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