Illinois

SEIU Illinois State Council Endorses Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for Congress

SEIU Illinois State Council Endorses Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia for Congress

Garcia will be a strong progressive voice in Congress for economic justice, immigrant rights

CHICAGO – The SEIU Illinois State Council, which represents 150,000 janitors, home and health care workers, higher education faculty, security officers, doorstaff, public employees, and more today announced its endorsement of Cook County Commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia to replace outgoing Representative Luis Gutierrez in Illinois’ 4th Congressional District.

“Now, more than ever, we need a strong progressive voice in Congress to stand up for working people and fight back against the backwards priorities of the Trump Administration,” said SEIU Illinois State Council President Tom Balanoff. “With his commitment to raising the minimum wage to $15, expanding affordable health care access and protecting immigrant rights, Chuy Garcia will be that progressive leader for the working families of Illinois.”

“I am honored to receive the endorsement of 150,000 janitors, home care and child care workers, security officers, doorstaff, public employees, and social service workers of the SEIU Illinois State Council,” said Garcia. “As Congressman, I will work with SEIU members and other allies in the labor movement to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected. This starts with raising the minimum wage to $15 indexed to CPI, supporting immigrant communities,  and ensuring more working families have access to quality, affordable health care.”

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The SEIU Illinois State Council represents more than 150,000 working people, including home care and child care providers, security officers, janitors, as well as public employees, medical professionals, first responders and social service workers. SEIU members are winning better wages, health care, and more secure jobs, while ensuring that working people, not just the wealthy and well-connected, benefit from today’s economy.

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O’Hare Airport Worker Fights Against Trump’s Travel Ban

Chicago airport worker and Syrian refugee Mohammad Al Zayed is fighting against the Trump administration’s unjust travel ban.

Al Zayed, a janitor at O’Hare Airport, talked to the Associated Press on December 3 about how the travel ban would impact him and his family.

The article ran in The Washington Post and hundreds of other news outlets worldwide!

Fight over Trump travel restrictions back to appeals courts

(Ted S. Warren, File/Associated Press)

SEATTLE — For most of the time Syrian refugee Mohammad Al Zayed has been in the United States, judges have been wrestling with the Trump administration’s efforts to impose travel restrictions that he says would keep him from seeing relatives who remain overseas.

It’s taken an emotional toll — one that continues this week as two U.S. appeals courts take up the issue yet again.

“It’s been 10 months, and we’re stuck,” Al Zayed, a janitor at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, said through an Arabic interpreter. “We can’t go back. We can’t bring our loved ones here.”

Citing national security concerns, President Donald Trump announced his initial travel ban on citizens of certain Muslim-majority nations in late January, bringing havoc and protests to airports around the country. A federal judge in Seattle soon halted that ban as discriminatory, and since then, the restrictions have been up to the U.S. Supreme Court and back down to the federal district courts as the administration has rewritten them.

The third and latest version targets about 150 million potential travelers from Chad, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, along with some Venezuelan government officials and their families.

The administration said the latest ban is based on assessments of each country’s security situation and their willingness to share information about travelers. But judges in Hawaii and Maryland blocked it to varying degrees just before it was due to take effect in October. The judges found that the ban appears impermissibly discriminatory, has no legitimate national security purpose and violates U.S. immigration law.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments in Seattle on the government’s appeal of the Hawaii judge’s ruling. The panel has already narrowed that decision to allow the administration to bar travelers who do not have a “bona fide” relationship with people or organizations already in the U.S. — an approach that echoed the Maryland judge’s ruling as well as an earlier travel ban decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.

A full complement of 13 judges on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is due to hear the government’s appeal in the Maryland case on Friday in Richmond, Virginia.

[…]

Al Zayed, 50, arrived in the U.S. via Jordan in September 2016 with his wife, two sons and daughter after fleeing horrific fighting in Syria, which destroyed the textile factory where he worked and prevented his children from attending school. Al Zayed’s case is among several laid out in friend-of-the-court briefs filed by labor organizations opposed to the travel ban.

Al Zayed says he’s afraid he wouldn’t be able to return if he visited family overseas. His two brothers and parents remain in Syria, and he’s afraid he’ll never see his 85-year-old father again if the travel ban is upheld. Nevertheless, he says he’s happy to be here.

“Syria was very difficult — an impossible life for us,” he said. “So despite that they have the Muslim ban, I think, ‘Thank God that we are here.’”

Read the full article over at The Washington Post.

 

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Joined By DePaul University Students and Faculty, Building Security Officers Who Secure DePaul Hold Unfair Labor Practice Strike

Joined By DePaul University Students and Faculty, Building Security Officers Who Secure DePaul Hold Unfair Labor Practice Strike

After gathering more than 1,000 student signatures, students joined security officers to demand that DePaul’s administration support good jobs by replacing Guardian Security Services, Inc.

CHICAGO  — On Tuesday morning, DePaul University students, faculty, community allies and SEIU Local 1 joined non-union Guardian Security Services, Inc. officers as they went on a one-day unfair labor practice strike.

Guardian Security is the security contractor for DePaul University’s Lincoln Park campus. Students, allies and non-union officers called on DePaul’s administration to replace Guardian Security with a responsible union contractor, which the university uses for janitors and security officers at four other campus sites.  

The officers’ campaign has strong support from allies and the community, with more than 1,000 students on DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus signing a petition calling for their university to hire a contractor that prioritizes the safety of the campus over profits.

“This issue directly affects me and my fellow DePaul students because it’s our safety that is at stake, and it is our tuition dollars that pay for the security contractor on our campus,” said Alex Boutros, a senior at DePaul. “We’re here today to call on the DePaul administration to do the right thing: Stop taking advantage of these workers and hire a responsible security contractor that respects its workers and gives them a voice on the job.”

From alleged gender and racial discrimination to trouble with the National Labor Relations Board, Guardian Security has shown itself to be an irresponsible contractor. Many Guardian Security officers live in poverty and struggle to pay for basic needs, like groceries and CTA passes.

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Service Employees International Union Local 1 (SEIU 1) unites 50,000 workers throughout the Midwest, including janitors, security officers, higher education faculty, food service workers and others. Local 1 is committed to improving the lives of its members and all working people by winning real economic justice and standing at the forefront of the fight for immigrant, racial and environmental justice.

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O’Hare Airport Worker Attends D.C. Convention: ‘It Was A Once-In-A-Lifetime Experience’

As a wheelchair attendant at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, I help organize my fellow coworkers as we fight with SEIU Local 1 for $15 and union rights. Last week, I had the incredible opportunity to learn from fellow airport workers in Washington, D.C. as we came together for a one-day convention to develop our organizing skills and strategize in our fight.

I joined airport worker leaders from Philadelphia and Portland as we encouraged our D.C. brothers and sisters to keep fighting! I spoke on a panel about our recent Chicago airport victory in which a Local 1-backed ordinance passed, giving 8,000 O’Hare and Midway airport workers higher wages and union rights. During the panel, we discussed the importance of leadership in our workplace. I told my fellow airport workers that if we treat our coworkers with respect and dignity, our team should never break.

Check out video from the convention:

As my first ever trip to D.C., the convention was a powerful, once-in-a-lifetime experience to see our nation’s capital and meet workers who, just like me, are fighting for a better future. At O’Hare, I work for a company called Prospect Airport Services, and coincidentally, my D.C. roommate was a Prospect wheelchair attendant from Philadelphia. We bonded over our experiences and were able to explore D.C. together.

We saw the White House and toured D.C.’s iconic monuments, including the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. MLK’s quotes at the memorial were so moving. We plan to apply his words of wisdom in our fight for economic justice. It’s great to know that I am making a difference, not just for myself and my coworkers, but for airport workers across the country.

Danny Rodriguez works for Prospect Airport Services as a wheelchair attendant at O’Hare Airport. With support from Local 1, he’s been helping lead his fellow airport workers in the Fight for $15 and union rights.
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Puerto Ricans And Allies, Including Ald. Roberto Maldonado And SEIU Local 1, Rally In Chicago To Demand President Trump And Congress Provide Real Relief And Rebuilding After Hurricane Maria

Puerto Ricans and Allies, Including Ald. Roberto Maldonado and SEIU Local 1, Rally In Chicago to Demand President Trump and Congress Provide Real Relief and Rebuilding After Hurricane Maria

Day of action across the U.S. called on federal authorities to move on immediate relief to the island and cancel Puerto Rico’s $72 billion in public debt

CHICAGO – Puerto Rican leaders, community allies and Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) rallied today to demand immediate and sufficient federal aid to relieve and rebuild hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, including eliminating the island’s $72 billion in public debt, which is currently under review in federal bankruptcy court.

At the rally outside Merrill Lynch Wealth Management’s offices, members of Vamos4PR—the coalition of community, labor and civil rights organizations fighting for a fair economy for all Puerto Ricans—drew attention to the banks that helped create the Puerto Rican debt crisis and insist on continuing to profit in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

Merrill Lynch was a leading underwriter for nearly 90 percent of Puerto Rico’s borrowings, reaping billions in fees from a distressed economy.

“Instead of thinking about how the island would need resources for the immense rescue, recovery and rebuilding efforts it faces, the banks that have profited from the debt crisis expect to get more,” said Janeida Fuentes, the Chicago coordinator of the National Boricua Human Rights Network and a member of The Puerto Rican Agenda. “It’s immoral to insist that before Puerto Rican families can rebuild their homes, hospitals, schools and roads, they must first pay back the banks.”

The rally was part of a day of action in a dozen U.S. cities to highlight the plight of 3.4 million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico who have no electricity and drinking water, face shortages in fuel and food and are dealing with severely crippled telecommunications.

Vamos4PR members called on the federal government to provide Puerto Rico with all the aid it needs and eliminate the island’s public debt.

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BACKGROUND: For information on the Puerto Rican debt crisis and the bankruptcy case click here: http://bit.ly/2jYicND

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Jel Sert Workers Win!

After months of coming together and showing their strength at the negotiation table, nearly 1,000 Jel Sert operators, mechanics, janitors, and clerks overwhelmingly ratified a strong new contract that provides financial security and a brighter future for themselves and their families.

The new contract will guarantee higher wages, better benefits, and a respect on the job. With their strong new contract, Jel Sert members will be better able to support their families and strengthen West Chicago.

These gains are a result of them coming together in the fight for economic justice. Jel Sert workers showed how coming together in their union helps working people win financial security and dignity at work. Jel Sert operators, mechanics, janitors, and clerks will continue to work hard to provide quality products for consumers and their West Chicago communities!

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8,000 Airport Workers in Chicago Just Won a Wage Raise and the Right to a Union

CHICAGO—Eight thousand workers at Chicago’s two airports have scored a major victory in their two-year campaign for higher wages and a union.

On Wednesday, the City Council unanimously passed an ordinance requiring private contractors—who employ O’Hare and Midway’s baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, wheelchair attendants, janitors, security officers, ticket collectors and de-icers—to abide by new labor standards in order to be licensed by the city. Most employees of airport contractors make low wages, receive few benefits and lack job security.

The ordinance will require contractors to pay a minimum wage of $13.45 starting July 1, 2018, well above Chicago’s current minimum of $11 an hour. Though the Illinois General Assembly recently passed a bill that would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed it last month.

“I’m a single mom with three kids and two grandkids. This raise will help contribute to supporting my family,” Darlene Navarro Montañez, an O’Hare janitor employed by the contractor Scrubs, told In These Times through an interpreter. “Eleven dollars an hour is just not enough.”

“With the raise, besides helping my family more, I could put bigger payments into paying back my student debt,” said Danny Rodriguez, a 24-year-old wheelchair attendant, security officer and shift lead at O’Hare.

The new law also stipulates that contractors must enter into “labor peace agreements” with any union seeking to organize their employees. Under such an agreement, the employer must remain neutral during a union organizing drive and certification election. In return, the union promises not to engage in “economically disruptive” actions like strikes and boycotts. By prohibiting employer interference, such agreements dramatically improve the likelihood of unionization.

“The next step is getting the union,” said Navarro Montañez, 37, who came to the U.S. mainland from Puerto Rico in search of a better life. “I want to see the company and the airport respect the employees.”

With a union contract, one of Rodriguez’s first priorities would be to get his employer, Prospect, to allow paid time off for family emergencies. Under the employer’s current policy, he fears getting fired whenever he has to miss work unexpectedly to look after his elderly grandmother, who requires 24-hour care.

“I have to risk losing my job for being a responsible grandson,” Rodriguez said. “[Prospect’s policy] needs to be reworked to make sure it’s fairer for everyone. Not just for me taking care of my grandma, but other people who are parents or guardians.”

The workers will likely seek to join SEIU Local 1. Since September 2015, Local 1 has led the efforts that resulted in this week’s ordinance, as part of SEIU’s national Airport Workers United and Fight for $15 campaigns.

“Even though we won this ordinance, this fight is not over,” Rodriguez insisted. “We’re going to keep fighting for what needs to be done. Once we finally get this union and get this contract, then I could say we finally had our voice heard.”

Read the full story, including interviews with airport workers, over at In These Times!

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Chicago Airport Workers Cheer Passage Of City Ordinance For Union Rights, Higher Wages At O’Hare, Midway

Chicago Airport Workers Cheer Passage Of City Ordinance For Union Rights, Higher Wages At O’Hare, Midway

Measure marks huge step forward in Chicago airport workers’ fight for $15 and a union

CHICAGO – In a major win for Chicago airport workers, the City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday that will soon give nearly 8,000 O’Hare and Midway airport workers a raise to $13.45 an hour and the right to join a union.

The ordinance requires labor peace agreements between O’Hare and Midway ground handling operators and labor unions representing or seeking to represent their employees.

Passage of this important ordinance, backed by SEIU Local 1 and proposed in July by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and numerous aldermen, marks a major step forward in Chicago airport workers’ fight for $15 and union rights.

A diverse coalition of community and elected leaders, including Black Caucus Chair Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th), Progressive Caucus Chair Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd), Latino Caucus Chair Gilbert Villegas (36th), Ald. Susan Sadlowski-Garza (10th), Ald. Patrick Thompson (11th), Ald. Toni Foulkes (16th), Ald. George Cardenas (12th), Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd), Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th) and Ald. John Arena (45th), stood with dozens of airport workers before today’s City Council meeting to rally behind the ordinance.

“Airport workers thank our City Council supporters for unanimously approving this ordinance,” said Oliwia Pac, who works for Prospect as a wheelchair attendant at O’Hare. “After two years of tireless organizing, protesting and striking, it feels great to be moving forward in our fight for $15 and a union.”

“The measure will help me and my coworkers build a better future for ourselves and our families,” Pac added. “In turn, our airports will see less worker turnover. That means better service and safety at our airports.”

“This ordinance is good public policy that will improve safety at our airports. It’s a win-win-win-win for airport workers, passengers, the city and the airlines,” said SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff. “It’s going to start a process to make a better life for the workers here and make a safer, cleaner, more convenient airport for the passengers and help Chicago start to lift up all of our communities.”

“Labor peace is important for the value of the gates at our airports, making it important for those who operate, work in and travel through them,” said Ald. Roderick Sawyer. “This ordinance is so crucial for the workers, airlines, city and passengers.”

Most airport workers, nearly half of whom are aged 40 or older, make minimum wage or less, and many depend on public assistance to afford basic necessities, including food, rent and healthcare.

Since launching their campaign two years ago for $15 and a union, Chicago airport workers—who are seeking to join SEIU Local 1—have filed wage theft and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violation complaints at the local and federal level and have gone on strike repeatedly over unfair labor practices.

Fifteen dollars and union rights for airport workers would not only boost our communities and economy, it would reduce turnover, increase quality and improve the customer experience at a time when the airlines need it most.

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Around the country, airport workers are coming together in Airport Workers United, a movement of workers and their allies, raising their voices to make our airports safe and secure for passengers, employees and our communities. Last year, airport workers served an all-time high of 932 million passengers. By sticking together and speaking out, more than 110,000 airport workers across the country have won wage increases or other improvements, including healthcare, and paid sick leave. We have won wage increases in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Newark, Minneapolis, Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Virginia, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Nearly 22,000 airport workers have won a union with SEIU.

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$13.45-an-hour wage cleared for takeoff at O’Hare, Midway airports

Oliwia Pac is in line for a $2.45-an-hour pay raise, but she feels like she won the lottery.

On Wednesday, the City Council guaranteed Pac and nearly 8,000 other contract employees at O’Hare and Midway Airports a pay floor of “no less than” $13.45-an-hour and secured their right to join unions.

“This raise means that I can finally afford my rent, get groceries, not have a hassle trying to pay off my student loans,” said Pac, who helps passengers in wheelchairs, escorts children traveling alone onto flights and works security at O’Hare Airport.

“It could be better. But this is a very big step that has occurred for us as airport workers. I’m just beyond ecstatic. We’re slowly but surely winning.”

Higher pay is not the only benefit for contract employees at O’Hare and Midway. The ordinance unanimously approved Wednesday also includes a “labor peace agreement” allowing baggage handlers, cabin cleaners, aircraft maintenance workers, security guards and other contract employees to organize without interference.

In exchange, contract employees would be prohibited from “engaging in strikes, picketing, work stoppages, boycotts or other economic interference.”

Pac said she has little doubt she and her co-workers will vote overwhelmingly to join a union.

“They’re the ones that are gonna help us be able to make proper wages, getting proper benefits, being able to get respect,” she said. “We have to report our tips. If we don’t report our tips enough, we are threatened with suspensions and terminations. There’s a lot of under-staffing. We have to break our backs by assisting two wheelchair passengers at once.”

Last month, Emanuel followed through on his promise to tie licenses for airport contractors to a “labor peace agreement.”

But the mayor’s ordinance goes beyond preserving the right to unionize. It requires those airline contractors and sub-contractors to pay their employees no less than $13.45-an-hour beginning on July 1, 2018, with annual cost-of-living increases after that. Employees whose wages include gratuities must be paid $1-an-hour more than the $5.95-an-hour minimum wage for tipped employees.

Tom Balanoff, president of Service Employees International Union Local 1, called the mayor’s ordinance one of the biggest victories for organized labor to come along in years.

SEIU Local 1 is among a group of investors that recently purchased the Sun-Times. The union has been attempting to organize contract employees at O’Hare.

Balanoff said he has no doubt that most, if not all of the 8,000 workers will choose to join unions, including his.

Airlines for America has argued that there is “no legal or policy justification for imposing a higher minimum wage on a few thousand workers who provide services to one industry at two locations” and the city’s “status as an airport operator/proprietor does not give it authority to regulate private labor relations.”

But Deputy Corporation Counsel Diane Pezanoski has assured aldermen the ordinance is on solid legal ground because it “comes pretty much directly from a licensing and training program in Los Angeles” that was challenged unsuccessfully by the airlines and service providers at Los Angeles International Airport.

Check out the full story over at The Chicago Sun-Times!

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City Council approves law boosting pay, easing unionization for airport workers

The Chicago City Council unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday that will give airport baggage handlers, janitors and other contracted workers a pay bump and make it easier for them to form a union.

The law, expected to affect 8,000 workers, requires airline subcontractors to abide by certain labor standards in order to receive a license to operate at O’Hare and Midway airports.

Starting July 1 of next year, companies must pay workers at least $13.45 an hour and establish labor peace agreements with any union trying to organize the workers. That means the union agrees not to strike or protest and the employer agrees not to resist the organizing efforts, which historically has led to more successful union elections.

Tipped workers, such as wheelchair attendants, must be paid $1 more than Chicago’s tipped minimum wage.

Airlines for America, an advocacy group for the airlines that hire many of the subcontractors, opposed the measure. It argued that the measure violates federal labor law by forcing a private employer into an agreement with a union that employees have not yet elected to join and that certain industries shouldn’t be subject to a higher minimum wage.

The ordinance, which was introduced in late July by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and backed by members of the Black, Latino and Progressive caucuses, is modeled after a similar law in Los Angeles that requires labor peace agreements and has so far survived a legal challenge.

The passage of the measure comes after a two-year campaign by the Service Employees International Union to highlight the pay and working conditions of Chicago’s nonunionized airport workers, who it seeks to add to its member rolls.

“It’s a win-win-win-win for airport workers, passengers, the city and the airlines,” said SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff, whose union organized several protests and strikes to pressure lawmakers. “It’s going to start a process to make a better life for the workers here and make a safer, cleaner, more convenient airport for the passengers and help Chicago start to lift up all of our communities.”

The law covers baggage handlers, aircraft cabin cleaners, janitors, security officers, ticket-takers, de-icers and wheelchair attendants, among other workers.

Be sure to check out the full story over at the Chicago Tribune!

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