WBEZ | Labor http://www.wbez.org/news/labor Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Boosting family leave is often about getting workers to stay http://www.wbez.org/news/boosting-family-leave-often-about-getting-workers-stay-112785 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/nestle.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>This has been a banner year for employees seeking greater paid parental leave.&nbsp;<a href="https://newsroom.accenture.com/industries/corporate-citizenship-diversity/accenture-increases-us-paid-maternity-leave-to-16-weeks.htm">Accenture</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.blogjnj.com/2015/04/jj-and-the-21st-century-working-family/">Johnson &amp; Johnson</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://blog.netflix.com/2015/08/starting-now-at-netflix-unlimited.html">Netflix</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2015/08/05/the-employee-experience-at-microsoft-aligning-benefits-to-our-culture/">Microsoft</a>,&nbsp;<a href="http://money.cnn.com/2015/06/01/pf/goldman-sachs-paternity-leave/">Goldman Sachs</a>&nbsp;and the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/07/08/421083589/navy-marine-corps-now-offer-18-weeks-of-maternity-leave">U.S. Navy</a>&nbsp;are among those who have increased these benefits for employees this year.</p><p>It&#39;s a big boost for some new parents. But advocates note many families are left behind.</p><p>One fact about U.S. workplace policy has galled Ellen Bravo for a very long time: &quot;There is no federally required paid leave of any kind,&quot; she says.</p><p>Bravo is executive director of Family Values @ Work, an advocacy coalition. She says the U.S. is the only major developed country offering no such leave.</p><p>Only 13 percent of U.S. workers have paid family leave, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last year.</p><p>But polls show there is increasing political support for it. Congress is considering&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/04/22/401239857/is-it-time-to-make-medical-and-family-leave-paid">a mandated paid medical or parental leave</a>&nbsp;paid for out of an insurance fund. Three states have already created systems like that, and 18 more are considering them.</p><p>Bravo says employers are finding good business reasons to extend their leave policies &mdash; like wellness, recruitment and retention. But she worries individual managers might undermine them by discouraging their use.</p><p>&quot;If you want to be promoted here, if you want to be seen as a committed and devoted employee, you get that leave, but you better not take much of it,&quot; she says.</p><p>Bravo says companies must not only offer paid leave, but encourage workers to use it. &quot;You really have to change the culture and change the accountability from managers and how they supervise people,&quot; she says.</p><p>Adobe recently nearly doubled its paid parental leave policy to&nbsp;<a href="https://blogs.adobe.com/conversations/2015/08/donna-morris-enhanced-leave.html">up to 26 weeks</a>. Chief People Officer Donna Morris says it&#39;s not just a formality. &quot;We expect people will take that period of time and in fact we want managers to look at it as a growth and development opportunity for others,&quot; she says.</p><p>Since the 1960s, college-educated workers have seen their paid parental leave increase nearly five-fold, while for high-school graduates, it has only doubled, according to the Census Bureau.</p><p>Vicki Shabo, vice president at the National Partnership for Women and Families, says today&#39;s leave policies have a socio-economic divide. Netflix&#39;s year-long parental leave policy, for example, only applies to its digital division employees,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2015/08/10/431273033/netflix-still-facing-questions-over-its-new-parental-leave-policy">leaving its DVD distribution centers out</a>.</p><p>&quot;As we saw with Netflix, sometimes companies have one set of policies for their most highly compensated ... white-collar workers and then a different set of policies or no policies at all for their hourly workers or lower skilled workers,&quot; Shabo says.</p><p>Companies view leave benefits as a recruitment tool, especially in fields where talent is scarce, or where companies are trying to attract more female workers, says Bruce Elliott, benefits manager for the Society for Human Resource Management.</p><p>&quot;The gender gap in Silicon Valley ... is kind of pushing this to the forefront,&quot; he says.</p><p>That is creating pressure on other industries as well. Judy Cascapera is chief people officer at Nestle, which in June&nbsp;<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/06/26/nestle-maternity-leave_n_7674246.html">more than doubled its paid leave</a>&nbsp;for new parents for its 340,000 employees worldwide.</p><p>&quot;Right now, more than ever, we are competing with different industries,&quot; Cascapera says. &quot;We&#39;re right next to Silicon Valley in California and we see a lot of employees now coming back-and-forth or being poached by other industries.&quot;</p><p>So in order to get them to stay, she says, companies are being more generous about letting them go on leave.</p><p>&mdash;<em><a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/09/01/436402797/boosting-family-leave-is-often-about-getting-workers-to-stay?ft=nprml&amp;f=436402797" target="_blank">NPR News</a></em></p></p> Tue, 01 Sep 2015 10:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/boosting-family-leave-often-about-getting-workers-stay-112785 Southwest Side braces for loss of Oreos, and 600 jobs http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/southwest-side-braces-loss-oreos-and-600-jobs-112739 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Oreos_resize1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Growing up in the 1950s, Jim Capraro remembers the sweet aroma of cookies that wafted through homes on the Southwest Side, one of the perks of living near the giant Nabisco plant at 73rd and Kedzie.</p><p dir="ltr">Capraro says he used to tease relatives who lived several miles away.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;My cousins who lived in the Back of the Yards lived next to the stockyards and we used to say our smells are better than your smells,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Decades later Capraro got to visit the factory &mdash; then the biggest bakery in the world &mdash; and witnessed a Willy Wonka-like operation.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The top floor is a whole floor of these huge mix masters. Each one of them looks like an 18-foot swimming pool,&rdquo; Capraro said. &ldquo;The flour and sugar and chocolate all goes to the top floor and then the dough is put on conveyor belts and it&rsquo;s actually gravity that brings them down to the second floor where they&rsquo;re cut into cookie shapes.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Oreo cookies, one of Nabisco&#39;s most beloved, best-selling brands was baked there. But that will soon change.</p><p dir="ltr">Parent company Mondelez International is shipping the production of the cookie, and 600 jobs, to Mexico instead of upgrading the local facility.</p><p dir="ltr">For years, Oreos and other iconic brands like Chips Ahoy generated huge profits and provided thousands of well-paid union jobs. Many lived in the surrounding neighborhoods of Chicago Lawn, West Lawn and Marquette Park.</p><p dir="ltr">Then, more than 20 years ago parent company RJ Reynolds threatened to move those jobs out of state. By this time, Capraro led the Greater Southwest Development Corporation.</p><p dir="ltr">He remembers getting a call from Valerie Jarrett, Chicago&rsquo;s commissioner of planning and development at the time. Jarrett is now a top adviser to President Barack Obama. Back then she worked with Capraro to keep the plant on the Southwest Side by giving Nabisco $300 million in tax increment financing dollars. The TIF money helped pay for infrastructure improvements.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I justified in my own mind working to support them. One was that &lsquo;the jobs would stay here,&rsquo; I thought, forever. Turns out I may be very wrong on that,&rdquo; Capraro said.</p><p dir="ltr">This summer Nabisco&rsquo;s current parent company, Deerfield-based Mondelez International announced it was shipping 600 jobs &mdash; half the plant&rsquo;s workforce &mdash; to Mexico.</p><p dir="ltr">That could affect Michael Smith, a utility worker at the plant. He said workers often wore shirts of the snack they baked.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We proudly wore that shirt because we represented a company that said you produce a product that&rsquo;s televised, that&rsquo;s on the radio and kids and adults alike across the country love,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p dir="ltr">Fellow worker Sabrina Pope is known as the Oreo queen. She&rsquo;s a processor at Nabisco who earns more than $26 an hour. The 35-year veteran originally had only planned to stay for three.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The pay was good. I was raising a son at the time and it was the American Dream that I had security there. I had security,&rdquo; Pope said. &ldquo;Right now, I don&rsquo;t even know what my future&rsquo;s going to bring because I&rsquo;m not old enough to retire. I got the years to retire but I just don&rsquo;t have the age to do it.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The city said it wanted to work with Mondelez to keep the jobs here and discussed various incentives, but the company never took officials up on it.</p><p dir="ltr">Mondelez officials said its upgraded facility in Salinas, Mexico will open in the middle of next year. The jobs in Chicago will be phased out and Oreos will be made at other U.S. sites. Company officials said the Nabisco plant won&rsquo;t shut down entirely.</p><p dir="ltr">But Jim Capraro worries about the future of an area that already has a higher unemployment rate than the city&rsquo;s average.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It was places like Nabisco and the companies around it that gave me hope that we could offer alternatives to the underground economy that exists on the South Side of the city to young people who need to live, who need to work,&rdquo; he said.</p><p dir="ltr">Capraro points to another big plant that used to be on the Southwest Side. More than a decade ago the Kraft-owned Kool-Aid factory closed its doors.</p><p dir="ltr">Hundreds of jobs were lost and never came back.</p><p dir="ltr"><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/nmoore-0" target="_blank">Natalie Moore</a>&nbsp;is WBEZ&rsquo;s South Side Bureau reporter.<a href="mailto:mailto:nmoore@wbez.org">nmoore@wbez.org</a>.&nbsp;You can follow Natalie on&nbsp;<a href="https://plus.google.com//104033432051539426343" target="_blank">Google+</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/natalieymoore" target="_blank">Twitter</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 26 Aug 2015 16:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/front-center/southwest-side-braces-loss-oreos-and-600-jobs-112739 Board dismisses ruling to allow college athletes to unionize http://www.wbez.org/news/board-dismisses-ruling-allow-college-athletes-unionize-112669 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/NU NLRB Kain Colter.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The National Labor Relations Board on Monday threw out a historic ruling that gave Northwestern University football players the go-ahead to form the nation&#39;s first college athletes&#39; union, saying the prospect of union and nonunion teams could throw off the competitive balance in college football.</p><p>The decision dismissed a March 2014 decision by a regional NLRB director in Chicago who said that the football players are effectively school employees and entitled to organize. Monday&#39;s decision did not directly address the question of whether the players are employees.</p><p>&quot;Although we do not decide the issue here, we acknowledge that whether such individuals meet the board&#39;s test for employee status is a question that does not have an obvious answer,&quot; the NLRB said.</p><p>The labor dispute goes to the heart of American college sports, where universities and conferences reap billions of dollars, mostly through broadcast contracts, by relying on amateurs who are not paid. In other countries, college sports are small-time club affairs, while elite youth athletes often turn pro as teens.</p><p>The unanimous ruling by the five-member National Labor Relations Board concludes that letting Northwestern football players unionize could lead to different standards at different schools &mdash; from the amount of money players receive to the amount of time they can practice. That would, it says, create the competitive imbalances.</p><p>The ruling applies to private schools like Northwestern, which is a member of the powerful Big Ten Conference. Public universities do not fall under the agency&#39;s jurisdiction, though union activists have said they hope Northwestern&#39;s example inspires unionization campaigns by athletes at state schools.</p><p>Northwestern became the focal point of the labor fight in January 2014, when a handful of football players called the NCAA a &quot;dictatorship&quot; and announced plans to form the first U.S. labor union for college athletes. Quarterback Kain Colter detailed the College Athletes Players Association at a news conference, flanked by leaders of the United Steelworkers union that has lent its organizing expertise and presumably will help bankroll the court fight.</p><p>Regional NLRB Director Peter Sung Ohr issued a stunning decision three months later, saying Northwestern football players who receive scholarships fit the definition of employees under federal law and therefore should be able to unionize. A month later, football players cast secret ballots on whether to unionize. Those ballots were sealed during the appeal and will now be destroyed.</p><p>Former Northwestern receiver Kyle Prater said he voted against the union proposal, saying that he and his teammates were well treated during their college years.</p><p>But, Prater, who now plays for the New Orleans Saints, said he still feels there are &quot;some things as far as the NCAA that need to be more structured. And I think by what we did, our voice out there really helped get things going forward.&quot;</p><p>He spoke Saturday from the team&#39;s training camp in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.</p><p>Monday&#39;s seven-page ruling cites federal law and contends that unionized football players at Northwestern would not promote the &quot;uniformity&quot; and &quot;stability&quot; between workers and management that it says is the goal of U.S. labor relations law.</p><p>While NLRB decisions are sometimes split, the three Democrats and two Republicans on the board all agreed.</p><p>Under U.S. law, an employee is regarded as someone who, among other things, receives compensation for a service and is under the direct control of managers. In Northwestern&#39;s case, Ohr concluded coaches are equivalent to business managers and scholarships are a form of pay.</p><p>The ruling was welcome news for the NCAA, the dominant umbrella organization for U.S. college athletics. The NCAA has been under increasing scrutiny over its amateurism rules and has been in court fighting lawsuits from former athletes over everything from head injuries to revenue earned based on the use of their likenesses in video games.</p><p>The NCAA recently cleared the way for the five biggest conferences, including the Big Ten, to add player stipends to help athletes defray some of their expenses. Southeastern Conference schools, for example, will give some athletes $3,000 to $5,500 each on top of a scholarship that pays for tuition, room, board and books.</p><p>Northwestern, the Big Ten and the NCAA all argued against the unionization effort, saying that lumping college athletes into the same category as factory workers would transform amateur athletics for the worse. At one point, Northwestern administrators sent a document to players outlining potential pitfalls, noting that player strikes could lead to the spectacle of replacement players.</p><p>The specific goals of the players association, or CAPA, include guaranteeing coverage of sports-related medical expenses for current and former players, reducing head injuries.</p></p> Mon, 17 Aug 2015 12:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/board-dismisses-ruling-allow-college-athletes-unionize-112669 Northwest Indiana steel industry not out of the woods yet http://www.wbez.org/news/northwest-indiana-steel-industry-not-out-woods-yet-112527 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 6.59.22 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">It&rsquo;s not easy to find the <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/great-lakes-cafe-gary">Great Lakes Cafe</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The greasy spoon is tucked behind an urban jungle of tall grass and railroad tracks near the lakeshore of Gary, Indiana.</p><p dir="ltr">On the menu, the five-egg Steelworker&rsquo;s Omelet hints at the cafe&rsquo;s regulars.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;re right across the street from U.S. Steel,&rdquo; said Jessica Quezada, whose father Michael Klidaras has owned the restaurant since 1994. &ldquo;We have this big complex here with a few refractories and a couple of other companies. We&rsquo;re very lucky to be here.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">And the folks working inside the massive Gary Works across the street are lucky to have jobs, for now.</p><p dir="ltr">More than 700 workers have been laid off at the site &mdash; U.S. Steel&rsquo;s largest plant worldwide &mdash; this year alone. There are rumblings that there could be more to come at all five major steel mills in Northwest Indiana.</p><p dir="ltr">At the Great Lakes Cafe, retired U.S. Steel worker Malcolm Maxwell worries about the ripple effects.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It would be very devastating not just in Gary but all of Northwest Indiana,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;You know, you think about other people.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">People like Bob Tribble, an electrician at the Gary Works for 22 years.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of talk on the shop floor. It does concern us that there&rsquo;s a possibility of layoffs,&rdquo; Tribble said.</p><p dir="ltr">Union salaries in the mills can range from $50,000 to $100,000, and he says replacing that would be tough.</p><p>&ldquo;These are pretty good jobs. They pay a livable wage with insurance, with pensions. So these jobs are pretty hard to come by,&rdquo; Tribble said.</p><p dir="ltr">Northwest Indiana produces more steel than any other part of the country.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.steel.org/~/media/Files/AISI/General%20Docs/Factsheet-Job_Engine.pdf">An industry group</a> says for every one job, steel creates seven other jobs in the local economy.</p><p dir="ltr">During its heyday in the 1950s and &lsquo;60s, more than 100,000 people worked in the mills in this region. Today, it&rsquo;s about 20,000.</p><p dir="ltr">The domestic steel industry has long experienced booms and busts, but it&rsquo;s been especially slow coming back from the Great Recession.</p><p dir="ltr">Analysts say that&rsquo;s due to a strong dollar, the falling price of oil, and foreign imports.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We have a right to protect the house we live in from people who want to burn it down or take advantage of us,&rdquo; said U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, a Democrat from Merrillville.</p><p dir="ltr">Visclosky, who represents Northwest Indiana, has spent 30 years fighting against so called &ldquo;steel dumping.&rdquo; That&rsquo;s when foreign manufacturers flood the market with low-cost steel.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://visclosky.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/visclosky-offers-steel-amendment-to-trade-promotion-authority">Last month Visclosky helped pass legislation</a> that makes it easier for American steel companies to prove they&rsquo;re being hurt by the practice.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We don&rsquo;t have to be bankrupt, we don&rsquo;t have to be out of business to prove injury. That&rsquo;s a huge advantage to the industry,&rdquo; Visclosky said.</p><p dir="ltr">But not everyone buys that excuse.</p><p>&ldquo;They always like to blame somebody else. The biggest importer of steel is the U.S. steel industry,&rdquo; said longtime steel analyst Charles Bradford of New York City.</p><p dir="ltr">He says imposing tariffs on foreign steel companies let&rsquo;s U.S. producers off the hook.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It tends to relieve the companies from a lot of pressure on improving their facilities,&rdquo; Bradford said.</p><p dir="ltr">The <a href="http://www.steel.org/">American Iron and Steel Institute</a> disputes this. It says companies have invested millions in technology while also reducing costs.</p><p dir="ltr">But just this week, <a href="http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/united-states-steel-corporation-reports-2015-second-quarter-results-300120204.html">U.S. Steel reported a 2nd-quarter loss of $261 million</a>. Steel giant <a href="http://www.platts.com/latest-news/metals/pittsburgh/arcelormittal-to-make-final-wire-rod-shipment-21837750">Arcelormittal will soon shutter one of its wire rod facilities in South Carolina</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">At ArcelorMittal&rsquo;s three plants in Northwest Indiana, workers worry they could be next. The company already laid off 300 workers here in January.</p><p>Jose Cortez has worked at an ArcelorMittal plant in East Chicago for 12 years.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There&rsquo;s always talk about shutting this down or shutting that down,&rdquo; Cortez said. &nbsp;&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not sure what the company specifically intends to achieve with that, but there&rsquo;s always a little bit of that during contract time.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The current contract expires September 1. The United Steelworkers of America is in talks with both ArcelorMittal and U.S. Steel.</p><p dir="ltr">Cortez says he&rsquo;s already saving money just in case.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve worked since I was 15. I have never been without a job. You&rsquo;d just have to make do,&rdquo; Cortez said.</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a></em></p></p> Fri, 31 Jul 2015 06:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/northwest-indiana-steel-industry-not-out-woods-yet-112527 Chicago makes case to change retirement benefits for city employees http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-makes-case-change-retirement-benefits-city-employees-112354 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 4.39.40 PM.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">City of Chicago laborers and streets and sanitation workers packed a Cook County courtroom Thursday to listen to more than two hours of legal debate about their retirement benefits. The scene mirrored the months of legal disputes over the funding of troubled Illinois state pension funds.</p><p dir="ltr">Stephen Patton, the City of Chicago&rsquo;s top attorney, said the two city funds are likely to become insolvent, if not bankrupt, in the next dozen-or-so years if the judge rules against the city.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What is the alternative?&rdquo; Patton asked Circuit Court Judge Rita Novak.</p><p dir="ltr">Patton argued that if the judge strikes down city&rsquo;s pension law approved by Illinois state lawmakers, then labor unions that oppose the pension changes will likely sue in a decade&mdash;when the pension funds will be so depleted, the accounts will have to pay-as-they-go as the bills come in.</p><p>But an attorney for the labor unions argues that changes to pension benefits are a violation of the state constitution&rsquo;s language that says retirement funds can&rsquo;t be diminished or impaired. Clint Krislov said the city&rsquo;s argument that the funds will go insolvent in a decade equates to a Chicken Little &lsquo;the-sky-is-falling&rsquo; defense; and said the retirement funds should&rsquo;ve done more for the past several decades to force the city to put more into the accounts.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in favor of the unions on a separate lawsuit involving reductions to state pension funds. That decision was heavily cited by the unions in their arguments. It&rsquo;s also led to political leaders in Springfield to try and agree on a new legal strategy to change retirement benefits for state employees.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 09 Jul 2015 16:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-makes-case-change-retirement-benefits-city-employees-112354 Global Activism: update from La Isla Foundation http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-update-la-isla-foundation-112256 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Tom Laffay La Isla Foundation.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>La Isla Foundation was formed in 2008 after independent filmmaker Jason Glaser met Juan Salgado, a community organizer from Candelaria, Nicaragua. Jason was in Nicaragua making a film about banana workers when Juan informed him of an epidemic of kidney disease occurring in Candelaria and &nbsp;La Isla (&quot;The Island&quot;), neighboring villages in the municipality of Chichigalpa in western Nicaragua. The disease was ravaging agricultural laborers working on a local sugar-cane plantation. Juan, a former worker on the plantation who was fired when he showed the first signs of kidney disease, introduced Jason to the people of La Isla and Candelaria. Over the following months, Jason watched as, one by one, friends he had made died from kidney failure. He put his film aside and started La Isla Foundation. Jason Glaser joins us to give us an update.</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/211971999&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p></p> Thu, 25 Jun 2015 15:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-update-la-isla-foundation-112256 Emanuel pushes Springfield for changes to police, fire pensions http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pushes-springfield-changes-police-fire-pensions-112112 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Rahm.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel has long said a property tax increase for Chicago residents is the &ldquo;last resort&rdquo; to cover a scheduled increase in payments owed to the city&rsquo;s cash-strapped police and fire pensions.</p><p>To avoid a hike, he&rsquo;s asking Illinois state legislators to approve changes to the funding schedule for those two retirement funds - in addition to adding future payments to the pensions from a new source of revenue created by a potential new, city-owned casino.</p><p>Emanuel&rsquo;s administration says that a 5-year-old state law forces the city to pay an extra $600 million this year toward its cash-strapped retirement funds for police officers and firefighters.</p><p>Those pensions are severely under-funded, so Emanuel wants lawmakers to pass a bill that would put off those payments for a few years - in exchange for later adding larger payments and putting the pensions on a better funding schedule over the next 40 years, rather than the current 25-year plan.</p><p>Under the extended schedule, the pensions would be funded at 90 percent in 2055, rather than the current rates of around 25 percent funded. If the bill is not passed, said Steve Koch, Emanuel&rsquo;s deputy mayor, then property taxes could skyrocket.</p><p>&ldquo;I think this is always a matter of, in this sort of situation, of trying to reach a medium,&rdquo; Koch explained, &ldquo;where you protect the funds, which has been an objective of ours and an objective of the mayor since he took office, and equally protect taxpayers.&rdquo;</p><p>But Republicans criticized Emanuel&rsquo;s plan, saying the mayor&rsquo;s office is in a &ldquo;fantasyland,&rdquo; -- because the bill says it would take money from a Chicago casino, or casinos, to pay for pensions. Casinos that, as of yet, have not been approved by state lawmakers.</p><p>&ldquo;You&rsquo;re essentially in a fantasyland here, assuming that you&rsquo;re going to get a casino and all the revenue associated with that casino, with us not even seeing a bill that relates to that,&rdquo; said State Rep. Jeanne Ives (R-Wheaton).</p><p>Lawmakers have been negotiating a gambling expansion bill behind closed doors, which could include a city-run casino; but so far a compromise has not been introduced to lawmakers. Koch said that if a casino is not approved, then the city would rely on cuts to city services or increases in fees or revenues to pay for the administration&rsquo;s proposed pension bill.</p><p>Meantime, the union representing Chicago firefighters, support the administration&rsquo;s pension plan, unlike other labor unions raising recent court challenges over previous efforts to change other city and state funds</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been pretty conservative with our benefits over the years, so we don&rsquo;t pull no shenanigans in our fund,&rdquo; said Dan Fabrizio, with the Chicago Firefighters Union.</p><p>The measure was approved by the House and Senate with mostly Democratic support. Gov. Bruce Rauner&#39;s office has not commented on his position on the bill.</p><p>Tony Arnold is WBEZ&rsquo;s Illinois state politics reporter. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 30 May 2015 11:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/emanuel-pushes-springfield-changes-police-fire-pensions-112112 Illinois House Democrats vote down right-to-work measure http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-house-democrats-vote-down-right-work-measure-112031 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/State-Capitol-Front-1_WBEZ_Tim-Akimoff.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Democrats in the Illinois House have voted down a plan similar to Gov. Bruce Rauner&#39;s proposal to allow local governments to permit workers to opt out of unions.</p><p>Thursday&#39;s vote was 0-72-37. The Democrats who control the House cast &quot;no&quot; votes. The entire Republican caucus, with the exception of one member, voted present because they said the vote was a &quot;political sham.&quot;</p><p>Democrats in a heated debate said the proposal would adversely affect middle class families.</p><p>Rauner has toured Illinois touting his idea of local &quot;empowerment zones.&quot; The zones would allow voters to make union membership voluntary at unionized workplaces. It&#39;s a key part of pro-business reforms Rauner wants passed in exchange for new revenue to help close a $6 billion budget gap.</p></p> Thu, 14 May 2015 16:41:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-house-democrats-vote-down-right-work-measure-112031 Chicago May Day protests to include anti-violence as theme http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-may-day-protests-include-anti-violence-theme-111972 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/mayday2012.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Activists in Chicago are gearing up for May 1 marches and rallies on issues including immigrant rights, anti-capitalism and police brutality.</p><p>May Day has long commemorated workers&#39; rights, but in recent years Chicago&#39;s marches have focused on immigration, unions and anti-capitalism.</p><p>Some labor groups want to bring attention to workers&#39; rights at noon near a sculpture commemorating the Haymarket riot. Another coalition says they&#39;ve planned an afternoon march in a park on Chicago&#39;s West Side. They&#39;re calling for a moratorium against deportations and will march to Cook County Jail.</p><p>Industrial Workers of the World spokesman Dan Bono says another theme is fighting against violence against everyday people, including police shootings. Members of the Black Lives Matter movement are also helping organize events, including a morning rally with school children.</p></p> Fri, 01 May 2015 08:11:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-may-day-protests-include-anti-violence-theme-111972 Rauner's first 100 days: The fight between unions and Rauner http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-first-100-days-fight-between-unions-and-rauner-111909 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/raunerface.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Remember the protests in Wisconsin four years ago? When thousands of union members and their allies flocked to Madison?</p><p>Somewhere in that crowd, at least, the one that gathered in the winter of 2011, was Mark Guethle.</p><p>&ldquo;It was cold. Hat and gloves. I&rsquo;m used to cold weather so we&rsquo;re good,&rdquo; Guethle recalled. &ldquo;My colleagues and I were out there and we supported what the labor movement was doing at the time.&rdquo;</p><p>Guethle, with Painters District Council 30, is from Aurora in Chicago&rsquo;s western suburbs.&nbsp;He traveled to Wisconsin because he feared if policies he saw as anti-union could happen there, they could happen here.</p><p>This, at a time when Wisconsin lawmakers who hated that law so much, fled: They came to Illinois to avoid taking a vote, so Wisconsin Republicans couldn&rsquo;t get a quorum.</p><p>That was when Illinois was a blue state. Now, it&rsquo;s run by Rauner, a Republican.<br /><br />&ldquo;You got a governor who&rsquo;s running his anti-worker agenda,&rdquo; Guethle said.</p><p>He&rsquo;s referring to what Gov. Bruce Rauner calls his &ldquo;Turnaround Agenda.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;A key part of our agenda: In your city, in your county, in your schools, you should decide what gets collectively bargained. Springfield shouldn&rsquo;t tell ya,&rdquo; Rauner said recently as part of his tour of the state in which he gives campaign-stump-speech-style overviews of his priorities to small audiences.</p><p>It has Illinois union leaders, who will have to negotiate contracts with Rauner, very upset.</p><p>&ldquo;We haven&rsquo;t heard him give one concrete idea, one actual solution to helping Illinois&rsquo; problems,&rdquo; said Dan Montgomery, head of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. &ldquo;Instead, he&rsquo;s focused maniacally on attacking working people. It&rsquo;s unbelievable.&rdquo;</p><p>Montgomery said Rauner&rsquo;s plan signals that the governor would prefer to have chaos, rather than govern the state. Like what happens when Rauner asks local governments to pass a resolution that in-part embraces so-called right to work laws?</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a circus,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a circus because this governor knows it&rsquo;s illegal. So he&rsquo;s spending his time going around trying to shill and sell this snake oil that he knows is illegal. So why does he continue to do this?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think he&rsquo;s looking for some way to build some support for his side of the bargaining table when he sits down with the leaders in Springfield,&rdquo; said Joe Gottemoller, the chairman of the McHenry County Board northwest of Chicago.</p><p>The McHenry County Board recently approved Rauner&rsquo;s non-binding resolution that&rsquo;s angered unions so much. Gottemoller doesn&rsquo;t dispute that Illinois law does not yet allow for some of Rauner&rsquo;s agenda, but that doesn&rsquo;t mean it&rsquo;s not worth trying to change the law.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not anti-union despite what they might say about me; but I&rsquo;m really not,&rdquo; Gottemoller said. &ldquo;I have unions to thank for me getting through college. But I also know that it doesn&rsquo;t do anybody any good to be an unemployed carpenter.&rdquo;</p><p>Gottemoller said McHenry County, which is right on the border of Wisconsin, is on the front lines of this labor fight. And he said growth and development in the county has slowed tremendously since 2008.</p><p>Gottemoller said he needs tools to compete with Illinois&rsquo; neighbors--and this resolution from the governor is a start. But even Gottemoller admits it&rsquo;ll be a long-time coming before these policies could actually be enacted. After all, a lot of Democratic and Republican lawmakers support labor, and vice versa.</p><p>So how do any of Rauner&rsquo;s plans get approved?</p><p>Guethle, the painter&rsquo;s union official who protested in Wisconsin, said he&rsquo;s got his eye on Rauner&rsquo;s campaign finance committee and a new Political Action Committee created by some of Rauner&rsquo;s allies. Guethle&rsquo;s trying to play the long game, much beyond these first 100 days, to see which 2016 candidates Rauner&rsquo;s going to be putting his money behind.</p><p>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</p></p> Mon, 20 Apr 2015 16:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-first-100-days-fight-between-unions-and-rauner-111909