WBEZ | labor unions http://www.wbez.org/tags/labor-unions Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Into second month of budget impasse, Rauner says he's willing to negotiate http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-08-18/second-month-budget-impasse-rauner-says-hes-willing-negotiate <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/AP752611567752.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois is in month two with no budget. Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic leaders remain locked up.</p><p>The governor introduced a bill Monday with multiple components, including a property tax freeze and a new formula to help funnel funds to financially struggling school districts. The bill included a provision that would force teachers, rather than the district, to pick up their pension contributions. Both Rauner and the Democrats will have their chance to pitch their ideas to residents this week at the Illinois State Fair.</p><p>WBEZ&rsquo;s <em>Morning Shift&rsquo;s </em>Jason Marck spoke with Gov. Rauner about his proposal. The Governor says the bill would pump money to Chicago Public Schools to help get it out of its pension crisis. That money would come in exchange for a property tax freeze and stripping unions of their collective bargaining rights.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>Interview highlights</strong></span></p><p><strong>Morning Shift:</strong> You&rsquo;re essentially proposing the same things that Democrats have refused already many times before. Do you think that by sweetening the pot, so to speak, with CPS money, they&rsquo;re going to abandon key constituencies and principles?</p><p><strong>Rauner: </strong>You&rsquo;re raising a really important point because the Speaker [Speaker Michael Madigan] has said, &lsquo;Governor, your policies are extreme and they go against the core beliefs of the Democratic party.&rsquo;</p><p>Let&rsquo;s talk about those two criticisms for a second. First of all, our reforms are not extreme whatsoever. The federal government limits what can get collectively bargained and the federal government is not a Republican-controlled entity.</p><p>The Democrats put in the restrictions on collective bargaining in the federal government. Most states limit collective bargaining in government to some degree. Many outlaw it completely, and I&rsquo;m not advocating that.</p><p>And when he says, &lsquo;you&rsquo;re violating the core beliefs of the democratic party,&rsquo; I can say this: I&rsquo;ve got a lot of Democratic support in our agenda. A lot of Democrats voted for us, many Democrats support the reforms and many Democrats understand that if government costs are out of control, if the cost of pensions, and work rules and pay scale is unaffordable inside government, that&rsquo;s money that can&rsquo;t go to social services to help our most vulnerable families.</p><p><strong>Morning Shift:</strong>&nbsp;Ralph Martire from the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability has ripped your plan and he&rsquo;s ripped the Democrats&rsquo; plan. His criticism of the Dems is that they&rsquo;re spending money that isn&rsquo;t there. His criticism of you is that your budget plan relies on over $2 billion in savings from cutting pension benefits that right now does work with the state Constitution. So what do you say when independent sources believe that neither side&#39;s proposals are grounded in reality?</p><p><strong>Rauner: </strong>I believe the point that he has raised is valid. We proposed our budget before the Supreme Court ruled on pension reform. Now that we understand what the court recommends is constitutional and what&rsquo;s not, we&rsquo;ve updated our pension reform recommendations, we&rsquo;ve put that forward in a pension reform bill, and we believe we can save close to $2 billion per year with our pension reform proposal if the legislature would take it up to pass it. And as a result, our proposed budget from last February would only be maybe about a half billion dollars out of balance and that would require some modifications on tax reform. That&rsquo;s very doable.</p><p>We could work that all out with the general assembly if they would negotiate in good faith on reforms. We need term limits, we need redistricting reform, we need real property tax relief and reform. We need those things as part of the budget negotiations so we can get real value for taxpayers and better government that works for the people again.</p><p><strong>Morning Shift:</strong>&nbsp;You and the largest state employees union agreed to a two-month contract extension at the end of July while negotiations continue on a new contract. The bill would send things to arbitration if both sides can&rsquo;t come up with a deal. It&rsquo;s being pushed by the union and its allies because they believe you want to create a crisis by forcing a strike. What is your response to that?</p><p><strong>Rauner: </strong>Boy, I say that&rsquo;s completely wrong, that is just ridiculous.</p><p>You know, this is the first time I can find anywhere in American history where a big government union has wanted to take away their collective bargaining. They want to take it away and they want to turn the negotiation over to an unelected, bureaucratic arbitrator to decide. To have an arbitrator, unelected and unaccountable, decide on 20 percent of our overall spending, $7 billion, that is just fundamentally wrong.</p><blockquote><p><strong>LISTEN</strong>: <strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-08-18/labor-union-afscme-reacts-rauners-proposal-112674">Anders Lindall&rsquo;s, spokesman for AFSMCE, responds to the Gov. Rauner&#39;s claims</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>They&rsquo;re doing it because AFSCME has an incredible deal, the government union has an incredible deal, on pay and benefits and work rules. And...I&rsquo;m the first governor in Illinois history who hasn&rsquo;t taken campaign contributions from AFSCME, so they don&#39;t have leverage over me. They don&rsquo;t have control over me the way they&rsquo;ve had with virtually all our prior governors. I&rsquo;m an independent. I&rsquo;m battling hard to protect the taxpayers of Illinois. That concerns AFSCME and rather than negotiate with me in good faith, they&rsquo;d rather strip away my negotiating ability and turn it over to a labor union-friendly arbitrator. That is wrong. That could end up costing Illinois taxpayers billions of dollars unnecessarily.</p><p>I&rsquo;ve already committed two things: I will not lock them out. I have no interest in locking out the employees. They can strike if they want to, that&rsquo;s their right, I respect that. But we&rsquo;ll keep the government working. We won&rsquo;t lock them out and...I won&rsquo;t reduce anybody&rsquo;s salary. No salary cuts, but we&rsquo;re going to negotiate a fair deal.&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 18 Aug 2015 14:33:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-08-18/second-month-budget-impasse-rauner-says-hes-willing-negotiate Agreement could end bitter Hyatt labor dispute http://www.wbez.org/news/agreement-could-end-bitter-hyatt-labor-dispute-107921 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/2011-07-21_07-30-06_733.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 218px; width: 300px;" title="Unite Here Local 1 members picketed at the Park Hyatt in downtown Chicago on July 21, 2011. As temperatures climbed into the 90s, the hotel turned heat lamps on the pickets. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />The dispute led to a global boycott of Hyatt Hotels Corp. It got more attention after President Obama nominated Penny Pritzker, whose family founded the hotel chain, to be commerce secretary. At one point, Hyatt turned winter heat lamps on Chicago pickets as summer temperatures neared triple digits.</p><p>Now it could all be over.</p><p>Hyatt and the union Unite Here on Monday announced a deal that covers thousands of company employees in Chicago, San Francisco, Honolulu and Los Angeles. The sides say the agreement could end the boycott.</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s extremely good news for businesses and groups that are interested in coming to Chicago to hold their conventions or stay in those particular properties,&rdquo; said Doug Patrick, Hyatt&rsquo;s senior vice-president of human resources for the Americas.</p><p>Hyatt and the union say the pact spells out a process for unorganized workers to vote on whether they want the union to represent them.</p><p>Unite Here President D. Taylor said that provision would help the union expand its Hyatt ranks. &ldquo;We feel very confident about growth we&rsquo;re going to achieve in the short term under this settlement,&rdquo; Taylor said.</p><p>Patrick said Hyatt &ldquo;did not stand down.&rdquo; He said the voting would take place only at hotels where the company and union had &ldquo;mutual agreement&rdquo; that &ldquo;this process makes sense.&rdquo;</p><p>The sides said they wouldn&rsquo;t provide a copy of the national deal until contract negotiations in each city were complete and until workers ratified those pacts.</p><p>The contracts, which would run through 2018, would increase Hyatt costs for the unionized labor an average of 4&nbsp;percent a year, Patrick said. Most of that increase would be the result of higher spending on wages and medical insurance, he added.</p><p>The Chicago contracts would cover about 1,500 workers. Raises would be retroactive to 2009, when a set of three-year contracts between Hyatt and the union expired.</p><p>Unite Here has led brief strikes protesting Hyatt outsourcing and the company&rsquo;s allegedly unsafe working conditions. Both sides say the new contracts will include no new safety language but will bring some outsourced work back to Hyatt.</p><p>The union said it would not call off the boycott until the ratifications in all four cities.</p><p><em><a href="“http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0”">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="“https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1”">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="“https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud”">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="“https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1”">Facebook</a> and <a href="“http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1”">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 01 Jul 2013 19:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/agreement-could-end-bitter-hyatt-labor-dispute-107921 Unionized janitors lose battle over O’Hare jobs http://www.wbez.org/news/unionized-janitors-lose-battle-over-o%E2%80%99hare-jobs-104392 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/RS3409_1387167671_43c9f53d5f.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hundreds of unionized janitors turned in their badges Friday at O&rsquo;Hare International Airport after losing their jobs in a contentious contract deal.</p><p>The task of cleaning and washing the windows at O&rsquo;Hare will now be taken over by 400 non-unionized workers.</p><p>Labor leaders and union members held protests Monday through Thursday. They targeted Mayor Rahm Emanuel for union-busting.</p><p>&ldquo;These were already organized union members,&rdquo; said Laura Garza, Secretary-Treasurer with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1. &ldquo;So the question for the city is, why did they eliminate those good jobs, those middle-class jobs in the city? There was no need for the city of Chicago, for our mayor to do this to these workers.&rdquo;</p><p>United Maintenance, the company that won the 5-year contract with the City of Chicago said it&rsquo;s not up to them whether employees are unionized .</p><p>&ldquo;That&rsquo;s totally within the purview of the employee whether or not they want to unionize,&rdquo; said Anthony D&rsquo;Angelo, Vice President of Security with United Service Companies which oversees United Maintenance. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not management&rsquo;s decision.&rdquo;</p><p>The face-off between the union and United Maintenance has gotten more heated in the days leading up to the janitors&rsquo; final day on the job, with both sides telling very different versions of the story.</p><p>In press releases this week, SEIU said workers will be paid less for the same work; United Maintenance said it&rsquo;s paying some new hires more than they were making previously at O&rsquo;Hare as employees of Scrubs, Inc. SEIU said workers will have to pay for family health benefits when they didn&rsquo;t before; United Maintenance said its health package will be more comprehensive than the one offered by Scrubs, Inc.</p><p>Officials at the new contractor said they&rsquo;ve hired back 110 workers who were previously with the union. SEIU put that number at 50 out of 400 laid-off workers.</p><p>The starting wage for janitors with United Maintenance is $11.90 - 15 cents less than the starting wage with Scrubs, Inc.</p><p>Garza said SEIU will try to organize the new O&rsquo;Hare workers. She said those who lost their jobs did not want to speak to media Friday after an &ldquo;emotional week&rdquo;, but they are applying for unemployment and looking for work.</p></p> Fri, 14 Dec 2012 12:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/unionized-janitors-lose-battle-over-o%E2%80%99hare-jobs-104392 The Haymarket incident http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-05/haymarket-incident-98655 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/05-04--famous%20picture%20%28LofC%29.jpg" title="Contemporary illustration of the bomb explosion (Library of Congress)"></div><p>Haymarket Square was located on Randolph Street just east of Halsted, about where the Kennedy now comes through. On this date in 1886, the site became infamous.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/05-04--proclamation.jpg" style="float: left;" title="Handbill advertising the Haymarket rally (Library of Congress)"></div><p>Chicago was having labor troubles that spring. On May 3, two striking workers had been killed in a confrontation with police at the McCormick Reaper Works. A local anarchist group called for a mass protest meeting at Haymarket Square the following evening.</p><p>Something like 2,000 people came to the rally. Mayor Carter Harrison was one of them. He saw things were peaceful and left.</p><p>The speakers continued for three hours. Light rain began falling. People drifted away. By 10:30 about 300 stragglers remained in the square.</p><p>Samuel Fielden was the final speaker. He climbed on the wagon that was being used as a stage and began his remarks. A few police officers had been on hand during the rally. Now a larger contingent arrived.</p><p>The police halted. Inspector John Bonfield called out, “In the name of the law I command you to disperse.” As the cops began to move forward again, someone threw a pipe bomb into their midst.</p><p>The bomb exploded. Then the shooting began. Five minutes later it was over.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">A century-and-a-quarter later, just what happened during those five minutes is still a matter of dispute. Did the anarchists start firing guns at the police? Did the cops begin shooting blindly into the crowd and hit each other? It depends on whom you listen to, and how you interpret the accounts.</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/05-04--poster%20%28LofC%29.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 379px; float: right;" title="Contemporary poster (Library of Congress)"></div><p>Eight officers died. About 60 were wounded. The number of civilians killed or wounded was never determined.</p><p>“A Hellish Deed” read the front-page of the next day’s <em>Tribune</em>. That was typical of the general public opinion. The anarchists were blamed for the violence. They were thought to be preparing for another blood-bath like the French Revolution.</p><p>Officer Matthias Deegan had been killed by the original bomb. Eight anarchists were eventually charged with his murder, tried, and convicted. One of the defendants received a 15-year prison term. The rest were sentenced to death.</p><p>Four of the condemned seven were hanged on November 11, 1887. A fifth committed suicide. The other two–including the speaker, Samuel Fielden–had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.</p><p>In 1893 newly-elected Governor John P. Altgeld re-examined the case. He concluded that the trial had been a miscarriage of justice and pardoned the three surviving defendants.</p></p> Fri, 04 May 2012 08:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/john-r-schmidt/2012-05/haymarket-incident-98655 Italians may have to say goodbye to life-long job security http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-03-23/italians-may-have-say-goodbye-life-long-job-security-97570 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2012-March/2012-03-23/iHRwxtfa7z_c.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In Italy, having a job for life is as Italian as pasta or a cappuccino. But that may not be the case for much longer. Italian Prime Minister <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15695056" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'resizable=no,status=no,location=no,toolbar=no,menubar=no,fullscreen=no,scrollbars=no,dependent=no'); return false;">Mario Monti</a> has proposed changes to the Italian labor law which would make it easier for companies to hire and fire employees. It’s part of a series of reforms meant to end decades of stagnant growth. Currently, the only way to fire an employee is if the entire company fails. Italy’s cabinet meets today to decide whether or not to fast track the measure. <em>Worldview </em>talks with <a href="http://www.economist.com/topics/alberto-alesina" onclick="window.open(this.href, '', 'resizable=no,status=no,location=no,toolbar=no,menubar=no,fullscreen=no,scrollbars=no,dependent=no'); return false;">Alberto Alesina</a>, professor of political economy at Harvard University, about the potential consequences of the reform.</p></p> Fri, 23 Mar 2012 16:24:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-03-23/italians-may-have-say-goodbye-life-long-job-security-97570 ‘Ground Shifters’: ‘Girls Gauntlets’ – children unionizing in Bolivia http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-16/%E2%80%98ground-shifters%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98girls-gauntlets%E2%80%99-%E2%80%93-children-unionizing-bolivia-92051 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-15/girls.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><em>This week, Jean Friedman-Rudovsky presents a five-part series featuring stories of women and girls in Bolivia and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. It’s called <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_blank">Ground Shifters: Stories of Women Changing Unseen Worlds</a>.</em></p><p><em>We've all heard tales about child labor – the suffering, gross injustice and heartache. Today, we conclude our series with an unusual child labor story. </em></p><p><em>In “Girls Gauntlets,” we meet Ana, Brigida and Noemí, a group of young girls in La Paz, Bolivia who work — and are proud of it. </em></p><p><em>In fact, they’re so proud that they have unionized, along with more than a hundred thousand child workers across Latin America, to demand respect and legal protection, reports</em> <em>Jean Friedman-Rudovsky.</em></p><p>****************</p><p>When I first came to Bolivia, it didn’t take long to notice an active 5 foot-and-under world. Kids — everywhere — working. In the countryside, they dot expansive fields, chopping sugar cane for the harvest. In the cities, they offer to shine my shoes and hang out the open doors of buses, encouraging passengers aboard.</p><p>I had a knee jerk reaction: child labor—ugh—it hurts to bear witness.</p><p>But what I didn’t realize is that what I saw, and what I’ve always learned, was not the whole story.</p><p>On a recent Saturday morning, 16 year-old Ana Guadalupe Perez Rosas was washing dishes. She's a domestic worker, with a system: first the glasses, then plates, then cutlery and finally pots. That way, she explains, pot grease doesn’t dirty the rest.</p><p>Bolivia has 9 million inhabitants; one million are child workers, some who started working as early as seven.&nbsp; Of these, almost half are girls. The girls, like their jobs, are often hidden, inside homes or in the backs of restaurants.</p><p>Ana started working as a domestic worker when she was 14, but her first job, as a kitchen assistant, was when she was 12.&nbsp; One day, her mother, who is a also domestic worker, had an accident and Ana offered to stand in for her. She's been doing the job ever since..</p><p>Ana works two mornings a week with the same family, and then takes other jobs on the side when she can. She says her pay helps her buy food for her family and sometimes her salary goes to the electricity or water bills.</p><p>It also buys her own school supplies. Ana can spend 30 hours a week working, but like the vast majority of child workers in Bolivia, she also attends school.</p><p>With her gentle demeanor and dish-pan hands, 16 year old Ana is an outlaw. It doesn’t matter that she’s never harmed anyone, or that she is an “A” student. As a child laborer, she is told by Bolivian law and our society that something is wrong with her. Childhood ought to be for play and learning, we say, not for cleaning other peoples’ homes.</p><p>But this girl, and more than 100,000 youngsters throughout Latin America, are fed up with feeling like they are a plague that ought to be eradicated. They’ve gotten together to challenge one of the modern era’s most fundamental foundations: that child labor is wrong.</p><p>"I belong to the organization, La Paz TAYPINATS which means Child and Adolescent Worker’s Gathering Place," Ana says. "We are an organization of boy and girl child and adolescent workers—shoe shiners, street sellers, domestic workers, construction workers, many different sectors. Above all, we ask the government for protection as workers and that we be treated respectfully by society. Because, the majority of the time we are oppressed. They think that it’s not right for us to work, that at our childhood we should be for playing and learning. But they don’t want to recognize the reality in Bolivia. The majority of us kids work because our family needs something from us, like helping to put food on the table or to support younger siblings."</p><p><strong>Girl Power</strong></p><p>Ana is very modest. She’s more than a member — she’s the President of the La Paz chapter of the national child worker union, UNATSBO. Across the country, about 15,000 unionized boy and girl child and adolescent workers speak with one voice. They range in age from 8 to 18.</p><p>As I travel the country and learn about this growing movement, my head spins. My preconceived notions of child labor go out the window. These kids combine work and school. Education is a union requirement. They aren’t slaving away in factories either. Most work on their own schedules. And they hate the pity we throw at them. Rather, they are proud as workers, and they organize for their rights. Strong child worker unions now stretch from Paraguay to Peru, from Venezuela to Ecuador.</p><p>Their primary goal is political. Like undocumented immigrants in the United States, child workers exist in a void. The kids want protections, but it’s a battle. Governments in the developing world promised the International Labour Organization, the United Nations and other world bodies&nbsp; outlaw child labor. They say that they can’t offer these young people workers rights, because legislating the sector would mean condoning the practice.</p><p>Thus, kids remain society’s most vulnerable workforce. They’re paid less than adults for performing the same work. Those who work on the street—shining shoes or selling in markets—are frequently robbed or beaten up for their meager earnings. Kids are not entitled to breaks or overtime and have no recourse from employer abuse because, hey—they shouldn’t be working in the first place.</p><p>And on top of all of that — within this already discriminated workforce, girls suffer yet again, Ana reminds me as she finishes off the dishes.</p><p>"In any job, there is always more danger for girls than for boys," she says. "I think that in part it’s because it’s hard for us girls to speak up. We don’t say what goes on. In offices, bosses harass or assault a woman worker, or this happens in houses with domestic workers too. Women are always going to be more at risk."</p><p>Abandoned by the government — abused by their bosses, these girls have learned to fend—and organize—for themselves.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>Adult lives, childhood dreams</strong></p><p>Perched on a ladder in the central cemetery of the 14,000 ft. high city of Potosí, Bolivia, 17 year old Brígida Espinoza cleans the small face of a mausoleum.</p><p>Brígida, along with 9 other kids, are the cemetery’s caretakers. They dig and look after graves, and clean mausoleums for hire. Brígida has worked here for a year. Her first job doing neighbor’s laundry was when she was 11.&nbsp;</p><p>"I shine the name and get rid of the dust," says Brígida as she scrubs hard. "If the family asks for it, I clean the glass too."</p><p>Brigida normally earns between $1.50 and $2 per cleaning. At the cemetery’s entrance, I noticed that the prices are painted on a wall. Brigida tells me that’s the union’s doing.</p><p>"People would ask for a cleaning and then not want to pay because we are kids," Brígida said. "So we said, there should be a sign at the entrance that lists our prices. We use this to defend ourselves, so that people pay us what we are owed."</p><p>Brígida is a kind of single mom. She has no kids but is the only breadwinner for her two younger siblings, who are 14 and 11.</p><p>"The day we buried my mom, I was ten," Brígida says. "I work to be able to provide for my brother and sister. It’s been this way since my dad remarried and no longer gave us money."</p><p>The three of them live on their own, in a one room apartment. Her older brother Jonny used to support the family, but he passed away earlier this year. Now, the weight falls on Brígida. Yet despite this burden, she finds the time to be a union leader.</p><p>"There’s a council of elected representatives for each sector," she says. "I and two others, represent the cemetery, and we attend Saturday and Tuesday city-wide meetings."</p><p>Brigida invites me to her next meeting. In a ramshackle office in a drafty building in Potosi, the pre-teens and teens laugh and tease each other. I’m reminded they are still kids. But, Brigida says, this is not child’s play.</p><p>"We have regulations that we comply with, whether we want to or not," she says. "For example, when we have a meeting, you have to pay a fine of 15 cents for every minute you are late after the first five minutes. If you miss a meeting then half of what you earn on your next work day goes to the union. Same thing, if you miss a workshop, then we decide as a group what the penalty will be."</p><p>Girls like Brígida lead this national movement. There are hundreds of local female leaders like them. And seven out of the 9 nine current regional chapters Presidents of the national child worker union are young women.</p><p>Noemi Guiterrez is one of them. Poised, focused, and a little shy, Noemí is the coordinator for CONNATSOP, the Potosi Council of Organized Child Workers. She started working in a call center when she was 12 years old.</p><p>Now, at 17, Noemi manages an internet café.&nbsp;</p><p>During a union meeting she led on a recent night, the group discussed the status of negotiations with the government regarding new laws on children in the workplace. After the meeting, Noemi and I chat, and she explains what should have been painfully obvious to me.</p><p>"Everyone says that kids shouldn’t work, but they are not taking into account the economic reality in this country," Noemi said. "Sure, if we were all well off, none of us would have to work. But rather than thinking rationally, the government only says we need to eradicate child labor. I say, they ought to eradicate poverty first."</p><p>Of course. Again, billions of dollars spent to address symptoms of global inequality, rather than focusing on a cure to the root problem. Worse, we criminalize the young whose response to their difficult lives is trying to help their families. Amazingly, these children have taken our lemon—and made their own lemonade.</p><p>"For me working at this age isn’t a sacrifice or an obligation," says Ana. "It’s more like a good way to pass time when I forget my other problems. Other child workers feel the same way, they look forward to going out into the streets to sell, to meet new people. These kids develop their language skills and they become like little economists because they learn how to manage their money."</p><p>It is so complex. No, Ana is not a character in a Dickens novel. And the union believes there is a need for some anti-child labor laws. Any work that is inherently unsafe for children, like being inside a mine, must be illegal for the young.</p><p>But where do we draw the line? Ana, Brigida and Noemi don’t want our sympathy. My heart drops thinking about Brigida digging graves on the weekend to support her younger siblings.</p><p>Perhaps that’s where the union makes a difference. Their demand for respect is not about glossing over their troubled lives. It’s about wanting to be seen as dignified members of society and wanting their due legal protections.</p><p>It’s a radical proposal, but I see that the process of constructing new societal possibilities, helps the kids grow; particularly the girls. Through organizing, being a young activist helped every one of these girls find their voice.</p><p>"I used to be very shy," Brigida recalls. "I didn’t know how to speak in front of others. My compañeros said to me: “You have to talk,” but I would just get more nervous. Now I’ve lost that shyness and so really, this being a representative from the cemetery sector has helped me a lot."</p><p>Ana too credits her strong character to being part of this movement.</p><p>"You could say that a significant part of who I am comes from being in this organization," she says. "I learned how to value what’ around me, how to respect others, trust in my compañeros, and always take into account everyone’s opinion and make sure everyone is heard. I’ve learned how to always keep moving forward even when there are obstacles in my way. I’ve learned to never give up what you are trying to achieve…The other girls in the organization are great leaders. Each one has a leader inside of her. We girls are always the most active. We are more interested in politics and are always at the head of the organization."</p><p>In Latin America, that young women take leadership roles in an organization where boys are also members, is extraordinary. These girls fought for those spaces. And through their leadership, the organization has reached new heights.</p><p>In 2008, these kids changed the country’s constitution. Following the election of Bolivian President Evo Morales, the country wrote a new “Magna Carta” and the original draft prohibited children from working. The kids marched, lobbied assembly members and convinced the adults to outlaw child exploitation, rather than all child labor. Now, the Union is facing a backlash, as the government tries to write new labor laws that curtail this constitutional advance. So the kids are gearing up for another battle.</p><p>Meanwhile, just doing their jobs, they say, helps them reach their dreams—literally. Because without their small salaries to pay for their own school supplies, few of these kids would still be getting an education.</p><p>In Ana's case, she wants to be a business administrator, or an economist. Brígida says she’d like to be a nurse. Noemí wants to be an architect - or a doctor.</p><p>I’m not sure they realize that they’ve already accomplished more than most of us do in a lifetime. Through their struggle, they challenge one of the western world’s most basic principles—that child labor is wrong. They demand we rethink our conceptions of what makes a just society. They are slowly but surely, shifting the ground beneath our feet.<br> &nbsp;</p><p><em>This series is part of an ongoing collaboration between WBEZ and the <a href="http://www.colum.edu/Academics/Institute_for_the_Study_of_Women_and_Gender_in_the_Arts_and_Media/" target="_blank">Ellen Stone Belic Institute for the Study of Women &amp; Gender in the Arts &amp; Media</a> at Columbia College-Chicago, called Gender, Human Rights, Leadership and Media. The Institute develops projects with journalists, artists, human rights workers and activists to investigate global issues.</em></p><p><em>You can hear all of the stories from this week, as well as the interview we did with Jean Friedman-Rudovsky to kick off the series, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/ground-shifters-stories-women-changing-unseen-worlds" target="_blank">here</a>.</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 16 Sep 2011 13:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-16/%E2%80%98ground-shifters%E2%80%99-%E2%80%98girls-gauntlets%E2%80%99-%E2%80%93-children-unionizing-bolivia-92051 Jackson pushes Obama to focus on construction http://www.wbez.org/story/jackson-pushes-obama-focus-construction-91531 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-September/2011-09-05/Jesse Jackson.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>As President Obama gears up for a Thursday speech before Congress about his jobs agenda, a civil rights leader in his hometown is urging him to focus on proposing massive investment in construction projects.</p><p>With official unemployment hovering above 9 percent, the president is expected to propose training for the long-term jobless, tax credits for companies that hire new workers and an extension of payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits.</p><p>Rev. Jesse Jackson said those steps won’t be enough. “You put people back to work fixing our infrastructure, our houses and our transportation,” he said. “We work our way out of the hole. We don’t complain our way out. [President Obama] has the key to, in fact, invest in a mammoth way in putting America back to work.”</p><p>In a Monday speech to Detroit union activists, the president did bring up infrastructure. But Republicans, who control the U.S. House, are indicating they will try to block new outlays that would add to the budget deficit.</p></p> Tue, 06 Sep 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/jackson-pushes-obama-focus-construction-91531 Park Hyatt strikers decry outsourcing; hotel turns on heaters http://www.wbez.org/story/hyatt-employees-hold-one-day-picket-89447 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-July/2011-07-21/2011-07-21_07-30-06_733.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The main entrance of an upscale hotel in downtown Chicago was sweltering Thursday morning — and not just because of the rising sun and the week’s heat wave. As pickets marched under the Park Hyatt’s glass awning, the inn switched on 10 heat lamps installed to warm guests in the dead of winter.<br><br>The picketing began a daylong strike in which dozens of Park Hyatt employees walked off their jobs at 7 a.m.<br><br>Their union, UNITE HERE, is trying to put pressure on Hyatt Hotels Corp. during negotiations to replace Chicago-area contracts that expired almost two years ago. The union represents about 1,800 workers at the Park Hyatt, Hyatt Regency Chicago, Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and Hyatt Regency O’Hare.<br><br>The company has agreed to match wages and benefits spelled out in four-year contracts that UNITE HERE reached this year for Chicago employees of two other hotel chains, Hilton Worldwide and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide Inc.<br><br>UNITE HERE says the Hyatt negotiations are stuck on the company’s ability to outsource work to nonunion firms.<br><br>“If they replace me, it doesn’t matter how good the benefits are because I’ll be out of a job,” says Park Hyatt restaurant server Gabriel Carrasquillo, a picket captain. “I’m HIV-positive so I have a lot of medical expenses. Without these health benefits, I wouldn’t be able to have the care that I have today.”<br><br>UNITE HERE says another contentious point is Hyatt’s housekeeping workloads, which the union calls hazardous. The union funded a peer-reviewed study, published last year in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine, that placed Hyatt fourth among the top five U.S. hotel chains for workplace safety.<br><br>Hyatt responded by commissioning a critique from an occupational health expert who concluded that the study’s authors “have not disrupted the conventional wisdom that housekeeping tasks are not inherently hazardous.”<br><br>Hyatt accuses UNITE HERE of holding up the Chicago talks to pressure the company to recognize the union at hotels in four other cities. “Instead of acting in the best interests of its members, the union is using them to grow its membership,” says Farley Kern, Hyatt’s vice president of corporate communications.<br><br>The strike was the fourth work stoppage to hit a Chicago-area Hyatt since May 2010. Park Hyatt’s reservations desk said the hotel’s 198 rooms were booked solid Thursday morning. Kern insisted the strike would not affect guests because managers were filling in.<br><br>The company's next bargaining session with UNITE HERE is Monday.</p></p> Thu, 21 Jul 2011 12:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/hyatt-employees-hold-one-day-picket-89447 Emanuel: Organized labor to change or lose jobs http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-organized-labor-change-or-lose-jobs-88556 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//story/photo/2011-June/2011-06-30/114218744.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is giving labor leaders a choice: agree to work-rule changes or face 625 layoffs.&nbsp;</p><p>Emanuel says that's the decision on the table as he works to deal with the city's budget crisis.&nbsp;</p><p>The Democrat says he's identified 625 jobs to cut, but he says that won't be necessary if union leaders agree to the changes he's outlined for them. He says those changes are designed to save $20 million, but he didn't give specifics.&nbsp;</p><p>The Chicago Federation of Labor and the Chicago &amp; Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council issued a joint statement on Emanuel's ultimatum. The unions say they're working on ways to save the city money and they hope to present their ideas to Emanuel soon.</p></p> Thu, 30 Jun 2011 14:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/emanuel-organized-labor-change-or-lose-jobs-88556 Wisconsin collective bargaining bill goes into effect http://www.wbez.org/story/wisconsin-collective-bargaining-bill-goes-effect-88482 <p><p>A controversial collective bargaining law goes into effect Wednesday in Wisconsin after months of protests and debate.</p><p>The new state law that brought thousands of demonstrators to the state Capitol cuts pay for public employees by about eight percent. It also strips them of almost all collective bargaining rights, leaving only the right to negotiate wages.</p><p>According to Wisconsin AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer Stephanie Bloomingdale, the unions aren't done fighting.</p><p>"This union-busting measure will not go unanswered," Bloomingdale said. "We are going to continue to fight back in the courts and the streets and in the recall districts this summer."</p><p>Republican Gov. Scott Walker has said the plan will help fix the state's budget deficit.</p><p>Earlier in the month, the law met some legal hurdles. A lower court declared the Wisconsin Legislature had not given enough notice before passing the measure. The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently overturned that decision, allowing the law to take effect on Wednesday.</p></p> Wed, 29 Jun 2011 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/wisconsin-collective-bargaining-bill-goes-effect-88482