WBEZ | unions http://www.wbez.org/tags/unions Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Unions file lawsuit over pension changes http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/unions-file-lawsuit-over-pension-changes-109588 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP92397679629.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">A dozen of Illinois&#39; most powerful public employees&rsquo; unions filed a lawsuit Tuesday, challenging the constitutionality of the controversial new state pension overhaul signed into law in December.</p><p dir="ltr">The plaintiff in the long-expected suit is the We Are One Illinois Coalition, which includes the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and the Illinois Federation of Teachers, among others.</p><p dir="ltr">In all, the organized labor groups say they represent 621,000 members.</p><p dir="ltr">At issue is the pension law passed by the General Assembly and signed by Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn last month. It aims to ease the financial impact of Illinois&rsquo; massive public pension shortfall by scaling back yearly benefit increases and raising retirement ages for younger workers.</p><p dir="ltr">In return, workers would pay slightly less toward their pensions, and advocates say their retirement plans will be more financially secure, even though the pension funds had been shorted by Springfield policy-makers for years.</p><p dir="ltr">But Tuesday&rsquo;s civil complaint argues the new law violates a part of the Illinois Constitution that says pension benefits &ldquo;shall not be diminished or impaired.&rdquo; It also contends that a state employee&rsquo;s pension is a contract, and that the legislation violates the state constitution&rsquo;s Contracts Clause that states no law &ldquo;impairing the obligation of contracts or making an irrevocable grant of special privileges or immunities, shall be passed.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The lawsuit goes on to blame current and previous lawmakers for the current state of finances facing Illinois.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The State chose to forgo funding its pension systems in amounts the State now claims were needed to fully meet the State&rsquo;s annuity obligations,&rdquo; the lawsuit reads. &ldquo;Now, the State expects the members of those systems to carry on their backs the burden of curing the State&rsquo;s longstanding misconduct.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Quinn&#39;s administration quickly defended the law on Tuesday.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;The lawsuits come as no surprise,&quot; said Quinn&#39;s assistant budget director, Abdon Pallasch. &quot;We believe that pension reform is contstitutional and we will defend the interest of taxpayers.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">Tuesday&rsquo;s lawsuit comes on the heels of other similar lawsuits that the Illinois Attorney General&rsquo;s office has asked be consolidated into one case to be heard in Cook County. But the We Are One Illinois coalition filed its case in Sangamon County, home to Springfield, the state Capitol, and thousands of public workers.</p><p dir="ltr">The difference in location could prove significant in the outcome of the case. House Speaker Michael Madigan takes credit for negotiating the compromise and putting the needed votes on the bill for approval. Critics of the law express concerns about whether the suit could come before a Cook County judge who has connections to Madigan, who also serves as the chairman of the state&rsquo;s Democratic Party.</p><p dir="ltr">The case is expected to eventually be argued in front of the Illinois State Supreme Court.</p><p dir="ltr">Recent studies have shown the legislation may not save the state as much money as originally projected. Supporters have said the pension overhaul will save $160 billion over the next 30 years. That number may have been exaggerated, and a report from the University of Illinois projected Illinois will still have a $13 billion deficit 10 years from now even if the pension law takes full effect.</p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 13:26:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/politics/unions-file-lawsuit-over-pension-changes-109588 Morning Shift: Illinois' pension crisis could have cure-or face another hurdle http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-04/morning-shift-illinois-pension-crisis-could-have-cure <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/by jimmywayne.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois lawmakers Tuesday are voting on a deal that would aim to fix the state&#39;s pension crisis. Who&#39;s happy with the deal and who thinks it falls short? We take the pulse. Plus, documenting the struggles of a small Indiana town through the eyes of the high school basketball team.</p><div class="storify"><iframe src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-illinois-pension-crisis-could-have-c/embed?header=false" width="100%" height=750 frameborder=no allowtransparency=true></iframe><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-illinois-pension-crisis-could-have-c.js?header=false"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/morning-shift-illinois-pension-crisis-could-have-c" target="_blank">View the story "Morning Shift: Illinois' pension crisis could have cure-or face another hurdle" on Storify</a>]</noscript></div></p> Wed, 04 Dec 2013 08:23:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift-tony-sarabia/2013-12-04/morning-shift-illinois-pension-crisis-could-have-cure Laid-off workers open their own factory http://www.wbez.org/news/laid-workers-open-their-own-factory-107118 <p><p>A few hours before the grand opening of New Era Windows Cooperative, Melvin &quot;Ricky&quot; Maclin is standing&nbsp; in the middle of the factory, beaming.</p><p>&quot;All of this is ours,&quot; he said. &quot;We have our own trucks, our own forklifts. It&rsquo;s a whole new world.&quot;</p><p>Maclin&rsquo;s title is the same as the 17 other people who work here: worker-owner. Together, they vote on decisions about the factory. He proudly shows the place where they jackhammered the floor to install water pipes. He says the workers didn&rsquo;t know how to complete some of the steps to set up the factory, but they learned. They also took classes on business management.</p><p>&quot;At first we thought we were just lowly factory workers,&quot; Maclin said. &quot;But now we see we have so much more in us.&quot;</p><p>Maclin says that being a worker-owner means that for the first time in his life he has control over what happens to him. Back in 2008, when the factory was closed for the first time, he was devastated.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/New%20Era%202.jpg" style="height: 169px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Melvin “Ricky” Maclin holds a postcard advertising New Era’s line of windows named after their union. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" />&quot;This was right before Christmas,&quot; he said. &quot;I didn&rsquo;t even know if I was going to be able to buy my grandkids a doll for Christmas. It was a dark time, it was like we were in a free fall.&quot;</div><p>Maclin and the other workers of Republic Window occupied the closed factory. They were later paid the severance wages that they were legally entitled to receive. A California- based company called Serious Materials bought the factory and hired back the workers. But not long after, they also closed down.</p><p>The workers decided to do things differently that time and buy the factory themselves.</p><p>Working World, the organization that provided them with a credit line to help open the cooperative, says it would cost most companies $5 million to open. It cost New Era less than $650,000.</p><p>The first windows made by the factory will be titled the &ldquo;1110 Series&rdquo; after their union, United Electric 1110.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h" target="_blank">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Fri, 10 May 2013 07:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/laid-workers-open-their-own-factory-107118 Chicago mail carriers protest proposed cuts of Saturday delivery http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-mail-carriers-protest-proposed-cuts-saturday-delivery-105595 <p><p>More than 100 postal workers rallied in Chicago Monday to protest a proposed plan to eliminate Saturday mail delivery. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/postal-service-cut-saturday-mail-trim-costs-105372" target="_blank">announced the cuts earlier this month</a>, and has since gone head-to-head with members of Congress over whether the U.S. Postal Service is authorized to cut six-day service without congressional approval.</p><p>Postal carriers have responded with protests across the country. In front of a post office in Chicago&rsquo;s Bronzeville neighborhood Monday, mailmen spilled out onto the street holding signs and calling on Postmaster Donahoe to step down.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79829709" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a lot of other cost-cutting measures they can try that they haven&rsquo;t even tried yet,&rdquo; said Janet Rendant, who has been a mail carrier for 25 years. &ldquo;At least give us a chance, give the public a chance.&rdquo;</p><p>She and others accused the post office of cutting union jobs before seeking out other savings, and said they don&rsquo;t believe cutting mail service will actually save the post office much money because it will also result in a loss of customers.</p><p>Mark Reynolds, who represents the postal service in Chicago, said they&rsquo;ve already <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/postal-service-close-naperville-processing-center-96657" target="_blank">closed facilities</a> and consolidated rural post offices to cut costs.</p><p>&ldquo;Obviously these are very difficult decisions that we have to make,&rdquo; said Reynolds. &ldquo;But what we&rsquo;re trying to do is to maintain customer service to the extent possible.&rdquo;<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F79853510" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The U.S. Postal Service ended its 2012 fiscal year nearly $16 billion in the hole, and they say cutting Saturday delivery will save them $1.9 billion annually. The <a href="http://deliveringforamerica.com/" target="_blank">National Association of Letter Carriers</a> believes Congress can address the deficit by getting rid of a requirement that the postal service pre-fund its pension obligations.</p><p>A Congressional mandate that requires the post office to deliver mail six days a week expires March 27, but the cut to Saturday delivery would not go into effect until August. Delivery to PO boxes and package delivery would continue on Saturdays. Still, some <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/13/us/saturday-mail-delivery-cut-is-subject-of-senate-hearing.html" target="_blank">congressmen think the postmaster general is outside of his purview</a>, claiming any change to delivery days must be approved by Congress.</p><p>Mark Osier, a postal carrier for 38 years, attended the Chicago protest because he was concerned about younger postal workers&rsquo; jobs &ndash; and about his postal customers.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7033_002-scr%20%281%29.JPG" style="float: right; height: 310px; width: 310px;" title="Mark Osier has been a postal carrier for 38 years. (WBEZ/Lewis Wallace)" /></p><p>&ldquo;People look forward to the mailman coming,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Especially older people. It&rsquo;s their day&rsquo;s event.&rdquo;</p><p>The postal service paid for <a href="http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2013/pr13_024.htm" target="_blank">a survey</a> in February that found that 80 percent of Americans favor cutting mail delivery to five days a week.</p><p>But Osier said six-day postal delivery is symbolic. He and others at the protest say they believe cutting Saturday service marks the beginning of the end for postal workers, and for a long-standing tradition of unionized postal delivery jobs.</p><p>&ldquo;This is an institution, this is as American as apple pie,&rdquo; Osier said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve gotta keep it going.&rdquo;</p><p>Follow <a href="https://twitter.com/LewisPants" target="_blank">Lewis Wallace on Twitter.</a></p></p> Mon, 18 Feb 2013 16:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-mail-carriers-protest-proposed-cuts-saturday-delivery-105595 Unions propose paying more to fix pension crisis http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-propose-paying-more-fix-pension-crisis-104472 <p><p>Public employees say they&#39;re willing to chip in more of their salaries toward their retirements if the state of Illinois can guarantee that it&#39;ll fully fund state pensions.</p><p>A coalition of unions called We Are One Illinois released a study Wednesday analyzing two pension proposals before lawmakers. It also proposes recommendations.</p><p>The group is made up of teachers, fire fighters, police officers, government workers and laborers. It says they&#39;re willing to pay another 2 percent, or about $350 million, of their salaries if the state can guarantee payments.</p><p>Illinois has the worst-in-the-nation pension problem with more than $95 billion in unfunded liability.</p><p>The group&#39;s other recommendations include closing tax loopholes to bring in $2 billion in revenue and calling for a pension summit next month with union participation.</p></p> Wed, 19 Dec 2012 11:07:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-propose-paying-more-fix-pension-crisis-104472 Chicago makes deal with painters union to help put injured painters back to work http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-makes-deal-painters-union-help-put-injured-painters-back-work-104273 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/flickr_rachaelvoorhees.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Chicago has inked an agreement with the local painters union to allow injured employees to return to work more quickly, painting fire hydrants and curbs.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement Friday the Transitional Return to Work agreement with the local Painters District Council No. 14 will save money while providing better services to city residents.</p><p>Currently, the city&#39;s water management department contracts with outside vendors to paint the curbs and hydrants.</p><p>Meanwhile, injured painters who cannot perform their original assignments are recovering at home.</p><p>The new agreement will establish a work crew of up to two of those injured painters, provided they are able to do the work.</p><p>Emanuel said the Transitional Return to Work program could be a model for other unions.</p></p> Sat, 08 Dec 2012 18:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-makes-deal-painters-union-help-put-injured-painters-back-work-104273 Labor groups, employees protest during Black Friday at Chicago Wal-Mart stores http://www.wbez.org/news/labor-groups-employees-protest-during-black-friday-chicago-wal-mart-stores-103982 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/walmart_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hundreds of protesters gathered outside Chicago area Wal-Marts today as holiday shoppers crowded the stores for Black Friday sales.</p><p>A group of Wal-Mart employees called the Organization United for Respect at Wal-Mart (OUR Walmart) transported protesters around the city in buses. Protesters want the nation&rsquo;s largest retailer to offer more dependable schedules, better health care and higher wages to employees.</p><p>Both sides have <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/17/walmart-union-idUSL1E8MGBV920121117" target="_blank">filed complaints</a> with the National Labor Relations Board as part of an their ongoing dispute.</p><p>Park Forest resident and Wal-Mart employee Marie Kanger-Born said she hopes the Black Friday protests will give the movement momentum.</p><p>&quot;The rest of the country has started to take notice of the plight of the Wal-Mart workers,&quot; Kanger-Born said. &quot;This is America. Everyone should be able to work one job and make a decent livable wage.&quot;</p><p>Chicago resident and Sam&#39;s Club employee Rosetta Brown said she has protested how Wal-Mart treats workers like her for more than a decade.</p><p>&quot;We&rsquo;re just tired of taking it and we need to be heard,&quot; Brown said. &quot;I mean, a person should be able to exercise their right to vote if they want a union. The workers are speaking out saying we need help and we&rsquo;re coming together. What&rsquo;s wrong with that? Wal-Mart should be listening and having a meeting with all of us.&quot;</p><p>Wal-Mart spokesman Kory Lundberg didn&#39;t address the protesters concerns directly but said Friday morning that the protests were not getting in the way of holiday shoppers. The company was on track to have its best-selling Black Friday event ever.</p><p>&quot;Last night during our Black Friday events we had only 26 protests occurred at stores (nationwide) and many of them did not include any Wal-Mart associates,&quot; Lundberg said.</p><p>He said Wal-Mart estimated that fewer than 50 associates participated in protests nationwide on Friday night.</p><p>&quot;In fact this year, roughly the same number of associates missed their scheduled shift as last year,&quot; Lundberg said.</p></p> Fri, 23 Nov 2012 09:03:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/labor-groups-employees-protest-during-black-friday-chicago-wal-mart-stores-103982 Chicago Public Schools gets contract with SEIU http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-public-schools-gets-contract-seiu-99770 <p><p>Chicago Public Schools has reached a tentative contract agreement with its second largest union.</p><p>The school system announced early Monday that it&#39;s negotiated a three-year contract with the Service Employees International Union Local 73. That union represents about 5,500 CPS employees, including custodians, special education classroom assistants, school bus aides and security workers.</p><p>Chicago Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard says he&#39;s grateful to the union&#39;s negotiators and members for their work during the talks.</p><p>SEIU Local 73 President Christine Boardman says the union will recommend the contract to its membership for a ratification vote. Boardman says the contract contains job security provisions that the union considered a top concern.</p><p>Negotiations continue between the district and the Chicago Teachers Union.</p></p> Mon, 04 Jun 2012 08:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-public-schools-gets-contract-seiu-99770 Loretto Hospital registered nurses vote to unionize http://www.wbez.org/news/loretto-hospital-registered-nurses-vote-unionize-99670 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/LorettoHospital2.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px; float: left; width: 248px; height: 328px;" title="The balloting enables the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to negotiate for 144 RNs at the hospital’s main facility, 645 S. Central Ave. (Flickr/Zol87)" /></div><p><em>Updated June 6, 2012, to include hospital management comments.</em></p><p>A union that has been trying for a decade to gain a foothold among hospital nurses in Chicago has won an election to represent 144 of them in the Austin neighborhood.<br /><br />Registered nurses at Loretto Hospital voted 80-37 to bring in Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The two-day vote, which ended Saturday, allows AFSCME to negotiate the pay, benefits and work conditions of RNs at the hospital&rsquo;s main facility, 645 S. Central Ave.<br /><br />&ldquo;If you don&rsquo;t have happy nurses, you don&rsquo;t have happy patients,&rdquo; said Kora Fields, an RN in the hospital&rsquo;s behavioral health unit who says she voted for the union.<br /><br />&ldquo;I live in the Austin area,&rdquo; Fields said. &ldquo;I grew up in the Austin area. My family comes to this hospital. My friends are treated here. I do love Loretto Hospital. But there needs to be increases in wages and we need to be respected as the professionals that we are.&rdquo;<br /><br />An AFSCME statement says pro-union nurses defied an &ldquo;aggressive anti-union campaign&rdquo; by Loretto management. The statement praises the nurses for their &ldquo;unwavering determination to improve patient care and ensure fair treatment on the job.&rdquo;<br /><br />Loretto spokesman Jim Waller called the hospital&rsquo;s nurse wages &ldquo;competitive for the marketplace&rdquo; and denied that management campaigned against AFSCME. &ldquo;We were just being clear what being in a union is and that what&rsquo;s paramount to us is patient safety,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Loretto, a 187-bed nonprofit facility, has helped lead an effort this year to exempt Illinois safety-net hospitals from proposed state Medicaid payment cuts.<br /><br />The vote, supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, makes Loretto the second Chicago hospital whose registered nurses have unionized this year. In January, National Nurses United won an election to represent 150 at the South Side&rsquo;s Jackson Park Hospital and Medical Center.<br /><br />Until the Jackson Park election, unions had made little progress in Chicago-area hospitals except those owned by university and government entities.</p><p>The Loretto vote marks a rebound for AFSCME, which lost a bruising election battle last summer at the Northwest Side&rsquo;s Our Lady of the Resurrection Medical Center. RNs at that hospital voted against AFSCME after more than eight years of campaigning by the union.</p></p> Wed, 30 May 2012 16:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/loretto-hospital-registered-nurses-vote-unionize-99670 Less pay, more training for new streets and sanitation workers http://www.wbez.org/news/less-pay-more-training-new-streets-and-sanitation-workers-98723 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/1162388614_c10a05f60f_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>New Chicago streets and sanitation workers will see more training but less pay under a new agreement between the city and a major labor union.</p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the agreement Tuesday with Laborers Union 1001. He said the changes are projected to save taxpayers more than $30 million dollars over the next six years.</p><p>From now on, new hires for the city's Department of Streets and Sanitation won't just be trained for one job, like rodent control. They'll also learn how to remove graffiti, trim trees,sweep the streets, hang signs and more. On average, the city hires 50 new workers for that department each year. Emanuel said the changes would make things more flexible for superintendents that need more hands on deck for a particular job.</p><p>"This is a new day. We have to write new rules. We can't get stuck in the old way," Emanuel said.</p><p>New hires will start at $20 dollars per hour, which is $13 dollars less than the current entry rate. Their rates per job will also change. Currently, a street and sanitation worker is paid the same rate, no matter which job he or she completes. The new rules state that someone who trims trees, for example, won't be paid the tree-trimming rate if he or she is needed for street sweeping.</p><p>Lou Phillips, head of Local 1001 said the plan was a win-win-win, especially with the city's tough budget situation.</p><p>"My service is providing work for my members and that's what I have to do. So if we need to be more competitive to fit into the scheme of things, then we need to be more competitive. We need to step up and do the right thing," Phillips said.</p><p>The new agreement won't affect any current employees in the union. They are still covered by a previously negotiated contract that runs for five more years. Phillips said he'd be talking to members this evening about the new rules.</p></p> Tue, 01 May 2012 16:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/less-pay-more-training-new-streets-and-sanitation-workers-98723