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Archive for the ‘Strike’ Category

After spontaneous strike to protest wage issues, textile workers’ partnership with community organization and union leads to victory

As national union rates hit all-time low, victory shows promise of community partnerships, immigrant organizing for reversing labor’s decline

The mostly Latino immigrant packers and machine operators of Artistic Stitches, Inc., an embroidery company with contracts with some of Chicago’s largest businesses like Chase Bank, declared victory Thursday after a job walkout in protest of wage issues and an innovative community organization/union partnership led to a successful union drive.

At a time when American union rates have reached their lowest in nearly a century, the campaign shows the potential for the labor movement’s revitalization with innovative new organizing strategies.

“Union membership is at an all-time low, but it doesn’t have to be that way,” said Jorge Mujica, organizer for Arise Chicago.

Jorge Mujica, Arise Chicago and Richard Monje, Workers United

Jorge Mujica, Arise Chicago and Richard Monje, Workers United

Concerns about job security and possible violations of Illinois minimum wage law led the workforce to walk off the job the day after Thanksgiving. Workers were laid off near the end of every year, then rehired as apprentices, at apprenticeship wages–despite the fact that many had worked at the factory for years. They did not receive any holiday pay despite working through major holidays like Thanksgiving, which proved to be the last straw for workers who walked off the job the day after Thanksgiving this year.

“We decided to walk off the job because management said they weren’t going to pay us holiday pay for working on Thanksgiving,” said Juana Cortez, a worker at the factory.

The mostly immigrant work force stood together to demand they be treated with dignity and respect on the job.

“Now, we can defend ourselves from the mistreatment, have paid vacations and holidays. Now, there can be equality,” said Juana Cortez.

Workers approached the interfaith workers’ rights organization Arise Chicago, who assisted in organizing co-workers to know their rights on the job. Selecting Workers United as their union with which to affiliate, the workers petitioned the National Labor Relations Board for an election. Last week, the workers won by a decisive majority and now have union representation.

“The relationship between the workers center and our union has been perfect,” said Margarita Klein, staff director of Workers United.  “And this is only the beginning.”

Cortez had the following message for other workers in a situation like hers: “If something unjust is happening to you at work, there are organizations like Arise and Workers United that can help protect you.”

The campaign’s success shows the potential for labor’s revitalization at a time when it is in deep distress. Recently released figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that union membership is at its lowest percentage in nearly a century, leading many commentators to declare that labor is continuing to die a slow, agonizing death. The Stitches workers’ victory demonstrates this is not the case.

“If you are only thinking of traditional campaigns and old forms of worker organization, you may be disappointed. But when you adopt a broader view, like our point of view on the ground, you see signs of hope and progress. Workers organizing in nontraditional sectors, who are self-organizing, who are striking first–successful campaigns like these show that there are actually very promising signs of life to be found in the movement. Labor can turn the corner with nontraditional organizing strategies like the ones these workers used,” said Adam Kader, Arise Chicago Worker Center program director.

The rise of alternative organizing strategies nationally shows that many workers want to organize.

“It isn’t that workers don’t want representation,” said Kader. “Workers are clearly hungry for a voice on the job. Dozens of low-wage sector workers contact Arise Chicago’s Worker Center office daily, detailing incredible amounts of abuse. But many times, these workers don’t have access to unions.  Workers, like those at Stitches did, reach out to different organizations–often churches–for help, who are connected to Arise Chicago. When community groups like Arise work together with unions like Workers United, we can help bridge that gap so workers’ rights can be respected on the job.”

In addition, promising gains have been made for labor nationally in states like California, where, over the last year, union membership has actually increased by 110,000 members, largely because unions have taken the organizing of immigrant workers seriously.

For a full revitalization of the labor movement, new member organizing must be paired with political activity and advocacy for stronger public policies to protect workers.  The Stitches workers’ win comes on the heels of a major victory for workers in Chicago’s city council: the passage of anti-wage theft legislation that makes it possible for the city of Chicago to revoke business licenses of businesses found guilty of wage theft. Arise worked with Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th ward), the bill’s sponsor, to draft the bill.

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THURSDAY 9/13/12

TIFs are for Kids

Penny Pritzker sits on the Board of both Hyatt Hotels and Chicago Public Schools (CPS). As a Hyatt Board Member, she agreed to the construction of a Hyatt Hotel using $5.2 million dollars of Tax Increment Financing (TIF). This money otherwise could have helped provide for students’ basic needs like libraries and text books.

As a CPS Board Member, she failed to prioritize students and has allowed hundreds of millions of CPS dollars to be siphoned off to be given to wealthy developers and corporate headquarters via the TIF system.

The 3:30 action will call on leaders like Ms. Pritzker and the CPS Board to put children first and to use TIF funds for schools, libraries and parks rather than tax breaks to the 1%.  The wider community will join striking teachers who are fighting to protect our children and provide the education they deserve.

Thursday, September 12

3:30pm – Picket at Hyatt Regency

4:45pm – Rally and Press Conference at Park at the corner of Congress Parkway & Michigan Ave

RSVP to the Facebook Event

FRIDAY 9/14/12Religious Support for Teachers

Religious leaders organized by Arise Chicago will join other community leaders at a press conference at City Hall outside the mayor’s office showing the steadfast support for the Chicago Teachers Union who is calling for:

-public education to remain public

-quality schools for all students

-more resources for neighborhood school

-a recall system that will support African American and Latinos  .  teachers in our schools

Religious leaders are invited to attend and to wear prayer shawls, stoles, collars, or other items of your tradition.

Friday September 14, 10:00am

City Hall, 5th floor

 

SATURDAY 9/15/12What Teacher Solidarity Looks Like

This Saturday, the Chicago Teachers Union is asking for all allies to join in a mass rally to keep public education public.

The 30,000 teachers, school social workers, clerks, vision and hearing testers, school nurses, teaching assistants, counselors, and other school professionals of the Chicago Teachers Union are standing strong to defend public education from test pushers, privatizers, and a national onset of big money interest groups trying to push education back to the days before teachers had unions. Around the country and even the world, this struggle is being recognized as the front line of resistance to the corporate education agenda.

Educators and supporters from across the country have pledged to travel to Chicago in solidarity to rally.

Will you join us?  Help us show the world what solidarity looks like! Wear red or your Arise Chicago t-shirt.Let the CTU know you will be there by registering here.

Saturday, September 15

12:00pm noon

Union Park at Ashland and Lake

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The Chicago Teachers Union has been attempting to negotiate a fair contract since last November.  Teachers have been working without a contract since June 30.  Should there be a strike, it is not simply about compensation, although the Board of Education has proposed combining wage and health care proposals, resulting in a net loss in salary.  Although legally the union can only strike over compensation issues, this strike is very much a fight to defend a quality public education for every Chicago student.  It is, as CTU President Karen Lewis has declared, a struggle “for the soul of public education.”

In ten months of negotiation, the Board has refused to negotiate over core union issues that would create, as the union’s hallmark study declared “The Schools that Chicago’s Students Deserve.”   The Board refuses to negotiate over classroom size; over having a nurse and social worker in every school; over having a library in every school; and over funding neighborhood schools instead of its drive to privatize public education through creating scores of non-union charter schools where teachers and parents have no voice. This is a strike that teachers and advocates of workers’ rights and supporters of public education across the nation are closely watching.

On the first day of the strike, thousands of teachers picketed outside their schools in the morning. 

In the afternoon, over 10,000 teachers and allies marched in downtown Chicago, rallying at CPS, and then surrounding City Hall.

Arise Chicago staff and members have been supporting the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign at strike headquarters, making banners, marching with teachers, and more.  See how to get involved below.

What You Can Do to Support Teachers:

  • Each day of the strike, you can join teachers on the picket lines at every school from 6:30 to 10:30am.  Click here for list sorted by school or by zip code.
  • Volunteer at the Chicago Teachers Union Strike Solidarity Center at Teamsters Auditorium at 300 S. Ashland to make signs and banners, organize donations, help with sign distribution, sign-up to leaflet materials, help with banner drops, etc. Call Luke for details: 616-745-5134 or just show up.
  • Join teachers and supporters to rally and march every day. Check out CTU’s Strike Central for daily action updates.
  • Offer public prayers for and blessings of teachers in your house of worship and invite a teacher to speak.
  • Pick up your CTU support signs at Teamsters Auditorium at 300 S. Ashland to put in your window or yard and distribute signs to coffee shops, work places, etc.  For those driving by, pick-up on Van Buren, just west of Ashland, is possible without getting out of your car.
  • Call Gus or Daisy at Primo’s Pizza at (312) 243-1052, a locally owned and teacher-friendly restaurant to make a donation by credit card so teachers and supporters at the Solidarity Center can have pizza, pasta, and salads delivered to them.  Consider pooling donations with others and making just one phone call.  Please try not call during peak hours of 11:45 to 1:15.  Donations have already been called in from around the country!
  • Call Mayor Emanuel at 312-744-330 or CPS CEO Brizard at 773-553-1500 to tell them that CPS students deserve smaller class sizes, more libraries and computers, and that the teachers deserve a fair contract.
  • Wear red every day, even if you are not able to join the marches.
  • Sign up to get the latest news:
  • Facebook:  www.facebook.com/ChicagoTeachersSolidarity
  • Twitter: @CTSCampaign or @AriseChicago
  • Website: ctscampaign.weebly.com
  • CTU Strike Central
  • Questions?  Email:  ChicagoTeachersSolidarity@gmail. com
  • Text message updates: text @ctsc2012 to 23559 to receive strike and picket updates

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