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Before Your Strike Vote, Consider A Practice Strike Vote

Chicago, Illinois - Leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union were pretty sure they would need to strike the school district in the fall of 2012 to win what students and educators deserved. But they had come into office only two years before, and begun helping members organize themselves from the bottom up. They needed to find out just how willing and able members were to strike. The state legislature had deliberately made it hard for Chicago teachers to walk out. In 2011 it passed a bill requiring CTU to get yes votes from 75 percent of all members (not just of those voting) before calling a strike. This was supposed to be impossible. “In effect they wouldn’t have the ability to strike,” gloated Jonah Edelman of the corporate “reform” group Stand for Children, which pushed for this rule. Edelman’s group had researched past contract votes and found 48 percent was the greatest share of the membership CTU had been able to muster.

A Land Deal Benefiting A Billionaire’s Soccer Team Is Muscled Through

Chicago, Illinois - Citing years of broken promises to build affordable homes, a Chicago City Council committee rejected a plan to lease public housing land to a professional soccer team owned by a billionaire ally of Mayor Lori Lightfoot. That was on Tuesday. Less than a day later, allies of the mayor called a do-over and reversed the vote. The full City Council then voted Wednesday to approve a zoning change needed to let the Chicago Fire soccer team build a practice facility on the 26-acre site. A June story by ProPublica detailed how the land was once part of the ABLA Homes, a public housing development on the Near West Side where 3,600 families lived. After demolishing most of the ABLA buildings and displacing thousands of people, the Chicago Housing Authority promised to build more than 2,400 new homes in the area. So far, it has finished fewer than a third of them.

The Strike That Started The Red Wave

In 2012, I joined thousands of my fellow public school teachers in Chicago and walked off the job. After facing 30 years of corporate education “reform” that demonized teachers and led to massive privatization of public schools across the United States, teachers everywhere were ready to fight back. For many of us in Chicago, ahead of the 2012 strike, political developments had shown a range of possibilities for what that fighting back could look like. We had watched intently as protesters took over plazas in Tahrir Square to demand the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as well as the crowds occupying the Wisconsin statehouse to oppose Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-union Act 10.

Ten Years Ago, Chicago Teachers Gave Us All A Jolt Of Hope

If you feel like your union needs a jump-start—whether you’re a longtime shop steward or just started your first union job—this book is for you. The impulse you have (“This union could be stronger and better, and I want to help change it”) makes you part of a long tradition—what we at Labor Notes affectionately call the trouble-making wing of the labor movement. One basic principle unites us troublemakers. We believe democracy, meaning broad member participation at every level of the union, is the heart of union power. The Chicago Teachers Union’s 2012 strike didn’t just put the union on the map; it gave a jolt of hope to the whole labor movement.

Chicago: Election Season Begins For Police Accountability Councils

Chicago, IL - Chicago saw two developments this past week in the struggle for democratic control of the police by the Black and Latino communities in Chicago. First, after a long delay, Mayor Lori Lightfoot appointed the interim Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA). This was created out of the passage of historic legislation in 2021, Empowering Communities for Public Safety (ECPS), the most democratic legislation for police accountability in the country. Second, election season began on August 30, when candidates for municipal office can start circulating petitions to get on the ballot in February 2023. The February ballot will include first-in-the-country police district council elections.

Teachers Suspect Mayor Tried To Fire Them For Opposing New Scrapyard

Chicago, Illinois - In late July, Lauren Bianchi and Chuck Stark, two teachers at George Washington High School on the Southeast Side of Chicago, were on the verge of losing their jobs. In what Chicago Teachers Union officers suspect was an act of retaliation from Mayor Lori Lightfoot, Chicago Public Schools recommended that Bianchi and Stark be fired for their involvement in the student-, teacher-, and community-led effort to stop the relocation of the General Iron metal shredder from the wealthy Northside neighborhood of Lincoln Park to a site half a mile from their school. With the union and their community behind them, though, the Chicago Board of Education issued a stunning rejection of Chicago Public Schools officials’ recommendation to fire the two teachers.

Intelligentsia Workers Vote To Unionize

Chicago, Illinois- Managers at Intelligentsia Coffee closed their five Chicago stores two hours early July 5 to call its cafe workers to a mandatory meeting. A month earlier, baristas had filed for a union representation election with the National Labor Relations Board, hoping to join International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1220 (IBEW).Management sent anti-union mailers to employees in response, using the slogan, “Be Curious.” Intelligentsia CEO James McLaughlin told workers they had no need for a union because they were treated so well already. Managers refused to answer any of the workers’ questions. “They said they couldn’t take questions because of NLRB rules, that they had to have a script of everything they said so they could submit that to the NLRB if they needed to,” says Intelligentsia barista Jordan Parshall.

​​​​​​​You Don’t Need A Key If You Can Change The Locks

Chicago, Illinois - On Friday morning, August 5th, we threw a party for our neighbors and community outside of a yellow slat-board 4-bedroom on a quiet residential block. An anticipatory buzz was in the air as about 35 people: radicals from homeless encampments, anarchist affinity groups, Maoist pre-party formations, organizations like Chicago Union of the Homeless and the Young Lords, as well as sympathetic neighbors – milled about playing music, painting cardboard signs, fussing over the food distro table, and dropping banners from second-story windows. The occasion? The re-occupation of our home after an illegal lockout the week prior. This celebration was the culmination of a week of agitation against the property management company, scheduled for the very hour they’d announced their intent to change the locks once and for all.

West Chicago Is Cleaning Up The Last Of Its Nuclear Contamination

Sandra Arzola was relaxing in her West Chicago home one weekend in 1995, when she heard a knock at the door. Recently married, she shared the gray duplex with her husband, mom and sister, and family members were constantly coming and going. But when Sandra answered the door that day, what she learned would change how she looked at her home and suburban community forever. At the door was a woman representing Envirocon, an environmental cleanup company. There was thorium on the family’s property, the woman said, and if it was OK with them, workers were coming to remove it. It was the first time Sandra had heard of thorium. “It took me by left field,” she said. “But [the representative] made it sound like everything was going to be fine.”

Chicago: Movement Forces The Release Of Chicago Police Torture Survivors

A series of victories was won in the past month by the movement to free survivors of torture and wrongful conviction at the hands of Chicago Police Department. Clayborn Smith, Marcellous Pittman, Juan Hernandez, Rosendo Hernandez, Arthur Almendarez, John Galvan, Eruby Abrego, Jeremiah Cain, David Gecht and David Colon have all had historic judgments in their cases. In the case of Clayborn Smith, a decision by the Illinois Appellate Court authored by Justice Cynthia Cobbs reversed the decision of Circuit Court Judge Alfredo Maldonado, finding that Detectives Kenneth Boudreau, John Halloran and James O’Brien had tortured Clayborn Smith into his confession. They granted him a new trial. In turn, Judge Maldonado found, in the case of Marcellous Pittman, that his tortured confession at the hands of Halloran and O’Brien was inadmissible. Marcellous Pittman also had the charges against him dropped by the state's attorney's office. Within the written decisions by each of these judges, it was laid out plainly that these detectives with a history of torture are not credible and should not be called as witnesses.

Chicago Mandated Contracts For Domestic Workers

Chicago, Illinois - As of Jan. 1, 2022, a new ordinance took effect in Chicago aimed at bringing much-needed accountability to an industry that has been, by and large, treated as part of the informal economy: domestic work. Domestic work covers a range of jobs, from nannies and home-caregivers to home cleaners, but domestic workers themselves—the majority of whom are people of color and the vast majority of whom are women—are not protected by most labor laws and are frequently subjected to rampant wage theft and harassment. The Chicago ordinance requires employers to provide workers, regardless of their immigration status, with written contracts codifying mutually agreed terms of employment, including wages, work schedule, and scope of responsibilities.

UPS Workers Protest Firing Of Teamsters Steward

Chicago, Illinois - UPS workers represented by Teamsters Local 705 are fired up after Anthony Taylor, a union steward, was terminated this week without just cause. More than 40 drivers and loaders gathered in front of the building entrance at 1400 S Jefferson Street before their shift began on the morning of June 23. The context for the firing and the rally is the beginning of negotiations in August for the contract which expires July 31, 2023. After being sold out by the Hoffa leadership in 2018, followed by a victory with the election of a new Teamsters leadership, members are bent on making gains. After his fellow steward was terminated, Steward Sean Orr spoke out against the company’s forced excessive overtime, ignoring workers’ contractual rights to reduce overtime, as well as more senior drivers being denied the routes they choose.

Chicago Students Want Police Out Of Their Schools

Chicago, Illinois - On June 2, 250 students at Little Village Lawndale High School (LVLHS) in Chicago walked out of school to demand “Police out!” They marched through Little Village, which is the largest Latino neighborhood in Chicago, to the North Lawndale neighborhood, which is a Black community. The protest was organized by the LVLHS FightBack student group, which called for “Black and Brown Unity.” Other demands raised by the students included equitable funding for all four schools. They explained there are four separate schools within one building. The school which has a predominantly Black student body receives less funding per student than the other three. They also want an end to punitive policies on students. They explained that they want outreach workers and community violence prevention specialists in their schools.

Intelligentsia Coffee Workers Join Starbucks And Colectivo In Unionizing

Chicago, Illinois - As Starbucks Workers United racks up victory after victory in union elections across the country, workers at Intelligentsia Coffee — a small, specialty coffee company based in Chicago — are also aiming to improve their pay and working conditions by unionizing. Last week, dozens of workers at Intelligentsia’s five Chicago cafes and roasting works center filed for a union representation election with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). They are seeking to organize with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1220, a union they’ve been in contact with since November. Intelligentsia also has cafes in Los Angeles, Boston, New York and Austin, Texas. So far, the union effort is limited to Chicago.

Labor Notes Conference 2022: It’s Gonna Be Big

This year’s Labor Notes Conference (June 17-19, Chicago) will be one for the record books. About 4,000 people are coming—more than ever before—after a long wait. There’s plenty to celebrate this year, starting with phenomenal new organizing wins at Starbucks and Amazon. Dozens of shop floor organizers from both companies will be there, including plenary speakers Amazon Labor Union President Chris Smalls (“We want to thank Jeff Bezos for going to space, because while he was up there we were organizing a union”) and Michelle Eisen of Starbucks Workers United. Conference-goers will hear firsthand from Amazon and Starbucks workers in many workshops. But they’re coming not only to inspire the rest of us but also to connect with their co-workers across the country and make big plans.
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