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Grocery Teamsters Face Firing And Retaliation For Exercising Their Rights

Workers couldn’t wear a sticker or button, because what if it fell into the fruits and vegetables they packaged for the Anthony Marano Company, a major distributor of produce in Chicago and the greater Midwest for restaurants and grocery chains including Aldi’s, Sysco, and Pete’s Fresh Market? They couldn’t do a red T-shirt day; the temperatures are frigid in the warehouse, and workers must cover themselves in layers to keep warm. But they are allowed to wear hats over their hairnets. Luckily, there was a crafty person on the organizing team. When Latino Teamsters in Local 703 needed to take collective action to build unity and confidence after the company banned them from distributing union leaflets, they created baseball caps—emblazoned with an equestrian Teamster logo and the Chicago city colors (blue, white, and red).

No Cop City Anywhere

Chicago, Illinois and Atlanta, Georgia - A monumental struggle is currently taking place in the Weelaunee Forest in DeKalb County near Atlanta, Georgia. The local government plans to level 85 acres of the forest to build a $90 million police training facility. The natural environment that would be lost is not only a precious recreational resource for Atlanta residents, but a crucial bulwark protecting against flooding and other climate change-related disasters, which are on the rise. Despite city leaders’ commitment to ramming the project through undemocratically, a decentralized campaign known as #StopCopCity is fighting back.

She Refused To Take A Drug Test And Was Fired

Alicia had been an employee of the Rich Products Corporation food processing plant in Crest Hill, Ill. for three years, she says, when her arm was caught in a machine, an injury the company would invoke the next day to justify her abrupt firing. She had worked her way up to the position of lead operator of a machine that makes trays for the frozen pizzas produced at the plant. Rich Products, headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., is a major manufacturer of frozen foods, with annual sales of more than $3.3 billion, making it the 117th largest private company in the United States.

Victory Against Polluter Points Way To Clean, Green, And Fully Funded Schools

Chicago, Illinois - For two years, teachers and staff in my workplace, George Washington High School, helped lead a community campaign to stop a hazardous industrial metal shredder, General Iron, from moving a few blocks from our school. Repeating a historic pattern, city officials facilitated General Iron’s planned move from the wealthy and white Lincoln Park neighborhood where it had operated for decades to the working-class, majority Latino Southeast Side. Our campaign won a major victory when we pressured Mayor Lori Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health into denying the final operating permit for General Iron. It took years of mobilizing, street protest, and a month-long hunger strike to force the mayor to do the right thing. The experience of Chicago Teachers Union members in the #StopGeneralIron campaign highlights the power of union members when we stand shoulder to shoulder with environmental justice activists to demand safe living and working conditions.

Chicago: Community Commission Stops Implementation Of Gang Database

Chicago, Illinois - 60 people observed the latest meeting of the Community Commission for Public Safety and Accountability (CCPSA), January 26 at Olive Harvey College. The agenda included a proposed policy stopping the Chicago Police Department from creating a new gang database; selecting members for the Non-citizens Advisory Council established by the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance; and setting goals for the Chicago PD, the Police Board, and the Civilian Office of Police Accountability. A dozen Police District Council candidates were in attendance. Two, Cherli Montgomery from the 7th District and Eric Russell from the 6th, spoke in the public comments section of the meeting. "This day is historic because someone voted early for District Councils today," Russell exclaimed.

Workers At Howard Brown Health Unionized – Now They’re On Strike

Chicago, Illinois - Recently unionized employees at Howard Brown Health, a nonprofit Chicago health clinic that caters particularly to LGBTQ people, went out on strike Tuesday. Management is also threatening to lay off 15 percent of their workforce, citing “financial concerns.” On December 30, the sixty employees — who had previously been told they would be laid off Tuesday — arrived at work to discover that they had been locked out of their emails and other work software, including at least one therapist who says that they lost access during a call with a patient. The workers were given no advance notice that this would happen, according to the union. A photo of the email from a manager informing the workers of their impending layoff circulated on social media and showed that he didn’t personalize the message, so each email addressed a given employee as “NAME.”

Illinois Will Be The First State To Eliminate Cash Bail

Springfield, Illinois - On January 1, Illinois will become the first state in the country to officially eliminate its cash bail system when the Pretrial Fairness Act goes into effect. Under the new system, a person will only be detained before trial if a judge determines that they pose a threat to others or have a likelihood of being a flight risk. The measure — part of a 2021 omnibus criminal justice reform bill — was the fruit of years of organizing and advocacy work, much of which was led by women in the state who understood that ending money bail is a gender issue. The cash bail system plays a role in the United States’ growing jail population. According to the Prison Policy Initiative, the nation’s jails hold more than 400,000 people awaiting trial, a number that has nearly quadrupled since the 1980s.

Illinois Workers’ Rights Amendment Sets New Bar For Worker Power Policy

Illinois - On election day, Illinois voters approved a constitutional amendment guaranteeing all workers organizing and collective bargaining rights, setting a new high bar for state labor policy at a moment when policymakers should prioritize empowering workers to address historic levels of income inequality and unequal power in our economy. The Illinois Workers’ Rights Amendment adds language to the state constitution affirming that “employees shall have the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing for the purpose of negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions, and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work.” The new clause also specifies that “no law shall be passed that interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively.”

Labor Unionizing Is Now On Track To Be A Constitutional Right In Illinois

Illinois - As companies like Starbucks and Amazon continue their efforts to stop employees from unionizing, voters in Illinois passed a historic measure to safeguard the right to organize in Tuesday’s midterm elections. The Workers’ Rights Amendment (WRA) would enshrine in the Illinois state constitution “the fundamental right [of workers] to organize and to bargain collectively … for the purpose of negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions, and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work.” The amendment also prohibits the state from passing any legislation in the future that interferes with, negates, or diminishes those rights — ensuring Illinois will never enact an anti-union “right-to-work” law like several of its neighboring states have done in recent years, including Wisconsin, Indiana and Kentucky.

The Protest Camp Where Houseless Activists Fight Luxury High Rises

Chicago, Illinois - Isabelle Wright, a resident of protest camp RiseUpTown, puts out a chair for me at the edge of a circle. It’s 10 o’clock on a Friday in September, and people are chatting as their food grills. Occasionally a car pulls up and leaves cases of water, Covid tests or food on a folding table at the front of camp — donations to the over 25 members of this community of houseless people. Many camped together on this stretch of grass next to the roaring DuSable Lake Shore Drive long before they began organizing collectively. When the adjacent Weiss Memorial Hospital parking lot was slated to become luxury apartments, the camp transformed into RiseUpTown. The unhoused residents partnered with local housing justice groups Northside Action for Justice (NA4J), Chicago Union of the Homeless (CUH) and others to protest the role of luxury housing in displacement and homelessness.

North American Wobblies Hold 2022 Organizing Summit

Chicago, Illinois - On the first weekend of October, Wobblies from across North America converged on the grounds of a Marriott hotel in suburban Chicago. The plan for the two-day summit came in the form of several workshops solicited by North America IWW’s Organizing Department Board and suggested by attendees. A total of fourteen Wobblies presented on topics ranging from nonprofits, to tipping, to interviewing IWW members about their organizing. The first workshop I attended was a “Grievance Sort and March on the Boss,” facilitated by Jenni and Louisa of the Organizer Training Committee. We were assigned to small groups of four or five and given a range of grievances, from the mundane (“I don’t like the music that plays at work”) to the potentially life-altering (“my boss makes us work faster and faster regardless of safety”).

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.

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.

We Are Not The First Civilization To Collapse

I am standing atop a 100-foot-high temple mound, the largest known earthwork in the Americas built by prehistoric peoples. The temperatures, in the high 80s, along with the oppressive humidity, have emptied the park of all but a handful of visitors. My shirt is matted with sweat. I look out from the structure—known as Monks Mound — at the flatlands below, with smaller mounds dotting the distance. These earthen mounds, built at a confluence of the Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri rivers, are all that remain of one of the largest pre-Columbian settlements north of Mexico, occupied from around 800 to 1,400 AD by perhaps as many as 20,000 people.
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