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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:55pm
Wed Aug 5, 2015

Housekeepers Call For Workplace Safety Improvements At Hotel Monaco Chicago

Housekeepers at the Hotel Monaco Chicago say the workplace pain they experience is impacting their quality of life.

The housekeepers, most of whom are immigrant women, took their concerns to a picket line outside the hotel Friday, urging management to improve working conditions. The non-unionized housekeepers at Hotel Monaco, 225 N. Wabash Ave., saw support from UNITE HERE Local 1 leaders and Chicago City Clerk Susana Mendoza. 

Hotel Monaco housekeepers say their strenuous workloads are taking a toll on their bodies. 

"Most of the pain comes from bending down to make all the beds, and I have to carry all (the) dirty linen on my back," housekeeper Maricela Gonzalez, 44, said through a translator. "I have a lot of pain in my back."

Quick Hit
by Op-Ed
3:51pm
Tue Jul 28, 2015

Op-Ed: NY Wage Board Raises For 200,000 Fast Food Workers - Another Legacy of Jon Kest, Famed New York Organizer

The following was written by Keith Kelleher, president of SEIU* Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas.

Breakfasts with my friend, progressive icon Jon Kest, were always lively. We'd talk about organizing, progressive politics and life. But when we met at a Brooklyn diner three years ago, even I couldn't believe what he wanted to discuss this time: an audacious plan to win raises and union rights for 200,000 fast food workers in New York, and help spark a movement calling for $15 an hour for hundreds of thousands of home care, child care, airport and other underpaid workers across the United States.

If you don't know Jon, he was one of New York's - and the nation's - premier community, political and labor organizers until his life was tragically cut short by liver cancer in December, 2012.

We didn't know about his diagnosis that morning. But we did know that we were on the ground floor of a potentially transformative movement.  Jon and his staff at the New York Communities for Change (NYCC) in New York, and Madeline Talbott and her staff at Action Now in Chicago, working with SEIU, had been experimenting with organizing underpaid fast food workers in New York and Chicago.

I was somewhat disbelieving when Jon unveiled the idea of helping fast food workers in New York organize and take action on a grand scale to help win historic raises. I organized fast food workers in Detroit in the 1980s. The work was hard and victories were few and far between. Although Jon and I worked in different regions, our experiences were similar: the hard working men and women in those jobs were excited and highly motivated by the idea of forming a union to win better wages that would support their families.

Still, the odds seemed long.

Quick Hit
by Aaron Cynic
4:04pm
Mon Jun 22, 2015

Illinois Fast Food Workers Rally In Solidarity With New Yorkers Testifying For $15 Minimum Wage

Nearly 100 fast food workers and community activists picketed outside the McDonald's restaurant adjacent to the Chicago Board of Trade to show solidarity with workers in New York who are testifying at the last wage board hearing called by the state's governor, Andrew Cuomo, to recommend an increase to the minimum wage.

The demonstrators also called on Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to put a stop to proposed state budget cuts that would impact home and child care workers.

Holding signs that read "New York, Chicago has your back" and "We need raises, not cuts," demonstrators spoke passionately about how a wage increase to $15 an hour would improve their lives -- and how Rauner's proposed budget cuts could harm working families.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:33pm
Thu Jun 11, 2015

Whistleblower Becomes Alleged Victim Of Retaliatory Firing At Nippon Sharyo Plant (VIDEO) (UPDATED)

Passenger railcar manufacturer Nippon Sharyo has once again garnered the attention of activists and workers' rights advocates, this time for an alleged retaliatory firing. A former Nippon Sharyo worker says she was let go last week after speaking out about alleged unsafe working conditions and unfair treatment at the company's plant in Rochelle, Illinois.

Back in mid-March, then-Nippon Sharyo worker Jennifer Svenkerud filed a whistleblower discrimination complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), claiming that she was written up and sent home without pay after speaking to company officials about an alleged fall hazard in the non-unionized facility.

Svenkerud, 42, worked at Nippon Sharyo's Rochelle plant as an interior railcar assembler. Before filing her complaint with OSHA of the U.S. Labor Department, Svenkerud said she was assigned on March 3 to work inside a passenger railcar that lacked handrails and safety boards to prevent falls.

"They had me drilling up into a ceiling, and I had a five-foot drop within about a half an inch from me," she told Progress Illinois. "And we're supposed to have boards there. So I went to my boss to get boards there, and they told me that that was part of my job, and I didn't need the boards."

PI Original
by Ellyn Fortino
6:44pm
Wed May 20, 2015

Fast Food Workers Protest For Higher Wages, Union Recognition At McDonald's Headquarters (VIDEO)

Progress Illinois provides highlights from Wednesday's Fight for $15 protest at McDonald's corporate headquarters in Oak Brook. 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:41pm
Fri May 8, 2015

Report: Despite Walmart's Pay Hike, Employee Wages Will Still Cost Taxpayers Money

Even though Walmart has moved to increase employee wages, new data shows that the company's workers will still cost U.S. taxpayers a pretty penny to make up for the dismal earnings they bring home from working for the retail giant.

Last year, Americans for Tax Fairness issued a report stating that U.S. taxpayers pick up a $6.2 billion tab annually to cover public aid expenses for Walmart workers earning low wages.

That report came months before Walmart announced in February that 500,000 of its full- and part-time U.S. workers would be getting a wage hike. The hourly minimum wage for Walmart employees went up to $9 in April and will increase to $10 by February 2016.

In light of Walmart's new wage policy, Americans for Tax Fairness re-examined the taxpayer subsidy issue.

"Even after Walmart's planned wage increases are fully implemented, large taxpayer subsidies will still be required to compensate for Walmart's low wages," the group concludes in its newest report.

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