Friday, October 9, 2009

Chicago City Council once again turns its back on the working people of Chicago...

After the municipal elections back in 2007, in which the Chicago Federation of Labor invested an historic level of resources in getting pro-labor alderman elected, I think many of us really hoped to see a more worker friendly city council and one that was more independent from Mayor Daley. It seems from the experience of the past few years (Walmart, Big Box Living Wage Ordinance, clean power ordinance, parking meter privitization, etc. etc.), those hopes have been dashed. Here is just one more example of how tone deaf the council is to the concerns of working class Chicagoans...

From a UNITE-HERE Local 1 press release:

For Immediate Release Wednesday, October 7, 2009
For questions please contact Annemarie Strassel at (312) 617-0495

City Council defers vote on Hotel Strike Notification Law
Law would give customers notice about strikes or lockouts that could affect the quality of their stay before they book hotel rooms

Chicago, Ill.— Today the City Council voted to re-refer the hotel strike notification law to the Finance Committee. This law, commonly referred to as the “Right to Know” consumer protection law, would protect Chicago visitors by requiring area hotels to notify customers of a strike or lockout 15 days or longer before making reservations.

Alderman Ricardo Muñoz (22nd Ward) first introduced the ordinance in May. After the ordinance was passed out of the Finance Committee on September 7th, it was referred to the full City Council for a vote today. Ike Carothers (29th Ward) introduced a motion to re-refer the legislation back to committee, which the Council ultimately voted in favor of by a narrow margin of 23 to 22, amid some confusion by Council members.

Hotel quality can be dramatically affected by a strike or lockout, which can threaten Chicago’s reputation as a top tier tourism and convention destination. According to the Chicago Convention and Tourism bureau, 132,000 jobs depend on the tourism industry. Now area hotel workers, visitors, and community supporters are calling on city leaders to take steps to ensure that visitors have the information they need to have the best experience possible.

“Today, aldermen missed an opportunity to defend hardworking people, their jobs, and the guests that come to our city,” says Kimmie Jordan, a housekeeper at the Cass Holiday Inn Hotel in downtown Chicago. “Our jobs depend on people coming to Chicago and having a positive experience, so they want to return again and again.”

A similar ordinance first came before City Council in 2005 but was narrowly defeated by a margin of 5 opposing votes.

The need for consumer protection is highlighted by the ongoing dispute at the Congress Plaza Hotel on Michigan Avenue, the longest running strike in America. Over a thousand customers have complained about the hotel since the strike began, citing unsafe and unsanitary conditions at the hotel such as undercooked food, dirty linens, broken elevators and torn carpets. The hotel has also failed seven building inspections in the last two years. Seven of the 15 Department of Health inspections of the Congress Hotel since 2005 have found evidence of insects or rodents, including dead roaches and rat and mice droppings.

Unite Here Local 1, Chicago’s hospitality workers union, represents over 15,000 hotel and food service workers in Chicago and casino workers in Northwest Indiana.

For more information on the strike, go to

Dr. Luther Castillo and his hospital raided by Honduran army...

It appears that the Honduran army's harassment of Dr. Luther Castillo and his hospital continues. Dr. Castillo was in Chicago in August to bring attention to the situation in Honduras. You can hear an interview with him and his fellow Honduran democracy activists on the August 9th 2009 episode of the Labor Express Radio...

You can also find out more about him at this previous entry on my blog...

After Dr. Castillo's visit, he was unable to return directly to Honduras because of concerns for his safety. He did return in early September, however, it is clear that the danger to him and his colleagues continues.

This report comes from La Voz de los Abajo...

This is to make known that on October 7th at 6am three army patrols broke down the doors and stormed the first Garifuna hospital in Honduras, located on the Atlantic Coast.

Alexy Lanza of La Voz de los de Abajo interviewed Dr. Luther Castillo, a young Garifuna doctor and community organizer who is the founder and director of the hospital that is bears the name "For the Health of Our People" (Luaga Hatuadi Waduheno in the Garifuna language)
The hospital and clinic is dedicated to providing the most important health services to the indigenous communities isolated on the Atlantic Coast. After graduating from the Latin American School of Medicine in Cuba in 2005, Dr. Castillo returned to the coast of Honduras and led the construction of the first "Garifuna hospital" which now serves 20,000 people in the area. The hospital opened in December 2007 and Dr. Castillo was named "Honduran Doctor of the Year for 2007 by the International Rotary Clubs of Tegucigalpa. Since the military coup on June 28, 2009, Dr. Castillo and the hospital have been subject to many threats of closure and other attacks by the military.

AL: Please tell me Dr. Luther what happened yesterday, on the morning of Wednesday October 7th?

Dr. Castillo: I am extremely worried about the situation at the hospital. As you well know, the repression, intimidation, extra-judicial executions, the fabrication of criminal charges - the grave violations of human rights against the resistance movement against the coup have been worsening. Yesterday three carloads of army troops arrived, broke down the doors to the hospital and searched everything.

AL: What time did this occur?

Dr. Castillo: It was about 6 in the morning which is the time of shift change for the doctors. The doctor who has stayed all night goes to rest and between 6-7 am the other shift arrives. The army took advantage of this to enter the hospital. The most alarming thing is that they used the pretext of a raid in search of drugs; they said that they had received information that there were narcotraficantes at the hospital.

AL: Narcotics traffic at the first hospital in service to the indigenous communities. What was that about?

Dr. Castillo: Intimidation. They want to wipe us out, they want to shut us up. We have been strongly denouncing the coup d’etat and we are a part of this people in resistance that refuse to accept a military coup. After the coup they took away our standing as a hospital and reclassified us as a medical center. We had achieved the classification of hospital due to the recognition we received for the high quality and commitment of our work. President Zelaya, through our work, advocated for us and that was how we were established as a hospital. So what is happening now is that they want to intimidate us and destoy us, but we won’t give them that pleasure.

AL: Why do you think they are doing this?

Dr. Castillo: Look, what we think is that they want to use this fabrication to hurt the reputation and all of the work that we have been doing in favor of the people. We are worried that they will come again and confiscate the medical equipment that we have been able to obtain through donations from different organizations and people from around the world. So we are denouncing this, to alert everyone who knows our work.

AL: Tell me, did they arrest anyone during the raid? What is the situation in the hospital now? Is it closed or open?

Dr. Castillo: Fortunately they did arrest anyone, but we are in constant fear that they might come back and takeover the hospital. It is not closed but continues open and we continue to do our work as doctors taking health to our people.

This was a short interview with Dr. Luther Castillo on October 9th. The diagnosis we can make from these events is that it makes very obvious the plan of the coup government to fabricate criminal charges against the leaders of the popular organizations that are an essential part of the resistance movement against the military coup in Honduras. This is a common practice that different repressive, dictatorial and right wing governments in Latin America have practiced. - To intimidate, to silence, to repress, to fabricate charges so that later they can wipe out the resistance movement that has popular support.

We call n the national and international community to join in denouncing any act of repression that arises from this incident. This has been an act of intimidation not only against the medical team of the hospital but against all of the communities that it serves.

We ask that letters be sent to Congressional representatives and Senators expressing not only our concern and outrage but also demanding an end to the violations of human rights by the golpistas and demanding the return to constitutionality of Honduras. We demand that those guilty of all these crimes against the Honduran people related to the coup d’etat be punished.

We Demand:
The immediate return of President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales
The return to constitutionality
No to the illegal elections called by the de facto government.
Respect for the popular vote - Yes to the national constituent assembly.
Stop the violations of human rights.

Honduras belongs to all the people and no just to the oligarchy -- we will struggle to the end!
Because solidarity is the tenderness of the people. WE ARE ALL HONDURAS!