Monday, April 26, 2010

Pilsenprole guide to May Day 2010…

Pilsenprole guide to May Day 2010…

As promised on today’s episode of Labor Express Radio, I will try to provide here the most complete list of May Day related events in the Chicago area as I can…

Saturday, May 1st

May Day March for Immigrant Rights

Gather at Union Park (Ashland and Washington, Chicago) at 1:00 P.M.

March will leave the park for Daley Plaza at 3:00 P.M.

Saturday, May 1st

May Day Commemoration at Haymarket Square (Corner of DesPlaines and Randolph)

Join nearly 70 trade unionists from Zenroren in dedicating a new plaque to the Haymarket Square Monument.

Event will begin at 10:00 A.M.!/event.php?eid=109992122357582&index=1

Thursday, April 29th – Sunday, May 2nd

A Century+ of May Days: Labor and Social Struggles International Conference

Organized by the Institute of Working Class History

Hosted by International Studies Program at DePaul University

Most Sessions held at DePaul University, 2320-2322 N. Kenmore

For registration and more info…

Friday, April 30th

May Day Music Show sponsored by the Chicago IWW

Featuring Tom Morello and Bucky Halker

Bottom Lounge – 1375 W. Lake St., Chicago

Tickets available at…

Friday, April 30th

9:00 P.M.

Tatsu Aoki and his Miyumi Project, special jazz performance for a delegation of Japanese trade unionists

Velvet Lounge, 67 East Cermak Road, Chicago

$15 cover charge

Sponsored by the Illinois Labor History Society

Sunday, May 2nd

Potluck Picnic

Waldheim Cemetery – 1400 S. Des Plaines, Forest Park

12 P.M. – 4:30 P.M.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The blood of 29 miners is all over the hands of Blankenship and Massey Energy...

Yesterday it was confirmed. The last four missing miners at the Upper Big Branch mine in Montcoal West Virginia were found dead. That puts the death toll of this most recent mining tragedy at 29, the worst mining disaster in the United States in over 25 years. But this tragedy could have been predicated and should have been prevented. The history of the Upper Big Branch mine, Massey Energy and company CEO Don Blankenship reads like an early 20th century muckraking novel about the evils of capitalism.

Here is just a taste of the story...

Since 1995 there have been more than 3,000 safety violations at Upper Big Branch. Of the $1.5 million in penalties Massey has racked up since 2007, the company has actually paid less than $300,000 in fines. Last year, the mine faced $900,000 in fines for more than 450 violations. Just in 2010, the company had been charged with another $190,000 in fines. In 2008 Massey Energy was fined $20 million dollars by the EPA for violations of the clean water act, the largest fine in the acts history. Massey regular pollutes streams and rivers with its mountain top removal mining operations.

Perhaps one of the reasons that the company seems to be able to get away with such a long list of fines and violations and continues to operate, is the cash CEO Don Blankenship is willing to spend on right wing politics. He spent 3 million dollars to defeat a West Virginia judge in an election in 2004 because the judge was likely to decided in favor of a $50 million dollar fine against Massey Energy. Not surprisingly, the judge Blankenship helped elect voted in favor of the company. In 2009 Blankenship spent $1 million to help sponsor a huge “Friends of America” rally in West Virginia. “Friends of America” is a right wing organization similar to the tea party groups we have seen rallying around the country as of late.

Another important piece of the picture is the incredible weakness of the Mine Safety and Health Administration which, like many government agencies whose mission it is to protect the public, was all but eliminated during the Bush years. We have also witnessed an increasing move by mine owners to open non-union operations. At this point only 20% of miners in the U.S. are members of the United Mineworkers of America. Union membership and mine safety are closely connected. All of the mine disasters in recent years have occurred at non-union mines. Blankenship was quite proud of the fact that most of Massey’s mines, including the Upper Big Branch mine are non-union. And this isn’t the first time that Massey’s operations have cost miners their lives. In 2006 a fire at the Aracoma mine in Logan County, WV, took the lives of two miners.

And if all this wasn't enough, above the towns of Coal River Valley sits a massive retention pond of coal slur. The product of strip mining. If this retention pond was to fail, as other have in the past, the people of the Coal River Valley will have 15 minutes to evacuate before the slurry wipes out their towns, including an elementary school and a high school.

Over the past week, the mainstream media has shed some light on the evils of the coal industry, as its seems willing to do only when the industry has cost workers their lives. The clearest critical voice to emerge from the media coverage is that of Jeff Biggers. Jeff, author of Reckoning at Eagle Creek: The Secret Legacy of Coal in the Heartland comes from a family with a long history in the coal mining regions of Southern Illinois. You can here an interview with Jeff on this Monday's episode of Labor Express Radio.

Jeff maintains a number of blogs. Much of the facts I provide in this blog entry come from Jeff's writings over the past week. Links to all of his blogs can be found at his website...

You can purchase a copy of Jeff's book, Reckoning at Eagle Creek here...

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

UIC Graduate Employees Union wins new contract...

Here is the statement from the union...


Late last evening, after a marathon 13 hours in mediation, the UIC Graduate Employees Organization and the UIC administration reached an agreement regarding the GEO’s contract. The GEO's first agreement expired in August 2009, and GEO members have been negotiating a new contract since April 2009.

After the university declined to guarantee the tuition waivers all Graduate Assistants and Teaching Assistants already receive, GEO members approved a vote to go on strike if Monday’s mediation session did not secure the future of tuition waivers and give graduate employees input on controversial “Tuition Differential Fees,” which force some graduate students to pay up to $11,000 per year in fees, despite the fact that most GEO members make less than $15,000 per year.

GEO members were joined by faculty, undergraduates, and community members to rally at the site of the mediation session early Monday morning. The crowd chanted “settle our contract” and “no waiver, no labor” to voice their demands and their intention to strike if the university refused to listen. Addressing the large crowd, Professor of Sociology and Asian American Studies Anna Guevarra urged the university’s bargaining team to “produce the best possible university and not the cheapest university.”

At the subsequent mediation session, the UIC administration and the GEO came to agreements on the union’s two core issues, tuition waivers Tuition Differential Fees. In addition to these agreements, the university agreed to other concessions that would provide more economic security for graduate employees in the form of pay raises and contributions to health care costs.

Although the lengthy mediation session was “grueling,” according to GEO Bargaining Team Leader Sarita Heer, “it was worth every second to know that we have successfully settled our contract without having to go on strike.” Heer echoes the sentiments of the GEO members who attended the mediation rally carrying signs that said “I’d rather be teaching.”

The GEO’s next step is to have the membership ratify the contract at a meeting next week. The union reports satisfaction with the contract agreed upon in yesterday’s mediation session. “We are happy that the university valued graduate employees enough to guarantee our financial security as we teach undergraduates at UIC and complete our research,” reported GEO President Charles Moss.

The Graduate Employees Organization, AFT local 6297, AFL-CIO, is the labor union representing more than 1400 Teaching and Graduate Assistants at UIC who teach undergraduate classes, grade papers, work in offices, design websites, maintain databases, and perform other work crucial to the teaching and research missions of the university.

Labor Beat released today this video featuring the rally held Monday to push the unions demands...