Friday, July 30, 2010

Rally against deportations and SB1070 at Cook County Jail...

Immigrant rights activists held a rally outside Cook County Jail on Chicago's Southwest side today. A few hundred attended the rally to protests increased deportations of undocumented immigrants caught up in the criminal justice system and the extreme anti-immigrant measures of SB 1070 in Arizona. Today's rally was held in conjunction with actions around the country, especially in Arizona were some dozens were arrested protesting the first day that aspects of SB 1070 went into effect. Though a federal judge has placed an injunction on the most heinous aspects of the law, other aspects, like the banning of "sanctuary" cities or counties in the state, did go into effect today.

You can find pictures of today's rally in Chicago here...

I interviewed Jorge Mujica of the March 10th Committee at the rally today. You can listen to that interview here...

Friday, July 23, 2010

Over a thousand rally in front of Hyatt Regency in Chicago...

As part of a series of actions across the country, over a thousand people - hotel workers and their supporters - rallied in front of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Chicago earlier today. Around a hundred people sat down to block the street in front of the hotel. About 20 were arrested.

UNITE-HERE Local 1 organizers say this is just the beginning of a ratcheting up of actions to take place over the next few months as hotel workers reach the one year mark in their fight for a new contract at over 30 hotels in the Chicago area.

Interviews with participants in todays raly will be aired on next Monday's episode of Labor Express Radio.

Pictures from the rally can be viewed here...

The following is from UNITE-HERE Local 1's press release...

The rich take unfair advantage of everything . . . even a recession. Hotel workers in Chicago and across North America have endured staff cuts, reduced hours, and excessive injury rates. Chicago-based Hyatt wants to take more away and lock workers into recession contracts even as the economy rebounds.

Now, on July 22nd, thousands of hotel workers in 15 cities across North America are standing up to people like the Pritzkers who run Hyatt, one of the wealthiest and most politically influential families in America.

People like the Pritzkers who run Hyatt are taking unfair advantage: While many hotel workers live in poverty, the Pritzker family cashed out over $900 million in their sale of Hyatt shares in November 2009, and Hyatt share values climbed 65% in the six months that followed. In one stark example, Hyatt fired its entire housekeeping staff from its three Boston-area hotels and replaced them with workers from a subcontracting agency earning minimum wage.

Hyatt workers and 6,500 other hotel workers in downtown Chicago have been in contract negotiations since August of 2009. Hundreds of workers at the Hyatt Regency Chicago walked off the job in late May in protest of poor working conditions in housekeeping.

Monday, July 19, 2010

New book by economist Jack Rasmus...

Today's Labor Express Radio program is devoted entirely to a phone interview I conducted last Friday with Dr. Jack Rasmus, economist and author of the recently released book, Epic Recession: Prelude to Global Depression. It is a impressive work filled with in depth research on the history of the U.S. economy, a detailed critique of the Obama administrations handling of the economic crisis and a 28 point program of action to keep this "epic recession" from becoming a full fledged depression. And the work could hardly be more timely as many mainstream economist are now convinced a double dip recession is just around the corner.

Here is a link to Jack Rasmus website...

You can purchase copies of Dr. Rasmus new book at

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Clean Power Coalition Press Conference...

The Chicago Clean Power Coailtion held a press conference in Dvorak Park today to announce that the Sierra Club and Greenpeace have taken on the issue of cleaning up the Fisk and Crawford coal-fired power plants as a national campaign. The press conference also highlighted Alderman Solis and Munoz silence on the issue and PERRO's and LVEJO's community petition campaigns.

Here is the press release...

Local and National Environmental Groups Join Local Elected Officials to Call for Clean Power in Chicago

Activists, Leaders, and Community Members Gather to Announce Expansion of Coalition Efforts to Clean up Chicago’s Coal Plants

Chicago, IL: Nearly 50 local and national organizations joined by local community members and elected leaders kicked off a ward by ward effort today to pass the Chicago Clean Power Ordinance, which will clean up the Fisk and Crawford coal plants on Chicago’s southwest side. The plants are the largest source of air pollution in the city, which has one of the highest asthma rates in the country.

As smoke poured from the stacks of the Fisk plant across the street from the press conference to announce the effort, Sierra Club’s Executive Director Michael Brune said, “What we’re seeing here today is a local effort with potentially huge implications for our country. It is a real opportunity for Chicago and local officials to set the example—to stand up to dirty energy and demand a cleaner, healthier way of doing business. Change can start in Chicago.”

Chicago has the highest concentration of people living near coal plants in the nation, putting large segments of the population at risk for respiratory problems.

“All Chicagoans, especially those living in Pilsen and Little Village, deserve better than dirty power generation,” said Damon Moglen, Global Warming Campaign Director for Greenpeace, “Each year Fisk and Crawford belch out 5 million tons of CO2 and 180,000 tons of toxic soot that have rocketed Chicago’s asthma rates to the highest in the nation. It’s time for Chicago’s leaders to recognize that coal has no place in Chicago’s Climate Action Plan or our clean energy future.”

For years, local organizations such as Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) and Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization (PERRO) have been champions for cleaning up the two power plants, Crawford and Fisk. The Chicago Clean Power Coalition was formed early this year, and support for the group has grown as more families living in the affected communities get sick of the coal plants’ pollution.

“Like many working-class communities of color around the country, Pilsen is inundated with multiple pollution sources, the worst of which is the Fisk plant,” said Jerry Mead-Lucero, member of PERRO (Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization), “Your race or class should not determine whether or not you have a healthy environment in which to live. That’s why PERRO hopes that Alderman Solis will demonstrate his concern for the health of the residents of the 25th Ward and become a co-sponsor of the Clean Power Ordinance.”

The groups are working to pass the Clean Power Ordinance introduced by Alderman Joe Moore in April. The ordinance will require the coal plant operators to reduce particulate matter pollution (soot) from the coal plants by 90% and global warming pollution (CO2) pollution by 50%, resulting in significant health benefits for neighboring communities and beyond. The ordinance currently has twelve cosponsors and the coalition has collected close to 1,000 signatures and letters from citizens asking their aldermen to support the ordinance.

The coalition asks the Chicago City Council and Mayor Daley not only to protect the health of its citizens, but also lead the country towards a clean energy future – much like the Chicago Climate Action Plan promises.

For more information, visit

For more pictures from the press conference, check out the following link...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Hotel workers in Chicago finally have a victory to celebrate...

A rare case of U.S. labor law coming to the aid of workers trying to organize. The NLRB ruled against the Blackstone for its illegal firing of 14 workers and for slashing workers health care benefits as a retaliation for organizing.

I will have more on this issue on next Monday's episode of Labor Express (Monday 10 AM, 88.7 FM) so tune in for that. It will include an interview with UNITE-HERE Local 1 president Henry Tamarin who explains that this is a tremendous victory, but that the workers at the Blackstone still have a major fight on their hands to win a first contract. We also discuss the citywide hotel contract fight.

Here is Local 1's press release...

Judge rules: Blackstone Hotel illegally laid off workers

Hotel ordered to offer jobs back with back pay and benefits

Union estimates lost earnings and benefits to total at least $250,000

Chicago, IL – In a major ruling this week, an administrative law judge of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that owners and management of the Blackstone Hotel had violated federal labor law by illegally firing workers, cutting staff benefits, and circulating a petition to decertify the union. The Blackstone Hotel was ordered to offer jobs back to 14 employees who were laid off on June 15, 2009 and compensate them with any lost wages and benefits resulting from the company’s unlawful actions against them, with interest. The decision represents an important victory for workers at the Blackstone Hotel, who have been battling the Hotel for more than a year to bring workers back to work and win a first contract.

Among the other significant rulings in this case, the judge also ordered the company to restore its 2008-2009 health insurance plan and compensate Blackstone employees for unlawful increases to health plan costs. The Hotel was also ordered to stop refusing to bargain with the Union on health plan coverage and layoffs. Based on documents turned over by the Blackstone, the Union estimates that these lost earnings and increased benefit costs already total at least $250,000, and this amount is growing every day.

Community leaders have long criticized the owners and management of the Blackstone Hotel for their systematic efforts to dismantle the union, despite the hotel having received $72.9 million in taxpayer subsidies and credits ($40 million of which are tax credits meant to spur low income community development). As part of the ruling, the judge found that a Blackstone manager broke federal law by illegally encouraging and passing around a Union decertification petition. The judge’s decision reinforces an earlier decision issued by an NLRB Regional Director on Mar. 27, 2009, finding that the Hotel illegally encouraged and assisted some employees in circulating the decertification petition.

LaMar Johnson was one of the 14 workers laid off from the room service department. “I got married just 6 months before I was laid off from the Blackstone Hotel, and this last year has been a real struggle for me and my family. I haven’t even been able to buy a new pair of shoes. I’m gratified to know that the judge in this case sided with us and found that the hotel had broken the law. It feels like someone is actually looking out for the little guy.”

Workers at the Blackstone began organizing shortly after the hotel reopened in the summer of 2008, and the Union became officially recognized in December 2008. Workers began bargaining their first contract at the hotel shortly thereafter, and have been negotiating their first contract since.

“At every step, the Blackstone Hotel has skirted the law, waging a vicious and illegal anti-union campaign in an attempt to decertify the union and impede the collective bargaining process,” said UNITE HERE Local 1 President Henry Tamarin. “Now the Hotel wants to skirt the judge’s decision and their moral responsibility to these workers, by appealing this case and refusing to grant these workers what is rightfully owed to them.”

The Judge’s orders are directed to Sage Hospitality and Chicago Master Lessee, LLC. Prudential Insurance Company has an investor member interest in Chicago Master Lessee, LLC. The company has appealed the judge’s decision. Workers from the Blackstone Hotel and other union supporters gathered in front of the hotel on Thursday morning to call on the hotel to drop the appeal and immediately remedy the situation by bringing laid off workers back to work with compensation.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

RSA Animate - Crises of Capitalism

Checkout this video. Best explanation of the current economic crisis I have come across. Much better than the crap on NPR (especially the stuff on This American Life) which has become so popular. All the other stuff focuses on the symptoms of the crises, not the disease itself. Circulate this around. It is also a tremendously creative video...

Monday, July 5, 2010

UPDATE: Dean Corgey's editorial in the Houston Chronicle...

Here is a link to Dean Corgey's editorial, referenced in today's Labor Express Radio program...

Dean Corgey just sent me this link to a video clip that goes into more detail about the Jones Act...

The main point here is that the Jones Act does not impact the oil spill effort but is being used by the right wing and the corporate globalists to attack Obama's response to the spill. I laughed out loud when I heard the guy from the Competitive Enterprise Institute comparing the Jones Act to discrimination against Irish immigrants. What a joke!

For the Seafarer's union there is a real concern that foreign flag ships, especially ones flying "flags of convenience" like the Marshall Islands flag flown by the Deepwater Horizon, are allowing vessels with serious safety and labor law violations to operate in the Gulf unregulated.