Friday, December 18, 2009

Communist Party Proposal for A People’s Budget for Illinois

Illinois Needs a Second
Federal Stimulus Package

There is a hole in the Illinois State budget over $13 billion deep! Billions of dollars of cuts in human services and state jobs have been announced.

These budget cuts must be stopped! We can not balance the budget at the expense of working families.

The Communist Party calls for taxing the rich to plug the hole in the budget. We also call for a Second Federal Stimulus package to create jobs and help States and Cities. The first stimulus package saved jobs but that money is used up.

Budget Cuts Hurt Human Services:

Libraries are cutting hours and services.
Schools are cutting back on after school and key anti-violence programs.
Loss of State MAP grants for college tuition will force many students to quit college.

CTA and Metra are poised for another round of fare hikes and service cutbacks.

Disabled kids are losing services that help them function.
Help for drug abusers is being slashed.
Shelters for battered spouses are being cut or closed down.
Mental health counseling and services provided by state-funded non-profits are taking a big cut.

Thousands of prisoners are being released early from state prisons to save money. That could be a good thing if they get jobs and the counseling they need. But programs to help ex-offenders are being cut. Parole agents are being laid off. Without services, too many ex-offenders will end up back in prison.

Restore the Budget Cuts !

United we can win.

Thousands in Illinois have rallied, lobbied in Springfield, and demonstrated around the State to restore vital human services. They have formed a broad Coalition of parents, public workers’ unions, and advocates for children, consumers, the disabled, older people, the homeless and more. They deserve the support of every one who cares about the people of Illinois.

The Coalition is demanding a big increase in State taxes to stop the budget cuts and save important human services. But who should be taxed?

Tax the Rich!

Working families cannot afford to pay higher taxes. And the rich pay very little State tax in Illinois. The problem is that the Illinois Constitution limits the State Income tax to a flat rate. Minimum wage earners and corporate CEOs now pay the same rate, 3%.

Still there is a way to raise State taxes without raising the tax on families of four that earn under $70,000!

No Tax Increase on incomes under $70,000.

There is a way to raise State income tax from 3% to 5% without raising taxes for families of four earning less than $70,000 a year. Just raise the personal exemption from $2000 to $6,000 per person. Raising the exemption to $10,000 per person would prevent tax increases for families of four earning under $100,000.

Raise Corporate Tax from 4.8% to 9.6%.

Doubling the corporate income tax would bring in about $2 billion more. Closing tax loopholes would bring in much more. These higher tax rates would bring Illinois about $6 billion more. But $13 billion are needed.
The Federal Government must help us get our economy going again!

We Need a Second Federal Stimulus Package.

Many Illinois State jobs were saved by close to $5 billion from the first federal stimulus package, the Emergency& Reconstruction Act. That money has been used up. Illinois is not alone. Most states and cities are in a budget crisis. A second stimulus package, with focus on creating jobs, is urgently needed.

Communist Party of Illinois, 773-446-9930 For daily news, analysis and opinion:

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Warehouse workers file wage theft lawsuit

By Pepe Lozano

Elwood, Ill. - Workers employed by a large staffing agency at a Wal-Mart warehouse here filed a class action lawsuit Dec. 10 alleging that Select-Remedy, the temp agency contracted to staff the warehouse has been shorting wages over the past several years.

The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, also alleges that the company did not pay time-and-a-half for overtime work.

The workers, who distribute products to stores in the Midwest, say they were paid in split checks to avoid overtime payments. They also claim they were not fully paid for hours worked, a practice known as "wage theft."

The suit, filed under the Illinois Day Labor and Temporary Services Act, targets Select-Remedy, a California-based nationwide temp agency also known as Real Time Staffing Services, Inc. The workers are being represented by the Working Hands legal clinic

In a press release Ruben Bautista, a worker and plaintiff in the suit said, "Wal-Mart is the richest company in the world, but the people who distribute their products are treated like slaves." He continued, "Our suit is against the temp agency, but we hold Wal-Mart responsible for what has happened to us. They control what happens in their warehouse."

Miguel Deniz, another worker said something was wrong when he began to notice he was getting paid fewer hours than he had worked. Deniz said the company was dividing up his work hours into short blocks to avoid both the appearance of his working more than 40 hours a week and the necessity of paying him overtime.

Speaking to a reporter with In These Times, Deniz, a 62-year old veteran day laborer said he almost always never got paid his complete hours of work.

"To avoid paying us 40 hours, they gave us six hours here, six hours there," he said. "Also, if in four days I worked 30 hours, they only paid me for 17 or 18."

Deniz adds he would work for 57 hours and only get paid for 35.

"I think it's unjust that we're not getting paid complete hours for overtime. We're being defrauded," he said during a press conference in front of a Chicago west side Wal-Mart store Dec. 10.

"It's an injustice and an abuse what they are committing against us,"
said Deniz.

Critics say the giant Centerpoint Intermodal Center in Elwood, Ill., where the Wal-Mart warehouse is located made Chicago the distribution capital of the hemisphere.

"Retailers like Wal-Mart take advantage of Chicago's position as a rail and transport hub," said Abraham Mwaura, coordinator of Warehouse Workers for Justice. "They made $3.24 billion last quarter, but they wont even pay their workers what they are owed. We can't allow this in our community."

A Wal-Mart spokesperson has reportedly said the company hired another company to manage its warehouse, which hired the temp agency. Wal-Mart says they work to comply with all labor laws and regulations and they rely on their third-party vendors to do the same.

According to Mark Meinster, board member with Warehouse Workers for Justice, Will County, where the Wal-Mart warehouse is located, has the highest concentration of temp agencies in Illinois on a per capita basis. Speaking to the Bolingbrook Sun, Meinster notes some distribution companies hire temp agencies to avoid paying benefits including health insurance, and vacation and holiday pay.

"We feel that the logistics industry in Will County needs to look at this problem and take responsibility for what's happening in this supply chain," he said. "These could be very good, blue-collar jobs. There's no reason these jobs shouldn't be paying a living wage and shouldn't be providing decent benefits for people."

Meinster points out that violations against the Wal-Mart warehouse workers are not seen everywhere. However they are prevalent in multiple warehouses given that 70 percent of the industry are temporary workers.

It's the law if you work for one employer more than 40 hours a week, they have to pay you time and a half, he said.

Chris Williams, an attorney representing the workers said Select-Remedy is primarily responsible for the alleged wage. Yet Wal-Mart and other big warehouse owners who contract with temp agencies are also ultimately at fault both legally and practically.

Big companies like Wal-Mart pit smaller temp agencies against each other to get the lowest price, he said.

They'll do whatever it takes to drive labor costs down and the only way to make a profit is to cheat the workers, he said.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Joy and inspiration mark Chicago People’s World Bash

By John Bachtell

Chicago – Enjoying great music, food and politics, a full house celebrated the 22nd Annual People’s World Banquet Dec. 6 at the Parthenon Restaurant. Several thousand dollars was raised for the PW Fund Drive from supporters who dug deep despite the hard economic times.

The attendees, a rainbow crowd of labor, community and religious activists, entered the festive room to the sounds of the jazz trio, Lovers in Arms and a running slide show of photos from struggles over the past year.

PW staff writer Pepe Lozano welcomed everyone. Oohs and aahs greeted waiters bearing the house specialty, Saganaki, or flaming cheese.

The program was emceed by Katie Jordan, president of Chicago Coalition for Labor Union Women. She said it was vital for all progressive organizations to share in solidarity and CLUW was excited to be supporting the PW. She said the PW was a unique new source whose voice was needed now more than ever.

Author and labor leader Amy Dean keynoted the event. In introducing her, CPUSA labor secretary Scott Marshall called her work visionary and innovative. Dean recounted how she learned some enduring lessons as a young organizer for the ILGWU working with Rudy Lozano and through the election of Harold Washington as Mayor of Chicago, including the kind of commitment it took to fight for worker’s rights, the need to build grassroots movements and win political power to effect real change.

She noted while electoral coalitions are one thing, governing coalitions are often another. It’s vital that labor and its allies have a say in what policies unfold once their candidates are elected. Dean said much more must be done to build up the movement to ensure the Obama agenda and progressive change is advanced in Congress.

Before the dinner Dean signed copies of her new book, “A New, New Deal: How regional activism can reshape the American Labor Movement” which she co-authored with David Reynolds.

The program was punctuated by a joyful performance of Mescolanza, a new performance group of movement veterans Terry Davis, James Thindwa, Sijisfredo Aviles and Bob Huston who hope to carry multi-cultural social justice song to the picket line, rallies and events. Tim Yeager with his accordion joined them at the end for Solidarity Forever and the International.

For their outstanding contributions to worker’s and social justice, the People’s World also bestowed the Chris Hani-Rudy Lozano award on Dean, the South Austin Coalition, Chicago Alliance of Charter Teachers and Staff (AFT), Campaign for Better Health Care (CBHC) and Carmen Cohn, a long time reader and supporter of the People’s World and rank and file organizer at Resurrection Hospitals.

Jonathan Vanderbrug, Health Care Justice Director for CBHC, the largest coalition of health care activists and consumers in Illinois, drew attention to the historic political juncture the nation finds itself in. He urged everyone to continue pressing his or her elected officials to pass health care reform with the public option. He said a victory was vital for future reforms including in immigration, climate change, financial reform on Wall Street and passage of EFCA.

Accepting the award on behalf of South Austin Coalition (SACCC) was community organizer Elce Redmond who is also a steering committee member of Chicago Jobs with Justice. The SACCC has a distinguished history organizing grassroots actions on the West Side of Chicago against foreclosures, for living wages and worker’s rights. Redmond urged everyone to stick together and to raise the fight for a massive public works jobs program especially for the distressed African American and Latino communities.

Several leaders of the Chicago Teachers Union joined Chicago ACTS – AFT organizers Hugo Hernandez and Thindwa. Hernandez recounted the pioneering union organizing drive of teachers at three Chicago charter schools last spring. In negotiating the new contracts, ACTS is helping close a big wage and benefit gap between teachers at public and privatized schools, and regulating workload for the first time.

The workers at Resurrection Hospitals have been fighting to join AFSCME for seven years. Many have been fired and threatened. But this hasn’t stopped Carmen Cohn, a physical therapist, from participating in the organizing campaign. Cohn described how the workers are being mistreated and just the act of organizing the union has forced some concessions from hospital management.

It was all over too soon. Attendees left the event with stomachs and hearts full.