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Working In These Times

Sunday, Jan 29, 2012, 12:57 pm

Weekly Workers’ Round-Up: Chicago City College Workers Protest Demand for Concessions

BY Patrick Glennon

Every weekend, Working In These Times highlights a few labor struggles and protests that contributors weren't able to cover during the preceding week.

Chicago City Colleges workers protest demands for concessions

On Wednesday, clerical and technical workers in Chicago protested in front of the City Colleges headquarters, calling attention to an unresolved contract dispute that has dragged on for nearly two years.

A major “reinvention” of the City College system—spearheaded by Daley-appointed chancellor Cheryl L. Hyman—has reduced the schools’ expenditures by $30 million since the overhaul began 18 months ago, according to officials at City Colleges.

But union representatives argue that workers are shouldering the financial burden for the savings wrought by restructuring. According to AFL-CIO Local 1708, 400 full-time workers have gone without a collective bargaining contract since June 30, 2010. Delores Withers, president of Local 1708, says that City Colleges officials are trying to push a five-year wage freeze on workers in order to proceed with contract negotiations.

Since assuming leadership, Hyman has laid off 225 non-instructional employees. Chicago’s City Colleges enroll more than 100,000 students and, according to  Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, are “the frontline of our new economy.”

Port truck drivers push for union election, despite of managament's hostility

On Monday, a group of California-based port truck drivers submitted a petition to the National Labor Relations Board to hold an election to join the Teamsters union.  A supermajority of 80 percent of Australia Toll Group's 74 truck drivers based in Wilmington, Calif., submitted signatures to the federal agency, according to this Teamsters statement.

Drivers say that their employer has been hostile to workers’ efforts to join the union ever since drivers began organizing. In October, 30 Los Angeles truck drivers showed up to work sporting Teamster t-shirts. A rally in support of the unionization cause that day attracted more than 200 people.

The next day, management informed 24 drivers that their help was no longer needed.

Luis Alay, who has worked at the same port for 15 years, said that

[f]or nearly a year management has threatened our jobs for speaking out against unjust working conditions, for wanting some dignity and respect for making our company so profitable. Their retaliation has only made my co-workers stronger and more united. The community is with us. The people who read about us in the newspaper and on the Internet are in our corner. Our voices will be heard.

The company has repeatedly sought voting schedule extensions from the NLRB. Management has also hired a “union avoidance” consultant from Texas.

A delegation of Australian Toll workers announced that they would fly to LA in solidarity, helping to ensure fair elections. Nick Weiner, from the Teamsters Union, said that:

These workers are really a symbol of a much larger struggle for justice. Toll Group fits right in with the horrendous conditions harbor truck drivers in America have long been subjected to and are organizing to overcome.

Patrick Glennon is a writer and musician living in Chicago. He received his B.A. in History from Skidmore College and currently works as Communications Manager for the Michael Forti for Cook County Court campaign and as the web intern at In These Times.

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