Veteran Head Start YMCA Teacher Kim Cotton testified at the Progressive Caucus budget hearing in Chicago, holding Mayor Rahm Emanuel accountable to his promise to get all Chicago kids college-ready. See video of her testimony, and read the full text below:
My name is Kim Cotton. I’m a South Side resident, and I’ve taught at the North Lawndale YMCA for nine years.
I started working for the YMCA to spend more time with my daughter, who was enrolled in the after school program. Back then, teachers and staff had the time and resources to give kids individual attention, personalized lessons, and even some extras, like field trips to the symphony.
But now, nine years later, I go to work and wonder what happened. There are no field trips in the early childhood program I work for. Half the time, teachers are reaching into their own pockets for essentials like food, materials for science projects, and sometimes, winter coats for kids who don’t have them. Last spring, all of our teachers got an email stating that they’d have a yearly budget of $1000 to spend on our kids. None of us have ever seen a penny of it.
So you can understand why I’m skeptical that I’m ever going to see the $11 million dollars that our mayor promises us he’s spending on our kids this year. Where is that money going? Chicago has seen a net decrease of nearly 4,000 early learning slots this year– $11 million dollars wouldn’t begin to pay for that. We’re short 714 slots in North Lawndale alone. The kids up here with me today, and 714 kids like them, might not achieve their dreams to become firemen and teachers and chefs, because they’re being excluded from Emanuel’s promise to make every Chicago child college-ready.
And it’s not just slot shortage that’s the problem. The city’s early childhood programs are so underfunded that our YMCA center is forced to find kids who qualify not just for one, but two or three funding streams at once just to keep our doors open. Teachers and centers are overworked, understaffed, and desperate to fill the few slots we’ve got–more than once, I’ve seen a child join a center before we could find time to finish their paperwork, only to get kicked out two weeks later when it turns out they don’t qualify for enough extra funding to keep our center afloat.
This unstable environment is damaging for the teachers who work long hours for poverty wages, the parents who struggle to find care for their kids so they can go to work, and most of all, the children being cheated out of a bright educational future. Rahm Emanuel says he’s putting our children first, but in my community, our kids feel like an afterthought. On their behalf, I’m here to demand that we all hold our city accountable for the promises that have been made to our children’s futures. Mr. Emanuel, where is our $11 million?
The contract fight at Parkside Towers Nursing Home has come to a close with the 80 member unit ratifying their newest agreement. Talks kicked off with management insisting on concessions on healthcare, a pay freeze, and elimination of the uniform allowance. But the bargaining committee stood strong and circulated a petition that the overwhelmingly majority of workers signed onto. Workers then started attending bargaining sessions and providing testimony about the struggles they face every day due to low pay.
Thanks to the action taken by members at Parkside, they reached an agreement with management that did not include any concessions. They won across the board wage increases and bonuses for perfect attendance in the second and third year of the agreement. If the financial situation improves at the facility, the contract will be reopened after a year to ensure workers are getting a piece of the nursing home’s success.
These improvements should help stem the high turnover in the nursing home, and improve continuity of care for residents.
“I’m so proud of my coworkers for standing together and seeing this contract campaign all the way through,” said Crystal DeLee, a CNA at the nursing home and a Shop Steward. “Our voices were heard by management because we were united each step of the way, and we will be ready to do it again in a year when we head back to the table!”
Congratulations to Parkside workers for holding the line and sticking together to win their newest contract!
(October 29th, 2013, Springfield, IL) — New Public Policy Polling (PPP) polls of eight congressional districts — including Congressman Rodney Davis (IL-13th District) — commissioned by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), show that Republican House members can begin to rebuild the damage to their popularity caused by the government shutdown if they vote for commonsense immigration reform.
“It’s clear from these polls that Republicans were damaged by the government shutdown and that voters want their representatives to work on fixing the problems facing America, in this case immigration reform,” said SEIU Executive Vice President Rocio Saenz. “Speaker Boehner, by siding with extremists in his party and refusing to schedule a vote on immigration, is putting at risk members of his caucus who could otherwise side with their constituents and vote for immigration reform. Republicans, Independents, Democrats, faith, business and labor leaders are united in calling for a vote on citizenship for immigrants this year. It’s time for the Republican leadership to listen to the American public and schedule a vote on immigration reform.”
The districts polled were those of Representatives Gary Miller (CA-31), John Kline (MN-2), David Joyce (OH-14), Joe Heck (NV-3), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Mike Grimm (NY-11), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2) and Mike Fitzpatrick (PA-8).
These poll numbers spell trouble for Congressman Davis:
Q2) Do you approve or disapprove of the job Representative Rodney Davis is doing in Congress?
29% Not sure
Q3) If the election for Congress were today, would you vote to re-elect Republican Rodney Davis, or would you vote for his Democratic opponent?
44% Rodney Davis
42% Democratic opponent
14% Not sure
Q4) Does the recent government shutdown make you more likely or less likely to vote to re-elect Republican Congressman Rodney Davis in 2014?
35% More likely
48% Less likely
12% Doesn’t make a difference
5% Not sure
Q6) Would you be more likely or less likely to support Representative Davis if he voted in favor of passing the immigration reform proposal I just described, or would it not make a difference?
37% More likely
26% Less likely
32% Wouldn’t make a difference
5% Not sure
“Voters in swing districts continue to be mad at their House members about the shutdown,” said Tom Jensen, Director of Public Policy Polling. “But we also find that immigration reform is extremely popular – across party lines – and that voters will be more inclined to vote for their representatives next year if they vote for it.”
90 dietary workers at St. Louis University Hospital that are employed by Morrison recently voted unanimously to ratify their first contract. Workers organized just 5 months ago, but thanks to a strong and determined bargaining committee they wasted no time in winning their first contract.
Among the many gains in the first contract, workers won a solid grievance procedure with just cause, strong health and safety language that establishes a 3 member committee to inspect equipment monthly, quarterly labor management meetings, protections from sub-contracting, and strong gains to seniority rights.
On the economic side, Morrison members won a first ever training differential, increases to shift differentials and lead pay, time and a half holiday pay, increased vacation accruals, an optional 401k plan with management matching 3%, caps on health insurance costs, and across the board increases in each year of the contract.
These gains were hard fought, with members taking action with ‘purple days’ and ‘sticker days’ to show their unity. The 8 person bargaining committee worked tirelessly to keep their coworkers informed and focused on the impending victory.
“For me, winning time and a half for holiday pay was a big victory because when we work on holidays we have to leave our families,” explained Chris Bennett, a Grill Cook at Morrison from St. Louis. “The grievance procedure is also a critical improvement; we now have a process we can use if management is acting unjustly.”
Congrats to Morrison members on waging a strong first contract fight and winning the improvements that they deserve on the job!
(Oct. 23, 2013) — Our state’s minimum wage could be going up soon–more than two dollars an hour!
State Representative Art Turner (9th District) introduced legislation today to raise the minimum wage in Illinois from $8.25 to $10.65.
This is big news for all low-wage workers in Illinois. But we have a lot of work to do to make this effort a reality for working families.
That’s why we need you to write to your state representatives today and ask them to co-sponsor HB 3718 to raise the minimum wage for all low-income workers.
More than 100,000 Illinois workers are working full time and still living in poverty.
The state minimum wage of $8.25 per hour is out of date with economic reality. If the minimum wage rose at the same pace as inflation, it would be $10.75 by now.
SEIU Healthcare Illinois is proud to be a part of “Raise Illinois,” a statewide coalition working to raise the minimum wage. We applaud Representative Art Turner, Senator Kimberly Lightford, and Governor Quinn’s work on this initiative to help hardworking Illinois families escape from poverty.
That’s why we need you to write your state representatives today and ask them to co-sponsor the bill to raise the minimum wage!
Please click here to read the “Raise Illinois” press release applauding Rep. Art Turner’s commitment to sponsor HB 3718 to raise the minimum wage for all low-income workers.
P.S. Help us spread the word by copying the following message and link onto your Facebook page: Illinois just introduced legislation in the House to raise the IL minimum wage to $10.65! Learn more about what this means in this infographic: http://www.raiseillinois.com/
Today the United States Supreme Court announced that it will hear arguments in the case of Harris v. Quinn. The suit seeks to prevent SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, a union representing approximately 27,000 workers in the home care program administered by Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services (DORS), from charging “fair share” fees to non-members who benefit from the wage increases and other benefits that the union negotiates on their behalf.
In response to the decision, SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana President Keith Kelleher issued the following statement:
CHICAGO – We’re confident that the Supreme Court will honor its own precedent and reaffirm that unions are entitled to collect reduced fees from non-members to cover the costs of negotiating wage increases and other benefits on their behalf.
There is a long legacy of previous Supreme Court decisions finding that “fair share fees” – reduced fees that unions charge to non-members to represent them in collective bargaining – are fully constitutional.
If the Supreme Court rules any differently in the Harris case, it will abandon a position it has established and reinforced repeatedly. That is why we’re anticipating that the Supreme Court will uphold the rulings of both the federal and district courts in the Harris case, each of which rejected the effort to invalidate fair share fees paid by non-union home care personal assistants in Illinois.
Just as there is no doubt that fair share fees are constitutional, it is equally as clear that they yield big benefits for the people who pay them. Since personal assistants employed by the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services began collective bargaining with the state in 2003, they have won a 65 percent increase in wages, their first-ever health care fund and resources that support professional training and development. Those gains have been shared equally by those who pay full union dues and those who pay fair share fees – and they have dramatically improved the economic status of a group of workers who had been languishing in poverty for decades before winning their first contract.
Even today, these workers continue their struggle to obtain a living wage. The plaintiffs who brought the Harris case would have prolonged that hardship by weakening the mechanism that has raised wages for all home care workers, while also reducing turnover. Those two important advances, along with professional training the union provides, have improved the quality of home care and helped curtail the state’s spending on more costly long-term institutional care. And in the end, people with disabilities – the consumers who rely on home care providers to live independently — have been the ultimate beneficiaries of the more economically stable and better trained workforce created by collective bargaining.
Similarly, people with disabilities will ultimately be penalized if the Supreme Court voids the lower court rulings in the Harris case and impairs efforts to improve working conditions for these vital health care providers.
For all of these reasons, a decision to deviate from precedent and outlaw the application of fair share fees would be decidedly unfair to home care workers and their vulnerable consumers.
So far two federal courts have firmly rejected efforts to void fair share fees and all the benefits it has generated for Illinois home care workers and their consumers. We’re confident the Supreme Court will make the same decision.
Our very own April Verrett, Executive Vice-President of SEIU HCII, spoke at a press conference and testified before the Illinois House Revenue and Finance Committee about why Illinois’ publicly traded corporations should be required to report what they pay in taxes and why it is time we hold them accountable.
Watch video of Verrett’s statement and read her testimony below before the committee on the “Illinois Corporate Responsibility and Tax Disclosure Act” (HB 2627). (Also see Progress Illinois’ report on the corporate tax disclosure hearing).
Subject Matter Hearing on HB 3627 “Corporate Tax Disclosure”
Hearing Scheduled for September 27, 2013, 10:00AM
Michael A. Bilandic Building, 6th Floor, C-600
160 N LaSalle Street, Chicago, IL 60601
Testimony by April Verrett, Executive Vice-President
SEIU Healthcare Illinois
Chairman Bradley; Vice-Chairman Zaleski, and members of the House Revenue and Finance Committee:
My name is April Verrett, and I serve as the Executive Vice-President of SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana-Missouri-Kansas.
On behalf of our 92,000 members, and working families all across Illinois, thank you for providing me the opportunity to speak about the importance of corporate tax accountability and transparency, HB 3627.
Let’s be crystal clear: When large, publicly traded corporations avoid paying their fair share in taxes, it is not a “victimless offense.”
There are indeed real world consequences to corporate tax avoidance and as a result working families suffer.
Because when corporations avoid paying their fair share in taxes it means two things happen:
1) Middle class and lower income families have to pick up the tab and pay more of their meager wages to make up for the state’s lost revenue.
2) Corporate tax avoidance results in deep cuts to vital services and programs that support our most vulnerable citizens such as our seniors, adults with disabilities, nursing home patients, and single mothers and working parents living in poverty.
When a corporation shirks its responsibilities in our state, families and our communities are all negatively affected.
Corporate tax avoidance means larger classrooms, less police officers, fewer job training slots, worse infrastructure, higher unemployment, and cutbacks to early learning and child care assistance to name only a few critical issues.
This legislation before you today, to require publicly traded corporations in Illinois to report what their tax liabilities are, along with other important tax information, and to make it available to the public at large through a searchable database, represents a major step forward to fix our state’s broken tax system.
The “Illinois Corporate Responsibility and Tax Disclosure Act” very simply uses the tools of sunlight and transparency to make sure that publicly traded corporations aren’t dodging their responsibilities.
This bill will force major corporations to come clean about what they are paying in taxes – and what they’re not.
And it will implicitly acknowledge those corporations who do play by the rules.
There is no question that members of the Revenue and Finance Committee could use this vital tax and economic information to make informed decisions before offering tax loopholes and breaks to corporations.
Indeed, we anticipate that simply requiring publicly traded corporations to disclose what they pay in taxes will strip away the seemingly endless attempts to force state lawmakers into offering tax breaks to keep corporations from leaving this state – a tactic that we consider economic blackmail.
This bill, HB 3627, is a major step towards corporate accountability.
It will finally level the playing field between large corporations and our small businesses, which are the real drivers of economic growth and create most of the jobs in our state.
So who can possibly be against greater transparency and accountability?
Think about this for a second.
There are large, profitable corporations who are afraid of telling the public what their actual tax payments are in Illinois?
So we must ask, “What are they afraid of?”
They are clearly afraid that Illinoisans’ might actually find out the truth about how corporations manipulate the tax code, and how our communities suffer because of it.
We need fundamental tax reform in this state to focus on how to support our small businesses, rebuild the middle class, and protect vital services that empower working families.
But the first step to bring fairness, opportunity and prosperity to all Illinoisans is accurate, current and unvarnished information about how much money corporations are actually paying in their taxes — information that every resident in Illinois should have access to.
Knowledge is power. Transparency forces accountability.
Together, these ideas push us towards creating real reform and solutions.
That’s why it is absolutely essential that this committee, on a bipartisan basis, pass the “Illinois Corporate Responsibility and Tax Disclosure Act”, HB 3627, and see to it that corporate transparency and accountability becomes law in the state of Illinois.