Bell Ringers: The Salvation Army’s Lowest-Paid, Most-Needed Employees

When the weather dips below freezing in Chicago, most of the city’s residents do their level best to stay indoors as much as possible. But there’s one group of people who continue to stand outside, braving biting winds and bone-chilling temperatures to ring bells asking for donations: the roughly 2,000 Salvation Army “bell ringers.” According to Major Greg Thompson, general secretary for the Salva...
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Fired Walmart Warehouse Workers Win $50,000 in Back Pay


Mike Compton, one of nine workers fired after protesting alleged wage theft at Walmart's Elwood, Ill., warehouse, won back pay and vindication this week. ( Warehouse Workers for Justice Facebook )   Workers in Walmart’s vast fulfillment network who say they have been treated illegally at work have gotten some good news for the holidays. Last Monday, just days after a Walmart contractor agreed to p...
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Honeywell Workers Get Rare Good News for Christmas


Honeywell workers have had little to celebrate at recent Christmases. Here, families hold protest signs during the 2010-2011 lockout. (Local 7-699)   For the past several Christmases, workers at Honeywell’s uranium plant in Metropolis, Ill., have had little to celebrate. Most of the workers at the plant have spent the best part of four years in a series of labor struggles with the company: first a...
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Advice for Young Women: Get a Union Job

Back in the days before modern feminism, a young woman looking for work might typically be advised, politely, to “learn a trade,” with the implication that she wasn't bound for college or an elite career, but a humbler job as, say, a secretary or seamstress. Such a phrase might sound condescending today. Yet working in a trade might still be sound career goal for a woman, if she gets the right kin...
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Unite Here Campaign Takes Flight at Baltimore-Washington Airport


On December 6, workers rallied outside of Prospect Capital Corporation, which owns the company that handles most of the concessions at Baltimore-Washington Airport. (Unite Here)   During President Barack Obama’s December 4 speech about income inequality to the Center for American Progress, he named “airport workers” among the many Americans who struggle with low wages and long hours. It’s unlikely...
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Lessons from Seattle’s Socialist Breakthrough

Is there something in the water in Seattle? The area has seen dramatic actions by and on behalf of workers in the past few months: defeat of concessions at major grocery chains, Boeing workers’ big “no” vote on concessions, a $15 minimum wage voted in for airport workers, and election of a socialist to city council—a candidate who made a city $15 minimum the centerpiece of her campaign. Activists ...
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National Paid Family Leave May Finally Be on the Horizon

Any working parent will tell you that raising a family might as well be another full-time job—one that comes with no vacation days or health benefits. But millions of Americans don't get days off from their regular job, either, even for the sake of their health or their family’s. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF) , just 12 percent of American workers can take paid...
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As One Window Closes in Chicago, Another One Opens

On Dec. 5, 2008, Richard Gillman abruptly closed the Republic Windows and Doors factory on Goose Island in the Chicago River, putting almost 300 workers out of a job during the holiday season in the midst of the economic crisis, denying them their legally due severance pay and cutting off their health insurance. Exactly five years later, Gillman was sentenced to four years in prison and a $100,000...
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Uncle Sam’s Hiring Practices

A pair of reports released this week show that the federal government routinely ignores worker safety and labor law violations when awarding contracts to private companies—and that American taxpayers are cheated in the process. The first  comes from the staff of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pension (HELP) Committee, which conducted a yearlong investigation of federal contracting record...
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UIC Faculty Union Flexes Muscles in Showdown Over Adjunct Pay

The teaching force at the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC), which  unionized in 2011 , has been at the bargaining table fighting for changes that include improved compensation for non-tenure-track professors and shared governance in the university decision-making process. And after 15 months without results, they’re starting to get fed up. Faculty voted last week to authorize a strike if contr...
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Teachers Seek to ‘Reclaim’ Education


Educators in Chicago brave the cold, demanding funding for schools during the 'Day of Action to Reclaim the Promise of Public Education.'   (Chicago Teachers Local Union 1/Flickr/Creative Commons) After years of being backed into a corner, on Monday public-school teachers stood up in defiance against what they see as their chief bully—budget-slashing school reforms that have made school more stres...
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Are Young Workers the Future of Labor?

With union membership in a decades-long decline, recruiting a new generation of workers is crucial to keeping labor alive. Yet young workers are (and always have been) less likely to be in a union than their older counterparts: As of 2012, only 9.5 percent of 25-34 year old workers and 4.2 percent of 16-24 year old workers were union members, compared to 11.3 percent of all workers. At the same ti...
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Sex Workers in France Resist Attacks on Their Liberty


A demonstrator holds a placard reading, 'Yes to the freedom to prostitute oneself' during a November 29 protest in Paris against a bill that would punish clients of sex workers. (Joel Saget/Getty)   These days, French political culture appears to be retreating from its stereotypical liberalism on one of its best-known "vice" industries: the sex trade. Controversial new legislation in the country w...
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Supreme Court Dismisses Mulhall v. Unite Here, Giving Labor a Lucky Escape


In the 'card check' process, one type of neutrality agreement, an employer agrees to recognize a union if a majority of workers sign union cards. (Old Sarge/ Flickr /Creative Commons)   Unions dodged a bullet today when the Supreme Court took the unusual step of dismissing the strange and possibly disastrous case of Mulhall v. Unite Here Local 355 as “improvidently granted.” Though the dismissal l...
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On National Day of Action to Reclaim Public Education, Some Chicago Politicians Get Lumps of Coal


On December 9, 2013 in Chicago, Brandon Johnson of the Chicago Teachers Union holds up a Christmas list for the city schools. (Matthew Blake)   “Those aldermen who support the TIF surplus ordinance: They are on our good list,” Michael Brunson, recording secretary for the Chicago Teachers Union , declared to a few dozen protesters on a freezing Monday afternoon outside Chicago City Hall. “However, ...
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