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Chicago Metro Retirees meeting hears from younger workers about local struggles and the need for progressive revenue solutions for Illinois...

The membership of the Chicago Metro Retirees section of the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, is increasing with more space needed for all the Intergenerational people attending meetings. Chairs were added at the February 27, 2017 meeting and still, seating was tight. No one was complaining. The young workers speaking were: Brianna Tong, representing Chicago Student Action (CSA), Cawanna Ellison, representing SEIU HC Future Leaders and Earechiel Johnson, representing Chicago Young Workers and Next Gen.

Tong spoke first. She described working on issues in Hyde Park and Kenwood with the University of Chicago Police Department. Student Action insisted that the Police must release statistics on all pedestrian and traffic stops because the group knew they were racially profiling b lack and brown people but couldn’t prove it. They worked two years on this and got the police to change their policies to stop fewer people mainly because they were black or brown. So, there are fewer stops based on racial profiling.

Chicago Student Action also addressed Roosevelt University because of their awful financial policies. Roosevelt University would offer a financial package before students enrolled. When students enroll, the school offers much less and expects the student to pay the difference. They would kick the student out of school if the person could not pay. CSA recently won a promise from Roosevelt University that it will not change anyone’s financial package once that individual has enrolled in the school.

In the city and Cook County, CSA worked to enact a $13 minimum wage throughout Cook County. CSA has seen that college tuition is hugely expensive, and is underfunded in Illinois.

Governor Bruce Rauner and now, Betsy DeVos, as United States Secretary of Education, are really hurting students tremendously. CSA wants free higher education tuition, subsidies for housing, fees and books. CSA wants fully fund higher education, Monetary Awards Program (MAP grants, funds which students don’t have to pay back) in all public schools throughout Illinois. CSA also wants the Student Access Bill which gives financial support to all four years of public university for undocumented students and stops universities from taking away funding when a student is convicted of a drug charge.

CSA wants all of this funding through progressive taxation. CSA said they had just introduced a bill that will close almost a billion dollars in corporate loopholes. They claimed that two-thirds of the large corporations in our state do not pay any taxes. Tong stated “I’ve seen on Facebook that younger people have to compete with older people for limited funding and we have to cut now and make working people in our sate work and sacrifice. I believe we have enough money in Illinois for older people, Social Security and young people through the Progressive Income tax and LaSalle Street Tax.”

CSA is working on Ban the Box, helping incarcerated people get jobs and training by eliminating questions agouty prior felonies on applications to Governors State. CSA is also asking for $15 minimum hour wages and more disability services at University of Chicago because we know they can afford it.”

CSA and other organizations have been lobbying for several issues. In May CSA will march from Chicago to Springfield to demand a fair budget.

Ellison spoke second, listing the SEIU HC Future Leader’s goals. The goals of Future Leaders are to fight for a $15 minimum wage, affordable child care for working families and support ACA (Affordable Health Care Act).

Future Leaders also work with children to make sandwiches for the homeless. The Leaders then distribute the sandwiches on Wacker Drive. Future Leaders have also had Freedom Schools for our youth. Ellison also stated that “Future Leaders have helped our youth earn their service hours by volunteering in nursing homes. They also register high school students to vote.” Future Leaders also work with Millennial Training on ways to get involved in our communities. Future Leaders work with young and older workers in registering to vote and become leaders in their communities. FL has also worked with young men that have been incarcerated educating them about voting and registering them to vote because the voting laws have changed.

Johnson spoke third about Chicago Young Workers and Next Gen. Chicago Workers are building solidarity across labor unions, especially with young workers, and informing them about what locals are doing. Several young workers traveled to North Dakota to support the protest against the pipe line. Chicago Young Workers have participated in local political campaigns and campaigns supported by the Chicago Federation of Labor.

Chicago Young Workers and Next Gen have encouraged young workers to get involved, get active e and become leaders in their unions. Chicago Young Workers have been involved with CPAC (Civilian Police Accountability Council) supports electing people from each ward who can investigate police who commit crimes or shoot people. The current system lacks accountability and protects police who commit crimes. Alderman Carlos Rosa introduced the bill to the Chicago City Council but it did not get voted on.

Johnson added, “Next Gen Steel Workers upped our campaign on the South Side and expanded our coalition to the North Side. We have increased our attendance since Trump was elected with overflowing rooms. So, we plan to carry on and increase our presence in other wards.”

The ChicagoMetro Retiree Alliance also took action at the February 27th meeting. We called Northwestern Hospital’s switchboard to speak with CEO Dean Harrison (312-926-2000). We want him to pay workers a fair living wage. It is wrong that hospital workers can’t even afford Northwestern’s own Health Insurance. According to what we were told, most Northwestern Hospital employees make less than $15 an hour which prevents them from accessing Northwestern Insurance healthcare because their wages are too low.



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