For quite some time, there has been a sustained attack on workers and the rights they have struggled to win by organizing themselves. In the United States of America, some successes include: safer working environments, guaranteed pension plans and health benefits for workers and their families. When workers organized and fought for and won these rights, many others reaped the benefits.
That working people dare to join together and declare themselves a collective bargaining unit has never been accepted as a right by owners and managers. This is true in manufacturing as well as service industries. Government employees are generally considered a part of the service sector.
The village of Oak Park employs workers represented by a variety of unions. They provide several important services: safety and security through the police and fire departments; plowed and clean streets through the street and sanitation department; face-to-face help at village hall. Other union workers are employed by school districts 97 and 200. Many of our neighbors belong to unions.
Until very recently, management at village hall has employed a knee-jerk adversarial role in dealing with union employees. Village management has delayed negotiations. Members of Teamsters Local 705 worked for us for nearly three years without a contract. Village management has refused to accept a process it has agreed to: binding arbitration. Instead, the village lawyer has hired an outside law firm, paid with our tax dollars, to reject the mutually accepted arbitration process and engage in confrontation.
Perhaps the worst village response to our employees was to negotiate with Teamsters Local 705, reach an agreement, and then declare that agreement unacceptable. Village management claimed that those they sent to negotiate a settlement with 705, didn’t have the right to settle on behalf of management.
Our new village manager, Tom Barwin, has involved himself in the worker/manager process and has made a positive impact. We do not accept the anti-worker attitude that some in village management embrace. Change will not happen overnight, but it must happen. The people who serve our community should not be treated with animosity. This is an unhealthy approach that will take a concerted effort to end.
The platform of the Vision Community Action Party states that all Oak Park unions should have signed contracts by the end of this year. We do not want to throw our tax dollars at professional, union-busting law firms hired to contest arbitrated settlements. We value the work that village employees engage in and will promote a cooperative, rather than confrontational approach in management/worker relations.
Trustees do not engage in negotiations with village employees, but we can direct village management. We will not accept the atmosphere of anti-worker sentiment that many in this management hold. To break with this tradition, we need to have a village Board that will actively work for change. Elect the VCA slate.
Annabel Abraham, Jim Balanoff, Robert Milstein, Gary Schwab, Vision Community Action candidates for village trustee