Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Union Ankle Biters in the 49th Ward

Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood has hungered for years for a project that would revitalize the semi-blighted W. Morse Avenue. After years of unfulfilled promises of a Streetscape project from 49th Ward Alderman Joe Moore, the Morse Theatre has given new hope to the neighborhood. In 2006, local resident Andrew McGhee announced his intentions to perform a gut rehab on a building that once housed a movie theater, then a synagogue, and a number of small merchants' stalls.

McGhee and his financiers have faithfully preserved the terra cotta front of the building. The new venture will have a 300-seat theater, featuring mainly live jazz and blues, but will have the ability to show cinema and video on a large screen. There will also be a 90-seat restaurant and bar. Without government handouts, with no real assistance from Alderman Moore or DevCorp, this single project will do more to put Morse Avenue on the path to revitalization than anything the local power elite have done.

And there's the rub. The local power elite - the alderman and his cronies, DevCorp, some of the Special Service Area #24 members, and the usual ankle biters - resent this success. It reminds us all of their ineptitude, and of the superiority of the private sector.

Joe Moore would be nowhere if not for heavy union support over the past 17 years. Today, with the magnificent Morse Theatre project about to open in a matter of weeks, there are those amongst Moore's power base that are so beside themselves that they instinctively turn to old and tired methods of harassment and character assassination. Carpenters Local Union No. 58 is one example of the ankle biters, and they are currently handing out flyers in front of the Morse Theatre project during the morning rush hour. Let's examine the text of the flyer with my notes in red italics:

UNION MAID
UNION MADE?

The Morse Theatre project, 1328 W. Morse Ave.

If you're going to picket something, know the correct spelling of it. It's "Theatre," not "Theater."

Invoking the names of past Folkies doesn't make it right.

No, it doesn't, but after saying that the flyer immediately invokes the names of past folkies [folk singers]. The author assumes that everyone knows what a "folkie" is, who the "Folkies" are, and what their significance is.

Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie dedicated their lives to organizing workers to ensure that hardworking people laboring for the bosses were treated fairly and benefited from their labor. They sang and fought to make this dream a reality. Today, as in the past the bosses get fat off of the sweat of the worker and Pete and Woody's work continues.

That was true back in the days of Pete and Woody. But, according to a
Congressional Research Service paper, "Union membership in the United States has declined significantly in recent decades. The number of union members peaked in 1979 at an estimated 21.0 million. In 2003, an estimated 15.8 million workers were union members. As a percent of employed workers, union membership peaked in 1954 at 28.3%. In 2003, 11.5% of employed workers were union members."
[
Source, PDF]

Why is union membership down so drastically from the days of Pete and Woody? Ironically, it is because of the great things that the labor unions did. Truly, we owe the past union leaders a debt of gratitude. But today's union leaders take their members' dues and often turn that money over to political campaigns that many members do not personally support. The union leaders are themselves fat cats. The poor schlubs on the picket line are not making out; they're probably just following orders. Employees around the country (indeed, around the world) see this behavior and say, "No, I'd rather not be in a union."

The Carpenters Union Local Union No. 58 labor dispute is doomed to fail. Why? Well, they're not singing! They need to get a chorus in front of the theater and serenade passersby about the horrible injustices going on inside. However, Local 58 might actually have another agenda here: They would actually like to audition to perform folk songs in the theater after it opens.

Boss Andrew McGhee, a principle at Morse Theater has stated that cuts had to be made and that it's the workers that must suffer.

It's "principal," not "principle." The poor education that the author suffered, probably from a unionized public school teacher, shows here. Furthermore, are we really expected to believe that Andy McGhee said that the workers "must suffer?"

Boss McGhee has hired Cordos Development which pay's its workers sub-standard wages and benefits to perform the carpentry labor on this project.

Dang, more fallout from that unionized public school education. There should not be an apostrophe in "pays."

It is in recognition of the spirit of these bygone folkies that the Carpenters Union informs you the public that workers at this job site are not getting paid the area standard wages and benefits.

Perhaps the union would care to inform us what the "area standard wages and benefits" are for carpenters. But they don't, of course. Additionally, when will Local 58 - and other unions - picket the Heartland Café for not paying its kitchen workers the "area standard wages and benefits?" Where are the pickets and protesters who should be in front of 1340 W. Morse Avenue, where non-union child labor was recently used for hazardous work? (See related story.)

Boss McGhee… Boss Cordos…
"Which side are you on?"

Let's turn that question around and ask Local 58 members how much they are being paid to hand out flyers. How many people are employed by - not represented by, EMPLOYED BY - Local 58?

Carpenters Local Union No. 58 is currently engaged in a labor dispute with Cordos Development over the payment of sub-standard wages and benefits. We seek only to inform the public.

This, of course, is a lie. They seek only to bully their way into the job site, which, ironically, already employs union labor.

RELATED:
The Morse Theatre
Illinois Carpenters Union Funneled More than $82,000 to Hirono During 2002 Gubernatorial Campaign
The Chicago Rebellion
Rhymes With Right - Union Membership Down
Union membership still in rapid decline - National - theage.com.au