CHICAGO, Ill.—Two of the city’s main labor unions have joined the campaign demanding that the Obama Presidential Center sign a community benefits agreement before it begins construction.
The Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana announced Oct. 11 that they supported requiring the Obama Foundation to provide affordable housing, jobs, and proper job training for residents of the South Side neighborhood where the center will be built. The two unions joined almost 20 community organizations calling for such an agreement. Former President Barack Obama said last month that he didn’t think one was necessary, because the Foundation’s process would be “transparent” and “every organization will have its input,” and he wanted to avoid too much bickering among local groups. CTU recording secretary Michael Brunson told the Chicago Sun-Times that a written agreement was necessary to ensure that the city and the Obama Foundation keep their promises. “Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel has failed to leverage development for people who already live in the South and West Side neighborhoods,” he said. “The sad reality is that we cannot trust Emanuel to keep his word, and we cannot trust him with this project unless agreements are codified into law.”
SEATTLE, Wash.—The fledgling National Veterinary Professionals Union has begun a quiet effort to organize workers at the nation’s almost 30,000 animal clinics. It hopes to win better pay, benefits, working conditions, and respect for credentialed veterinary technicians—who typically make $15-20 an hour—and other workers. While most veterinary clinics are small, corporate chains have expanded: Last month, Mars Inc., owner of Banfield Pet Hospital, announced it had successfully acquired 800 veterinary hospitals in the U.S. and Canada, nearly doubling the size of its holdings. “I think that acquisition was a catalyst that made people recognize that we don’t have enough input or power in our industry,” NVPU spokesperson Liz Hughston, a relief technician in the San Francisco Bay Area, told the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The union now has more than 2,000 members, largely at corporately owned practices in the Pacific Northwest. It’s been organizing discreetly, Hughston said, because “we don’t want to telegraph too much of what’s going on. There’s already been efforts from larger corporate practices to curtail our organizing efforts.” If it succeeds in winning representation, it hopes to affiliate with a larger union, such as the Service Employees International Union.