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The Majority Report 03/09/18 - Protecting workers, protecting communities: Senate Democrats establish agenda for change


Workplace harassment prompts demands for action at Ford

Workplace harassment prompts demands for action at FordNearly a decade ago, Illinois Senate Democrats led efforts to provide incentives that kept Ford Motor Co. jobs in Illinois. By all outward appearances, the two Ford plants have been a tremendous economic success, employing thousands of skilled manufacturing workers.

Now, lawmakers including Senator Melinda Bush, a Democrat from Grayslake, are demanding answers and accountability from Ford executives and workforce leaders in response to growing reports of hostile treatment of female workers.

“No one should ever have to experience the things these women did, let alone at work,” Bush said. “Ford management and United Automobile Workers representatives have not only failed to protect these women and ensure they have a safe work environment, they have in many cases been the perpetrators of abuse and harassment.”

Bush helps lead the Senate’s Sexual Discrimination and Harassment Awareness and Prevention Task Force. Her comments followed heart-wrenching testimony from a group of Ford workers detailing what they have suffered and continue to deal with at work.

Over the past several decades, female employees at Ford Motors’ two Chicago plants have reported incidences of sexual harassment, assault, discrimination and retaliation, resulting in a string of lawsuits and an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and commitments from Ford to crack down on the problem. Despite all of this, female employees say they are still experiencing harassment and discrimination.

Bush is considering summoning Ford and union executives before the task force to answer questions. In addition, task force members called on Gov. Bruce Rauner to put new conditions on the state’s mass purchases of Ford vehicles. Other lawmakers have suggested new workplace standards become part of Ford’s ability to keep its special state tax breaks.

“Good-paying manufacturing jobs are a staple of middle-class success, but you don’t sell out your basic human rights and decency for a job,” said Senator Toi Hutchinson, a Chicago Heights Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Revenue Committee. “Employers have a responsibility to be good citizens, especially when they benefit from millions of dollars in state tax incentives.” Senators are in the process of arranging a tour of the Ford plants.

In the news: Ford apologizes for harassment at its Chicago plants


Senators rally support for #NeverAgain initiatives

Senators rally support for #NeverAgain initiativesIllinois senators could vote next week to change state laws in response to the growing outrage over gun violence in schools sparked by the recent mass murder of students in a Florida high school.

If supporters can muster enough votes, the Senate would deliver to Gov. Bruce Rauner’s desk proposals to:

Other changes being debated by lawmakers include:

“We need to move quickly to enact comprehensive gun safety laws,” said Senator Don Harmon (D-Oak Park), who led a special committee hearing focused on improving Illinois gun safety laws. “Every day that we stall, more carnage is occurring in my district and around the state. We should not stop at measures that are easy to vote for; we must push forward with difficult, but necessary, action.”

Read more: Senators hear testimony on gun violence prevention proposals
In the news: Deerfield moves forward with assault weapons ban


Exposing governor’s payroll shell game

Sen. Andy Manar

More than half of the people working for Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office have their salaries hidden away in other state agency budgets, a practice known as “offshoring” that makes it difficult to accurately see how the executive branch spends taxpayer dollars.

That would all come to an end under an accountability law proposed by Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) that is garnering bipartisan support. The legislation, called the Truth in Hiring Act, is an initiative of Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza.

“Every time a governor shifts a new, unexpected six-figure salary onto a state agency’s plate, dollars that had been prioritized for important purposes are being diverted to a paycheck instead,” Manar said.

Rauner isn’t the first governor to engage in this deception, but his administration has possibly taken it to new levels. Only 44 of 102 employees in Rauner’s office are paid from the governor’s budget. If his office was accountable for the salaries of all 102 employees, his budget would more than double to in excess of $10 million.

Read more: Payroll offshoring by governors to be a thing of the past


In case you missed it


Senator Cristina Castro, Elgin: Tense moments at Legionnaires’ disease hearing | Chicago Sun-Times

Senator Tom Cullerton, Villa Park: Department of Veterans Affairs working on master plan for veterans home | The Herald-Whig, Quincy

Senator Don Harmon, Oak Park: Harmon’s state gun shop licensing bill sent to governor | Journal & Topics, Des Plaines

Senator Michael Hastings, Tinley Park: Bill seeks easements from rural right-of-way landowners | Farm Week Now

Senator Andy Manar, Bunker Hill: Spotty AT&T service in Macoupin County | Macoupin County Enquirer-Democrat

Senator Julie Morrison, Deerfield: As Tobacco 21 effort grows, some suburbs prefer to wait before trying to increase tobacco-buying age | Chicago Tribune

Senator Kwame Raoul, Chicago: State board regularly OKs gun licenses despite police warnings | Chicago Public Radio


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