Newspoem 8 March 1996

Report on the Illinois Department of Labor's Underpromoted Public Hearing on a proposal to repeal Illinois "One Day Rest In Seven" Act at the Illinois State Library in Springfield

0. Illinois Department of Labor Chief Legal Counsel Scott Miller encourages everyone to speak openly by cheerfully assuring us that "this is not a sting."

1. A representative of John Crane International lists numerous problems the company faces regarding scheduling, machinery, labor, and the fluctuating demands of the marketplace, which he summarizes by saying "we can't just hire more people."

2. 2 asks to speak last. Scott Miller cheerfully agrees.

3. A man rattles off his union affiliation too quickly for me to write it down and mentions that the One Day Rest in Seven Act protects family values, and workers' safety. To demonstrate the latter, he mentions the construction of Pekin, Illinois' Commonwealth Edison Plant. During the first part of the construction, which lasted two years, workers worked six days a week. Eleven workers died. During the second part of the construction, workers worked a five day week: nobody died.

4. Another man rattles off his union affiliation too quickly for me to note, but his sweater reads IBEW, explains that corporate downsizing has not reduced workloads.

5. Mike Lehman, an Urbana worker not affiliated with any union, explains that companies should be subject to the laws of the marketplace as well as the laws of the state. He asserts that Illinois Labor Law is already too weak. He mentions that the minimum wage is at a 40 year low, depressing the wages of all workers with it, and says that it needs to be raised and indexed the rising cost of living. Finally, he proposes that companies seeking the normal exemptions from the One Day Rest in Seven Act pay a fee.

6. Another union representative proclaims that the human body does not possess the durability of machines they work with: people need down time.

2. Robert Walters of the Southwest Illinois Industrial Association says the One Day Rest in Seven Act is "inconvenient." He says that "workers are lining up to work." He says that "big government is over." He says that workers want a "vacation, Christmas presents, gifts for their wives." He says "we need to work, we want to work." He says "we don't want to hurt people, kill people, destroy the family..."

7. Mike Jefferson, IAM Local, thankfully, speaks last anyway. He is gigantic man in an immaculate suit who looks like he could break both of Robert Walter's legs or rotate all the tires on his car without getting one spot on his silk tie. He is wearing sunglasses. He stuns the crowd with his frank comment "we don't work three shift operations."

8. Charts in today's New York Times show that the American economy is in great shape.

It's the American worker who is in trouble.


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