Union Strong LIVE!

Union Strong LIVE!

October 20, 2024

WCPT Union Labor LIVE!

OAK BROOK— When Chicago Labor leaders recently joined forces on WCPT 820 AM for a 2-hour candid discussion covering organized labor topics, you’re going home with A LOT of information.

The Oct. 18 broadcast of WCPT’s Union Strong LIVE was the first to be broadcast in front of a live audience in years at the Oak Brook-based Roofers and Waterproofers Local 11.

Hosts Joan Esposito and Santita Jackson questioned several panelists on topics ranging from workforce development, qualifications for a Union apprenticeship, retention and pensions.

WCPT Union Strong LIVE!

“We’re all here to help people understand what the trades do, what Unions do and why working collectively makes us all stronger,” said Jackson to applause from the live audience.

Labor panelists were: Roofers and Waterproofers Local 11 President/Business Manager Gary Menzel; SMART Local 265 President/Business Manager John Daniel; Megent Financial Co-CEO Ron Whittingham; Chicago Federation of Labor President Bob Reiter and CFL Secretary Treasurer Don Villar; CISCO ED Dan Allen and Education-to-Careers Director Jamillah Muhammad; CTU Legislative/Policy Director Kurt Hilgendorf, University of Illinois Chicago Professor of Labor and Employment Relations Dr. Bob Bruno and Illinois Economic Policy Institute Executive Director Josh Weger.


Professor Bob Bruno, Professor of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois Chicago, explained how Unions have built a pathway to a prosperous middle class by providing its members with higher wages, employer paid health care and defined pension plans.

WCPT Union Strong LIVE!

Panelists started the live broadcast discussing the economics behind Unions and the value they bring members in terms of benefits and pensions. Photo courtesy of CISCO

“This allows for home ownership, a more valuable home, and more options for your children to make their own American dream,” Dr. Bruno said. “Without this Union Premium, you’re going to have folks less able to live their American dream,” he added.

SMART Local 265 President John Daniel added to the discussion by bringing up the additional benefits a Union provides with pensions and health care.

“Health care is a huge added value Unions have done right — as well as pensions. Union pensions create a level of dignity, so that as our members retire, they can enjoy the fruits of their labors,” Daniel added.

The first step to these benefits is acceptance into a Union Apprenticeship program, which CISCO Executive Director Dan Allen likes to call the “Bachelor’s Degree of the building construction trades.”

WCPT Union Strong LIVE!

CISCO Executive Director Dan Allen calls Union Apprenticeship programs the “Bachelor’s Degree of the building construction Trades. Photo courtesy of CISCO

Every trade has its own Apprenticeship training program teaching individuals with a combination of classroom training, and paid, on-the-job training — which comes from the contractor you are hired by.

“Apprenticeships are an actual way to a free education, and you are paid to receive that education. At the same time, you are getting benefits you need — like health care and a pension,” explained CISCO Education-to-Careers Director Jamillah Muhammad.

“An Apprenticeship is the best thing that can happen to you, but you have to understand what Apprenticeships are, and you have to know what your strengths and skill sets are, so you choose the right Union for you. I always say, ‘you can’t do what you can’t see,’” Muhammad added.

See below for more photos from the WCPT Union Strong LIVE! event

WCPT Union Strong LIVE!

At the end of the live broadcast, both hosts and panel members were all smiles for a successful show. Pictured, from left, are WCPT host Joan Esposito, SMART Local 265 President John Daniel, Roofers and Waterproofers Local 11 President/Business Manager Gary Menzel, CISCO Executive Director Dan Allen, Chicago Federation of Labor Secretary Treasurer Don Villar, CISCO Education-to-Careers Director Jamillah Muhammad and WCPT host Santita Jackson. Photo courtesy of CISCO

WCPT Union Strong LIVE!

In the second hour of the broadcast panelists, from left, Roofers and Waterproofers Local 11 President/Business Manager Gary Menzel and CISCO Education-to-Careers Director Jamillah Muhammad, discuss the Apprenticeship process and their curriculum. Photo courtesy of CISCO

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