Chicago Federation of Labor Questionnaire

Personal and Professional Information

  1. Briefly describe your background, including personal, educational and professional information. If you currently or previously have been elected to office, please list what office, when, and whether you received an endorsement from a labor organization.

    My parents came to the U.S. from India in the 1970s.  I grew up inheriting their trauma of colonization and experienced domestic abuse throughout my young life.  I joined the Army to escape my life at 18 years old. I married young, had a child, and quickly became a single mother.  Once out of the Army, I used my GI Bill to pursue my PhD and moved with my daughter to Oak Park IL. I was a single parent making $23,000 per year on a grad student stipend.  We lived in a studio apartment and struggled everyday to keep up with our own lives.

    That was over 10 years ago and since that time I have remarried, had 2 more children, and currently work as a technologist for a non-profit.  I am also an experienced organizer, activist and policy-writer - having led several activist organizations and supporting other candidates for office.  

  2. Have you ever been convicted of a crime in a court of law? If so, please explain.


  3. Is there any additional information, that we should be aware of, that may impact your campaign?

State of Current Campaign

  1. What is your campaign budget and how much have you raised to date?

    Our budget/goal is $11,500 and we have raised $7,100

  2. Does your campaign have restrictions on PAC contributions?

    We are not accepting any corporate donations or contributions.

  3. What are the main policy priorities of your campaign?

    Racially Equitable Education: Eliminate the Opportunity Gap in D200 and D97 schools: I will work to create a village wide initiative to eliminate the opportunity gap between white students and students of color. Every year the gap grows is another year that we are graduating kids that will start their lives already disadvantaged compared to their white peers. I believe we can eliminate the opportunity gap if we have the political will and courage to do so.   

    Adopt Village-wide Racial Equity policies: Our village institutions must work collaboratively across every level of education to ensure that all students have access to high-quality opportunities every step of the way, without bias or barriers. I will fight to make sure that the village board works with our school districts to help enact and implement strong racial equity policies focused on comprehensive systems change. This will require action to address systemic bias and disparities in key areas such as tracking and ability grouping, disciplinary practices, curriculum content, teacher diversity, and school climate. I will also work to put in place additional support systems for parents and students--such as expanded access to tutoring, after-school, and summer school programs.

    Racially Equitable Development:  Pass an Inclusionary Housing Ordinance: In the last several years we’ve seen over four luxury condo and apartment buildings erected in Oak Park. None of these developments had affordable housing units set aside, so that we could ensure equal access to the new developments for the entire community. The result of these economic developments are the pushing out of lower-income residents, increased property taxes, increased traffic on our roads, and decreased environmental sustainability. Oak Park must pass an Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance that requires developers to contribute a designated percentage of investments to create affordable housing units in each development.

    Intersectional Community Planning: I believe that the benefits and burdens of economic development-- such as new housing and business--should be shared in an equitable manner. I will increase and incentivize woman- and minority-owned businesses, and small and local businesses. Village expenditures should also meet supplier diversity goals to ensure that we reach out to, and pursue business with all available vendors. Supporting alternatives to conventional development subsidies by incentivizing community-based innovation and incubators, arts and cultural initiatives, co-ops, and other grassroots efforts that can contribute to a vibrant and growing economy are also vital to racially equitable development in Oak Park.

    Racially Equitable Taxation:  Maintain Funding for Essential Services: We cannot, as progressive Oak Parkers, keep on cutting funding to essential services without any regard to the impact of the tax cuts on the most disenfranchised members of our community. If elected, I will use my status as an elected official to lobby state representatives to do their job now that we have full control of all branches of state government and pass a progressive tax bill at the state level, that will help reduce the fiscal burden on municipal governments. Additionally, I will apply a racial equity framework to revenue generation, budgeting, and expenditures, so that all future decisions to taxation and budgeting are made keeping the humanity, profits, and livelihoods of all people in mind, instead of just the profits of developers.

  4. Have you received endorsements from other groups? If so, which ones?

    Yes, I was one of 3 candidates endorsed by The People’s Lobby.  

Labor Information

  1. Briefly state why you are seeking the Chicago Federation of Labor’s endorsement.

    I believe in organized labor, in organized communities and in organized movements.  This race has 3 open seats and 11 candidates and it will be tighter than anyone would like to admit right now.  Oak Park is on the precipice of forgetting its progressive values and becoming another affluent, white, libertarian suburb -- the soul of our village hangs in the balance.  

    am seeking this endorsement because I believe a progressive win in April will tip the scales back to the side of the people.

  2. What is your connection to the labor movement?

    I believe the power of our country should be in the hands of the workers, who literally make the world go around. I have advocated for workers rights and been a union supporter since I entered the workforce in the military. The industries I work in primarily don’t have strong union organizing, although this is starting to change in the technology industry.  

  3. What have you done to help improve the lives of working men and women?

    As a member of the armed services, I served this country so that everyone has the right to pursue their dream. I’ve written pro-union policy for a congressional campaign in IL-05.  And I will continue to steadfastly push our local government to continue funding pensions appropriately.

  4. Have you ever worked with a labor organization to achieve/accomplish any of its goals? If so, please explain.


  5. Please tell us how you celebrate Labor Day.

    I want to instill in my children the power of regular people organizing.  On several federal holidays, including Labor Day, my family typically volunteers with local activist groups.  Sometimes we are knocking on doors for ballot issues, sometimes we are writing postcards to our neighbors, and sometimes we are attending protests.  We honor Labor Day as a victory for the masses and an example of what the masses can do together.

Policy Positions

Please underline or highlight “yes” or “no” where applicable. If you provide justification for your answer, please limit to one paragraph.

  1. Do you support the right of workers to organize unions – entirely independent of the employer and free from management interference?

    Yes No

  2. Do you support the right of workers to bargain collectively for wages, benefits, and working conditions?

    Yes No

  3. Would you have an open-door policy and be willing to work with Labor to find reasonable solutions to issues affecting working families?

    Yes No

    And I would welcome and invite collaboration with Labor leaders on how to prioritize the protection and advancement of minorities and women within their workforces.  

  4. UAW members assemble an impressive array of vehicles that are second to none in quality, styling and value. What model car do you currently own and would you consider buying a UAW vehicle as your next purchase? Please explain your answer.

    Currently, my husband and I own two Volkswagen vehicles purchased many years ago. For our next cars, we would absolutely consider buying a UAW vehicle, preferably an electric model like the Chevrolet Volt.

  5. a) Have you heard of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)?

    Yes No

    b) If so, would you support any of their legislative initiatives at any level of Government – City, State, or Federal?

    Yes No

  6. Local budgets affect the lives of working men and women. Would you seek input from organized labor when making budgetary decisions about staffing levels, efficiencies and privatization in departments?

    Yes No

  7. a) How long should it take to fill job openings at local agencies and government offices?

    We should have open jobs filled within 90 days.

    b) Would you work with Human Resources (or the appropriate agency/personnel) to fill job openings in a timely manner?  

    Yes No

  8. Negotiations for collective bargaining agreements often extend years past the expiration date of the prior agreement. Would you work with the Administration and Labor Unions representing those workers toward an agreement in an acceptable timeframe?

    Yes No

  9. Underline all the ways in which you would provide public support for an organizing campaign and other relevant issues important to working men and women:

    Speaking at a rally?

    Asking an employer to remain neutral in an organizing campaign?

    Holding a hearing to draw attention to employer abuses of workers’ rights?

    Sending a letter to employees in support of organizing a union?

    Urging an employer to re-hire a worker because he/she supported the union during an organizing drive?

    Urging the public and public bodies to utilize domestic, union produced products? (as well as Black-owned produced products).

    Walking a picket line?

    Requiring developers to use Union contractors?

  10. Responsible bidding is the idea that public construction projects (such as schools, libraries, water treatment plants, tax increment financing, mixed income developments, low income housing, and Empowerment Zones) or procurements paid for by taxpayer money should not automatically be awarded to the lowest responsive bidder, but rather to the lowest “responsible bidder.” In many local units of government with no responsible bidder provisions, there are no front-end criteria applied to contractors bidding public works construction projects and procurement officials lack knowledge of employee trade classifications sufficient to detect erroneous bids. Responsible bidder laws typically require a contractor wishing to bid on public works to comply:  with all applicable laws concerning their entitlement to conduct business in Illinois; with prevailing wage laws; and with federal civil rights laws and executive orders. These laws also typically require contractors to have: a valid Federal Employer ID number or social security number; valid insurance; and a federally approved and currently active apprenticeship training program registered with the US DOL Office of Apprenticeship. They must also maintain an Illinois office as the primary place of employment; Would you support responsible bidder language being included into local contracts?

    Yes No

    I also will encourage supplier diversity goals (tracking women, minority, disability, LGBT and/or veteran spend)  in prime in tier 2 spend with any large project.

  11. A Project Labor Agreement (PLA) is a form of pre-hire collective bargaining that covers all terms and conditions of employment on a specific construction project. PLAs can ensure the highest standards of quality and efficiency at the lowest responsible cost on appropriate public works projects; they also contain no-strike or lockout provisions. PLAs have been successfully utilized on public and private projects such as Rush University Medical Center, the O’Hare Modernization Program, McCormick Place expansion and the redevelopment of Soldier Field. Would you support PLAs for public works projects?

    Yes No

    Provided that a PLA did not diminish the opportunity for more diverse suppliers to participate in the project.  

  12. a) Would you support efforts to establish stronger oversight of local contracts to ensure that cost savings claimed by privatization are legitimate and do not come at the expense of service quality for residents, cuts in employee wages, or elimination of family-supporting jobs?

    Yes No

    Same as above regarding supplier diversity programs.

    b) Would you support efforts to ensure any further asset privatization must be based on demonstrable savings over the long-term, not just short-term gain?

    Yes No

  13. a) Would you oppose any further attempts to cut pension benefits for current or future public employees and retirees?

    Yes No

    b) Would you oppose a constitutional amendment weakening the pension protection clause

    Yes No

  14. Describe your position on charter schools. Would you try to prevent charter school expansion in your community?

    I support public schools unequivocally. I do not support charter schools.  I do, however, understand why parents who are disenfranchised by our public system feel strongly about having choices when it comes to their children’s education. My three children are in, or will soon all be in Oak Park public schools - these schools are the reason many people move to this area. And these schools have a statistically significant gap for traditional success measures based on race. I believe we need to continue working on our public schools to eliminate the opportunity gap - and we desperately need unions to be leading the conversation around this issue.  

  15. The Illinois’ Charter School Commission was created in 2011 and has authorized additional charter schools against the will of local districts and communities. The state legislature has affirmed the right of charter school employees to organize under the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act (IELRA), however only a handful of them are unionized. Most charter school operators oppose unionization and some even hire “union avoidance” consultants. Would you support measures to defend the full rights of charter school employees to unionize, and to sanction employers who refuse to comply with the law?

    Yes No

  16. Wal-Mart made $466.1 billion in fiscal year 2013, yet taxpayers covered $6.2 billion in public aid expenses for Wal-Mart employees. Do you support the building of additional Wal-Marts in our neighborhoods?

    Yes No

  17. In 2016, Cook County passed a minimum wage ordinance that will raise the minimum wage to $13 per hour by July 2020. However, many municipalities throughout suburban Cook County voted to opt-out this law. If elected, would you support your community being opted in to the Cook County Minimum Wage ordinance?

    Yes No

    Oak Park has decided NOT to opt out of this ordinance.  I was a vocal and active supporter of this movement.

  18. In 2016, Cook County passed an earned sick time ordinance allowing workers to earn up to five days of paid sick leave. However, many municipalities throughout suburban Cook County voted to opt-out this law. If elected, would you support your community being opted in to the Cook County Earned Sick Leave ordinance?

    Yes No

  19. Illinois’ medical cannabis program may expand to recreational use in the coming years. Would you support zoning changes to allow for a dispensary/cultivation center in your community and would you demand that such companies have a labor neutrality clause in their contracts that protects workers and allows them to organize free from management opposition?

    Yes No

    I also hope that unions take an active stance in restorative justice in the marijuana trade - prioritizing the protection and advocacy for those who have been historically criminalized for marijuana.  

Arti Walker-Peddakotla