Winfield Phillips

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Winfield Phillips

Rally to Lower Gas Bills

In the winter of 2001, the gas bills for heating Chicago homes rose. Members of Bea Lumpkin's South Side Communist Club were angry too when they saw their huge gas bills. We agreed, anger is not useful unless it leads to effective action.

So on February 7, 2001, the Communist club took the first step to start the fightback. They talked to their coalition partners and together acted fast. Within a week they had a rally of 130 people to demand lower gas prices.

On February 13, 2001, USWA and Save Our Jobs Committee co-sponsored a rally in the steel union hall in South Chicago. They formed a new group, "Angry Utility Consumers." They included presidents of three USWA locals, Bea Lumpkin , Frank Lumpkin of Save Our Jobs Committee, Katie Jordan of Chicago Coalition of Labor Union Women; community leaders included Rev. Winfield Phillips, Free Salvation Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Bill Hogan, Saint Bride Roman Catholic Church, and many block club presidents and members.

The next month (March) they brought a busload of protesters to a demonstration against Peoples Gas, a company owned by Peoples Energy. The company claimed they were not profiting from the rise in gas prices. At a later date, the Illinois attorney general proved the company had lied. Peoples Gas was forced to pay back the overcharge to their gas customers.

That demonstration was organized by Pat Quinn, later elected Illinois lieutenant governor. He became governor after Rod Blagojevich was removed. Other community groups came from Bridgeport, Back of the Yards (stockyards) and South Austin. That same evening, at our coalition strategy meeting, they were joined by State Senator Donne Trotter, who was asked to introduce a bill to extend the moratorium on gas shutoffs until the gas crisis ended. He promised to "look into" it. [1]

References

  1. Joy in the Struggle, Bea Lumpkin, page 220]