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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
6:22pm
Fri Apr 29

Chicagoland Nursing Home Workers Rally For A $15 Minimum Wage (VIDEO)

Nursing home workers in Illinois staged a series of protests this week as part of their push for an hourly minimum wage of $15.

The workers are represented by SEIU* Healthcare Illinois and employed by Infinity Healthcare Management.

Workers and their union allies picketed Wednesday through Friday outside nine Infinity Healthcare Management facilities in Chicago and the suburbs, including Bloomingdale, Cicero, Itasca, Niles and Oak Lawn. Nursing home employees rallied at their respective facilities to speak out about their "poverty" wages and working conditions.

Quick Hit
by Aricka Flowers
7:45pm
Wed Apr 27

Where Do The 2016 Presidential Candidates Stand On Higher Education Funding?

As graduation season approaches and Illinoisans grapple with a 10-monthlong state budget impasse that has negatively impacted funding for college students, higher education is at the top of mind for many people in the Prairie State.

And while income inequality, immigration reform and foreign policy have monopolized much of the discussion in the 2016 presidential election, higher education funding and policies have also become hot issues for voters -- particularly millennials -- when analyzing the platforms of the White House hopefuls. Democratic presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has touched that political nerve with his call for free tuition at public colleges and universities, garnering a groundswell of support among young voters.

GoodCall culled data on the remaining presidential candidates' statements, voting records and official campaign platforms on several policy issues pertaining to higher education, including student loan debt repayment, interest rates, tuition, financial aid and potential reform ideas.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:44pm
Tue Apr 26

Children At Risk: Protections Needed To Improve Welfare Of Youth With Incarcerated Parents

Having a parent in jail or prison can have the same impact on a child's well-being as abuse or domestic violence, according to a new report that is pushing for the expansion of support services to families affected by incarceration.

Children of incarcerated parents face increased risks of financial and emotional instability, the new study, released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, reports.

"Incarceration breaks up families, the building blocks of our communities and nation," reads the study. "It creates an unstable environment for kids that can have lasting effects on their development and well-being."

Some 186,000 kids in Illinois, representing 6 percent of the state's child population, have a parent who has served time behind bars. Nationally, 5 million kids, or 7 percent of the child population, have had a parent in jail or prison during their childhood, according to the research, based on data from 2011 and 2012.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:45pm
Fri Apr 22

Labor Market Looking Up For Recent Grads, But Experts Say More Improvement Needed

The U.S. labor market remains tough for today's young high school and college graduates, but their job prospects are brighter than they were for past groups of students who graduated in the wake of the Great Recession, finds a new analysis by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)

Nonetheless, recent graduates continue to experience poor wage growth as well as unemployment and underemployment rates higher than pre-recession levels, according to the liberal think tank. Unemployment rates among young college and high school graduates also remain higher for blacks and Hispanics than whites.

"Though there has been improvement since the unemployment rate for young workers peaked in 2010, the labor market has still not completely recovered," reads EPI's report. "Thus, the class of 2016 will be the eighth consecutive graduating class to enter the labor market during a period of weakness. The evidence suggests that because of their unlucky timing -- in other words, through absolutely no fault of their own -- this cohort is likely to fare poorly for at least the next decade."

Quick Hit
by Aricka Flowers
11:37pm
Thu Apr 21

Sidestepping Major IPRA Upheaval, Emanuel Implements 'Almost A Third' Of Police Task Force Recommendations

After the Chicago Police Accountability Task Force released a scathing report last Wednesday on the department, saying officers have "no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color," Mayor Rahm Emanuel has announced the immediate implementation of about one-third of the group's outlined recommendations.

The new reform measures will focus on three goals: increasing transparency, creating trust between city residents and officers, and improving police accountability and oversight.

"As a city, we cannot rest until we fully address the systemic issues facing the Chicago Police Department, and the steps announced today build on our road to reform," Emanuel said in an announcement detailing the reforms. "Under the leadership of Superintendent Eddie Johnson, the police department will implement these reforms immediately while we continue to work together to find additional ways to restore the fabric of trust in communities across Chicago. As we look toward the future, our city will be better off because we faced up to these challenges and confronted them head on."

Some of the specific reforms include training CPD officers to "better understand cultural differences" and improving the department's Bureau of Internal Affairs as a means to address cover ups and ensure officer accountability for misconduct. Dispatchers with the Office of Emergency Management and Communications and 911 call takers would also be trained "to improve their interactions and deliver the best service possible to the public," according to the mayor's office.  

The immediate changes coming to the Chicago Police Department do not include, however, two of the most sought-after reforms: the disbandment of the Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) and a review of the police union contract.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:18pm
Tue Apr 19

Pending U.S. Trade Deals Could Gut Environmental Policies, Report Argues

A leading environmental group is sounding the alarm over climate threats posed by pending trade agreements, including the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

TPP is a free trade agreement among the United States and 11 other countries, including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. The agreement was signed in February and still needs ratification from the U.S. Congress.

In a recent report, the Sierra Club says the TPP and another proposed trade agreement under negotiation between the United States and the European Union, called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), "threaten efforts to keep fossil fuels in the ground."

"Like NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement], the TPP and TTIP would give foreign corporations broad rights, including the right to challenge new fossil fuel restrictions that thwart their 'expectations' for a stable business environment," the report explains. "The trade deals would empower the corporations to bypass U.S. courts and take such challenges to tribunals of three private lawyers, unaccountable to any domestic legal system, under a process known as 'investor-state dispute settlement' (ISDS)."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
6:32pm
Tue Apr 12

On Equal Pay Day, Dems Slam Republicans Over Federal Inaction On Paycheck Fairness

Tuesday is Equal Pay Day, marking how far into 2016 women must work in order to earn what men made in 2015.

Women today still earn just 79 cents on average for every dollar paid to men. For African-American women and Latinas, the wage gap widens to 60 cents and 55 cents, respectively, according to an analysis by the National Partnership for Women & Families.

Equal pay advocates say it's time to end the gender wage gap, which could be closed in part by passage of the long-proposed federal Paycheck Fairness Act. Under the bill, employees could share salary information between co-workers without retaliation, among other provisions.

Some Democrats are using Equal Pay Day to slam Congressional Republicans over their repeated efforts against the legislation. 

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8) is among the Democratic cosponsors of the Paycheck Fairness Act. Duckworth, who is running for incumbent Mark Kirk's (R-IL) Senate seat, is seeking to draw a contrast with her opponent on equal pay issues.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:31pm
Mon Apr 11

Illinois Lawmakers: Rank-And-File Legislators Key To Breaking Budget Impasse

State lawmakers on both sides of the aisle discussed the Illinois budget stalemate Monday, suggesting that rank-and-file legislators are key to breaking the monthslong impasse.

Four Democratic and four Republican state lawmakers participated in the talk, co-hosted by the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, CFA Society Chicago and Truth in Accounting.

One panelist was Rep. Robert Pritchard (R-Hinckley), who said rank-and-file lawmakers have been engaged in state budget talks.

"We've been working together. We've been actually talking in smaller groups and we've been talking in private. So saying what we've been offering, I think, would be a break in that confidence," Pritchard said at the event, held at the Union League Club of Chicago. "But the important point is that legislators do feel the pressure that you're putting on, and we are talking. We are looking for where there's compromise. And I think we're gonna see the fruits of that shortly."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:30pm
Thu Apr 7

Illinois Advocates Ask Business Leaders To Push For A 'Responsible' Budget (UPDATED)

Illinois advocates for seniors and people with disabilities are calling on local business owners to speak out against the long-running state budget impasse and the "dangerous" spending cuts proposed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Representatives from the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans and Citizen Action Illinois, a public interest organization and a progressive political coalition, are spearheading the campaign. They are targeting organizations with GOP connections and businesses that, they say, have donated to local Republican state lawmakers.

Advocates protested and passed out leaflets this week in front of the Downers Grove Economic Development Corporation -- for which Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and other GOP legislators are board members -- and Cassens Transport Co. in Edwardsville. The activists rallied at the Firewater Saloon in Chicago's Edison Park neighborhood Thursday afternoon, and plan to visit a Joliet pizza parlor and the Park Ridge Community Bank next week.

Their campaign comes during the tenth month of the state budget impasse. Rauner's pro-business, anti-union policy agenda is at the center of the stalemate, which has created financial chaos for higher education institutions and a range of social service providers. Home health care service providers, for example, have yet to receive over $235 million in state payments owed to them, according to SEIU* Healthcare Illinois, the union representing home care workers.

The advocates are dropping off letters to Illinois business owners, urging them to ask their state lawmakers to "defend the home health care program and the home health providers our state's senior citizens and people with disabilities depend on, and pass a responsible budget that rejects Governor Rauner's dangerous cuts."

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