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Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
7:28pm
Thu Sep 18

Chicago Activists Press Alds. Cappleman, O'Connor To Support $15 Minimum Wage (VIDEO)

While working roughly 60 hours a week at two jobs, Ovadhwah McGee says he lives paycheck to paycheck and struggles to pay his bills each month.

McGee, a single father living in the South Side Woodlawn neighborhood with his 13-year-old son, said he works as an in-home care worker and a certified nursing assistant, making an hourly wage of $12.35 and $13.50, respectively.

“I need to be able to put food on my table without having to go to food pantries. I need to be able to work one job so I can actually spend time with my son,” he said, adding that he can’t afford to get his car fixed and thus spends two hours on public transit every day to get to and from work.

“I’m here fighting for a $15 minimum wage in the city of Chicago because I need it, because my son needs it and because working families across the city need it,” McGee said.

McGee and roughly two-dozen protesters, members of the Raise Chicago coalition, rallied to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 per hour Thursday morning. The ralliers called on two Chicago aldermen — Alds. Patrick O’Connor (40th) and James Cappleman (46th) — to support their cause by protesting outside of their offices. The activists also demonstrated outside of a North Side McDonald’s restaurant. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:40pm
Thu Sep 18

Chicago Housing Activists Fight To Save A Rogers Park 'Community House' (VIDEO)

Chicago housing activists are fighting to halt the eviction of tenants living in a Rogers Park home who have turned the property into a community center.

The tenants of the home, located at 7245 N. Ridge Ave., had their first eviction court date Thursday morning at the Richard J. Daley Center, and about a dozen community members came out to support them.

Jorge Ortiz, an organizer with Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, lives in the home with his family, including his mother and uncle. Ortiz and his family moved into the Rogers Park home two years ago after the previous property owner, who was facing foreclosure, abandoned it. The current tenants, with the help of Communities United Against Foreclosure and Eviction, turned the property into a "community house," which has a neighborhood garden and hosts clothing drives, movie screenings and health fairs, activists said.

The tenants and their supporters want CitiMortgage, which the organizers say currently owns the home after purchasing it at a foreclosure auction, to negotiate with them and consider donating the property or selling it at a low cost to a Chicago-based community land trust. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
12:44pm
Wed Sep 17

Census Bureau: Child Poverty Rate Falls Substantially, Number Of Uninsured Ticks Down

America's poverty rate declined from 15 percent in 2012 to 14.5 percent last year, marking the first statistically significant decrease since 2006, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau.

An increase in the number of year-round, full-time workers helped lower the overall poverty rate, Census Bureau officials said. Between 2012 and 2013, the number of men and women working full time, year-round with earnings increased by 1.8 million and 1.0 million, respectively, the figures showed. In 2013, a total of 60.8 million men and 45.1 million worked full-time.

The child poverty rate also dropped significantly from 21.8 percent in 2012 to 19.9 percent in 2013, while the share of uninsured Americans also fell slightly during the same time.

Despite bright spots in the new Census reports on income, poverty and health insurance, Robert Greenstein with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the economy strengthened too slowly in 2013 "to improve the living standards of many middle- and low-income Americans." Read more »

Quick Hit
by Aaron Cynic
7:03pm
Tue Sep 16

Activists Protest Near West Side Shooting Involving Chicago Police

A weekend shooting involving Chicago police sparked a protest on the city's Near West Side Monday evening.

On Saturday, Denzel Ford, 20, was shot by a Chicago cop after he allegedly attempted to run down an officer with his vehicle. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, officers in an unmarked vehicle stopped Ford near the corner of Western Ave. and Lake St. on suspicion of selling narcotics. Police allege that Ford refused to comply with orders to leave the vehicle and instead accelerated, striking the unmarked police vehicle, which then struck two officers and injured one. A police officer then fired multiple gunshots, wounding Ford.

Community members and relatives of Ford dispute the official story from police.

Kemesha Ford told the crowd of a few dozen demonstrators Monday that her cousin was not a killer.

“We are sick and tired of the police shooting our kids,” said Ford. “Everybody is not a killer. Everybody isn’t doing crime. He was unjustly shot.” Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
6:28pm
Tue Sep 16

Town Hall Meeting Illuminates TIF Use In Chicago's 2nd Ward

South Loop residents and other Chicagoans weighed the pros and cons of using tax increment financing (TIF) in the city's 2nd Ward at a community meeting Monday night.

The seven TIF districts located almost completely or 100 percent within the 2nd Ward, which currently includes the South Loop, West Loop and Bronzeville neighborhoods, raked in more than $1 billion in property tax revenue since their inception through the end of 2013, according to city data revealed by the CivicLab at the meeting, hosted by the Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance, a South Loop community organization. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:16pm
Mon Sep 15

Report: Wage Theft Costs U.S. Workers Billions Of Dollars Annually (UPDATED)

The "widespread" problem of wage theft in America might be costing U.S. workers more than $50 billion annually, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

EPI researchers came to the $50 billion estimate based on the findings of a separate, 2008 survey of front-line workers in low-wage industries in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York City. In the three major cities, workers in low-wage industries experienced close to $3 billion in total annual wage theft, which includes paying employees less than the minimum wage and failing to pay for overtime.

"Survey evidence suggests that wage theft is widespread and costs workers billions of dollars a year, a transfer from low-income employees to business owners that worsens income inequality, hurts workers and their families, and damages the sense of fairness and justice that a democracy needs to survive," the EPI report states. "If these findings in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles are generalizable to the rest of the U.S. low-wage workforce of 30 million, wage theft is costing workers more than $50 billion a year." Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
6:04pm
Thu Sep 11

Report: Right-To-Work Laws Strain Public Budgets & Would 'Weaken' Illinois' Economy

Workers in collective-bargaining states "are subsidizing the low-wage model of employment" in states with so-called right-to-work laws that limit union power.

That's one of the key takeaways from a new report by researchers at the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's School of Labor and Employment Relations.

“Our study found that right-to-work laws weaken state economies and strain public budgets,” said the report's co-author Bob Bruno, a labor professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Right-to-work laws not only sap government revenue in the form of reduced tax receipts, but they also increase government spending in outlays for food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit.” Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
9:32am
Wed Sep 10

Public Interest Group Gives Republican IL Lawmakers 'Poor' Marks On Legislative Scorecard

A new legislative scorecard highlights just how politically polarized the Illinois state legislature is on social and economic justice issues.

Citizen Action/Illinois, a public interest organization and a progressive political coalition, released its 98th General Assembly scorecard last week, and no state Republican legislator scored higher than a "poor" rating.

Overall, 45 state representatives and 19 state senators, all of whom are Republicans, received "poor" scores between 10 percent to 49 percent. Meanwhile, no Democratic state lawmaker scored lower than 50 percent.

The scorecard, which gauges "each official’s dedication to social and economic justice," is based on a selection of significant votes taken by the 98th General Assembly, which started in January 2013 and ends after the upcoming fall veto session. Citizen Action/Illinois analyzed 25 votes in the House and 23 votes in the Senate on legislation involving health care, education, consumer protection, civil rights and other topics. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Aaron Cynic
5:34pm
Mon Sep 8

Activist Carlos Rosa Announces Candidacy For Chicago's 35th Ward Aldermanic Seat

Community organizer Carlos Rosa formally announced his candidacy for alderman of Chicago's 35th Ward on Saturday at a small rally in Fireman’s Park.

“We’ve seen the story of Chicago that is broken and needs to focus on putting our neighborhoods first,” Rosa told a group of a few dozen supporters. “But we’ve also seen the story of teachers fighting for good schools, of people fighting to stay in their homes, and of workers getting arrested for a $15 an hour minimum wage. Today we build upon that.”

Rosa, 25, has worked as a community organizer with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) and congressional caseworker for Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL). Rosa also says he is the first openly gay Latino to run for a Chicago aldermanic seat.

“In the 35th Ward, we’ll have a government that is truly responsive to the people,” Rosa told his supporters. Read more »