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Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
4:18pm
Mon Nov 24

Workers Claim Wage Theft, Unfair Retaliation At CD One Price Cleaners (VIDEO)

Former workers of a dry cleaners in Chicago's South Loop filed a federal lawsuit against the company Monday morning, alleging that they were asked to complete more work than was possible, forced to work overtime without proper compensation and experienced unfair retaliation when they complained.

"These are pretty straightforward violations of the law. You have to pay your workers for every hour they work," said Sean Morales-Doyle, the lawyer representing the three former workers.

Hortensia Castaneda, Naivi Cobos and Ana Rodriguez filed the lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court claiming CD One Price Cleaners unlawfully retaliated against its workers and violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Illinois Minimum Wage Law and the Illinois Wage Payment and Collection Act.

The three women worked at the CD One Price Cleaners, at 2200 S. Michigan Ave. Their lawsuit alleges that they were required to do more work than was feasible during their shifts, such as ironing 200 garments per hour, and were also responsible for making hangers for those garments at the same time.

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
3:44pm
Mon Nov 24

Durbin On Immigration Reform Executive Orders: 'History Is Being Made' (VIDEO)

Immigration reform supporters gathered for a viewing party of President Barack Obama's executive order speech on Friday in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.

"We're not a nation that kicks out strivers and dreamers who want to earn their piece of the American dream," Obama said during his speech at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas. "We didn't raise the Statute of Liberty with her back to the world, we did it with her light shining."

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), a staunch proponent of immigration reform and one of about two dozen attendees at the Casa Michoacan viewing party, said "history is being made."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:45pm
Fri Nov 21

School Custodians Rally For Higher Wages, Paid Sick Leave (VIDEO)

Low-wage school custodians from Elgin, Wheaton, Rockford and other areas picketed outside of the Illinois Association of School Boards conference in Chicago Friday morning, demanding paid holiday and sick days.

Chanting "Hey, District U46. Your low wages make us sick," the custodians, hired by school district contractors and represented by SEIU* Local 1, also called for better pay and health benefits.

"We want to show (school board officials) that we're not happy with what they pay to our custodians," Carolina Villalobos, an SEIU Local 1 organizer, said outside of the Hyatt Regency Chicago, where the conference was held.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:52pm
Thu Nov 20

Poll: American Views On Immigration Trend In Positive Direction

Americans today are far less worried about the "threat" posed by large numbers of immigrants and refugees coming into the country than they were two decades ago, according to a new Chicago Council on Global Affairs public opinion survey, which highlights a long-term trend of decreasing public concern over immigration.

For its recent report, the council gauged the public's "threat perception" concerning immigration in both May and October, conducting surveys during and after the national spotlight was on the surge of unaccompanied children from Central American countries crossing the Mexican border into the United States.

Just 39 percent of Americans polled this May said they considered large numbers of immigrants and refugees entering the United States to be a "critical threat," the lowest recorded percentage since 1994, when the Chicago Council on Global Affairs conducted its first survey on the topic. The October poll showed 43 percent of Americans viewed immigration as a critical threat, which is not statistically different than the all-time low in May, according to the council.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
12:18pm
Thu Nov 20

Chicagoans Confront School Board Over CPS' Controversial Bond Deals

Chicago Board of Education members got grilled over the district's questionable bond deals at a raucous school board meeting Wednesday evening.

It was the first school board meeting since the Chicago Tribune published a series of reports on the schools district's controversial borrowing decisions. The newspaper's analysis showed that between 2003 and 2007, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) entered into auction-rate bond and interest-rate swap agreements with financial institutions that could cost at least $100 million more over the life of the contracts than traditional borrowing methods would have.

In light of the Tribune's investigation, mayoral candidate Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who attended the school board meeting, introduced a city council resolution last week with his Progressive Reform Caucus colleagues demanding hearings into the "current borrowing practices of the Chicago Public Schools." The council's education committee is expected to hold a hearing on the matter, though a date has yet to be determined.

"We closed over 50 schools supposedly to help save the budget, but meanwhile we lost more than $100 million gambling on Wall Street," Fioretti said at the school board meeting, held at George Westinghouse College Preparatory High School. "That's $100 million that could have been used to save some of these schools, pay our teachers, provide resources to our struggling schools and more."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
11:05am
Wed Nov 19

HUD: Homelessness On The Decline In Illinois

Homelessness in Illinois has dropped 8.9 percent since 2010, new figures from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) show.

There were 13,107 homeless people in Illinois as of this January, down from 14,395 in 2010, according to HUD's annual 'point-in-time' homelessness estimates released late last month. The numbers are based on a one-night count of homeless individuals in shelters and on the street in January.

Over the past year, homelessness in Illinois fell 2.4 percent, HUD's count showed. Notably, homelessness among unaccompanied children and youth in the state decreased by more than 200 between 2013 and 2014.

Nationwide, 578,424 people were homeless during that one-night period in January, representing a 10 percent drop from 2010.

"As a nation, we are successfully reducing homelessness in this country, especially for those who have been living on our streets as a way of life," HUD Secretary Julian Castro said in a news release. "There is still a tremendous amount of work ahead of us, but it's clear our strategy is working and we're going to push forward till we end homelessness as we've come to know it."  

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:11pm
Tue Nov 18

Disability Rights Activists Demand Closure Of Troubled Rogers Park Nursing Home (VIDEO)

Activists protested Monday afternoon outside of a Rogers Park nursing home where numerous disabled children and young adults have died in recent years.

Toting signs reading "Kids need love not nursing homes," about 20 disability rights advocates with the group Access Living demanded that the troubled facility now called Alden Village North shut its doors for good. The activists, who staged a similar protest against the facility in September, also stressed the need for more community-based supports for people with disabilities. 

"We believe that no child with a disability should be in a nursing home, but if they have to exist, this is not one here that should" remain open, said Gary Arnold, public relations coordinator at Access Living.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:19pm
Thu Nov 13

'Chuy' Garcia Talks Race, Inequality In Chicago; Supports Graduated State Income Tax

Chicago mayoral candidate and Cook County Commissioner Jesus "Chuy" Garcia stressed his support for a graduated state income tax at a Thursday morning University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) panel discussion on race and inequality.

Garcia said property taxes, which are a major source of revenue for public education in the city and state, are "very regressive in terms of how they affect the general population" and are "not the best source to fund schools."

"A fairer system of taxation would be a graduated state income tax, or something that is more progressive tied to an income tax," Garcia said in a follow-up with reporters after the talk, which was sponsored by UIC's Great Cities Institute. "I think that is a much more sustainable funding source for schools, for human services and things of that nature. I think it's one that we really need to look at. States that have that type of progressive taxation tend to have better-funded school systems and less disparities in education."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:30pm
Mon Nov 10

Worker Advocates Protest 'Unsafe' Conditions At Nippon Sharyo Rail Car Manufacturing Factory

Worker advocates are sounding the alarm on "dangerous" and "unhealthy" working conditions at Nippon Sharyo's passenger train factory in Rochelle, Illinois.

Employees at the Rochelle plant -- which has received millions in grants, tax credits and training money from the state -- build railcars for Metra and other public transit agencies.

With the help of the AFL-CIO, current and former factory employees filed a complaint last month with the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), alleging that workers "are exposed to serious, unsafe conditions on an ongoing basis."

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