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Quick Hit
by Op-Ed
3:51pm
Tue Jul 28

Op-Ed: NY Wage Board Raises For 200,000 Fast Food Workers - Another Legacy of Jon Kest, Famed New York Organizer

The following was written by Keith Kelleher, president of SEIU* Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Kansas.

Breakfasts with my friend, progressive icon Jon Kest, were always lively. We'd talk about organizing, progressive politics and life. But when we met at a Brooklyn diner three years ago, even I couldn't believe what he wanted to discuss this time: an audacious plan to win raises and union rights for 200,000 fast food workers in New York, and help spark a movement calling for $15 an hour for hundreds of thousands of home care, child care, airport and other underpaid workers across the United States.

If you don't know Jon, he was one of New York's - and the nation's - premier community, political and labor organizers until his life was tragically cut short by liver cancer in December, 2012.

We didn't know about his diagnosis that morning. But we did know that we were on the ground floor of a potentially transformative movement.  Jon and his staff at the New York Communities for Change (NYCC) in New York, and Madeline Talbott and her staff at Action Now in Chicago, working with SEIU, had been experimenting with organizing underpaid fast food workers in New York and Chicago.

I was somewhat disbelieving when Jon unveiled the idea of helping fast food workers in New York organize and take action on a grand scale to help win historic raises. I organized fast food workers in Detroit in the 1980s. The work was hard and victories were few and far between. Although Jon and I worked in different regions, our experiences were similar: the hard working men and women in those jobs were excited and highly motivated by the idea of forming a union to win better wages that would support their families.

Still, the odds seemed long.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:17pm
Tue Jul 28

Logan Square Community Rallies Against Local School Budget Cuts (VIDEO)

Logan Square parents, teachers and students rallied Tuesday morning to speak out against the deep spending cuts affecting local public schools. The group also demanded that tax increment financing (TIF) funds be used to restore school budgets.

Those who attended the rally, held at the Illinois Centennial Monument in Logan Square, said releasing TIF surplus dollars would be an immediate way to boost school budgets while city and school officials work toward identifying long-term fiscal solutions for the district.

Leaders with the Logan Square Neighborhood Association, which organized the rally, said 10 of the group's partner public schools face a combined $4.7 million in budget cuts for the upcoming school year.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:07pm
Fri Jul 24

Report: Higher Ed Investments Key To Closing Racial Unemployment Gap In Illinois

Young Illinois adults of color are facing significant disparities in employment, wages and educational attainment, a new report shows.

The Millennial research and advocacy group Young Invincibles put out the report, arguing that greater investments in higher education are key to closing the gaps.

"Creating more opportunities for people of color to attain higher education is a critical step towards addressing the striking disparities in employment and wages in Illinois and nationwide," Eve Rips, Midwest director of Young Invincibles, said in a statement. "With Illinois students paying some of highest tuition in the country, proposed cuts to higher education could further fuel racial disparities in education attainment."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:24pm
Thu Jul 23

Chicago's Southwest Siders Speak Out Against Proposed Noble Charter High Schools (VIDEO)

Local residents and school and elected officials on Chicago's Southwest Side packed a town hall meeting at Thomas Kelly High School late Thursday morning to push back against a proposal to open two new charter high schools in the area.

The charter proposal comes at a time when neighborhood schools on the Southwest Side and across the city are facing another round of deep budget cuts as the school district grapples with large budget and pension problems.

Those at today's town hall meeting argued that the new Noble campuses could come at the expense of cash-starved traditional neighborhood schools and the programs they offer. If district-run neighborhood schools lose students to the new charters, for example, they would see less funding due to Chicago Public Schools' (CPS) per-pupil budgeting formula.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:32pm
Tue Jul 21

Experts Urge Fed To Pursue 'Genuine Full Employment' Before Rate Hike

The Federal Reserve should pursue "genuine full employment" with "robust wage growth" before raising interest rates, experts from the Center for Popular Democracy and the Economic Policy Institute argue in a new report.

The report authors say the Fed, the central bank of the United States, can help reverse wage stagnation and narrow gender and racial wage gaps through its monetary policy.

Most Americans have faced wage stagnation over the last 35 years, despite there being a 64.9 percent growth in productivity during this time, according to the report. Wage growth also remained sluggish last month, with average hourly earnings increasing only 2 percent in June from one year ago.

A move by the Fed to slow the economy with an interest rate hike before "genuine full employment" is achieved will "hamper the ability of workers' wages to rise," the authors wrote.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
6:19pm
Fri Jul 17

Schakowsky: TPP Could Harm Access To Affordable Medicine

U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL,9) is sounding the alarm over the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership's (TPP) potential impacts on affordable prescription drug access.

Schakowsky joined U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT,3) as well as health and consumer advocates on a Friday conference call to highlight leaked intellectual property provisions in the proposed trade deal that could curb access to generic medicines.

One item contained in the TPP's leaked intellectual property chapter would expand the use of "evergreening," a process by which patents are granted for new uses or changes to existing medicines.

Essentially, "evergreening" lets patent holders like pharmaceutical companies "obtain longer periods of exclusivity for just slight changes in existing medications, even if there is no therapeutic benefit," Schakowsky explained, adding that this process "allows monopoly pricing and keeps out competition from generic companies, and drives up prices."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:29pm
Tue Jul 14

Chicago TIF Revenue Drops 12 Percent, Seven Districts Slated For Early Termination

The seven downtown Chicago tax increment financing (TIF) districts that Mayor Rahm Emanuel plans to phase out have together collected $869 million in revenue since their inception, according to figures provided by Cook County Clerk David Orr.

Just in the last year, the seven TIF districts had combined revenues of $93 million.

Those numbers were contained in Orr's 2014 TIF report released Monday, the same day news broke that the city will be shutting down seven downtown TIF districts after current project balances have been paid in full. As part of Emanuel's TIF changes -- which were announced as both the city and school district grapple with large pension and budgetary issues -- no new spending in the seven TIF districts will occur.

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) is expected to get $125 million in revenue over five years under the plan to shutter the TIF districts, and the city will receive $50 million. Other funds will be set aside for "emergency infrastructure projects."

"Chicago and the mayor are moving in the right direction by freezing new spending at some downtown TIFs and dissolving those TIFs when current projects have ended," Orr said in a press release. "Still, such scrubbing is overdue and it could certainly include more than seven of 148 TIFs."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:05pm
Tue Jul 14

Chicago Education Coalition Demands Meeting With Emanuel Over Dyett High School's Future

Chicago education activists took to City Hall Tuesday to demand a meeting with Mayor Rahm Emanuel over the future of the South Side's Dyett High School campus.

The activists were with the Coalition to Revitalize Dyett High School, one of three groups behind separate proposals to reopen the now-closed school, located at 555 E. 51st St.

Back in 2012, the Chicago Board of Education voted to phase out Dyett due to poor academic performance. The school, located in the Washington Park community, closed in June after its final senior class of just 13 students graduated.

For nearly two years, the coalition has been advocating for its community-driven plan to turn Dyett into a "global leadership and green technology" open-enrollment high school. Members of the coalition, spearheaded by the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, were also on the frontlines protesting the initial decision to phase out Dyett.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
1:59pm
Wed Jul 8

Job Openings Hit Record High In May, But 'Quits Rate' Doesn't Move

The number of U.S. job openings reached a record high in May at nearly 5.4 million, but new hires were down slightly during that month. The rate of people voluntarily quitting their jobs, an indication of labor market strength, didn't budge in May either.

That's according to the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Job openings ticked up from 5.33 million in April to 5.36 million in May, representing the highest level since positions started getting tabulated in December 2000.

Despite a record number of job openings, new hires inched down a bit to 5 million in May from 5.03 million in April. The hiring rate slipped from 3.6 percent in April to 3.5 percent in May and "remains significantly below its pre-recession level," according to an analysis of the new survey by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), a Washington, D.C. think tank.

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