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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:33pm
Thu Jun 11, 2015

Whistleblower Becomes Alleged Victim Of Retaliatory Firing At Nippon Sharyo Plant (VIDEO) (UPDATED)

Passenger railcar manufacturer Nippon Sharyo has once again garnered the attention of activists and workers' rights advocates, this time for an alleged retaliatory firing. A former Nippon Sharyo worker says she was let go last week after speaking out about alleged unsafe working conditions and unfair treatment at the company's plant in Rochelle, Illinois.

Back in mid-March, then-Nippon Sharyo worker Jennifer Svenkerud filed a whistleblower discrimination complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), claiming that she was written up and sent home without pay after speaking to company officials about an alleged fall hazard in the non-unionized facility.

Svenkerud, 42, worked at Nippon Sharyo's Rochelle plant as an interior railcar assembler. Before filing her complaint with OSHA of the U.S. Labor Department, Svenkerud said she was assigned on March 3 to work inside a passenger railcar that lacked handrails and safety boards to prevent falls.

"They had me drilling up into a ceiling, and I had a five-foot drop within about a half an inch from me," she told Progress Illinois. "And we're supposed to have boards there. So I went to my boss to get boards there, and they told me that that was part of my job, and I didn't need the boards."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:02pm
Tue Apr 28, 2015

Nippon Sharyo Fined For OSHA Violations, Illinois Worker Advocates Applaud (VIDEO)

On Workers' Memorial Day, a coalition of local worker advocates applauded the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Tuesday morning for recently addressing "serious" safety and health hazards at Nippon Sharyo's passenger train factory in Rochelle, Illinois.

Standing outside Chicago's John C. Kluczynski Federal Building, the location of OSHA's Region 5 office, members of the Illinois Jobs to Move America coalition observed a moment of silence in honor of workers across the nation who have been injured or killed on the job and also called attention to problems at Nippon Sharyo's Rochelle facility. The Illinois Jobs to Move America coalition is comprised of community, faith, environmental and labor leaders, among others.

"The job of an assembly technician at a Ford assembly plant in Chicago shouldn't be so different than a job of [an] assembly technician at Nippon Sharyo['s] factory in Rochelle," Tony Garcia, Illinois legislative director from United Automobile Workers (UAW) Region 4, said. "But based on Nippon's OSHA violations, they are worlds apart ... Irresponsible non-union employers like Nippon Sharyo take a different approach, often cutting corners, doing training on the fly -- or not at all -- and using the cheapest inadequate equipment ... It's time for Nippon Sharyo to fix the hazardous conditions in its factory, and tell the public how they're going to do it."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:30pm
Mon Nov 10, 2014

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."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
3:19pm
Thu Aug 15, 2013

Activists Want An Immediate End To Illinois' Medicaid Privatization Contract

Activists with the Alliance for Community Services protested at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services’ (HFS) Chicago office Thursday morning demanding that the state immediately end its $76 million contract with a private, for-profit company hired to “scrub” the Medicaid rolls.

Following a grievance filed by AFSCME, an arbitrator ruled back in June that the state must end its two-year contract with Maximus Health Services Inc. by December 31 because it violates the state’s contract with the union. Arbitrator Edwin Benn ruled that state employees should be doing the work to investigate Medicaid fraud, not Maximus, the outside contractor.

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
2:58pm
Wed Jul 10, 2013

Group Unveils Plan To Tackle Privatization, Increase Government Transparency

The push back against privatization, or putting public services and assets in the hands of private entities, has become more organized. Last week, a public interest group released a legislative agenda to combat privatization, which they say too often contributes to the downward spiral of local economies and the growing wage gap in the U.S.

The newly-released “Taxpayer Empowerment Agenda” is a package of policy recommendations intended to assert taxpayer control over public resources. Unveiled by In The Public Interest (ITPI), a resource group focused on privatization and contracting, the agenda is being introduced to lawmakers across the country in the hopes of making government contracting processes more accountable and transparent.

“We wanted to introduce a set of proactive public protections aimed at defending our communities from the often detrimental effects of privatization,” said Shahrzad Habibi, research and policy director for ITPI.

PI Original
by Matthew Blake
3:08pm
Wed Apr 11, 2012

Cloud Of Skepticism Surrounds Chicago Infrastructure Trust

There are worries that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s proposed “Infrastructure Trust” will not be accountable to the public and City Council. However, the trust is still largely undefined, raising another, more basic question: What projects will it finance?