jobs – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop Chicago Community Stories Mon, 19 Feb 2018 15:45:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 SE Side wants to benefit from USX development Fri, 06 Sep 2013 22:16:10 +0000 With nearly $100 million in TIF funds being spent on the first phase of a massive development on the south lakefront, a community summit on Saturday will discuss strategies to win a community benefits agreement for the project.

The Coalition for a Lakeside CBA meets Saturday, September 7, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, 3200 E. 91st.

Jennifer Epps-Addison of the Partnership for Working Families will discuss how community benefits agreements (CBAs) across the country have won opportunities for local workers and communities, and Tom Tresser of CivicLab will present an analysis of all TIFs in three local wards.

The Coalition will also release results of a new survey of Southeast Side residents.

Site developer McCaffrey Interests has been granted $96 million in TIF support from the city for the first phase of a vast new redevelopment of the former site of US Steel’s South Works (USX) plant, dubbed Chicago Lakeside.  Ultimately McCaffrey plans over 13,000 units of housing, 17.5 million square feet of retail, 125 acres of parks and a 1,500-slip marina.

The TIF subsidy will cover one-fourth of development costs for the first phase of the project, which will include 1 million square feet of retail and restaurants and 848 units of housing.  The first phase is planned for the northwest corner of the 530-acre site, which runs south from 79th Street along the lakefront to the Calumet River.

Concerns about displacement

A major concern is that development could cause displacement in the adjoining area, as it has in other communities, with property tax increases as home values rise forcing longtime residents to leave, said Amelia NietoGomez of the Alliance of the South East, an organizer of the coalition.

The coalition wants property tax relief for longtime residents as part of a CBA, she said.  According to the new survey, families on the Southeast Side have lived in the community for an average of 32.6 years; in South Chicago and the East Side, the average is 50.1 years, she said.

“Our people have lived here and worked here,” said Sylvia Ortega, a 37-year resident who is president of the Bush Homeowners and Tenants Association, directly across from the site.  “We survived the closing of the steel mills, the unemployment, the gangs and the blight.  We want to stay here.

“Our tax dollars are paying for the development,” she said.  “Our community needs to benefit from the development.  We don’t want to be left behind.”

Housing is another issue that organizers hope a CBA will address.  While the TIF provides for 20 percent of new units to be affordable, the affordability standard is based on the six-county area median income rather than the immediate area, where it’s much lower.  That means even affordable units could be out of reach of local residents without extra protections, NietoGomez said.

“You don’t want an artificial line between the new development and the existing residential community, and one way to prevent that is to make sure new affordable housing is on-site and fits the profile of neighborhood income,” commented Kevin Jackson of the Chicago Rehab Network.

Quality jobs

The Coalition is also calling for training programs and employment of local residents in the new development — and for partnerships with local schools focusing on science and technology.

“This development is going to take decades, so we want education and training for kids who are in school now so that when they graduate, they can qualify not just for construction jobs but as project managers, engineers, and for green jobs,” said NietoGomez.

“Development is great, we are looking forward to it, but there needs to be a balance with community needs,” she said.  “The families that live here deserve to be able to stay, and they deserve to benefit from the development.”

Tresser said that of the $96 million allocated for the first phase of the project, just $1 million is set aside for job training.  “I’m not sure that’s going to be enough to reach the grassroots.”

He added: “If we’re going to be spending public money, we should be getting high-quality, good-paying jobs.”

Two TIF districts — Chicago Lakeside and South Works — cover the site.  According to a McCaffrey brochure, the city has committed to spending $60 million on a new high school and $20 million for a new marina, among other projects.  The Chicago Park District has committed $120 million to new park development on the site, according to the brochure.

Currently work is being completed on the extension of Lake Shore Drive and Route 41 to serve the site, funded by $30 million in federal and state funds.

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Bronzeville youth, community leaders to speak on violence Wed, 13 Feb 2013 23:47:30 +0000 While politicians push tougher law enforcement to address youth violence, community leaders and youth in Bronzeville are demanding that the root causes of violence — including unemployment, disinvestment, and school closings — be put at the top of the agenda.

At 4 p.m. on Thursday, February 12 14, youth leaders from five high schools — including King College Prep, where Hadiya Pendleton was a student, and where one of the suspects in her murder graduated – will hold a press conference at 4 p.m. at Dyett High School, 555 E. 51st Street.  They’re part of Leaders Investing For Equality (LIFE), which for several years has pushed for restoration of funding cut from youth employment programs.

At 6 p.m. on Thursday, the Bronzeville Alliance and Centers for New Horizons will hold a press conference at the Ellis Childcare Center, 4301 S. Cottage, to launch a community initiative to coordinate social services for community youth and families and to advocate for a reversal of cutbacks they say have destabilized the community.

In media coverage of youth violence, “there doesn’t seem to be much discussion of the root causes of these problems and the responsiblity of government and the private sector for years of disinvestment in minority communities,” said John Owens of CNH.

“We’ve had many years of jobs being lost and cutbacks in a whole range of social services – and the whole idea of closing schools is just another form of cutbacks,” he said.

“There’s been no discussion of youth employment, no discussion of the destabilization of families when jobs are lost and parents are working odd hours, no discussion of afterschool programs that are relevant,” Owens said.  “The bottom line is that we need to understand what it means to build community and we need to start building it – with the kind of resources that are needed for a community in crisis.”

Owen said CNH and other Bronzeville agencies are trying to provide developmental social services, “but everybody is barely keeping their doors open. There are not enough of us and we are not funded anywhere near what would be adequate to reach the number of youth and families out there who are in need.”

The new coalition, dubbed SAVE (Stop Armed Violence Everywhere), is calling on the city and state to work with residents to restore employment, educational, mental health and recreational resources in Bronzeville.  They are demanding meetings with Governor Quinn and Mayor Emanuel.

The coalition includes local schools, social service agencies, community groups, and business and veterans groups, Owens said.

The Bronzeville Alliance issued a call to the media “to avoid body-count journalism and drive-by reporting that criminalizes our community and tends to look at this very complex problem in narrow, counter-productive terms.”

It calls for an approach that is “pro-active, holistic, and sustainable.”

Youth leaders from LIFE will highlight public school closings, reduced funding for summer youth employment and limited recreational opportunities as”catalysts of community destabilization,” according to a statement from Shannon Bennett of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, which backs LIFE.

“Policy decisions made without consultation with the people directly impacted have led to destabilization of communities and increased violence in neighborhoods, particularly communities of color,” according to the statement.

“Summer youth employment was decimated over the last 20 years, and only one-third of the youth who apply each year for summer jobs find work. There is very little teen-specific programming in communities around Chicago serving out-of-school and severely at-risk youth.

“School actions implemented by the Chicago Board of Education have led to the creation of new youth gangs and the 300 percent increase in homicides in north Kenwood-Oakland.”

[See previous Newstips on LIFE from 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011]

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Fancy footwork on job numbers Mon, 03 Dec 2012 01:21:24 +0000 Mayor Emanuel’s op-ed in last Sunday’s Washington Post, framed as advice to the Democratic Party, may or may not be an attempt to get out in front of the 2016 presidential field.

Emanuel touts his infrastructure trust, introduction of competition for early education dollars, longer school day, and reorganization of City Colleges as the model for a national program.

As proof of the wisdom of his policies,  he cites Chicago’s latest employment figures, with 42,500 more people employed this October over October 2011 – stronger growth than any other city, he proclaims.  It’s a neat statistic, though it’s also an example of Emanuel’s proclivity for announcing results before initiatives have even been implemented.

Employment numbers vary from month to month – over the last year, monthly numbers for Chicago have ranged from a gain of 17,537 (in August) to a loss of 9,744 (in July) — so picking your data point can make a big difference in bragging rights.  But it does seem that for a few months at least, job growth has been stronger in Chicago than elsewhere, though it’s not due to anything Emanuel has done.

One statistic doesn’t tell the whole story, of course. It also turns out that while employment increased from September to October, unemployment also increased, rising a half point to reach 10 percent, according to World Business Chicago. But hey, that’s progress: it’s down 0.3 percent from two years ago.

Maybe it’s a good sign that more people are looking for work.  But unfortunately, too many are not finding it.

And in Emanuel’s Chicago, they’re far more likely to be out of work if they’re African American.  As the health department’s new database on socioeconomic indicators reveals, the distribution of unemployment is wildly uneven in Chicago.

Five community areas including the Loop, Lakeview, and Lincoln Park had unemployment rates below 5 percent.  In nine community areas, all on the South and West Side, unemployment was over 20 percent.  In West Englewood, it was over 34 percent.

Those statistics are from 2006 to 2010, but there’s nothing to indicate the disparties have decreased — and as we’ll see, Emanuel’s policies have almost certainly intensified the effect.

Black Chicago left behind

Last year Megan Cottrell reported that African Americans in Chicago had the highest unemployment rate of any big-city racial or ethnic group in the nation.  And looking at workforce participation, she determined that fully one half of African-American males in Chicago are not working.

In fact, a new study shows that while African-American unemployment rates have fallen in most cities, they’ve continued to rise in Chicago. Chicago is also near the top in the gap between employment rates for blacks and whites.

As we’ve noted, St. Louis, Atlanta, Memphis, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Washington and Richmond had black unemployment rates that were below the national average. Chicago’s is 6 points higher.

Emanuel is doing nothing to address this; indeed, his policies are making things worse.

He’s cutting middle-class city jobs by the hundreds, outsourcing city services to low-wage, no-benefit private providers and turning city contracts over to low-wage, nonunion contractors.   And the jobs he’s cutting belong overwhelming to people of color, particularly African Americans.

In the past year Emanuel has cut nearly 1,200 middle-class city jobs, according to Mick Dumke.  Setting aside the 400 positions eliminated in the police department, roughly half fell on majority-black areas of the South Side, with the rest mainly distributed among black and Hispanic areas of the West and Southwest Sides.

City services like homeless emergency transportation — and now the water department’s call center — are being outsourced to low-wage employers.  Recycling and public health services are also being outsourced.

Low-wage Chicago

More recently the city has been awarding contracts for janitorial services at O’Hare and city buildings to low-wage employers, including one contractor with a history of labor board violations.  At O’Hare, a contractor who paid $15.45 an hour and provided health and retirement benefits under a union contract is being replaced by a contractor offering $11.90 an hour, likely without benefits.

That doesn’t even save the city money, since the contracts are covered by airport fees paid by airlines.  It seems to purely reflect a preference for low-wage employers.

Meanwhile a majority of aldermen are supporting two measures, the Responsible Bidders Ordinance, which would protect workers when the city changes contractors, and the Stable Jobs, Stable Airports Ordinance, which would extend the city’s living wage requirement to airport contracts.

These would boost the city’s economy – and create jobs — by giving consumers more money to spend. They’d raise incomes for Chicago’s families, where nearly one in three children – and more than one in two black children – live in poverty, as Steve Bogira notes.

The mayor’s council allies have so far blocked consideration of either ordinance.

This takes place during a recovery where, as the Tribune has detailed, better-paying jobs are being replaced by low-wage jobs. Today one third of Chicago workers have low-wage jobs, not paid enough to cover basic necessities.  That’s up from 24 percent ten years ago.

The 42,500 jobs for which Emanuel falsely claims credit include a large number of retail and restaurant jobs; those are big sectors in Chicago, and they’re leading job growth nationally.  Those jobs generally pay little more than the minimum wage.

And where Emanuel has a chance to make a difference, he seems to opt for cutting workers’ wages every time.  The thrust of his approach is to turn Chicago from a union town to low-wage town.  Even his determination to replace neighborhood schools with charters has the effect of lowering living standards for teachers.

His economic development policy consists largely of press conferences where CEOs announce job shifts and praise the mayor – though as the Tribune has shown, about a fourth of the 20,000 jobs he claims to have shephered here are based on very uncertain projections, and of the rest, about half were transfers, not new openings for Chicagoans.

“The new jobs the mayor brags about are not being filled by people who live in the communities that need them most,” writes Ben Joravksy.  “Meanwhile, the mayor replaces union jobs that bring much-needed money to hard-hit communities with low-wage, part-tiime ones.”

Race to the bottom

“Emanuel does not seem to understand that one cannot achieve economic development by further immiserating working people and their communities, and by privatizing and cutting public services that working people depend on,” according to the Chicago Political Economy Group.

According to CPEG, Emanuel’s policies are basically the Republican “trickle down” approach.  “This has been the source of much of our current economic malaise.”

“A bottom-up, Harold Washington-type local economic development strategy would not lead to increasing African-American unemployment” – which they note is “much higher than New York’s and trending in the wrong direction over the last year” – and would be the best way to “achieve broad-based and sustainable prosperity.”

In his Washington Post piece, Emanuel proposes taking his austerity-and-privatization program national.  He repeats a common falacy of Clinton-era Rubinites, who think balancing the federal budget “lay the groundwork for a decade of prosperity,” as he puts it.  In fact, a boom fed by technology and stock bubbles was what brought the deficit down.  They’ve got it backwards.  Drawing the wrong lesson, they want to cut spending now – an approach mainstream economists recognize as a recipe for stagnation.

We need to restore progressive taxation, get the financial sector under control, and ramp up public-sector investments.  We need fair trade policies, not the NAFTA-style race-to-the-bottom deals Emanuel has pushed.  The mayor’s national program is a prescription for a “lost decade.”

Back home, with entrenched unemployment along with with a steady wave of low-wage jobs encouraged by city policies, and with job cuts targeting the areas that need jobs most desperately, that’s precisely what Emanuel seems determined to give Chicago.


A previous version of this post was revised, with a new headline.

Warning on Social Security, Medicare cuts Tue, 30 Oct 2012 00:43:23 +0000 Seniors, people with disabilities, and the poor shouldn’t be pushed over a “fiscal cliff” manufactured by politicians.

That’s the message of a coalition of senior, disability, community and labor organizations that is hosting an accountability sessions with local members of Congress, Tuesday, October 30, 4 p.m., at the Chicago Temple, 77 W. Washington.

Representatives Danny Davis and Jan Schakowsky have confirmed their attendance, and others are expected, said Gary Arnold of Access Living.

Sponsors of the event include Access Living, Illinois Alliance of Retired Americans, IIRON, Jane Addams Senior Caucus, Jobs With Justice, and the Lakeview Action Coalition.

They’ll ask legislators to oppose cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in any resolution of the impasse over the debt ceiling to be considered in Congress after the November 6 election.

Neither Democratic nor Republican proposals – nor automatic cuts set to go into effect if no deal is reached – are good options, said Tom Wilson of Access Living.

Democrats would reach deficit reduction goals with a mix of heavy budget cuts and increased taxes on the wealthy; Republicans have proposed only spending cuts.  A “sequestration” plan if no deal is reached would involve 8 percent across-the-board cuts in domestic and military spending.

“Any of the solutions they’re talking about would drive us right back into recession, throw a lot of people out of work, and send the economy into a downward spiral,” said Wilson.

He said for people with disabilities, sequestration would actually impact Medicaid less than either the Democratic or Republican proposals.

The coalition is calling on legislators to back the expiration of the Bush tax cuts for all taxpayers and a financial transaction tax that could raise billions of dollars, he said.

The groups are also backing Schakowsky’s Emergency Jobs Act (HR 2914) and the Principal Reduction Act (HR 3841), which would require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce principal on loans to underwater homeowners.

Those bills “would give millions of people the tools and resources to stay in their homes, get back to work, and contribute to their communities,” said Arnold.

Republic workers to visit ‘Bainport’ Sat, 20 Oct 2012 20:17:35 +0000 Workers from Chicago’s Republic Windows are joining Freeport factory workers fighting the outsourcing of their jobs by Bain Capital.

Republic workers attend hold a solidarity meeting on Sunday, October 21, at 1 p.m. at the “Bainport” encampment in the county fairground across the street from the Sensata plant on Freeport’s south side.

While Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has promised to “get tough on China,” he turned a deaf ear to Sensata workers’ pleas for his help to save their jobs from being outsourced to China, said Tom Gaulrapp, a 33-year employee of the automotive sensor plant.

Romney stands to profit from the outsourcing of Freeport workers’ jobs through Bain Capital stock he owns, and he continues to profit from Bain’s offshore holdings and tax avoidance strategies, Gaulrapp said.  The plant closing is now becoming an issue in the presidential campaign.

Since it’s become clear that Romney isn’t going to step in and the plant closing is going ahead, workers are fighting for a “full and fair severance,” Gaulrapp  said.

Six local supporters were arrested at the Sensata plant on Wednesday as they tried to deliver a petition to the plant manager calling for full pensions for Sensata workers.

On Friday, hundreds of workers from around the region joined the audience for a live broadcast of MSNBC’s Ed Schultz Show, with Representative Jan Schakowsky speaking in support of Sensata workers’ demands.

Republic workers won back severance and vacation pay that was blocked when their plant was suddenly shut down in 2008, and helped find a new owner.  Now they’ve formed a worker-run cooperative and are seeking to assume ownership of the plant.

TIF reform: one year later, no action Wed, 29 Aug 2012 19:41:39 +0000 A year after Mayor Emanuel unveiled his TIF Reform Task Force’s report with great fanfare, none of its recommendations have been carried out – and the city has a long way to go on transparency and accountability around job requirements for TIF projects, according to a new report.

Along with greater transparency, Emanuel’s task force recommended subjecting all TIF projects to a thorough justification process; establishing strict performance metrics and taking swift action including revoking TIF funding when requirements aren’t met; and creating an internal TIF oversight board.

“None of the task force’s recommendations have gone into effect,” according to a new report from Illinois PIRG.

“The proposed reforms would move us in the right direction,” said Hailey Witt of Illinois PIRG in a release.  “But it’s not enough to have these ideas on paper.”

Short on Sunshine

In addition, the city has yet to fully comply with the TIF Sunshine Ordinance passed in 2009, according to the report.  Of five documents required by the ordinance, none of the projects studied by Illinois PIRG had more than three available online, and most had only one or two.

Of 32,396 jobs promised in $320 million worth of TIF projects, only 16,948 — just 52 percent — could be accounted for, according to Illinois PIRG.

The study looks at 21 TIF projects from the past decade that promised to create more than 200 jobs, in some cases far more.  It found only 17 had clear job creation requirements, and only 14 had enforceable clawback language if job requirements aren’t met.  Six projects had met jobs requirements, six had partially fulfilled requirements, and no information was available for nine.

Little enforcement

In only  two cases – CNA’s $13.6 million subsidy from the Central Loop TIF, and Bank of America’s $27 million subsidy from the River West TIF –did the city require funds to be returned for noncompliance.

For seven projects where requirements were not fulfilled and five where documentation showed they were fulfilled only for certain years, no enforcement action was taken.

“Given that the purpose of TIF is to use taxpayer dollars to create jobs and stimulate economic growth, it’s unacceptable that the city isn’t holding developers accountable for achieving these goals,” Witt said.

Illinois PIRG recommends the city implement the TIF task force’s recommendations, include clear jobs requirements with strong clawback provisions in redevelopment agreements; do much more to monitor and enforce requirements; and do a better job collecting and publishing data.  A TIF website should meet “Transparency 2.0 best practices,” with a comprehensive searchable data base, the group argues.

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To grow jobs, raise wages Tue, 24 Jul 2012 00:46:38 +0000 Workers and community groups continue a push to raise the minimum wage here, arguing that it’s a way for Illinois to reduce poverty and create thousands of new jobs.

Tuesday morning (July 24) at 8:30 a.m., a trolley will leave from 209 W. Jackson to visit three Dunkin Donuts and other low-wage employers, and at 2 p.m. at Presidential Towers (570 W. Monroe), Walmart workers will talk about the challenges of making ends meet on a their paychecks.

According to the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability, the largest and most profitable retailers pay lower wages than small and mid-sized companies in the industry.

Homecare workers will rally at the Thompson Center, Randolph and Dearborn, at 3 p.m., and at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall, laid-off janitors will call on Mayor Emanuel to endorse an ordinance to protect jobs and wages when the city bids out contracts.

Fifty janitors lost their jobs last month when the city awarded a new janitorial services contract to a South Holland firm.  According to Progress Illinois, the Responsible Bidders Ordinance has the backing of a majority of aldermen – but it won’t move without Emanuel’s say-so.

With marches leaving at 4:30 from three locations – the Thompson Center, CPS headquarters (125 S. Clark), and P. J. Clarke’s (Ontario and St. Clair) – a thousand workers are expected for a march by Stand Up Chicago on the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce offices in the Aon Center, 200 E. Randolph.

In recent decades the minimum wage has fallen far behind inflation.

According to CTBA, a $2 increase would inject $2.5 billion into the state’s economy and generate 20,000 new jobs.  (Several studies of adjacent areas with different minimum wage laws have debunked the myth that wage increases cause job loss.)

It’s a jobs program that wouldn’t cost the state anything, said Ron Baiman of CTBA.

Businesses would benefit from lower worker turnover, saving the costs of recruiting and training new workers, he said.  And since the minimum wage sets a wage floor, an increase would raise wages further up the pay scale.

The Raise Illinois coalition has been building support for Senate Bill 1565, which would increase the state’s minimum wage from $8.25 to $10.65 over four years.  The bill passed the Senate Executive Committee in May, and could be considered in the fall veto session.

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Black unemployment high in Chicago; wage-sharing could save jobs Thu, 05 Jul 2012 20:00:17 +0000 While releasing a new report showing Chicago among the top cities in the nation for African American unemployment, the Center for Tax and Budget Accountability is urging the state to avail itself of new federal funding for “wage-sharing” programs that reduce layoffs.

The Chicago area had the third highest African American unemployment rate in the nation last year, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute released here by CTBA.  While unemployment among African Americans fell in most metropolitan areas last year, in Chicago it increased by 1.7 percent to 22.6 percent.

In 2010, five other metropolitan areas had higher black unemployment rates than Chicago; last year only Los Angeles and Las Vegas did.

St. Louis, Atlanta, Memphis, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Houston, Dallas/Fort Worth, Washington and Richmond had black unemployment rates that were below the national average of 15.9 percent, according to the report.

Chicago is also near the top in the ratio of black to white unemployment, with African Americans here 2.5 times more likely to be unemployed.

One significant factor could be heavy cuts in public service jobs, which disproportionately impact the black community, said Ron Baiman of CTBA.

Federal funds for wage-sharing

A new initiative could help keep those numbers from rising further. Baiman said the federal government recently issued regulations for a provision in the jobs bill passed in February, under which the federal government will provide 100 percent funding for wage-sharing programs.  (See CTBA’s fact sheet on the program.)

Under such programs, workers receive partial unemployment benefits to cover lost wages when their employers reduce their hours in order to prevent layoffs.  Currently 21 states have wage-sharing programs.

Under the new legislation, the feds will pick up the cost of such programs for up to three years.  “That’s a big incentive,” Baiman said.  “There are no downsides and many advantages” to enacting wage-sharing, he said.

A wage-sharing program would keep workers employed and paying taxes, help employers recover more quickly when business picks up, inject money into the state’s economy, and reduce the deficit for the state’s unemployment insurance program, saving employers from having to pay higher assessments in the future, he said.

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