CME – Chicago Newstips by Community Media Workshop Chicago Community Stories Mon, 19 Feb 2018 15:45:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 ‘Durbinville’ dramatizes safety net cuts Thu, 06 Dec 2012 02:09:39 +0000 Local protestors will erect a “Durbinville” shantytown at the Federal Plaza at noon on Thursday, continuing their challenge to Senator Richard Durbin’s embrace of the austerity agenda that’s dominating budget talks in Washington.

Since Monday, a coalition of grassroots groups has been staging a soupline outside Durbin’s downtown office “to make visible the hunger and suffering that budget cuts will create,” according to a statement from IIRON.

All kinds of people are accepting the homemade soup being offered, and many are expressing surprise when they learn that Durbin is backing drastic safety net cuts, said Kristi Sanford of Northside POWER.

The long-term spending reductions Durbin is calling for — outlined in the Simpson-Bowles commission report he backed in 2010 – would be no better than the cuts required by “sequestration” if Congress fails to come up with a budget deal by the end of the year, Sanford said.

“They would push us back into recession, and we’d have more lost jobs and suffering,” she said.  “It would cut education, food security, a whole range of government services we rely on.”

At a recent speech at the Center for American Progress in Washington, Durbin cited the “fiscal conservatism” of his liberal predecessors, Paul Douglas and Paul Simon, to justify his stance.

According to Sanford, in a series of meetings with coalition members this year, Durbin refused to back off his call for cuts to Social Security.  But last month, after 19 protestors were arrested at his office, he seemed to relent slightly, saying Social Security cuts shouldn’t be part of a deal this year.

He’s still calling for deep cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, Sanford said, and he wants a commission to consider Social Security cuts next year.

The Simpson-Bowles report backed by Durbin called for reducing Social Security cost-of-living increases and raising the retirement age to 69.  It relies on a formula that assumes seniors would substitute cheaper alternatives as prices for necessities rise — thus earning Simpson-Bowles the nickname of “the catfood commission.”

Raising the retirement age would penalize low-income workers, whose life expectancy has not been rising, Sanford said.  (She suggested reading Paul Krugman’s analysis of this issue.)

If the federal government would restore pre-Bush era tax rates on the wealthy and institute a financial transaction tax – a small fee on sales of stocks and bonds, now being implemented in France and Germany, that could raise as much as $1.8 trillion over a decade – it could maintain the safety net and pay down the deficit, Sanford said.

At one meeting with the coalition, Durbin said he couldn’t back a financial transaction tax because it would impact the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, said Toby Chow of Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation.  CME is one of Durbin’s largest contributors, Sanford said.

Durbin has also failed to endorse legislation that would raise the income cap on payroll taxes and eliminate long-term shortfalls for Social Security. (President Obama backed this approach prior to his election.)

The shantytown and souplines are an effort to encourage Durbin to “look into the eyes of the people his budget decisions will affect, and remember that CEOs and Wall Street donors are not the only people with huge interests at stake in the budget negotiations,” Sanford said.

Organizers expect hundreds of protestors Thursday (December 6, 12 noon, Dearborn and Adams).   The coalition sponsoring the action includes Make Wall Street Pay/Illinois, IIRON, SOUL, Lakeview Action Coalition, Northside POWER, and Illinois Peoples Action.


An error regarding the date of the Simpson-Bowles report has been corrected.

]]> 3
North Side voters back financial tax Wed, 21 Mar 2012 22:04:43 +0000 By a wide margin, North Side residents backed a referendum calling for a sales tax on financial transactions Tuesday.

Voters in 17 precincts in the 46th Ward voted 3-to-1 in favor of “policies to tax speculative financial transactions including, but not limited to, derivatives and futures contracts.”

A one dollar per contract sales tax on trades on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which have an average value of $230,000, could generate $6 billion dollars a year for the state or city, according to Northside Action for Justice, which backed the referendum.

The group sponsored the referendum because “politicians have not been taking this seriously,” said Kelate Gaim of Northside Action in a release.

“Why do I pay more sales tax when I buy a pair of shoes than these traders do placing speculative bets?” asked Francis Tobin, the group’s chair. The financial transaction tax would be borne by individual traders, not by exchanges.

By a similar margin, voters in those precincts also backed a TIF reform proposal calling for returning surpluses to schools and other taxing bodies, and restricting future TIF spending to affordable housing, living wage jobs and businesses, and youth and senior services.

Int’l Women’s Day: spotlight on low wages, sexual harassment Wed, 07 Mar 2012 23:08:43 +0000 Two events will highlight the concerns of women workers on International Women’s Day:  a rally at the Chicago Board of Trade highlighting low wages for women janitors paid by the highly profitable and tax-favored CME Group; and a hearing in Joliet focused on retaliation against women warehouse workers complaining of sexual harassment, including a case where a complainant was herself arrested.

Janitors represented by SEIU Local 1 will rally at the Board of Trade on Thursday, March 8 at 3:30 p.m. and march from there to the Willis Tower. Contract negotiations are starting for 13,000 area janitors, including 4,000 at downtown office buildings, whose contract expires April 8.

With annual pay ranging from $24,000 to $31,000, area janitors are classified “very low income” under HUD’s standards, and earn $20,000 or more below the Economic Policy Institute’s estimate of the cost of living for a family of four, according to Nell McNamara of Local 1.

The union is casting the issue as one of income inequality, noting soaring salaries and bonuses for CEOs while Chicago has the third highest poverty rate and the highest racial income disparity of any major U.S. city.

Janitors are calling on wealthy corporations “to do their part,” said McNamara.  “When hard-working people have good jobs with benefits, we’ll begin to restore balance to our economy and vitality to our neighborhoods.”

In December the state passed an income tax break worth $85 million a year to CME after the corporation threatened to leave town.  In 2009, Willis Tower benefited when United Airlines got a $31 million TIF subsidy to move its corporate headquarters into the building.

Arrested for complaining

In Joliet, in response to an increasing number of complaints of sexual harassment by women workers at warehouses in the area, Warehouse Workers for Justice is holding a hearing on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Mt. Carmel Church, 205 E. Jackson.

A panel including a Will County Board commissioner and a Joliet City Council member will hear testimony from warehouse workers and from experts.

WWJ started hearing complaints after taking on the case of a woman working at Partners Warehouse in Elwood.  When she and her mother went to police to file charges of sexual assault against a supervisor, they were arrested and charged with filing a false report, said Mark Meinster of WWJ.  Police have not investigated the woman’s charge, he said.

The woman and her mother were subsequently fired, and they’ve filed a civil case charging retaliation, Meinster said.

Among other warehouse workers expected to testify Thursday are employees at Wal-Mart’s Elwood warehouse, he said.

TIF money for city jobs, and accountability for CME Tue, 07 Feb 2012 23:16:12 +0000 In a march on City Hall tomorrow, community and labor groups will present Mayor Emanuel with a golden toilet representing the TIF subsidy recently returned by CME Group, which was to help build a luxury bathroom, cafe, and fitness center.

Led by the Grassroots Collaborative, the groups are asking Emanuel to use $33 million recently returned by CME, Bank of America, and CNA, to restore jobs and services in the city’s schools, clinics, and libraries.

They’re also calling for a moratorium on new TIF projects in the LaSalle Central TIF district, which they view as the epicenter of TIF subsidies benefiting corporations at the expense of neighborhoods.

Community activists from across the city will rally at the Chicago Board of Trade, 141 W. Jackson, at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, February 8, and march to City Hall.

Jobs for Chicagoans

Eric Tellez of Grassroots Collaborative cited recent research showing that jobs from downtown development spurred by TIFs have largely gone to suburban commuters.

“This is Chicago’s tax money – why isn’t it being used to employ Chicagoans?” he asked.  Restoring funding for city services “protects jobs with good wages for people who we know will live in Chicago.  They provide services for our neighborhoods, and they employ people from our neighborhoods.”

Meanwhile, as details emerge regarding CME’s role in the collapse of MF Global last October, Stand Up Chicago is highlighting issues of accountability – including the need for outside regulation of “self-regulating” exchanges.

CME auditors missed evidence of fraud in an audit shortly before the firm’s collapse, according to a bankruptcy trustee, the Sun Times reports.

Regulatory loophole

Public assurances that over 70 percent of $1.2 billion in fraudulently diverted customer funds have been returned serve to obscure the fact that big investors will be paid off first, while farmers who depended on MF Global to hedge against losses (and CME to protect them) have to wait in line, said Elizabeth Parisian of Stand Up.

With the Commodity Futures Trading Commission launching an investigation of CME and MF Global – and members of Congress calling for regulation of CME by the CFTC – the exchange is scrambling to maintain its regulatory loophole, Parisian said.

She said self-regulation by CME and similar exchanges is a “conflict of interest.”

“Instead of working behind the scenes to try to avoid regulation, CME should publicly acknowledge the need for outside oversight,” she said.

It’s an issue of accountability, Parisian said, which stretches beyond the MF Global scandal. She points out that a huge state tax break recently enacted on CME’s behalf included no commitments regarding job creation or retention.

Some 450 jobs were eliminated after CME bought the Chicago Board of Trade in 2007, the deal which the TIF subsidy was supposed to support.

On TIF reform, a long way to go Tue, 31 Jan 2012 23:30:35 +0000 TIF subsidies returned by three corporations should be declared surplus and used to restore cuts in public services; and Mayor Emanuel should hold off on new TIF spending until he can implement his TIF reform panel’s recommendations, groups working on the issue said Tuesday.

News broke Monday that CME, CNA and Bank of America were returning a combined $33 million, CME saying it didn’t need the money now that the state has cut its taxes, CNA and Bank of America admitting they hadn’t met job creation goals.

CME had been the target of a series of protests by Grassroots Collaborative, which on different occasions set up a classroom outside the corporate headquarters to dramatize lost school funding, declared the site a “corporate crime scene,” and held a bake sale for the corporation.  Last week Stand Up Chicago delivered a golden toilet to CME, which was to get $15 million for a luxury bathroom, cafe, and fitness center.

Restore public services

“With communities reeling from proposed school closings, cuts to libraries, and the shutdown of six mental health clinics, the $33 million dollars should be immediately returned to critical public services that working families of Chicago depend on, and not redirected back to downtown TIF slush funds,” said Amisha Patel.

She said the news reflects the impact of groups working to highlight the issue of corporate subsidies and tax breaks.

Also Monday, Emanuel announced he would create an online TIF database and order random independent audits of TIFs.  It was his first action on the recomendations of his TIF reform panel since its report last August.

Illinois PIRG released a report calling on Emanuel to fully implement the panel’s recommendations as a first step toward TIF reform, and to declare a moratorium on new TIF spending until the reforms are in place.

“If the Mayor and the City Council admit that TIF is broken, why would they continue to use the program before it gets fixed?” said Celeste Meiffren, author of the report.

Subsidies keep coming

Since the panel’s report, the City Council has approved $26 million in TIF spending, and the city has submitted proposals for another $17 million in TIF projects, she said.

Many more corporations could be falling short of job-creation promises attached to TIF subsidies they’ve received.  Meiffrin pointed out that the city has yet to fully implement the TIF Sunshine Ordinance passed in 2009 – and one item missing from every TIF report is the annual employment certificate that recipients are required to file.

She also called for a law requiring companies that fail to meet job-creation agreements to return TIF subsidies.  “Right now there’s no guarantee that if companies don’t deliver, taxpayers will get the money back,” she said.

Her report emphasizes the importance of including TIF spending in the city budget and calls for measures beyond the reform panel’s recommendations, including limiting TIF use to areas that need economic development; limiting TIF diversions to property value growth apart from inflation; closing TIF districts that have met their redevelopment goals; and returning unused TIF accumulations to the general property tax pool.

Emanuel’s reform panel “didn’t get at the real issue,” which is the diversion of resources from public services and community development to corporate subsidies, Patel said.

She called on Emanuel to “ensure that this money not only immediately goes to keep our schools, libraries, and clinics open, but that downtown TIF districts like LaSalle Central no longer continue to funnel hard-earned tax dollars to Chicago’s corporate elite.”

Protests continue at CME

On Friday, February 3, CME will again be the target of protests, as Chicago Jobs With Justice rallies at the State of Illinois building at noon and marches to the Chicago Board of Trade, demanding a financial transaction tax as a way of putting teachers back to work.

They say a $1 tax on each contract at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Board of Trade – a negligible charge, since contracts average $200,000 in value – would raise $6 billion a year for the state.

And Stand Up Chicago is continuing pressure on CME over its huge state tax break, calling on the corporation to “continue to reevaluate its desire for taxpayer subsidies” and “return the millions in public money it has taken over the years back to our communities.”

“Returning TIF money is a good start, but CME still has a long way to go before it can truly give up its crown as Chicago’s king of corporate welfare,” said Elizabeth Parisian.

]]> 1
What’s next Sun, 01 Jan 2012 22:51:51 +0000 In honor of the Year of the Protestor (as proclaimed by Time Magazine), the Journal of Ordinary Thought has reposted three poems from its summer issue on Art as Activism.  I like “What’s Next” by Lester Hemingway  (I like them all, but as you’d expect from a Hemingway, this one is pithy):



you’re angry.  me too

attention! the fruit is rotting

let’s save what we can


One of the best overviews of Occupy Wall Street is “The New Populists” in this month’s American Prospect.  Participant-observer Christopher Ketcham illuminates the fascinating dynamics of the movement with a depth and detail missing from most accounts, from the earliest discussions, to the intricate network of solidarity built on hard work and endless discussion, to the “blitzkrieg” – and markedly violent – police eviction on November 15, followed by a massive protest.

He notes the parallel with the populist movement of the 1890s – even citing a populist song on “the ninety and nine” who live in hunger and cold “that the one may live in luxury” – and America’s history of occupiers: Rosa Parks, lunch counter sit-ins, Martin Luther King’s Resurrection City, sit-down strikes in Flint, Coxey’s Army and the Bonus Marchers.  “The idea of occupation has outlasted Zucotti Park,” he writes.

Homes, schools, clinics 

We’ve covered the local movement to “occupy foreclosures”  — its roots in Boston and Florida go back years, and its opportunities are expanding everyday.  Another arena for occupiers is the fight to defend public schools.

At a recent teach-in by CTU and community allies, several angry parents spoke about the need to “occupy our schools.”  The Nation reports on occupy tactics being deployed to oppose the encroachment of charter schools in New York City and New Jersey as well as CPS chief Jean-Claud Brizard’s previous domain of Rochester — and his new one of Chicago.

The fight over school policy presents all the issues of the Occupy movement – the post-hoc, pro-forma charade of public input by CPS , presided over by a rubber-stamp Board of Education, makes a mockery of democracy.  Politically connected groups like UNO and AUSL have the inside track.  The wealthy elite – Penny Pritzker and the “billionaire boys club” — has overwhelming influence, even as corporate interests undermine school funding by evading taxes and sucking up TIF subsidies.

(Here’s an insight:  citizens pay taxes that keep government running; corporations prefer to pay politicians directly so they can decide how it’s going to be run.)

The Mental Health Movement hasn’t backed off its demand to keep clinics open.  Joined by Occupy Rogers Park, they mike-checked Alderman Joe Moore last month (Rogers Park’s clinic is one of six slated for closing), and they confronted Health Commissioner Bechara Couchair in Bronzeville.  They’re not going to give up.

If there were anyone in the City Council with a backbone, they’d move to restore the paltry $3 million being saved by the closings.  They might take another look at the $15 million TIF subsidy CME has yet to claim, particularly in light of the massive state tax break they just grabbed.  The city’s share would cover a year of operation for those clinics.

Kelly on NATO

Then there’s the NATO/G8 summit in May.  Writing from Occupied Afghanistan, Chicagoan Kathy Kelly marks the human costs of NATO policies there – including six children recently killed in Kandahar when a NATO plane “mistook them for insurgents.”

One activist with Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers tells her, “International forces have made people feel less secure….People here are suffering because of destruction caused by outsiders.”

Meanwhile, she notes, NATO Secretary General Anders Rasmussen has opined that Chicago “shares values that underpin NATO.”

Kelly counters: “Activists on the ground, envisioning a different kind of Chicago, and bracing themselves for the crushing, militarized police response that in recent years has consistently met protesters at these events, can only hope that this is not the case.”

“I’m looking forward to people from Occupy Everywhere coming to Chicago,” she writes.

“Many friends in Chicago are getting ready to meet the concerted state apparatus, so determined to run smoothly in its blind mechanical course, with simple human power. It’s going to involve tremendous work, but this is what life means everywhere now.

“The City of Big Shoulders earned its name before the period of modern U.S. empire, the decades of artificial prosperity secured from above and fueled from abroad, which this upcoming summit will attempt to manage in its decline.

“I think that underneath the hype, underneath the intoxicating flow of wealth seized from abroad, the plastic, mechanized, isolated comforts of the boom, Chicago well understands the real meaning of strength and determination.

“We’ll need to remember a force more powerful than violence in the time that’s coming, a strength that doesn’t turn us against our neighbors and isn’t handed down by the powerful, a courage that I see in the faces of the youth here in Kabul, confidently advertising it as its own reward.”

What to do with CME’s TIF? Fri, 11 Nov 2011 22:21:57 +0000 Chicago Mercantile Exchange CEO Terrence Duffy told the Tribune he hasn’t “accepted” or “approved” the TIF subsidy passed by the city in 2009 – and the Grassroots Collaborative has called on Mayor Emanuel to declare it to be surplus and return the money to the schools, libraries and clinics that he’s proposed cutting back and closing.

As Ben Joravsky has reported, then-Mayor Daley took it upon himself to offer the subsidy 2007 when CME was bidding on the Chicago Board of Trade, though the corporation never asked for it.  While the city approved the deal in 2009, apparently CME never did.

So the money is still sitting in the reserves of the LaSalle Central TIF, which as of last year had collected $76 million, taking in $24 million a year.  The Grassroots Collaborative has called for winding down the LaSalle TIF and returning funds to schools and city services.

But here, suddenly, is a huge pot of money that we’ve been told is committed, when it isn’t, really.

“We are thrilled that CEO Duffy agrees with the community that CME does not need this money,” said Amisha Patel, executive director of the Collaborative.  “The hard-working taxpayers of Chicago would be glad to put this money to immediate use.”

The money could go to plug $3 million in cuts for mental health clinics and $7 million in cuts to libraries in the 2012 city budget now under consideration, as well as heavy cuts to schools in the latest CPS budget, she said.

CME tax break is ‘occupied’ Thu, 10 Nov 2011 20:48:55 +0000 About the time CME representatives were meeting with legislators in the state capitol yesterday, a huge group of people filed into the building’s rotunda and began a “people’s mike.”

The first mike leader began: “We are Occupy Springfield,” and the crowd repeated each statement he made, amplifying it through people power.  “We are the 99 percent.  We will be heard.  Vote no on SB 397.”  That’s the bill granting CME a break on the state income tax worth $60 million or more (see previous post).

As the first leader was escorted out by Capitol police, another was tagged and continued the statement, a process that continued until the police apparently decided to just let them finish.

“Lawmakers in Springfield should be fighting tax breaks for greedy corporations, not breaking promises made to working families,” they said, phrase by phrase.

“Lawmakers are threatening to drain money from the pensions of firefighters, police, teachers, of veterans and the elderly, of minorities and the disabled; they’re about to give away/ more money to the 1 percent – to the Mercantile Exchange, to the Board of Trade, to the Options Exchange – even though they represent the industry responsible for the economic meltdown.”  You can get the whole statement in the video below.

Legislators have reportedly decided to postpone a vote on the measure.

“We think it might have helped push it back a little bit, to have a big group of concerned citizens come in the Capitol building and make a huge deal about it in such an unorthodox fashion,” said Benny Ha Ha, one of Occupy Springfield’s contacts.

“CME is a very big corporation, and they’re very threatening toward our politicians,” he said.  “If they can’t buy them off they’re going to threaten to leave the state.”

Occupy Springfield has held a daily vigil at the Old State Capitol Plaza and last month delivered an eviction notice to lobbyists after a rally that drew hundreds.

The group’s participants are mainly from Springfield, with some coming from outlying areas, Ha Ha said.  As the video shows, they range from young to old, including students, workers and retirees.

The group is now planning a series of potlucks to reach out to people in different areas of the city, Ha Ha said, and they will publicize Black Friday, the big shopping day after Thanksgiving.

“It’s a big deal to us to buy local and pay with cash,” he said.  “We need to make sure local people are built up.”

And they’re planning to “push the envelope” when the legislature considers the CME tax break later in the month.