WBEZ | Economy http://www.wbez.org/news/economy Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Avian flu outbreak takes poultry producers into uncharted territory http://www.wbez.org/news/avian-flu-outbreak-takes-poultry-producers-uncharted-territory-112067 <p><p>An avian flu outbreak is sweeping across the Midwest at a frightening pace, ravaging chicken and turkey farms and leaving officials stumped about the virus&#39;s seemingly unstoppable spread.</p><p>Now reaching to 15 states, the outbreak has been detected at 174 farms, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Because there&#39;s no vaccine, infected and even healthy birds must be killed to try to stop the virus, forcing the killing of 38.9 million birds and counting, the USDA&nbsp;<a href="http://www.aphis.usda.gov/wps/portal/aphis/ourfocus/animalhealth/sa_animal_disease_information/sa_avian_health/ct_avian_influenza_disease/!ut/p/a1/lVJNU4MwEP0tHnqkSYEC9db6VdS2akdbuDBLCJAREiaEMvrrDVgdnbFVc9vd93b3vQ0K0RaFHHYsA8UEh6KLQye6Xs3N0Qyb_tV6coH95dPlwrt1rdXc1oBAA_CBN8Xf-asb3-n4D3g2Px_htYU2KEQh4apSOQqgylkdEcEV5SoqWCxBvgxwDZFoZJQK0tR9BJyVUEQ5hULlXzMJqynUNGI8FbLsRbyXdwz4J56ofULDiobyV_ggdstUhCUoiM1Jih2TGpY3AsMmsWXAGMaGOU7SJCHEtSx3L_6Iul_M68VryNnVdG67t9ow2zOxf67p7mSBse_sAUf8DfQO7sEhExut_ynq-g8nN-XibJHptqByozMbbY8e4b385Qhoe-QImxkKnZZt_PtumawQcf8TgymPLU9PlTSlksphI3U6V6o6HeABbtt2yEQLkElGmkI1kg4zsRvgfsznlCHU1U_NclErtD3QBFXlY-lZL8ZzulwaYXB3V268enpy8gaLBRxS/?1dmy&amp;urile=wcm%3apath%3a%2Faphis_content_library%2Fsa_our_focus%2Fsa_animal_health%2Fsa_animal_disease_information%2Fsa_avian_health%2Fsa_detections_by_states%2Fct_ai_pacific_flyway">says</a>.</p><p>The particular strain of avian flu, highly pathogenic H5N2,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nwhc.usgs.gov/publications/wildlife_health_bulletins/WHB_2014-05_H5N8.pdf">was first confirmed</a>&nbsp;in a backyard flock in Washington state. While chickens and turkeys are highly susceptible to it, it is considered a&nbsp;<a href="http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/h5/index.htm">low risk</a>&nbsp;for transmission to humans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.</p><blockquote><p><strong><a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/05/20/408293053/midwest-farmers-rush-to-dispose-of-chickens-killed-to-contain-avian-flu">Midwest Farmers Rush To Dispose Of Chickens Killed To Contain Avian Flu</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Now officials are scrambling, trying to figure out how to dispose of millions of dead birds. Most of them are in Iowa, the largest egg producer in the U.S. and the one hardest hit by the outbreak. At one farm alone, Rembrandt Enterprises, some 5.5 million birds had to be destroyed.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;ve been in the landfill business probably 26 years, and I&#39;ve never ever seen this kind of volume,&quot; said Randy Oldenkamp, director of the Northwest Iowa Area Solid Waste Agency. &quot;And I hope I never do again.&quot;</p><p>Oldenkamp is accepting 100 loads of the birds for disposal at 15 tons a load. But other landfill managers are turning away the birds, fearing contamination and neighbors&#39; complaints.</p><p>&quot;It is a catastrophe,&quot; said Billy Duplechein, who works with Clean Harbors, the contractor hired by the federal government to do the cleanup. &quot;Nobody wants to see this kind of stuff, but something has to be done.&quot;</p><p>The USDA believes the virus was brought to the Midwest by migratory water fowl via the Mississippi Flyway. But Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has admitted that the ongoing and quick spread could be &quot;laterally spread&quot; by people.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;ve had circumstances recently where folks have been using pond water, for example, to feed and to water their birds. Well, that&#39;s a problem because the pond water could be contaminated,&quot; Vilsack said. &quot;We&#39;ve had situations where folks are supposed to shower before they go into the facility, but the shower doesn&#39;t work, so they go in anyway.&quot;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img 17.="" a="" alt="" are="" at="" been="" bio="" by="" class="image-original_image" daybreak="" designated="" eagle="" edge="" farm="" field="" foods="" getty="" has="" may="" near="" no="" of="" olson="" on="" operated="" posted="" scott="" security="" signs="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/avianflu2.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" the="" title="" which="" /></div><p><a href="http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/about-us/cidrap-staff/michael-t-osterholm-phd-mph">Michael Osterholm</a>, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the poultry industry is in uncharted territory. The virus is &quot;doing things we&#39;ve never seen it do before,&quot; so scientists&#39; understanding is very limited, he says.</p><p>&quot;Influenza viruses have thought in the past to be transmitted by birds to birds in close contact and that it was only through that kind of transmission that we need to be concerned,&quot; Osterholm says. &quot;Now we surely have a very dynamic situation in the Midwest. It&#39;s also a situation where we no longer can assume it&#39;s just migratory birds.&quot;</p><p>Other theories on the virus&#39;s rapid transmission include small rodents infiltrating facilities, contaminated feed and water or that the virus could even be airborne.</p><p>Vilsack and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad took to the media this week, begging landfills to take the birds before any more can be exposed. Farms are also buying the birds, composting them with wood chips and corn stover and burning them in five large mobile incinerators brought in by Clean Harbors. Officials are also considering taking mobile incinerators from farm to farm.</p><p>Northwest Iowa is hardest hit, thanks to its large egg-laying operations, and workers in white and yellow Tyvek suits, protective gear with a respirator, could be seen discarding the birds from barns.</p><p>Neighbors in the remote rural communities say they have noticed more trucks at the farms. And they&#39;ve certainly noticed the putrid smell.</p><p>Dawn Cronk lives just a mile and a half south of Sunrise Farms, near Harris, Iowa, and drives home at midnight from her job working the late shift at a nursing home.</p><p>&quot;I have the window down and all of a sudden there&#39;s just that distinct dead animal smell,&quot; she says. &quot;And it&#39;s not just one dead animal, it&#39;s like you walked into a ... a decomposing lot. It&#39;s just that strong.&quot;</p><p>A huge incinerator is being set up at the Cherokee County landfill, and officials there plan to fire it up this week and have it burning for 24 hours a day. Although some hold out hope that the outbreak will die down this summer, when its harder for the virus to live in hot temperatures, others guess that states could be cleaning up for months or even years to come.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s the million-dollar question,&quot; Duplechein says. &quot;We really don&#39;t know.&quot;</p><p><em>This</em>&nbsp;story&nbsp;<em>comes to us via Harvest Public Media.</em></p><p><em>&mdash; via <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/05/21/408306843/avian-flu-outbreak-takes-poultry-producers-into-uncharted-territory">NPR News</a></em></p></p> Thu, 21 May 2015 08:22:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/avian-flu-outbreak-takes-poultry-producers-uncharted-territory-112067 Illinois lawmakers skeptical about pension deal this spring http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-lawmakers-skeptical-about-pension-deal-spring-112026 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Randy von Liski statehouse.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; Illinois lawmakers expressed skepticism Wednesday that they&#39;ll be able to pass a new pension fix this spring, despite pressure from Gov. Bruce Rauner and major credit rating agencies to quickly replace a 2013 overhaul the state Supreme Court struck down.</p><p>The court last week ruled the plan to address Illinois&#39; worst-in-the-nation public-pension shortfall by reducing benefits was unconstitutional, sending lawmakers back to square one on an issue that has dogged them for years.</p><p>On Wednesday, House lawmakers held their first hearing on the Republican governor&#39;s proposed solution, and Rauner and Senate President John Cullerton met to discuss a separate plan Cullerton is floating.</p><p>But Rep. Elaine Nekritz, the Democratic chairwoman of the House pension committee, called the odds of a deal before the session ends May 31 &quot;slim.&quot;</p><p>&quot;You don&#39;t just slap these things together,&quot; said Nekritz, noting that the 2013 deal took years to negotiate.</p><p>Illinois&#39; five public-pension systems are short more than $100 billion of what&#39;s needed to pay out benefits as promised, largely because lawmakers for years didn&#39;t make the state&#39;s contributions. The payments now are taking up roughly one-fifth of the state&#39;s general revenue fund, with next year&#39;s payment reaching about $7 billion.</p><p>Major credit rating agencies already have given Illinois the worst rating of any state in the nation. Moody&#39;s Investors Service this week downgraded to junk bond status the credit rating for the city of Chicago and its public school district, citing the court&#39;s ruling and the city&#39;s own deep pension debt. The agencies also have warned that the ruling puts additional pressure on the state to find a solution.</p><p>Rauner has said approving another overhaul is &quot;essential&quot; and that he believes it can be done before the end of the month.</p><p>He wants to allow state workers and retirees to keep the benefits they&#39;ve already earned but move them to a less-generous plan going forward that he says would save the state $2.2 billion next year. He also wants to put a constitutional amendment on the 2016 ballot that would allow future pension benefits to be cut, in hopes of heading off any future lawsuits from labor unions or retirees.</p><p>Cullerton is reviving a plan he floated in 2013, but with some adjustments. His proposal could offer state workers a choice between keeping annual cost-of-living increases in retirement and counting future pay raises when calculating their retirement benefits. His office estimates the plan would save about $1 billion in the first year.</p><p>Both Cullerton and Rauner believe their proposals would be found constitutional, though others have expressed doubt that anything short of raising taxes to keep current benefit levels in place would pass the court&#39;s muster.</p><p>Labor unions, which sued along with retirees and other groups to get the 2013 law thrown out, supported Cullerton&#39;s plan when he first proposed it. But armed with the court&#39;s unanimous decision, they&#39;re no longer saying they back it.</p><p>Even so, Cullerton said he believes his proposal has the best chance of getting the Legislature&#39;s approval because it&#39;s been considered before and the Senate passed it in 2013. He said he&#39;s willing to push the legislation through in the next few weeks, but he needs the governor&#39;s support before calling it for a vote.</p><p>Rauner&#39;s office said the governor is willing to consider other options, but didn&#39;t comment specifically about Cullerton&#39;s plan.</p><p>Democratic Rep. Art Turner of Chicago, who was a member of the special bipartisan committee that helped craft the 2013 law, also said he believes it will take a while to get consensus on a solution.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s going to be an uphill battle,&quot; he said.</p></p> Wed, 13 May 2015 17:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-lawmakers-skeptical-about-pension-deal-spring-112026 Moody's downgrades Chicago credit rating to junk bond status http://www.wbez.org/news/moodys-downgrades-chicago-credit-rating-junk-bond-status-112020 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/moodys.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Moody&#39;s Investors Service downgraded the debt of both the Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Park District on Wednesday, a day after it downgraded the city&#39;s bond rating to junk status.</p><p>Moody&#39;s has given a Ba3 rating to the school district&#39;s debt, down from a Baa3 rating, saying the district faces &quot;increased strain on its precarious financial position&quot; due to last week&#39;s Illinois Supreme Court decision overturning state pension reform. It reduced the Chicago Park District&#39;s rating to from Baa1 to Ba1, one notch below investment grade.</p><p>The rating service&#39;s moves affect the school district&#39;s $6.2 billion in general obligation debt and the park district&#39;s $616 million in general obligation debt.</p><p>Jesse Ruiz, interim CEO of Chicago Public Schools, said the court&#39;s decision shouldn&#39;t have impacted the school district&#39;s credit rating, noting the rating agency did not downgrade the state when the court ruled the Legislature&#39;s restructuring of Illinois&#39; pension obligations violated the state constitution. However, Ruiz said Moody&#39;s action reaffirms why lawmakers must make changes to help the school district address its financial crisis.</p><p>&quot;Despite cutting more than $740 million from the central office and operations, we are projecting a deficit of $1.1 billion, driven by $700 million in pension costs,&quot; Ruiz said.</p><p>Moody&#39;s acknowledges school officials are working to find ways to cover increased pension payments but said &quot;solutions remain uncertain.&quot;</p><p>A park district spokesman did not immediately return telephone calls for comment.</p><p>The bond rating determines how much governmental agencies must pay to borrow money, with a lower rating increasing the cost of borrowing.</p><p>When Moody&#39;s lowered the city&#39;s bond rating on Tuesday, it noted Chicago&#39;s tax base is &quot;highly leveraged by the debt and unfunded pension obligations&quot; of the city and overlapping governments.</p></p> Wed, 13 May 2015 08:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/moodys-downgrades-chicago-credit-rating-junk-bond-status-112020 Rauner pitches 'turnaround' agenda to Chicago aldermen http://www.wbez.org/news/rauner-pitches-turnaround-agenda-chicago-aldermen-111997 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/raunerface_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner made a little history Wednesday, by becoming the first sitting governor to address City Council. In his speech to a tough crowd of pro-union aldermen, Rauner asked City Council members to be his &ldquo;partners&rdquo; in fixing both the state and city economies&mdash;but warned that there would be no bailout for the city of Chicago.</p><p>Before the governor even stepped foot inside the council chambers, aldermen and union members made sure their voices were heard.</p><p>Alderman Pat O&rsquo;Connor, floor leader for Mayor Rahm Emanuel, led the charge, calling Rauner&rsquo;s pitch for so-called right-to-work zones a &ldquo;damn shame.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><strong>Interactive: <a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/rauner/" target="_blank">The Rauner Play-by-Play</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>&ldquo;When we talk about creating a &lsquo;right to work,&rsquo; what we&rsquo;re really creating is a right for the employer to hire at a lesser wage, to hire at lesser benefits, to hire people who will take the jobs away that we have secured through collective bargaining and to put them in the hands of individuals who have no concerns for workers,&rdquo; O&rsquo;Connor said, at times getting applause from union members in the council gallery.</p><p>When Rauner eventually arrived, he acknowledged the &ldquo;lions den&rdquo; he was walking into; but joked it was more like sitting down for dinner with his family, &ldquo;surrounded by Democrats with strong opinions who don&rsquo;t always agree with me.&rdquo;</p><p>Despite their differences, Rauner asked aldermen to work with him to address some of the financial burdens both the city and state face.</p><p>&ldquo;For Chicago to get what it wants, Illinois must get what it needs,&rdquo; Rauner said.</p><p>So far, what Chicago wants, or what Mayor Emanuel wants, is a list that includes assistance on pensions, a Chicago casino and, one topic Emanuel has really been pushing lately, relief for Chicago taxpayers who pay into both Chicago and suburban teacher pensions.</p><p>&ldquo;The governor rails against the anti-business environment and anti-economic, competitive environment of high taxes. I can&rsquo;t think of anything higher than two taxes when you only get the benefit of one,&rdquo; Emanuel told reporters after Rauner&rsquo;s speech.</p><p>Rauner didn&rsquo;t seem open to fixing that issue, as he says, &ldquo;folks outside of Chicago see Chicago getting its own special deal; receiving over half-a-billion dollars every year in net extra funding compared to the rest of the state school district.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:24px;">Other news from Wednesday&rsquo;s City Council meeting:</span></p><p>This was the final meeting of the current City Council, a time when members say goodbye to retiring aldermen, or those who lost their races for reelection. They also cast votes on any old business that aldermen want resolved before the next class begins its term. If you need a refresher on the list of aldermen who won&rsquo;t be returning next term, listen to this:</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/204071490&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Aldermen also put their final stamp on an unprecedented $5.5 million reparations package for victims of torture under former Chicago police commander Jon Burge. Sponsoring Alderman Proco Joe Moreno read the names of victims who were in the City Council audience, drawing attention to what he called a historic day &ldquo;for Chicago, for this City Council and most importantly, for the victims of some horrific behavior that happened right here in Chicago--not Iraq, not Syria.&rdquo;</p><p>Attorneys for alleged Burge victims say their next step is working on the cases of 20 or so others who are still incarcerated.</p><p>Aldermen also signed off on some minor changes to the city&rsquo;s controversial red light camera program, including: requiring public community meetings before cameras are removed, moved or added; accelerating installation of pedestrian countdown timers on existing cameras; and adding a payment plan for motorists with &ldquo;financial hardship.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is WBEZ&rsquo;s City Politics reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian" target="_blank">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p></p> Wed, 06 May 2015 18:19:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rauner-pitches-turnaround-agenda-chicago-aldermen-111997 Method factory opens in Pullman http://www.wbez.org/news/method-factory-opens-pullman-111947 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/pullman_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>The new Method soap plant marks its official grand opening Tuesday in Chicago&rsquo;s Pullman neighborhood. The community has been on an economic climb in the past few years. This is the latest boost for the once-thriving manufacturing hub on the city&rsquo;s far South Side.</p><p>Earlier this year, President Barack Obama paid a visit to Pullman to designate the neighborhood&rsquo;s factory district a national monument.</p><p>&ldquo;This site is at the heart of what would become America&rsquo;s labor movement. And as a consequence what would become America&rsquo;s middle class,&rdquo; the President said before an audience in February at Pullman.</p><p>Pullman&rsquo;s history started in the late 1800s when George Pullman founded a community centered around the manufacturing of luxury sleeping railcars. People worked at the factory and lived in nearby row houses constructed by Pullman. The site is key to the nation&rsquo;s labor movement and civil rights. One of the most powerful African-American unions got its start here, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.</p><p>But business eventually started to dwindle and all production ceased in the late 1960s.&nbsp;High unemployment rates, crime and lack of amenities became Pullman&rsquo;s image.</p><p>&ldquo;When anybody talks about Pullman, they always talk about the past. And what we&rsquo;re trying to do with our neighbors around here is try to create a future for Pullman that&rsquo;s worth talking about,&rdquo; said Adam Lowry, co-founder of Method.</p><p>The company makes eco-friendly cleaning products, like biodegradable dish soap and foaming hand wash. Method&rsquo;s new facility is located on the old Ryerson Steel site along the Bishop Ford Expressway. It&rsquo;s flanked by green space and decorated with solar panels over the parking lot. A big wind turbine is on the land.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I like seeing things like Canada geese walking around our property because, believe me a year ago, there was nothing alive on this site at all,&rdquo; said Lowry.</p><p>The $30 million facility is a Platinum LEED building, the highest certification for green construction. It uses renewable energy and 100 percent recycled plastic for its bottles. A greenhouse covers the roof. The company does this while aiming to be socially responsible by investing in an underserved urban area. That&rsquo;s why it chose to set up its first ever manufacturing plant in Pullman.</p><p>Andrea Reed is with the Greater Roseland Chamber of Commerce. It&rsquo;s provided service to both Pullman and Roseland, where the unemployment rate is high, around 20 to 25 percent. Chicago&rsquo;s is just over 6 percent. Reed says the chamber has been looking for companies like Method.</p><p>&ldquo;Currently, we have a lot of businesses that commute here. We have a slogan. &lsquo;They come for the day, get their pay and go their way,&rsquo;&rdquo; Reed said.</p><p>Method and other companies that have recently set up shop have agreed to hire mostly from within the community. They&rsquo;ve added several hundred jobs, which might not seem like much, but Reed hopes it&rsquo;ll spur hiring amongst the local small businesses.</p><p>She also thinks the national designation will make a difference.</p><p>&ldquo;They&rsquo;re looking to attract 300,000 tourists each year. So people are going to be looking for nice places to eat and places to shop. And the spillage will be people coming over into our business corridor,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Community development group, Chicago Neighborhood Initiatives helped bring Wal-Mart, Ross and Planet Fitness to Pullman. David Doig with CNI says it&rsquo;s serendipitous, but it&rsquo;s been years in the making.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve got 200 acres here at Pullman Park, and we&rsquo;ve developed about 70 of that. So if you kind of project that out, we probably have another 8-10 years of work to do,&rdquo; Doig said.</p><p>Back at the Method plant, Roseland resident Barbara Hardaman is taking inventory of shower cleaner coming down the conveyer belt.&nbsp; Before this, she worked at her local church. It&rsquo;s only been a few months and Hardaman says she loves her job.</p><p>She thinks companies like Method will have a lasting impact on the area.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;With people having jobs, they&rsquo;re not out in the streets trying to rob people and hurt people,&rdquo; she said.</p><p>Pullman is following the city&rsquo;s trend of a decreasing crime rate. The community&rsquo;s rate dropped by 14 percent in 2014 compared to the previous year. Hardaman&rsquo;s seen signs of the neighborhood moving up, and thinks people, soon, will want to move in.</p><p>&ldquo;I had two houses across the street from me that were boarded up, but now they&rsquo;re refurbishing them,&rdquo; Hardaman said.</p></p> Mon, 27 Apr 2015 15:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/method-factory-opens-pullman-111947 Rauner's first 100 days: The fight between unions and Rauner http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-first-100-days-fight-between-unions-and-rauner-111909 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/raunerface.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Remember the protests in Wisconsin four years ago? When thousands of union members and their allies flocked to Madison?</p><p>Somewhere in that crowd, at least, the one that gathered in the winter of 2011, was Mark Guethle.</p><p>&ldquo;It was cold. Hat and gloves. I&rsquo;m used to cold weather so we&rsquo;re good,&rdquo; Guethle recalled. &ldquo;My colleagues and I were out there and we supported what the labor movement was doing at the time.&rdquo;</p><p>Guethle, with Painters District Council 30, is from Aurora in Chicago&rsquo;s western suburbs.&nbsp;He traveled to Wisconsin because he feared if policies he saw as anti-union could happen there, they could happen here.</p><p>This, at a time when Wisconsin lawmakers who hated that law so much, fled: They came to Illinois to avoid taking a vote, so Wisconsin Republicans couldn&rsquo;t get a quorum.</p><p>That was when Illinois was a blue state. Now, it&rsquo;s run by Rauner, a Republican.<br /><br />&ldquo;You got a governor who&rsquo;s running his anti-worker agenda,&rdquo; Guethle said.</p><p>He&rsquo;s referring to what Gov. Bruce Rauner calls his &ldquo;Turnaround Agenda.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;A key part of our agenda: In your city, in your county, in your schools, you should decide what gets collectively bargained. Springfield shouldn&rsquo;t tell ya,&rdquo; Rauner said recently as part of his tour of the state in which he gives campaign-stump-speech-style overviews of his priorities to small audiences.</p><p>It has Illinois union leaders, who will have to negotiate contracts with Rauner, very upset.</p><p>&ldquo;We haven&rsquo;t heard him give one concrete idea, one actual solution to helping Illinois&rsquo; problems,&rdquo; said Dan Montgomery, head of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. &ldquo;Instead, he&rsquo;s focused maniacally on attacking working people. It&rsquo;s unbelievable.&rdquo;</p><p>Montgomery said Rauner&rsquo;s plan signals that the governor would prefer to have chaos, rather than govern the state. Like what happens when Rauner asks local governments to pass a resolution that in-part embraces so-called right to work laws?</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s a circus,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a circus because this governor knows it&rsquo;s illegal. So he&rsquo;s spending his time going around trying to shill and sell this snake oil that he knows is illegal. So why does he continue to do this?&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think he&rsquo;s looking for some way to build some support for his side of the bargaining table when he sits down with the leaders in Springfield,&rdquo; said Joe Gottemoller, the chairman of the McHenry County Board northwest of Chicago.</p><p>The McHenry County Board recently approved Rauner&rsquo;s non-binding resolution that&rsquo;s angered unions so much. Gottemoller doesn&rsquo;t dispute that Illinois law does not yet allow for some of Rauner&rsquo;s agenda, but that doesn&rsquo;t mean it&rsquo;s not worth trying to change the law.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m not anti-union despite what they might say about me; but I&rsquo;m really not,&rdquo; Gottemoller said. &ldquo;I have unions to thank for me getting through college. But I also know that it doesn&rsquo;t do anybody any good to be an unemployed carpenter.&rdquo;</p><p>Gottemoller said McHenry County, which is right on the border of Wisconsin, is on the front lines of this labor fight. And he said growth and development in the county has slowed tremendously since 2008.</p><p>Gottemoller said he needs tools to compete with Illinois&rsquo; neighbors--and this resolution from the governor is a start. But even Gottemoller admits it&rsquo;ll be a long-time coming before these policies could actually be enacted. After all, a lot of Democratic and Republican lawmakers support labor, and vice versa.</p><p>So how do any of Rauner&rsquo;s plans get approved?</p><p>Guethle, the painter&rsquo;s union official who protested in Wisconsin, said he&rsquo;s got his eye on Rauner&rsquo;s campaign finance committee and a new Political Action Committee created by some of Rauner&rsquo;s allies. Guethle&rsquo;s trying to play the long game, much beyond these first 100 days, to see which 2016 candidates Rauner&rsquo;s going to be putting his money behind.</p><p>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">@tonyjarnold</a>.</p></p> Mon, 20 Apr 2015 16:06:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/rauners-first-100-days-fight-between-unions-and-rauner-111909 Special Series: Global Activism - 'Worldview' Visits India http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-05-09/special-series-global-activism-worldview-visits-india-111888 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/India-series%20620%20good.JPG" title="From bottom l to r - Sonal Chaturvedi, co-director of Pravah, Nila Vora of India Development Service, Steve Bynum and Jerome McDonnell of WBEZ with the NGO Community Youth Collective in Delhi on Feb., 1, 2015 (Photo by Nilesh Kothari)" /><em>Worldview</em> took <em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/water/special-series-global-activism-worldview-visits-india-111888">Global Activism</a></em> to India! And we take you along for the ride. For years, India Development Service <a href="http://idsusa.org/">(IDS)</a>, a Chicago-based investment NGO, has brought from India Global Activists to <em>Worldview&nbsp;</em>who work there to make life better. So IDS brought us to India to talk with people doing service and development projects on-the-ground. IDS guided us through big cities like, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad, as well as to remote villages and towns. We met people working to overcome challenges like illiteracy, abuse of women and children, class issues and water security.</p><p><strong>Jerome McDonnell and Steve Bynum of WBEZ&#39;s <em>Worldview</em> and </strong><strong>India Development Service (IDS)</strong><strong> share their adventures in India</strong></p><p>Sunday, May 17th, 2015, 5:00pm-7:30pm</p><p>The Meadows Club</p><p>2950 Golf Road, Rolling Meadows</p><p>Free of Charge - Dinner Included</p><p><strong><a href="https://mycity.sulekha.com/development-unveiled_buy_2090130">Reserve Tickets Here</a></strong></p></p> Thu, 16 Apr 2015 09:32:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/worldview/2015-05-09/special-series-global-activism-worldview-visits-india-111888 Deerfield-based Walgreens aims to close about 200 US stores http://www.wbez.org/news/deerfield-based-walgreens-aims-close-about-200-us-stores-111848 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP080623035054.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Walgreens plans to close about 200 U.S. stores as the nation&#39;s largest drugstore chain expands on a $1 billion cost-reduction plan it announced last August.</p><p>The Deerfield, Illinois, company said Thursday that it also will reorganize its corporate operations and streamline its information technology and other functions. It expects the moves to add $500 million to its estimate for cost savings from its three-year plan.</p><p>The store closings amount to about 2 percent of the 8,232 drugstores it runs in the United States, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.</p><p>Spokesman Michael Polzin said Walgreens hasn&#39;t finalized the list of stores it plans to shutter, and the closings will be scattered around the country.</p><p>Walgreen said its moves will lead to a &quot;faster and more agile company.&quot; It expects to book pre-tax charges for the restructuring of between $1.6 billion and $1.8 billion as it implements the program.</p><p>Executive Vice Chairman and Acting CEO Stefano Pessina said in a statement from Walgreens that he remains &quot;as optimistic as ever&quot; about the company&#39;s future, but they need to work proactively to address challenges like growing pressure on reimbursement for pharmaceuticals and competition.</p><p>Drugstore chains like Walgreens and CVS Health Corp. have been seeing growing pressure not only from each other but also from grocery stores and big retailers like Target and Wal-Mart, which are expending their own pharmacy operations.</p><p>Late last year, Walgreens completed a nearly $16 billion deal to purchase the remaining stake of European health and beauty retailer Alliance Boots that it didn&#39;t already own. The company was renamed Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.</p><p>Walgreens initially bought a 45 percent stake in Alliance Boots, which runs the United Kingdom&#39;s largest pharmacy chain, in 2012 for about $6.7 billion in cash and stock. Analysts expect Walgreens will get added negotiating muscle over supplies like pharmaceuticals from the Alliance Boots deal and another ownership stake it acquired in pharmaceutical wholesaler AmerisourceBergen Corp. But the drugstore chain disappointed investors last August when it also lowered a forecast for earnings it expects after combining with Alliance Boots.</p><p>Walgreens also said Thursday that it earned $2.04 billion, or $1.93 per share, in its fiscal second quarter. Earnings, adjusted for one-time gains and costs, were $1.18 per share.</p><p>That topped Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 14 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 94 cents per share.</p><p>But the drugstore chain&#39;s revenue of $26.57 billion fell short of analysts&#39; forecasts for $27.73 billion.</p><p>Walgreen also announced a forecast for full-year earnings in the range of $3.45 to $3.65 per share.</p><p>Analysts expect, on average, earnings of $3.62 per share, according to the data firm FactSet.</p><p>Pessina replaced Greg Wasson as CEO after the company completed the Alliance Boots combination. Walgreens said Thursday it was still searching for a permanent replacement.</p><p>Walgreens shares climbed $2.50, or 2.9 percent, to $90.18 in premarket trading Thursday about 45 minutes before the market open. The stock had already climbed about 15 percent so far this year, as of Wednesday.</p></p> Thu, 09 Apr 2015 09:08:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/deerfield-based-walgreens-aims-close-about-200-us-stores-111848 Ice stalls Great Lakes shipping season http://www.wbez.org/news/ice-stalls-great-lakes-shipping-season-111806 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Great Lakes_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For the second year in a row, the spring shipping season is off to a slow start. Ice still covers much of the lakes and most ports don&rsquo;t expect to see international cargo ships for another two weeks.</p><p>April is historically the busiest time of year for the more than 100 ports and commercial docks along the Great Lakes.</p><p>Rick Heimann is port director for Burns Harbor in Portage, Indiana.</p><p>Burns Harbor handles more international cargo than any other port along the Great Lakes, including 15 percent of U.S. steel shipments to Europe. But at the end of March, the docks are empty.</p><p>On any given year, an average of 500,000 trucks, 10,000 railcars and 100 ships will pass through the port.</p><p>It was so cold last year, he didn&rsquo;t see a cargo ship until mid-April.</p><p>Around this time last year, more than half of Lake Michigan was covered in ice. The U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard share the responsibility of clearing the Great Lakes waterways.</p><p>Every year, in early March, they deploy a fleet of icebreakers before the official opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, a 22,000-mile-long waterway that connects the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.</p><p>But U.S. Coast Guard Mark Gill says it was 13 days after opening up the waterway that the first ship was able to reach the locks.</p><p>&ldquo;And a lot of ships incurred damage because they came out and the ice was too hard for them,&rdquo; Gill said.</p><p>Gill says the Coast Guard logged more than 11,000 hours of breaking ice in 2014.</p><p>According to the Lake Carrier&rsquo;s Association, last year&rsquo;s icey waterways cost the economy more than $700 million and nearly 4,000 jobs.</p><p>Mark Baker is president of the Interlake Steamship Company and a member of the Lake Carrier&rsquo;s Association. His boats carry steel. Others along this route carry grains.</p><p>Baker says it took one his ships 23 days to complete a trip that normally takes six.</p><p>&ldquo;And so what happened there was, their inventory levels became critically low. And in some cases, some steel mills last year had to idle plants and cut down on on production,&rdquo; Baker said.</p><p>Baker adds that the the repercussions of a bad shipping season would be felt throughout the U.S. steel industry, which feeds the U.S. auto industry. Baker says his steel is used in small plants in Michigan and Wisconsin.&nbsp;</p><p>The Lake Carriers Association wants the Coast Guard to invest in another heavy icebreaker to keep shipping lanes open during harsh winters.</p><p>But the Coast Guard says last year&rsquo;s winter was unique.</p><p>At the port of Indiana, Heimann says that&#39;s what scary.</p><p>&ldquo;Ice is something that you don&rsquo;t have control over,&rdquo; Heimann said. &ldquo;You can&rsquo;t just say: &lsquo;Ice be-gone or bring the coast guard cutter in all the time.&rsquo;&quot;</p><p>He adds that the delayed start to the 2015 season doesn&#39;t phase him, but he is counting the days until the first ships roll in.</p><p>&ldquo;We are connecting the state of Indiana to the world,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re in the state of Indiana, the heartland of the USA, yet we are only six and a half days away from the Atlantic Ocean.&rdquo;</p><p>Last year, at a time of widespread delays, Burns Harbor recorded its highest cargo volume since the port opened in 1970.</p><p><em>Claudia Morell is a reporter in Chicago. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/claudiamorell" target="_blank">@claudiamorell</a></em></p><p><em>Front and Center is funded by The Joyce Foundation: Improving the quality of life in the Great Lakes region and across the country.&nbsp;</em></p></p> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 16:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ice-stalls-great-lakes-shipping-season-111806 Heinz buying Northfield-based Kraft and building a $28 billion food giant http://www.wbez.org/news/heinz-buying-northfield-based-kraft-and-building-28-billion-food-giant-111765 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/kraftsign.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>NEW YORK &mdash; Some of the most familiar names in ketchup, pickles, cheese and hot dogs are set to come under the same roof after H.J. Heinz Co. announced plans Wednesday to buy Kraft and create one of the world&#39;s largest food and beverage companies.</p><p>The deal would bring together an array of longtime staples in American kitchens, including Oscar Mayer lunchmeats, Jell-O desserts, Miracle Whip spreads, Ore-Ida potatoes and Smart Ones diet foods.</p><p>The combination of the two companies &mdash; each more than a century old &mdash; was engineered by Warren Buffett&#39;s Berkshire Hathaway and Brazilian investment firm 3G Capital, which teamed up just two years ago to buy Heinz. While shoppers are not expected to see any major changes, the creation of The Kraft Heinz Co. reflects the pressures facing some of the biggest packaged food makers in the U.S.</p><p>As consumers increasingly migrate away from popular packaged foods in favor of options they consider less processed, companies including Campbell Soup, General Mills and Kellogg have been slashing costs or striking deals to update their products offerings. The Heinz-Kraft deal is in many ways just the latest example of that, although Buffett noted that the two companies still have a strong base of customers.</p><p>&quot;I think the tastes Kraft and Heinz appeal to are pretty enduring,&quot; he said in a telephone call to the business news channel CNBC.</p><p>Still, the early plans outlined by Kraft and Heinz executives in a conference call Wednesday focused largely on the savings that would be achieved through the deal, rather than the potential for sales growth in North America. They said they expect to save $1.5 billion through moves such as combining manufacturing and distribution networks.</p><p>James Angel, an associate professor of finance at Georgetown University&#39;s McDonough School of Business, said that will probably result in job losses.</p><p>&quot;Even though it is painful for the people involved, those resources will be freed up for other, potentially more productive, uses,&quot; he said.</p><p>The boards of both companies unanimously approved the deal, which still needs a nod from federal regulators and shareholders of Kraft Foods Group Inc. The companies say they expect the deal to close in the second half of the year.</p><p>If the agreement goes through, Kraft is expected to undergo cost-cutting under the management of 3G Capital, which is known for running tight ships.</p><p>The president of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, which says it represents 3,250 Kraft and Heinz workers in North America, said the union will work with the companies to make sure they &quot;do what is right and responsible&quot; and don&#39;t let cost-cutting measures hurt workers.</p><p>John Cahill, who took over as CEO of Kraft late last year, noted that the new management would drive a &quot;much leaner organization,&quot; as was the case when 3G took over Heinz. He said 3G can &quot;make this happen deeper and faster.&quot;</p><p>&quot;What we have not been thrilled about is some of our execution,&quot; Cahill said.</p><p>The two companies also see potential in pushing their products more aggressively overseas. Since splitting from Mondelez in 2012, Kraft&#39;s business has been primarily concentrated in North America. But executives noted that Kraft&#39;s brands are well known in major markets around the world, including the United Kingdom, Mexico, China and Brazil.</p><p>Already, Heinz gets 61 percent of sales from outside North America, said Bernardo Hees, the CEO of Heinz and a partner at 3G Capital who will become head of the newly created company.</p><p>The deal came together rapidly, Buffett said, having been in the works for only about four weeks. The new company will be co-headquartered in Pittsburgh, where Heinz is based, and the Chicago area, home of Kraft, and will have annual revenue of about $28 billion.</p><p>Eight of its brands have annual sales of $1 billion or more and five others log sales between $500 million and $1 billon every year.</p><p>Shares of Kraft jumped 36 percent Wednesday to close at $83.17.</p><p>The total value of the deal is difficult to gauge because Heinz is privately held. But Kraft shareholders will receive stock in the combined company and a special cash dividend of approximately $10 billion, or $16.50 per share. Each share of Kraft will be converted into one share of Kraft Heinz.</p><p>Current Heinz shareholders will own 51 percent of the combined company, with Kraft shareholders owning a 49 percent stake.</p><p>The Kraft Heinz board will include six directors from the current Heinz board. Those six directors will include three members from Berkshire Hathaway and three members from 3G Capital. The current Kraft board will appoint five directors to the combined company&#39;s board.</p><p>Kraft Heinz plans to keep Kraft&#39;s current dividend once the transaction closes. Kraft has no plans to change its dividend before the deal is complete.</p></p> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 08:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/heinz-buying-northfield-based-kraft-and-building-28-billion-food-giant-111765