WBEZ | Layoffs http://www.wbez.org/tags/layoffs Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en More than a thousand teachers and other staff laid off in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/news/more-thousand-teachers-and-other-staff-laid-chicago-110423 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/board of ed_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Public Schools officials told 550 teachers and 600 more school staff Thursday that they&rsquo;re out of a job.</p><p dir="ltr">The number of dreaded phone calls being made by principals is based on how many kids CPS officials project will show up on the first day next fall.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The staffing changes are driven most directly by declining student enrollment,&rdquo; CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said in a conference call with reporters.</p><p dir="ltr">The number is significantly smaller than last year&rsquo;s nearly 3,000 layoffs, which were due mostly to the Board of Education&rsquo;s decision to close 50 schools.</p><p dir="ltr">More than <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-issues-pink-slips-over-800-employees-107713">800 teachers were laid off last June</a>, another <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-announces-2100-layoffs-108109">2,100 were let go in July</a> and nearly 100 were <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/economy/cps-issues-nearly-100-pink-slips-109078">released after the 20th day of school enrollment count</a> was taken in the fall.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS&rsquo;s Chief Talent Officer Alicia Winckler said, typically, about 60 percent of the staff let go over the summer find new jobs at other schools in the system.</p><p dir="ltr">Jackson Potter, staff coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union, said it&rsquo;s still too many layoffs in a system already starved for resources.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;It sort of like, hey, we cut the most we&rsquo;ve ever cut in the last two years and we cut a little less than that this year, so therefore, it&rsquo;s not so bad, doesn&rsquo;t seem reasonable, or accurate, or considerate to the families that are going to suffer a further reduction of the essentials that their children need and deserve,&rdquo; Potter said.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS officials say they have made adjustments at schools where enrollment dropped and core programs are in jeopardy.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve made every single effort, whereever there was a decline, to make sure that the core academic program, as well as the enrichment programs could continue for next year,&rdquo; Byrd-Bennett said. &ldquo;But it is difficult for schools that have sustained substantial enrollment decreases to avoid staff impact. I mean, you can&rsquo;t get around that.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Last year, schools that lost enrollment were held harmless--meaning they could keep money budgeted to them even if the number of students who enrolled came in under what was projected. That will not continue this year.</p><p dir="ltr">District officials have said the complete fiscal year 2015 budget is set to be released in early July.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Thu, 26 Jun 2014 18:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-thousand-teachers-and-other-staff-laid-chicago-110423 CPS issues nearly 100 pink slips http://www.wbez.org/news/economy/cps-issues-nearly-100-pink-slips-109078 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/AP412605944203 (1).jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Public Schools issued layoff notices to nearly 100 teachers and support staff late last week, about two months after pink slips are typically issued.</p><p dir="ltr">Earlier this year, CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett said schools <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-enrollment-dip-doesnt-cost-principals-108781">would not have to lay off staff</a> if fewer than expected students showed up during the first weeks of school. That announcement came shortly after the 20th day of school, when CPS and districts across the state are required to finalize enrollment and make staffing adjustments as needed.</p><p dir="ltr">CPS officials say the promise to hold schools harmless for enrollment dropping is not extended to state and federal money for low-income students.</p><p dir="ltr">In all, 94 teachers and support staff were eliminated, according to CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll, of which 33 were due to decreases in state and federal poverty funds that follow students. Eleven positions were technically cut over the summer, but staffed temporarily due to transition work and 10 early childhood or other specialists were eliminated.</p><p dir="ltr">The 40 school assistants that received pink slips failed to get required certifications after having been on notice for several years, Carroll said.</p><p dir="ltr">Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union, said the layoffs will hit the most vulnerable students more than two months into the school year.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;In a system that&rsquo;s this large, the overall impact might not be huge, but the impact for specific students who are losing these staff, that will be a big deal,&rdquo; Sharkey said.</p><p dir="ltr">The small wave of pink slips comes after a summer during which <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-announces-2100-layoffs-108109">nearly 3,000 teachers were let go</a>. It also comes days after the district announced it plans to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/parents-lose-fight-keep-military-school-out-109044">turn a Northwest Side middle school into a military academy</a> and <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/23479182-418/shuttered-cps-elementary-to-be-home-of-chicago-high-school-for-the-arts-sources.html">hand over a closed school building to a contract school</a>--both proposals school officials denied less than a year ago.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I would say that right now, the board is on kind of a run of broken promises,&rdquo; Sharkey said.</p><p dir="ltr">Carroll refuted Sharkey&rsquo;s statement that this was a broken promise, saying state and federal poverty allocations are entirely out of the district&rsquo;s control.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Becky Vevea is a producer for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 05 Nov 2013 10:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/economy/cps-issues-nearly-100-pink-slips-109078 Out-of-work teachers seen as untapped resource for solving city problems http://www.wbez.org/news/out-work-teachers-seen-untapped-resource-solving-city-problems-108885 <p><p dir="ltr">On a recent Saturday morning, more than two dozen educators sat in the pews of a South Side church. There were principals, deans, special education teachers, classroom teachers--nearly all of them out of work.</p><p dir="ltr">At the front of the room, Elizabeth Galik told a story many laid-off teachers can relate to, about trying to get a job in Chicago Public Schools.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;So I walked in, in my little cute blue suit and my heels,&rdquo; says Galik. &ldquo;I walked into that job fair at Soldier Field, and saw about five thousand other people who looked just like me.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Galik eventually landed a teaching job at a private school. But she found herself unemployed again when the school had to close for financial reasons.</p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/goodcity%202%20for%20use%20inline.jpg" style="float: right; height: 400px; width: 300px;" title="English teacher Imran Khan [lower right] helped found Embarc, Inc., a nonprofit that broadens students’ worlds by taking them on field trips. This school year is Khan’s first working full-time for Embarc. (Courtesy Embarc, Inc.)" />By this time, Galik knew her students, knew their families, knew the community. And she had ideas.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;And so I went to the church that owned the school and I said, &lsquo;Would you let me just open the computer lab to the community and see what happens?&rsquo; And so I literally hand-painted my little sign. I hung it outside: Computer lab open. Tuesdays.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">The computer lab was a success. It expanded and merged, and Galik now oversees a community organization with six sites. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Teacher layoffs are painful&mdash;and Chicago posted a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-announces-2100-layoffs-108109">record number</a> of them this year, between budget cuts and school closings. But the local nonprofit <a href="http://www.goodcitychicago.org/">Goodcity</a> is seeing opportunity in the layoffs, for the teachers and for the city. Goodcity believes Chicago would be a better place if lots of the city&rsquo;s laid-off educators founded their own nonprofits. The idea is to keep teachers in the city neighborhoods where they&rsquo;ve been working, and get them to address some of the problems they&rsquo;ve seen up close as teachers.. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">Consultant Rene Alvarado says teachers make good social entrepreneurs.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Teachers have a pulse on what the real needs of our society are. Not only that, but they have to come up with some ideas--how do I solve these problems? And then I think there&rsquo;s this resiliency about teachers as well. &lsquo;Yeah, I had this horrible day, but I&rsquo;ve got to get up tomorrow morning and come back and try this over again.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">If the recent Goodcity workshop is any indication, teachers have lots of ideas.</p><p dir="ltr">A social worker wants to help kids aging out of foster care. A teacher with accounting experience has ideas for a financial literacy program.</p><p dir="ltr">A former high school principal wants to help disadvantaged kids make it into Chicago&rsquo;s elite high schools, by starting a nonprofit test prep center. &ldquo;Unlike some of the for-profit test prep organizations, I want to make it affordable for inner-city kids,&rdquo; says Joyce Cooper.</p><p dir="ltr">A cosmetology teacher wants to open a salon that would hire her licensed cosmetology students right out of high school, and help them dream even bigger.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Chicago has become the movie hub,&rdquo; says Venetta Carter, who still has her teaching job but is looking &nbsp;to the future. &ldquo;A lot of African Americans just go into a salon, but we don&rsquo;t go into the movie theaters where you have to do theatrical hair, theatrical makeup. So I&rsquo;m hoping to partner with the movie industry and maybe have current hairstylists (or) makeup artists maybe mentor these kids and introduce them to this other side of the cosmetology world.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">There are a lot of examples of teachers becoming entrepreneurs&mdash;some of them very high profile. Two teachers created the KIPP charter school network for instance, which now enrolls 50,000 kids in 141 schools across the nation. And education entrepreneurs are hot right now&mdash;there&rsquo;s venture capital for start-ups trying to tackle pressing problems in public education. Almost everything in education is up for reinvention -- from textbooks to the use of technology to schools themselves.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The truth is, teachers are great managers,&rdquo; says Northside College Prep interim principal Ellen Estrada. &ldquo;Not only that, we underestimate the intellectual nature of teaching,&rdquo; she says.</p><p dir="ltr">Estrada got a taste of the corporate world recently when she went to work for Microsoft to design a science initiative for the city.</p><p dir="ltr">She says teachers are making split-second decisions throughout the day. Are kids understanding what I just presented? Do they need another example? What do I do with this kid who&rsquo;s acting out?</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Most people in jobs are not &lsquo;on&rsquo; like that all the time. And our teachers are,&rdquo; says Estrada.</p><p dir="ltr">English teacher Imran Khan founded a nonprofit several years ago when he was working at Harper High School. <a href="http://www.embarcchicago.org/">Embarc, Inc.</a> &nbsp;takes students on field trips, giving them an opportunity to step away from the neighborhoods where they&rsquo;re growing up. Khan says he got the idea for Embarc because he saw a need for it when he was teaching.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I had a lot of kids who had rarely ever travelled beyond a four-block radius,&rdquo; says Khan. &ldquo;A lot of kids who had never heard of Millennium Park, some who had never seen the lake, kids who had never set foot in grocery stores or had never been in elevators--and these are 16-, 17-year-old high school kids.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Through Embarc, Khan took students to the theater, to see dances, to downtown restaurants&mdash;and saw attendance and graduation rates soar. &ldquo;I knew if we were going to change outcomes for kids, I needed to change their experiences first. I needed to give them some reason to strive,&rdquo; he says.</p><p dir="ltr">Khan and another teacher left Harper this year to run Embarc full time. The program is expanding to nine schools. &nbsp;Like Goodcity, Khan believes teachers are a huge, untapped resource for solving Chicago&rsquo;s problems.</p><p>Goodcity hopes more nonprofits started by teachers will be one silver lining to lots of layoffs.</p></p> Wed, 09 Oct 2013 17:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/out-work-teachers-seen-untapped-resource-solving-city-problems-108885 After massive layoffs, CPS suggests teachers contribute more for their pensions http://www.wbez.org/news/education/after-massive-layoffs-cps-suggests-teachers-contribute-more-their-pensions-108125 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/RS3523_board of ed-scr_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>As <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-announces-2100-layoffs-108109" target="_blank">layoffs hit 3,000 in Chicago Public Schools</a>, the district and teachers union are at odds over what is causing the budget crisis and what to do about it.</p><p>Chicago&rsquo;s school district says ballooning pension payments are driving the crunch. This school year, the district&rsquo;s pension obligation triples, to $600 million&mdash;a cost to be paid for with money that would otherwise fund current education needs in schools.&nbsp; The pension tab amounts to about 12 percent of the district&rsquo;s total operating budget.</p><p>But condemning Friday&rsquo;s layoffs as &ldquo;outrageous,&rdquo; Chicago Teachers Union vice-president Jesse Sharkey challenged the district&rsquo;s narrative.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;We resist the urge on the part of the administration of the city to blame teachers, and to blame our pensions for the crisis. Blaming retired teachers who make an average of $40,000 a year for their retirement, who get no social security, who never missed a payment&mdash;while the city itself didn&rsquo;t put any money into the fund for 10 years, who have had a massive pension holiday for three years--we think that&rsquo;s hypocrisy.&rdquo;</p><p>Sharkey says months of pension talks between the two sides reveal only that the school district and teachers union differ fundamentally on a solution to the problem. He said the district favors cuts to teachers&#39; benefits and the union wants the city to find more revenue--through TIF funds, a tax on financial transactions, or more fundamental income tax reform, including possibly an income tax on suburbanites who work in Chicago.</p><p>Late Friday, the district confirmed that it wants Chicago to be included in a state pension reform plan that calls for greater employee contributions, salary caps for pensions, higher retirement ages, and revised cost of living adjustments.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;ve been advocating is for CPS to be included in state teacher pension reform in Senate Bill 1&hellip; that would treat all teachers in the state the same in terms of pensions and benefits,&rdquo; said CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll. &ldquo;It would provide us systemic ongoing savings. And it would make our system more viable and sustainable.&rdquo;</p><p>Senate Bill 1, backed this spring by Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, is considered dead legislatively, but lawmakers are working to revive provisions of the bill.</p><p>&ldquo;Everything in Senate Bill 1, we support that,&rdquo; said Carroll. &ldquo;And we support expanding Senate Bill 1 to apply to the Chicago Teachers Pension Fund.&rdquo;</p><p>Until now, most people have assumed that by &ldquo;pension reform,&rdquo; Chicago Public Schools meant permission from Springfield to defer its pension payments, or outright help in making those payments. In 2010 lawmakers gave the district a &ldquo;holiday&rdquo; that allowed it to skip $400 million worth of annual payments for three years. A similar provision was introduced this spring but did not pass.</p><p>Chicago teachers are the only ones in the state with their own pension fund. The school district shoulders pension costs that in the case of suburban and downstate districts are paid for by Illinois. Chicago teachers have generally preferred keeping the pension systems separate because Chicago&rsquo;s pension fund has historically been better funded.</p><p>Sharkey says teachers have already shouldered enough of the district&#39;s economic challenges.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;ve been hit. In 2010 we&rsquo;ve been hit by mass layoffs. In 2011 we were hit by both mass layoffs and a freeze. Last year there was a strike and we got a 20 percent longer day for a 3 percent increase in pay. And this year again, mass layoffs. So this is not a recent problem. Someone has got to deal with some of the structural issues here, and we say that goes back to funding public schools fairly.&rdquo;</p><p>CPS spokeswoman Carroll said the union had proposed a &ldquo;massive&rdquo; property tax increase. She said that&rsquo;s not reform. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s a way to pay.&rdquo;<br />&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 20 Jul 2013 07:38:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/after-massive-layoffs-cps-suggests-teachers-contribute-more-their-pensions-108125 CPS announces 2,100 layoffs http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-announces-2100-layoffs-108109 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Screen Shot 2013-07-19 at 7.13.46 AM.png" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Public Schools &nbsp;announced late Thursday that it was laying off 2,113 teachers and support staff &mdash; a figure more than twice as large as the teachers union head was expecting and one the district blamed on the Illinois legislature&#39;s failure to reach a deal on pension reform. CPS is the second largest employer in the entire state of Illinois.</p><p dir="ltr">Among those laid off Thursday are 1,036 teachers and 1,077 support staff, including teacher assistants, food service employees, security guards and janitorial staff.</p><p dir="ltr">The layoffs come on top of 855 teachers and support staff who were laid off in June due to school closings and turnarounds. And on top of it all, the district says another 161 teachers from closing schools will not be offered a position at the receiving schools.</p><p dir="ltr">School district spokeswoman Becky Carroll said the district is facing a $1 billion budget deficit, much of it driven by an increase in its pension obligations.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;We were hoping to get pension reform in Springfield,&quot; she said. &quot;That did not happen. That has brought the pension crisis to the doorstep of our schools,&quot; she said.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago schools were seeking a waiver on pension payments for the 2014 budgetary year, which began July 1. During the spring legislative session, the General Assembly failed to pass legislation permitting the district to make a reduced pension contribution over the next two years, obligating the district to increase the contribution by $400 million.</p><p dir="ltr">District officials said even if pension reform is enacted by the legislature, they would not commit to reversing the layoffs.</p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis expressed surprise at the number of layoffs, saying she expected the figure to be closer to 800.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;Once again, CPS has lied to parents, employees and the public, about keeping the new school-based budget cuts away from the classroom,&quot; Lewis said in a statement.</p><p dir="ltr">On Friday, the Chicago Teachers Union held a press conference where vice president Jesse Sharkey, flanked by irate parents and fired teachers, condemned the layoffs.&nbsp; &quot;I don&rsquo;t see the point of making school 20-some-percent longer and then laying off all the art, music and physical education teachers that are supposed to fill that day up with education,&quot; Sharkey said.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">He said the school district and teachers union differed fundamentally on a solution to the pension crisis. He characterized the district as favoring cuts to teachers&#39; benefits and the union as pushing for the city to find more revenue--through TIF funds, a tax on financial transations, or more fundamental income tax reform, including possibly an income tax on suburbanites who work in Chicago.&nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">The district has eliminated $600 million in central office operations and administration in recent years, in addition to $52 million in cuts it made this year, according to Carroll.</p><p dir="ltr">&quot;We can&#39;t cut our way out of this crisis,&quot; she said. &quot;Our spending obligations, pension, salary increases and other costs, continue to rise.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">The majority of the teachers laid off are probationary teachers who have worked for CPS for less than three years, said CPS Chief Talent Officer Alicia Winckler</p><p dir="ltr">The teachers being laid off were to be notified by their principals on Friday.</p><p dir="ltr">Carson Elementary school art teacher Ruth Augspurger said she was sitting in a professional development class Friday when she got her call. She lost the job she&#39;s held for the last eight years teaching mostly Latino students on the city&#39;s Southwest Side. The mother of two said she came to Chicago to attend the School of the Art Institute, but stayed to teach in the public schools &quot;because I believe every child should have the privilege to have the highest level of education.&quot; Augspurger says she doesn&#39;t blame her principal for cutting her position. &quot;You can&#39;t squeeze water from a rock,&quot; she said. But she laments that Carson will no longer have a visual art teacher.</p><p dir="ltr">Winckler said all laid-off teachers will be able to reapply for district teaching positions. They can work as substitute teachers, she said. Winckler also noted that in the past, more the 60 percent of district teachers who were laid off were rehired.</p><p dir="ltr">Thursday&#39;s announcement came as lawyers for the nation&#39;s third-largest school district were in a federal courtroom defending Chicago&#39;s plan to shutter some 50 schools.</p><p dir="ltr">The Chicago Teachers Union and concerned parents who are seeking an injunction to halt the plan before the new school year begins say the closures inordinately harm black and special-needs students, violating their rights.</p><p dir="ltr">The hearing stems from several lawsuits filed on behalf of parents. One contends that black children make up about 88 percent of students being moved from closed schools, although they comprise 42 percent of district students.</p><p dir="ltr">Critics say talk by city and schools officials of budgetary savings is misleading, leaving the impression that the closures will help address the yawning budget deficit. Pressed during cross-examination on Thursday, which was the hearing&#39;s third day, CPS&#39; budget director, Ginger Ostro, conceded that the closures weren&#39;t designed to fixCPS&#39; financial mess.</p><p dir="ltr">Adam Anderson, a district planning official, testified that what guided the district as it decided what schools would be closed was how much classroom space wasn&#39;t being used.</p><p dir="ltr">A complex &quot;utilization equation&quot; was employed in the process, and the district found there were some 500,000 available classroom seats for 400,000 students, leaving 100,000 seats unused, Anderson said.</p><p dir="ltr">Enrollment has fallen over the years with a corresponding fall in population in African-American areas, which is why so many of the schools that ended up on the closure list were in predominantly black neighborhoods, Anderson said.</p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 19 Jul 2013 06:43:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/education/cps-announces-2100-layoffs-108109 CPS issues pink slips to over 800 employees http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-issues-pink-slips-over-800-employees-107713 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/3523scr_56e72880c46e426_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><div>Employees at schools being shut down or shaken up at the end of this year are being let go today, according to Chicago Public School officials.&nbsp;<br /><br />More than 800 employees are affected, but there could be many more. The numbers released by CPS today do not include administrators and do not count layoffs in other district schools that are also <a href="http://bit.ly/ZOUf9l">facing shrinking budgets</a>.&nbsp;</div><div><br />&ldquo;We do think this is just the tip of the iceberg,&rdquo; said Jackson Potter, staff coordinator for the Chicago Teachers Union.<br /><br />Reports from parents, teachers and principals across the city indicate that people at closing schools are not the only ones who stand to lose their jobs. Potter said, ironically, many of the positions <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/mostly-art-music-teachers-added-longer-chicago-school-day-104592">added last year for the longer school day</a> are being cut.&nbsp;<br /><br />&ldquo;We&rsquo;re seeing all of the additional staff from music, world language, art, are being cut, librarians being removed and eliminated from a variety of schools across the district,&rdquo; Potter said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s really hard to say how damaging and disruptive these austerity budgets are going to be but it&rsquo;s drastic.&rdquo;<br /><br />However, teachers at closing schools with superior or excellent performance ratings are eligible to apply for jobs at receiving schools if there are openings. But CPS officials said they won&rsquo;t know how many vacancies there will be until mid-July.<br /><br />CPS officials said, on average, about 60 percent of teachers who lose their positions at one school, but reapply at others get rehired somewhere else in the system.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><em style="color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px;">Becky Vevea is a WBEZ education reporter. Follow her&nbsp;<a href="http://www.twitter.com/WBEZeducation" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; line-height: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; text-decoration: none; color: rgb(0, 104, 150); outline: 0px;">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></div><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Fri, 14 Jun 2013 16:25:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-issues-pink-slips-over-800-employees-107713 Protesters rally against Chicago Sun-Times photo layoffs http://www.wbez.org/sections/media/protesters-rally-against-chicago-sun-times-photo-layoffs-107573 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/c19862c4ceb711e28faf22000a1f99f9_7.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Local reporters, photographers and labor leaders gathered with picket signs outside the Chicago Sun-Times building Thursday, a week after the entire photography department at the newspaper was let go.</p><p>Cars driving by the rally beeped their horns as around 150 supporters chanted &ldquo;quality, not cuts&rdquo; and &ldquo;no more layoffs.&rdquo;&nbsp; Many of the faces in the crowd matched the bylines and names from the newspaper: Longtime Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown carried a sign that said, &ldquo;John H. White - &lsquo;nuf said.&rdquo; White, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer, marched just a few steps behind him, along with other former Sun-Times photogs.</p><p>Craig Rosenbaum, executive director of the Chicago Newspaper Guild, says they&rsquo;ve filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board that says the layoffs violate federal law. The Guild represents 20 of the photographers who were laid off.</p><p>&ldquo;This is one of the few cities that has two papers, the Tribune and the Sun-Times,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;And how are you going to be able to compete with the competition when you don&rsquo;t have two professional photojournalists?&rdquo;</p><p>Rosenbaum says the Guild is planning another rally for next week.</p><p>A statement from the Sun-Times Media group after the layoffs said the decision was &ldquo;difficult,&rdquo; but noted the media business is changing rapidly, and audiences want more video content with their news.</p><p>Meanwhile, many of the former Sun-Times photographers say they&rsquo;re trying to move on to freelancing and other projects.&nbsp; Rob Hart, who started at the Sun-Times over a decade ago, says he was serving dual roles at the protest Thursday morning: marching alongside his former colleagues, and photographing the protest for a freelance assignment.</p><p><em>Lauren Chooljian is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://www.twitter.com/laurenchooljian">@laurenchooljian</a></em></p><script src="//storify.com/WBEZ/protesters-rally-against-chicago-sun-times-photogr.js" type="text/javascript" language="javascript"></script><noscript>[<a href="//storify.com/WBEZ/protesters-rally-against-chicago-sun-times-photogr" target="_blank">View the story "Protesters rally against Chicago Sun-Times photography layoffs" on Storify</a>]</noscript></p> Thu, 06 Jun 2013 14:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/media/protesters-rally-against-chicago-sun-times-photo-layoffs-107573 Laid-off workers open their own factory http://www.wbez.org/news/laid-workers-open-their-own-factory-107118 <p><p>A few hours before the grand opening of New Era Windows Cooperative, Melvin &quot;Ricky&quot; Maclin is standing&nbsp; in the middle of the factory, beaming.</p><p>&quot;All of this is ours,&quot; he said. &quot;We have our own trucks, our own forklifts. It&rsquo;s a whole new world.&quot;</p><p>Maclin&rsquo;s title is the same as the 17 other people who work here: worker-owner. Together, they vote on decisions about the factory. He proudly shows the place where they jackhammered the floor to install water pipes. He says the workers didn&rsquo;t know how to complete some of the steps to set up the factory, but they learned. They also took classes on business management.</p><p>&quot;At first we thought we were just lowly factory workers,&quot; Maclin said. &quot;But now we see we have so much more in us.&quot;</p><p>Maclin says that being a worker-owner means that for the first time in his life he has control over what happens to him. Back in 2008, when the factory was closed for the first time, he was devastated.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/New%20Era%202.jpg" style="height: 169px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Melvin “Ricky” Maclin holds a postcard advertising New Era’s line of windows named after their union. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" />&quot;This was right before Christmas,&quot; he said. &quot;I didn&rsquo;t even know if I was going to be able to buy my grandkids a doll for Christmas. It was a dark time, it was like we were in a free fall.&quot;</div><p>Maclin and the other workers of Republic Window occupied the closed factory. They were later paid the severance wages that they were legally entitled to receive. A California- based company called Serious Materials bought the factory and hired back the workers. But not long after, they also closed down.</p><p>The workers decided to do things differently that time and buy the factory themselves.</p><p>Working World, the organization that provided them with a credit line to help open the cooperative, says it would cost most companies $5 million to open. It cost New Era less than $650,000.</p><p>The first windows made by the factory will be titled the &ldquo;1110 Series&rdquo; after their union, United Electric 1110.</p><p><em>Shannon Heffernan is a reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/shannon_h" target="_blank">@shannon_h</a></em></p></p> Fri, 10 May 2013 07:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/laid-workers-open-their-own-factory-107118 Layoffs may be avoided at DCFS http://www.wbez.org/layoffs-may-be-avoided-dcfs-103115 <p><p>A few hundred Illinois state employees who work with at-risk youth may not lose their jobs as expected. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services had its budget cut earlier this year by $90 million.&nbsp;Now, it&rsquo;s expected to get half of that money back, which means the scheduled layoffs of 375 workers across the state may not happen.</p><p>The department works directly with families on cases involving child abuse and finds foster care or adoptive services for youth who need it.</p><p>A spokesman for DCFS, Dave Clarkin, said some of the 375 employees were middle managers and will have new jobs working with families more directly.</p><p>&quot;What that will allow us to do is to clear cases more quickly to figure out if children are at risk and get them the help they need or find them a safe place,&quot; Clarkin said.</p><p>The head of the department, Richard Calica, announced the cancellation of the layoffs in a memo. He called the shift in job descriptions a &quot;reorganization.&quot;</p><p>Meantime, a spokesman for the union that represents DCFS workers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said in a statement that there are concerns about the reorganization plan, but that members are &quot;relieved&quot; efforts are being made to find funding for these positions.</p><p>Legislators in Springfield still need to reallocate the money to prevent the layoffs, which could happen in the upcoming veto session. Although State Representative Sara Feigenholtz said it&rsquo;s not clear how the department will find the funding needed to keep the jobs.</p><p>&quot;There have been a lot of ongoing discussions about where we will find the sources to pay for some of these restorations and the answer to that remains unanswered,&quot; said Feigenholtz, who is the chairwoman of the Appropriations - Human Services committee.</p><p>She said DCFS has avoided budget cuts in the past because consent decrees had mandated a certain level of service from the department. Feigenholtz said legislators need to be diligent in finding out how the department would spend the money before a check is written.</p></p> Fri, 12 Oct 2012 17:26:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/layoffs-may-be-avoided-dcfs-103115 Laid off workers sue Wal-Mart contractors http://www.wbez.org/story/laid-workers-sue-wal-mart-contractors-96039 <p><p><img alt="Leticia Rodríguez, one of the plaintiffs." class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2012-February/2012-02-01/Rodriguez1.JPG" style="margin: 9px 18px 6px 1px; float: left; width: 239px; height: 291px;" title="Leticia Rodríguez, one of the plaintiffs, blames the Arkansas retailer. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)">Low-wage workers are trying something new to improve conditions in warehouses that sprawl across suburban Will County. A class-action lawsuit claims two contractors at a massive Wal-Mart Stores distribution center in Elwood violated a federal law requiring most companies with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days’ notice of a mass layoff.</p><p>The suit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, claims a logistics firm and staffing agency violated the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act by failing to provide the notice before laying off about 65 workers in the warehouse December 29.</p><p>On paper, the plaintiffs were employees of a staffing agency, Florida-based Eclipse Advantage, that was brought in by Wisconsin-based Schneider Logistics, a company that runs the warehouse. Wal-Mart owns the facility, hired Schneider and owns the goods the workers unloaded, but the suit does not name the Arkansas-based retailer as a defendant.</p><p>It’s not uncommon in the retail industry for companies to shed workers as the holiday season winds down. Wednesday’s claim, nevertheless, says the layoff came in retaliation for a November suit alleging wage and hour violations at the warehouse. That case’s defendants are Schneider, Eclipse and another staffing agency, Mid-West Temp Group, based in southwest suburban New Lenox.</p><p>Dizzying as the warehouse’s labor arrangements may be, plaintiffs in Wednesday’s suit say just one company is ultimately responsible.</p><p>"Wal-Mart hires third parties or agencies because they’re always trying to save money to see how they can get the job done with less costs,” said Leticia Rodríguez, 36, who worked in the warehouse for five years through staffing firms. “We as employees pay the price because we’re forced to work under conditions like this — [for less than] minimum wage sometimes — because we need to make ends meet.”</p><p>In response to the plaintiffs, Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter read a prepared statement: “We hold all of our vendors to high standards, and our expectation is they comply with all applicable laws. Our vendors, such as Schneider, may take whatever corrective actions may be necessary.”</p><p>Rossiter declined to say how Wal-Mart holds venders like Schneider accountable.</p><p>Schneider, for its part, didn’t return calls and messages about the suit.</p><p>Kristina Sanders, human resources manager of Eclipse, declined to answer questions. She read a prepared statement that said her company “has and will continue to pay its employees in compliance with all applicable laws at competitive rates.” She said any allegations of unlawful pay or practices were “unfounded” and would be “defended vigorously.”</p><p>The suit claims the plaintiffs were “jointly employed” by Eclipse and Schneider because, among other reasons, both companies directed the work.</p><p>“First thing in the morning, Schneider requires all the employees in this section of the warehouse to line up and start doing stretches to avoid workplace injuries,” said Christopher Williams, the plaintiffs’ attorney. “So the Schneider employees are standing next to the Eclipse employees, [who] are standing next to the Mid-West employees. And they are all doing these stretches together under the supervision and control of Schneider.”</p><p>It’s unusual to sue a staffing agency based on the WARN Act, designed to provide workers time to adjust to layoffs, get training to compete in the job market, and find other employment.</p><p>The November suit, in contrast, is part of a wave of litigation targeting “wage theft,” in which employers allegedly flout the minimum wage, shortchange workers on overtime or force them to work off the clock.</p></p> Thu, 02 Feb 2012 02:22:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/laid-workers-sue-wal-mart-contractors-96039