WBEZ | Labor http://www.wbez.org/news/labor Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en As temp work grows, African Americans push for their fair share http://www.wbez.org/news/temp-work-grows-african-americans-push-their-fair-share-110945 <p><p>Between his wife, children and grandchildren, there are a lot of mouths to feed in Kenny Flowers&rsquo; home. But he says it has been a decade since his last full-time job. And he lost one of his two part-time jobs a few months ago.<br /><br />&ldquo;So I&rsquo;ve been coming to MVP to pick up [work] and just get some honest money,&rdquo; says Flowers, 38, referring to Most Valuable Personnel, part of Personnel Staffing Group, a chain based in the Chicago area with operations in eight states.<br /><br />Flowers, a lifelong resident of the city&rsquo;s West Side, says he has gone at least four times this year to MVP&rsquo;s office in the Town of Cicero, a suburb bordering the city. He says he has spent hours and hours in the waiting room.<br /><br />But MVP has yet to give Flowers any work. Asked why, a company spokesman responds that Flowers &ldquo;calls the office frequently and is advised to come in the following day to be assigned out for work&rdquo; but &ldquo;does not arrive to be sent out.&rdquo;</p><p>Flowers calls that baloney and wonders whether MVP is trying to hide something he has noticed in the waiting room. &ldquo;I see more Latinos going out than I do African Americans,&rdquo; he says.<br /><br />Flowers suspects that many of those Latinos are in the country illegally. He says MVP assigns them work on the belief that unauthorized immigrants are less likely to raise a stink when employers short them out of pay or put them in dangerous conditions. The staffing firm denies that allegation.<br /><br />MVP&rsquo;s Cicero location is among 933 offices of temp agencies registered to operate in Illinois. Nationwide, more than 2.9 million people were employed as temps in September, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Temp jobs, once mostly clerical, are now mainly blue-collar and constitute about 2 percent of the nation&rsquo;s employment.</p><p>Those are all record numbers, but African Americans say they are not getting a fair shot at the work. They are accusing the staffing companies of discrimination. And their claims are getting attention from temp-worker advocates, federal regulators and some Illinois lawmakers.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Few blacks sent to bakery</span></p><p>Flowers takes me to that MVP office, part of a strip mall along the border between Cicero and Chicago. In the waiting room I see more than four dozen blue-collar workers hoping for an assignment. Some say they have been there for hours. While they wait, they are not getting paid. Nearly all are black.<br /><br />I pull out my audio-recording gear and take a few photos of Flowers on the sidewalk, where workers have spilled out from the waiting room. Within minutes a woman who helps run this MVP office comes out and commands everyone to go back inside. Everyone, that is, but Flowers and me. She tells us to leave, and we do.<br /><br />But we do not get far. As I interview Flowers on a residential sidewalk around the corner, a Cicero police car pulls up, then another. &ldquo;We have the subjects,&rdquo; one of officers tells his radio dispatcher.</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/waiting%20room.jpg" style="height: 426px; width: 620px;" title="At the Cicero office of Most Valuable Personnel, dozens of black workers fill the waiting room. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" /></div><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to need to see IDs from both you gentlemen,&rdquo; the officer tells Flowers and me. The cop says it was MVP that called the police on us.<br /><br />After they run our driver&rsquo;s licenses for warrants, the officers leave us alone. But the whole experience signals that discrimination allegations in the staffing industry have touched a nerve.</p><p>MVP is a defendant in two class-action lawsuits in federal court. Both claim employment discrimination against African Americans. Temp-worker advocates, meanwhile, have come to the company&rsquo;s Cicero office to hand out flyers about wage theft. MVP claims the leafleting is an effort to &ldquo;coerce&rdquo; the company to settle the litigation.</p><p>But Christopher Williams, the attorney who filed the suits, says MVP has only itself to blame. &ldquo;Where there&rsquo;s a staffing agency within two miles of zip codes that have a population that&rsquo;s 97-98 percent African American, why were no African Americans &mdash; almost none &mdash; sent to work jobs at Gold Standard Baking?&rdquo;<br /><br />Gold Standard, an industrial bakery on Chicago&rsquo;s Southwest Side, relies on MVP for labor. The two companies are co-defendants in one of the suits. The claim is that the bakery asked for immigrant temps instead of African American temps and that the staffing agency fulfilled that request.<br /><br />&ldquo;Over a four-year period, when approximately 5,000 workers were sent to Gold Standard Baking, only 85 of those were African American,&rdquo; Williams says. &ldquo;These are low-skilled jobs that people on the West Side of Chicago need to have access to.&rdquo;<br /><br />At the same time, Williams says, MVP focused its recruiting on Spanish-speaking workers, and the company sent out vans to pick them up in heavily immigrant neighborhoods such as Little Village.<br /><br />In court, MVP has countered that the reason its workforce is mostly Latino is because of the office&rsquo;s location. Nearby Chicago neighborhoods may be black, but Cicero is mostly Latino.<br /><br />&ldquo;MVP does not discriminate against African Americans,&rdquo; Elliot Richardson, an attorney for the company, tells me. &ldquo;MVP sends out the very best employees for the positions that fit what those employees can do. There are plenty of job offerings at MVP right now. They are looking for workers. Regardless of their race, we welcome people to come in and to apply.&rdquo;</p><p>Gold Standard officials, for their part, referred WBEZ questions about the suit to a lawyer. He sent a statement that denies the allegations and calls the company &ldquo;an equal opportunity employer&rdquo; that is &ldquo;proud of its diverse workforce.&rdquo;</p><p>Last week MVP brought a suit of its own. The claim, filed in Cook County Circuit Court, accuses the temp-worker advocates and their group, the nonprofit Chicago Workers&rsquo; Collaborative, of defamation.<br /><br />&ldquo;Their goal is to destroy the temporary employment agencies in the city,&rdquo; Richardson says. &ldquo;MVP does not steal its employees&rsquo; wages.&rdquo;<br /><br />The temp-worker advocates respond that they are not trying to destroy the agencies, just some of their practices, such as the alleged race-based hiring.<br /><br />Leone José Bicchieri, the collaborative&rsquo;s executive director, calls it &ldquo;sad that one of the major staffing agencies in the state of Illinois has decided to use so much time, energy, resources and money on lawyers&rdquo; instead of addressing worker grievances. Bicchieri says the defamation suit is an effort to silence workers.<br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Allegations hard to prove</span></p><p>If some temp agencies are discriminating, it is difficult to find out how many. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission does not tally complaints against staffing firms.</p><p>But a few of those EEOC complaints in recent years have led to six-figure settlements from those companies. &ldquo;There have always been staffing agencies willing to steer employees based on race and other illegal factors, and that&rsquo;s certainly ongoing,&rdquo; said Jean Kamp, a top attorney of the EEOC&rsquo;s Chicago office. &ldquo;As more people are working through staffing agencies, it&rsquo;s more of a problem.&rdquo;<br /><br />Besides filing EEOC complaints, temp workers alleging race-based hiring discrimination&nbsp;are also dragging staffing firms into federal court. In the Chicago area, Williams is representing plaintiffs in three class-action suits. The defendants include MVP, four other temp agencies and three companies that contracted with the agencies for labor.<br /><br />But alleging discrimination is easier than proving it. In court, MVP has claimed that it does not keep records on people who arrive in search of a job. That claim, contradicted by a company vice president at a July forum recorded by WBEZ, has made it difficult for the plaintiffs to gather information about the job seekers&rsquo; race.<br /><br />&ldquo;This issue is about to be resolved,&rdquo; state Rep. Ken Dunkin (D-Chicago) said last week as he came out with draft legislation that would tighten up record-keeping requirements. His proposal would require staffing firms to keep a contact form on each job seeker and enable those workers to indicate their race and gender on that form. The idea is to make hiring discrimination easier to find.<br /><br />&ldquo;Hopefully we&rsquo;ll get to the bottom line in resolving this open and blatant discrimination against African Americans, [whose] unemployment rate is just as high as our Latino brothers and sisters,&rdquo; Dunkin said.</p><p>The two main trade groups representing temp firms in the state &mdash; the Staffing Services Association of Illinois and the Illinois Search and Staffing Association &mdash; both declined to comment about the discrimination allegations and Dunkin&rsquo;s proposal.<br /><br />Dunkin says he will introduce that bill this fall or winter after gathering co-sponsors.</p><p>In the meantime, Flowers is still hoping to find more income. &ldquo;Holidays are coming up and it&rsquo;s real rough on me,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s going to be winter and the heat and gas bills are going to go up even more. I would like my kids to have a nice Christmas like everybody else.&rdquo;<br /><br />He might be eligible to file a claim under one of the class-action suits against MVP, but the company is not showing much interest in settling.<br /><br />So, Flowers says, he will keep showing up at the temp agency. Some day, he says, it might send him out to work.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 15 Oct 2014 16:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/temp-work-grows-african-americans-push-their-fair-share-110945 Tensions and torches after the Great Chicago Fire http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tensions-and-torches-after-great-chicago-fire-110908 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/171250855&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>The Great Chicago Fire has been a key part of Chicago&rsquo;s identity since the fateful dry, windy night of October 8, 1871, when the O&rsquo;Leary barn caught on fire. The blaze is represented by one of the stars on the city&rsquo;s flag. It&rsquo;s cited as the reason Chicago became a beacon of innovative architecture. And, it&rsquo;s often referenced with pride as an example of Chicago&rsquo;s indomitable, can-do spirit.</p><p>But University of Chicago history major Angela Lee asked us to skip all that. Instead, she asked us this question, which gets to a less-commonly discussed aspect of the disaster &mdash; how it affected residents&rsquo; relationships with each other.</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How did the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 affect where Chicago&rsquo;s wealthy and poor lived?</em></p><p>Significant gaps in the historical record create problems answering this question with much precision, but there is a lot to learn. Among other things: Chicagoans at the time were uneasy when it came to the mixing of the social classes. And months after the fire, social tensions were stoked by &mdash; of all things &mdash; the type of materials available to rebuild.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Before the blaze</span></p><p>In 1870 Chicago was home to 298,977 people. Lacking modern zoning and planning sensibilities, the city was also a hodgepodge; homes, businesses, and even small manufacturing establishments were located near each other. According to Anne Durkin Keating, professor of history at North Central College, Chicago&rsquo;s working class and poorer areas tended to be near the river, on undesirable polluted land and close to jobs. The neighborhood where the fire began on the South Side, for example, was packed with small, wooden homes of immigrants according to Karen Sawislak, the author of <em>Smoldering City: Chicagoans and the Great Fire, 1871-1874</em>.</p><p>The wealthy were also spread out, often near the emerging central business district, Keating says. One wealthy enclave was north of the river, centered around Washington Square Park on the Near North side. Large homes in that area were owned by families with familiar names like McCormick, Ogden, and Kinzie. Another wealthy enclave that was not affected by the fire was Prairie Avenue between 18th and 20th Streets.</p><div class="image-insert-image ">During this era Chicago also had a large immigrant population, many of whom were homeowners. &ldquo;Rates of immigrant home ownership from 1850 to 1920 were incredibly high,&rdquo; says Elaine Lewinnek, the author of <em>The Working Man&rsquo;s Reward: Chicago&rsquo;s Early Suburbs and the Roots of American Sprawl</em>. In some of the city&rsquo;s poorest neighborhoods (as well as some areas just beyond its border), she says, home ownership rates among the working class neared 95 percent. &ldquo;It was really this immigrant-led American dream. It trickled up.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/fire+demographics+story/burned+district+map+larger.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/burned district map for story.jpg" title="An illustration in Richard's Illustrated shows the districts of Chicago affected by the Great Fire. 1871. (Photo courtesy Newberry Library)" /></a></div></div><p>In contrast, renting was common among wealthy people with deeper roots in the country. &ldquo;Native-born Americans weren&rsquo;t so interested in owning homes. There was more prestige in some renting areas,&rdquo; Lewinnek says.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">After the fire, an &lsquo;awful democracy of the hour&rsquo;</span></p><p>Many accounts concerning the fire have been preserved in personal letters. Mrs. Aurelia R. King penned a note to friends that reads:</p><blockquote><p>&ldquo;The wind was like a tornado, and I held fast to my little ones, fearing they would be lifted from my sight. I could only think of Sodom or Pompeii, and truly I thought the day of judgement had come. It seemed as if the whole world were running like ourselves, fire all around us, and where should we go? &hellip; Yet we are so thankful that if we were to be afflicted, it is only by the loss of property. Our dear ones are all alive and well, and we are happy.&rdquo;</p></blockquote><p>During chaos of the fire, people from all walks of life fled their homes with a few treasured possessions and valuables. They waited for the fire to pass wherever they could: in the lake, on the prairie, in parks and in tunnels. People even sought shelter in abandoned graves. Bodies had been removed from City Cemetery years earlier, but the actual graves had not yet been filled in. These empty graves made a convenient, if creepy, place to seek shelter.</p><p>The usual divisions between groups of people vanished as Chicagoans endured this epic fire together. In fact, this jumble of different types of people was an element of <em>why</em> the fire was so distressing to some. &ldquo;This is the Victorian age. It was a time when people wanted their spatial separations to be clear. It wasn&rsquo;t clear right after the fire, part of the pressure in rebuilding is to make things clearer,&rdquo; Lewinnek says.</p><p>Reverend E. P. Roe later recalled the tunnel under the Chicago River at LaSalle Street: &ldquo;There jostled the refined and delicate lady, who, in the awful democracy of the hour, brushed against thief and harlot. &hellip; Altogether it was a strange, incongruous, writhing mass of humanity, such as the world had never looked upon, pouring into what might seem in its horrors, the mouth of hell.&rdquo;</p><p>When the fire finally stopped, rumors swirled about more potential trouble. Survivor Ebon Matthews recalled &ldquo;one who was not an eyewitness can hardly imagine the fears of incendiarism, looting, etc., which prevailed. Stories of all kinds were afoot concerning thefts, murders, and the like.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/CHM illustration.jpg" title="Witnesses recounted avoiding the flames for two days. Image: Scene on the Prairie, Monday night. Alfred R. Waud, Pencil, Chalk, and Paint Drawing, 1871 (Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum)" /></div></div></div><p>According to Sawislak, there was an undercurrent of uncertainty about what could happen next. Yet, she says, after the first couple of days passed things were orderly. &ldquo;After reading through records of contemporaneous accounts, you sense this huge fear of disorder, further explosion and disruption in the aftermath, but really everyone who was charged with public safety is kind of constantly saying: &lsquo;You know? It&rsquo;s really quiet. People are going about their business and being very helpful.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Military presence</span></p><p>Nevertheless, a feeling of unease remained. &ldquo;Very quickly business leaders in the city basically prevailed upon the mayor to cede civic authority over peacekeeping in the aftermath of the fire, and give it to the army. It became a military operation commanded by General Philip Sheridan,&rdquo; Sawislak says.</p><p>According to an account in historian Carl Smith&rsquo;s <em><a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/U/bo5625323.html" target="_blank">Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman</a></em>, former Lieutenant Governor William Bross recalled &ldquo;Never did deeper emotions of joy overcome me. Thank God, those most dear to me and the city as well are safe.&rdquo; Bross said without Sheridan&rsquo;s &ldquo;prompt, bold and patriotic action, &hellip; what was left of the city would have been nearly if not quite entirely destroyed by the cutthroats and vagabonds who flocked here like vultures from every point of the compass.&rdquo;</p><p>This brief period of defacto martial law was controversial. &ldquo;His soldiers mostly were stationed to patrol the ruins of the banks and the hotels and the big commercial structures and safeguard what they thought was wealth that was sort of buried in the rubble. But they didn&rsquo;t go to work handing out food or helping people clean up the damage or building structures for temporary shelter. That was not considered to be part of their job,&rdquo; Sawislak says. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re not really there to help. They&rsquo;re there to guard, and that&rsquo;s a whole different project.&rdquo;</p><p>In 1872 Elijah Haines, a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, spoke to that body about the brief military presence in Chicago. &ldquo;They are men with bayonets, bringing complete military armament. For what purpose? For war?&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Smith does note that General Sheridan &ldquo;requisitioned relief rations and supplies from St. Louis.&rdquo;</p><p>He also describes an incident that may have hastened the end of this period of military involvement. &ldquo;Theodore Treat, a twenty-year-old college student on volunteer curfew duty, shot Thomas W. Grosvenor, who died the next morning. Grosvenor was a former Civil War officer and successful lawyer&rdquo; Smith writes. He continues, &ldquo;Grosvenor may in fact have been a victim of the false reports of rampant criminality that put Treat fatally on edge.&rdquo; &nbsp;Three days later, on October 23rd, 1871, General Sheridan resigned from his temporary post overseeing Chicago&rsquo;s security.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The class and ethnic divide</span></p><p>As Chicago emerged from this tense environment, the city discussed how to rebuild the burnt district. Foremost on some people&rsquo;s minds: preventing a similar disaster to the one they had just endured. This school of thought proposed new building rules, the most strident being that, for safety&rsquo;s sake, only brick and stone would be allowed for construction within the city limits. The problem with this idea? Wood was cheap. For the immigrant homeowners on the North Side, maintaining their homes trumped even fire safety.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/fire+demographics+story/lincolnParkLarger.jpg" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/smaller%20lincoln%20park%20refuge.jpg" title="Illustration from Harper's Weekly featuring refugees in Lincoln Park during the Chicago Fire of 1871. (Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum)" /></a></div></div></div><p>&ldquo;People were furious,&rdquo; Lewinnek says, &ldquo;especially the German and Irish immigrants who lived on the North Side who had been most burned out by the fire, were furious they might not be able to rebuild.&rdquo; They tended not to have reliable insurance and felt they wouldn&rsquo;t be able to afford to keep their land if wood construction was not allowed. &ldquo;They&rsquo;d say things like: &lsquo;We don&rsquo;t care if the city burns again, we need our own houses,&rsquo;&rdquo; Lewinnek says. Populations affected included those of German, Irish and Scandinavian background.</p><p>Karen Sawislak says, circling this debate was a hard question: Who&rsquo;s a good American? &ldquo;It was the immigrant community, specifically Germans, Scandinavians, who pushed hard to not have the fire limits extended over their neighborhoods, because effectively that would have meant that some very large percentage wouldn&rsquo;t have been able to rebuild any time soon or possibly at all, because of the expense of construction with stone or brick,&rdquo; she says. She adds that it became a political fight over &ldquo;the right to better yourself in your new country through this hard work and investment you&rsquo;ve made versus the need to protect a bigger, more abstract public from another possible disaster.&rdquo;</p><p>This conflict came to a dramatic head on Monday night, January 15, 1872. Immigrants gathered and marched by torch light to City Hall. Reports vary between the local English language newspapers and the foreign language papers, but Lewinnek says between 2,000 and 10,000 people marched to city hall. They carried signs with slogans like, &ldquo;No Fire Limitz [sic] at the North Site,&rdquo; and &ldquo;Leave a House for the Laborur.&rdquo; Again, reports vary about what happened when they arrived at City Hall. The German-language <em>Staats-Zeitung</em> wrote that six windows were broken, while the <em>Chicago Times</em> declared &ldquo;ALL THE WINDOWS BROKEN,&rdquo; and called the event &ldquo;the most disgraceful riot which ever visited Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p>In the end, the North Side immigrants won the right to re-build with wood on their existing property. Areas north of Chicago Avenue and west of Wells Street and Lincoln Avenue were outside the new fire limits. After another significant fire in 1874, the fire limits were finally extended to the city, according to Elaine Lewinnek.</p><p>By that time, most of the North Side immigrants had managed to rebuild their homes, and so their wooden homes were &ldquo;grandfathered in&rdquo; according to Lewinnek.</p><p>In terms of how the fire changed the layout of Chicago, existing trends quickened. In general, property owners and even wealthy renters tended to remain where they were before the fire. Suburbs continued to grow. Distinct districts &mdash; residential, manufacturing, and the downtown area &mdash; developed. Downtown land prices rose.</p><p>Also after the fire, Chicago&rsquo;s population changed. The Relief and Aid Society had given out free rail passes to people who wanted to leave town after the fire. Some left, while new residents arrived. &ldquo;Immediately after the fire 30,000 people moved to Chicago to help rebuild it. So you don&rsquo;t actually have the exact same population,&rdquo; Lewinnek says. Many of these newcomers rented or lived in suburbs. The city&rsquo;s population grew from just under 300,000 in 1870 before the fire to 503,185 in 1880. (As of the most recent census, in 2010, Chicago&rsquo;s population numbered 2,695,598. Chicago&rsquo;s highest census number was recorded in 1950, with 3,620,962 residents.)</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Telling silence, shared memory</span></p><p>Since the fire, of course, this era has been remembered as a triumphant moment in the city&rsquo;s history. In 1872 Frank Luzerne published a work titled <em>The Lost City! Drama of the Fire-Fiend! or Chicago, As It Was, and As It Is! and its Glorious Future!</em>. Citing nearly 5,000 newly-issued building permits, Luzerne wrote &ldquo;there will be no interruption in the work of rebuilding until the new Chicago arises from the ashes of the old, in more substantial grandeur, rehabilitated, immeasurably improved, and all the better for her thorough purification.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/rebuilding 2.jpg" title="Before the fire wood construction was common but afterwards it was proscribed in much of the city. Image: The Rebuilding of the Marine Building; Glass Lantern Slide, ca. 1873. ichi-02845 (Courtesy of the Chicago History Museum)" /></div></div><p>Sawislak takes issue with this narrative. &ldquo;Basically, I think that the Chicago fire is this very proud moment in the city&rsquo;s history, but it&rsquo;s a very heavily mythologized history,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;In many ways the disaster very much reinforced existing barriers between classes, between ethnicities.&rdquo;</p><p>Events surrounding the fire were extensively documented, but significant segments of the population were not included in that process and therefore their experiences were lost to history, Sawislak says. There are a wealth of first-person accounts of the fire, but says they were written only by people of means. &ldquo;We have very few records from working class people that are contemporaneous accounts of the fire,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s actually rather hard to find a record of how most Chicagoans experienced this signature event in the history of the city.&rdquo;</p><p>This imbalance, Sawislak argues, extends even to the estimated three hundred people who died in the fire. &ldquo;Even the fact that it&rsquo;s always an estimate tells you something,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Most victims &mdash; virtually all &mdash; were working class, immigrants, in very densely packed immigrant neighborhoods that were most impacted by the early stages of the fire on the South Side.&rdquo; Even following years of research, Sawislak says she&rsquo;s never discovered a comprehensive list of names of the deceased.</p><p>Combine this, she says, with the fact that the working poor left behind so few written accounts of the fire, and you&rsquo;re struck with an uncomfortable truth.</p><p>&ldquo;The silences are really kind of what&rsquo;s telling.&rdquo; she says.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/angela%20lee%20photo.jpg" style="float: left; height: 268px; width: 200px;" title="(Photo courtesy Angela Lee)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">Now we have an answer. Who asked the question?</span></p><p>Angela Lee thinks a lot about cities, history, and demographics. She&rsquo;s originally from New York City. &ldquo;I&#39;ve only lived in cities,&quot; she says. &quot;I&#39;ve always been curious about why certain neighborhoods are located where they are, and why the divisions can be so extreme sometimes.&rdquo;</p><p>Her interest in where people live is long-standing. She began paying attention to real estate when she was just ten years old, she says. Now she&rsquo;s a fourth-year student at the University of Chicago, majoring in history. Thinking about the London fire of 1666 made her wonder, &ldquo;They had to completely rebuild the city, I thought something similar might have happened in Chicago.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Special help for this story comes from Carl Smith, author of <a href="http://press.uchicago.edu/ucp/books/book/chicago/U/bo5625323.html" target="_blank">Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman. </a>He also curates <a href="http://www.greatchicagofire.org" target="_blank">The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory</a>.</em></p><p><em>Katie Klocksin is an independent producer. Follow her on twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/KatieKlocksin" target="_blank">@KatieKlocksin</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 07 Oct 2014 16:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/tensions-and-torches-after-great-chicago-fire-110908 Chicago moves on taxi reforms to leave more money in cabbies' pockets http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-moves-taxi-reforms-leave-more-money-cabbies-pockets-110877 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Cabs.png" alt="" /><p><p>The city of Chicago is moving on a set of reforms to help cabbies take home more money, a partial salve after a months-long fight over legalizing competing rideshare services left many taxi drivers feeling bruised. While many hail the step as a sign that city officials are finally working to redress cab drivers&rsquo; complaints, some say the changes don&rsquo;t go far enough.</p><p>&ldquo;What we wanted to do is improve overall their experience here in the city, and make it more lucrative for them as cab drivers,&rdquo; said Maria Guerra Lapacek, Commissioner of Chicago&rsquo;s Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.</p><p>Guerra Lapacek said her department crafted the proposals after working with representatives from Cab Drivers United/AFSCME Local 31 and other driver advocacy groups. Some of them will be included in an ordinance to be introduced at City Council&rsquo;s meeting next week. Others will be implemented through rule changes by the BACP.</p><p>The most significant change would reduce how much taxi owners may charge to lease their fuel-efficient cabs after the vehicles&rsquo; first year on the road.</p><p>&ldquo;The garages are able to recoup their investment after a year of having these vehicles in circulation,&rdquo; explained Guerra Lapacek, &ldquo;so the idea was to reduce the lease rate cap for the second year, and that way give relief back to the cab driver.&rdquo;</p><p>Guerra Lapacek said this idea resulted from the surprising finding in a recent <a href="http://www.wbez.org/study-chicago-cabbies-earn-average-12hour-110726">city-commissioned study</a>, which found that cab drivers spend about 40 percent of their gross income on their vehicle leases. Ultimately, the reform could affect leases for an estimated 3,700 of the city&rsquo;s nearly 7,000 cabs.</p><p>Leases would also be reduced for drivers whose vehicles generate a separate revenue stream from advertising displays. The reforms would require cab companies to credit leases in these cases.</p><p>&ldquo;There are over 2000 owner-operators in the City of Chicago. They don&rsquo;t pay a lease,&rdquo; said Peter Enger, a cab driver and Secretary of the United Taxidrivers Community Council. &ldquo;This will not help them in the slightest.&rdquo;</p><p>Enger said he&rsquo;s delighted that city officials appear to be considering the difficulties cab drivers have faced since a previous set of reforms took effect in 2012. Those reforms raised the lease rates for cabs, without a commensurate increase in taxi fare rates. Many cab drivers say that has resulted in longer working hours to earn the same income.</p><p>Cab drivers who own and drive their own taxis affirm Enger&rsquo;s fear that a new round of reform will still leave them in the dust.</p><p>&ldquo;The only way is to get a fare increase that we did not get for almost ten years, to offset the cost of living and all of that stuff,&rdquo; said Ahmed Ammar, who owns and drives his own taxi. &ldquo;Everything went up.&rdquo;</p><p>While some cab drivers, particularly those aligned with UTCC&rsquo;s union, push for a taxi fare increase, others worry it could adversely affect demand. Representatives from another union, Cab Drivers United, say raising fares is lower on their priority list.</p><p>&ldquo;Our focus first and foremost has been moving forward on these changes that will both put money in drivers&rsquo; pockets, and keep the cab companies competitive with the (rideshare) companies,&rdquo; said Tracy Abman, an organizer with AFSCME Local 31.</p><p>Guerra Lapacek said her department will not consider a fare increase at this juncture because she worries it could turn customers away from the taxi industry. Rideshare companies&rsquo; prices routinely undercut taxi fares.</p><p>The proposals also include city-backed smartphone applications to allow passengers to electronically hail taxis, as they do with popular services such as Uber and Hailo.</p><p>&ldquo;We think this is an excellent reform that&rsquo;s going to bring the cab industry into more innovation and really help them access those customers,&rdquo; said Guerra Lapacek. She said the city will put out a request for proposals, and will require all taxis to be on at least one of the city-backed apps.</p><p>Additionally, the reforms would reduce the fee that taxi drivers pay on credit card transactions, from 5 percent to 3 percent; lower the maximum penalties for taxi offenses from $1,000 to $400; and <a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/bacp/publicvehicleinfo/publicchauffer/chauffeurtrainingtaskforcefinalrecommendations.pdf">streamline</a>&nbsp;the required driver training process.</p><p>The city will also create a task force to review <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/how-often-are-cabs-pulled-over-and-what-109734">the enforcement process of taxi rules</a> at the Administrative Hearings Court, which many taxi drivers disparagingly refer to as a &ldquo;kangaroo court.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I think it&rsquo;s significant that the City is listening to drivers that are organized, listen to them, hearing their concerns, addressing some of their concerns and agreeing to continue to work together with drivers to make their lives better and make sure the industry remains viable,&rdquo; said Abman.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her </em><a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef"><em>@oyousef</em></a><em> and </em><a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud"><em>@WBEZoutloud</em></a><em>.</em></p></p> Tue, 30 Sep 2014 18:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/chicago-moves-taxi-reforms-leave-more-money-cabbies-pockets-110877 Two neighboring states, one big financial gap http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/two-neighboring-states-one-big-financial-gap-110718 <p><p>George Brown of Valparaiso, Indiana, works for a steel mill these days, but at one time, his main gig was construction &mdash; across the state border in Chicago. The commute and that &ldquo;living in both worlds&rdquo; familiarity didn&rsquo;t prevent him from noting differences between the two states. Among them: The differing fortunes of state government.</p><p>He had picked up details here and there about how Illinois owed money (the state comptroller recently said Illinois has more than $5 billion in unpaid bills), how the Prairie State was hounded by bills coming down the pike (it has approximately $100 billion in unfunded pension liabilities), and how it has the worst credit rating among U.S. states.</p><p>On the other hand, just a few years ago, Indiana&rsquo;s coffers were so flush that it returned money to state taxpayers.</p><p>The night-and-day financial picture between the neighboring states got him wondering enough that he sent us this question:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>Why does the state of Illinois have a huge deficit, while next door Indiana has a surplus?</em></p><p>George&rsquo;s question couldn&rsquo;t come at a better time. Voters on the Illinois side of the border are deciding between candidates for governor, either of which is certain to confront some hard fiscal realities. The contest between the incumbent Democrat, Gov. Pat Quinn, and Republican Bruce Rauner is odd, though, in that there&rsquo;s a phantom player in the mix, too: Mitch Daniels, Indiana&rsquo;s former governor of Indiana.</p><p>Rightly or wrongly, Daniels is credited with cutting Indiana&rsquo;s budget and making the state&rsquo;s finances the envy of Illinois as well as the rest of the nation. Quinn pushes back on some of Daniels&rsquo; key tenets, while Rauner says he wants to emulate what Daniels did.</p><p>Regardless of where you fall on whether any state at all should follow &ldquo;the Daniels playbook,&rdquo; it is worth looking at what happened during his watch.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Daniels&rsquo; account of how the Hoosier State did it</span></p><p>After an eight-year term, Daniels left the governor&rsquo;s office in 2013. He&rsquo;s now president of Purdue University in West Lafayette. He rarely talks politics now, but after hearing George&rsquo;s question, he was happy to revisit his tenure as governor, especially as it relates to Illinois&rsquo; financial mess.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s hard not to notice, I mean it&rsquo;s national news the trouble you folks have had,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;They asked me what it was like and I said it&rsquo;s sort of like living right next door to&nbsp;<em>The Simpsons</em>, you know. Dysfunctional family on the block and we&rsquo;re looking in the window.&rdquo;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Daniels purdue shot..jpg" title="Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels delivers the State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature at the Statehouse Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)" /></div><p>As Daniels tells it, things were bad for Indiana as he entered office nearly a decade ago.</p><p>&ldquo;The state was absolutely, by a literal definition, bankrupt,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;So, it had bills much bigger than whatever cash it had on hand. We said this has to end and I want to do it as fast as possible.&rdquo;</p><p>On his first day as governor in 2005, Daniels did something that is unimaginable in Illinois: He stripped bargaining rights for all state union employees.</p><p>&ldquo;These union agreements wouldn&rsquo;t let you change anything,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;You couldn&rsquo;t consolidate departments; you couldn&rsquo;t divide departments or reorganize them. You certainly couldn&rsquo;t outsource anything if you thought you could get it better and cheaper by hiring Hoosiers in the private sector. So, I finally decided that we simply had to cut clean.&rdquo;<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/indiana icon.png" style="float: right;" title="Indiana." /></p><p>But Andrew Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics in Fort Wayne, says it&rsquo;s uncertain how effective Daniel&rsquo;s move was in shoring up the state&rsquo;s bottom line.</p><p>&ldquo;Some would argue that when the unions had less ability to bargain, it made it easier for the governor to get some things done,&rdquo; Downs said. &ldquo;But given (Daniels&rsquo;) personality, I don&rsquo;t know if that would have been the sort of thing that held him back a whole lot. I think it had more to do with his approach to economics: The freer the trade, the better.&rdquo;</p><p>Daniels didn&rsquo;t stop with state union employees.</p><p>A few years later, he signed a bill to make Indiana the Midwest&rsquo;s first right-to-work state. The policy changed workers&rsquo; relationship to private employers; new employees were no longer required to pay union dues at workplaces governed by union contracts. It effectively weakened unions&rsquo; standing in the state. Indiana&rsquo;s GOP argues the move attracted business to the state and that, in turn, boosted state revenue.</p><p>Daniels also pushed through a cap on local property taxes across the state. The cap limits the amount of taxes local communities can collect from a homeowner at one percent of a home&rsquo;s assessed value. Proponents say that&rsquo;s lead to robust home sales and &mdash; again, the argument goes &mdash; puts money back into the state&rsquo;s coffers.</p><p>If you hear Daniels and other supporters tell it, these policies created enough fiscal momentum that a few years ago the state sent $100 checks to each Indiana taxpayer. The state currently has a $2 billion stockpile, which it&rsquo;s likely to hold onto this time around.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/stillinoyed billboard image2.jpg" title="An example of a Stillinoyed campaign billboard designed to highlight Indiana's business opportunities. (Source: Economic Development Corporation, Indiana)" /></div></div><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The fallout</span></p><p>If you&rsquo;ve driven through the Chicago area, perhaps you&rsquo;ve seen billboards along expressways that read <a href="http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=3/1/2014&amp;todate=3/31/2014&amp;display=Month&amp;type=public&amp;eventidn=165015&amp;view=EventDetails&amp;information_id=198305&amp;print=print" target="_blank">&ldquo;Illinnoyed by high taxes?&rdquo;</a> That advertising campaign (<a href="http://www.in.gov/activecalendar/EventList.aspx?fromdate=3/1/2014&amp;todate=3/31/2014&amp;display=Month&amp;type=public&amp;eventidn=165015&amp;view=EventDetails&amp;information_id=198305&amp;print=print" target="_blank">conducted by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation</a>) lures city residents and businesses to cross from Illinois to Indiana.</p><p>Michael Lucci says those ads &mdash; or at least the argument driving them &mdash; works on plenty of Illinois residents. Lucci is the Director of Jobs and Growth at the conservative Illinois Policy Institute. He estimates that Illinois has lost more than 100,000 residents to Indiana over the last decade.</p><p>&ldquo;It does hurt Illinois that we have such a business-friendly neighbor right next door because the people in Chicago can look east 30 miles and say &lsquo;Look, there are jobs there, there are opportunities there and I can move there and still be close to my family,&rsquo;&rdquo; Lucci said.</p><p>But not everyone sees Daniels&rsquo; bumper crop budget as an achievement. Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn isn&rsquo;t willing to stomach Daniels&rsquo; sacrifice of collective bargaining rights.</p><p>Earlier this year, the incumbent governor told a union-heavy crowd that he believes in collective bargaining.</p><p>&ldquo;I think that&rsquo;s the best way to go and I look forward to working with you on it,&rdquo; Quinn said during an April debate in Chicago. The governor has argued that strong unions improve state residents&rsquo; income and quality of life.</p><p>Some in Indiana see a darker side to the budget surplus too. Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. is among them.<img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/illinois icon.png" style="float: right;" title="Illinois." /></p><p>&ldquo;We do have $2 billion in the bank and we are in a much better position in Indiana than they are fiscally in Illinois, but at the same time, I think Illinois streets might be in better shape than our streets right now,&rdquo; McDermott said. &ldquo;I think Illinois is providing better services during crisis than we are because they have more tools available. It cuts both ways.&rdquo;</p><p>McDermott, a Democrat, said that last winter the state did a poor job dealing with the snow and ice that shut down several Indiana highways. (Notably, according to the most recent report by the American Society of Civil Engineers, both Indiana and Illinois received a &ldquo;D+&rdquo; in infrastructure spending.)</p><p>McDermott&rsquo;s point is this: What&rsquo;s the use of a surplus if some basic services aren&rsquo;t being met?</p><p>&ldquo;We could expand the affordable healthcare act [ACA] in Indiana right now and insure hundreds of thousands of additional Hoosiers but they just refuse to do so even though there is 2 billion dollars in the bank, those hundreds of thousands of Hoosiers don&rsquo;t deserve health care like people in Illinois do,&rdquo; he said.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Does Illinois have a chance of turning things around?</span></p><p>Of all people, Daniels is among those who say &ldquo;yes.&rdquo; Of course, it&rsquo;s no surprise that he recommends Illinois gubernatorial candidates Quinn or Rauner wrangle with public sector unions, pay more bills on time and slash spending. But the architect of Indiana&rsquo;s brand of fiscal conservatism also says Illinois can draw from its own good ideas. And he ought to know: He stole a few of them.</p><p>After <a href="http://tollroadsnews.com/news/chicago-skyway-handed-over-to-cintra-macquarie-after-wiring-1830m" target="_blank">Chicago leased its public Skyway to a private operation</a>, Daniels did the same thing for the Indiana Toll Road.</p><p>And then there was the program to let delinquent taxpayers pay with no penalty.</p><p>&ldquo;I got the legislature to conduct a tax amnesty,&rdquo; Daniels said. &ldquo;Indiana never had one. Many other states have, including Illinois. I can remember citing Illinois. It&rsquo;s kind of ironic now thinking back. I was saying then, &lsquo;Hey look, they had a successful program.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&#39;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews" target="_blank">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 22:28:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/two-neighboring-states-one-big-financial-gap-110718 Global Activism: 'The Mustard Seed' Fair Trade shop is transforming lives http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-mustard-seed-fair-trade-shop-transforming-lives-110683 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/GA Mustard Seed.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-7b5392bd-f92b-6cd4-778d-f28929d6d597">Judy Kohl grew up in a missionary family in Belgian Congo. When the Belgians were overthrown, her family was forced to flee to Kenya, where she spent much of her childhood. Those times developed Judy&rsquo;s sense of social justice and giving back. She eventually created The Mustard Seed, a fair trade shop in Lake Forest, IL. They say they&rsquo;re &ldquo;committed to donating its profits to organizations that help empower women and children,&rdquo; especially those stricken with HIV/AIDS. Judy will tell us about the importance of fair trade and how witnessing history as a child changed her life.<iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/164166396&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><em>Judy tells us about her life&#39;s journey, which had an extraordinary beginning:</em></p><p>&quot;Just 8 months old when I arrived in the Belgian Congo, I had no idea the journey my life would take over the next five decades. As the daughter of missionaries to Africa, cross-cultural thinking became part of my DNA as I experienced from a young age what it was to live in a global context. Growing up in this environment, my parents and other missionaries modeled selfless love as they cared for those around them. As we fled the Congo in 1964 during the uprising that led to independence, it was with mixed emotions. We had no choice but to leave because of the advancing Rebels, but our hearts remained with those who had become like family. Relationships were a high value within our family culture.</p><p>Fast forward to the present - I&rsquo;m still passionate about giving back to those less fortunate. Though I live on the North Shore, decisions I make on how I spend my time and my money can literally change the lives of a community halfway across the world. Serving with other volunteers at The Mustard Seed - A Fair Trade Shop, we are committed to partnering with cooperatives and artisans in developing countries to provide a market for their creations while paying them a fair price. We also donate our profits to organizations that help empower women and children both domestically and internationally. Each of these ways enable others to make a sustainable living and emerge from poverty. It is still all about relationships. By having a world view, we can continue to change the lives of people we will never even meet - and that is the whole point.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 21 Aug 2014 09:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-mustard-seed-fair-trade-shop-transforming-lives-110683 Ruling backs Illinois retirees on health benefits http://www.wbez.org/news/ruling-backs-illinois-retirees-health-benefits-110445 <p><p>The Illinois Supreme Court on Thursday sided with retired state employees who argue that health insurance premiums are a protected retirement benefit, in a case that could have implications for how justices might rule on several high-profile challenges to recent overhauls of state worker pensions.</p><p>The court&#39;s 6-to-1 ruling reverses a lower court decision allowing the state government to force retirees to pay for a portion of their own health care.</p><p>The justices sent the case back to the lower court, where retirees can proceed with their challenge.</p><p>At issue is a law passed in 2012 that allows the state to collect premiums from retirees for their state-subsidized health care. Prior to that, state workers who retired with 20 or more years of service were entitled to premium-free health insurance. Under the new law, retirees had to cover part of the cost.</p><p>Writing for the majority, Justice Charles Freeman said the plain language of the constitution supports the conclusion that health insurance premium subsidies are part of a contractual relationship with retirees that can&#39;t be diminished.</p><p>&quot;Giving the language ... its plain and ordinary meaning, all of these benefits, including subsidized health care, must be considered to be benefits of membership in a pension or retirement system of the State and, therefore, within that provision&#39;s protections,&quot; Freeman wrote.&nbsp;</p><p>Retirees filed several lawsuits after the 2012 law was passed. A Sangamon County judge dismissed the cases, saying health insurance benefits aren&#39;t protected by the constitution. Retirees and the state then agreed to appeal directly to the Supreme Court.</p><p>The case is seen as a possible indicator of how the court will rule on a wider challenge to a statewide pension overhaul approved last year. That law aims to shore up the state&#39;s under-funded pensions by cutting annual automatic benefit increases received by retirees. A coalition of powerful state workers&#39; unions argued those cuts violate a clause in the Illinois Constitution that says pension benefits can not be &quot;diminished or impaired.&quot; Backers of the bill say it passes constitutional muster because cutting the amount by which benefits increase each year is different than cutting the benefits themselves.</p><p>While the court&#39;s Thursday ruling did not directly address the pension bill, Freeman did write that the clause &quot;must be liberally construed in favor of the rights of the pensioner.&quot;</p><p>That bodes well for retirees who are suing to overturn the state&#39;s new pension law, said Gino DiVito, a lawyer for the plaintiffs in the retiree health care case.</p><p>&quot;Without question, that implicitly signals that [cost-of-living adjustments] are certainly a protected benefit,&quot; DiVito said. &quot;It may signal a favorable decision in the ongoing litigation concerning pension benefits.&quot;</p><p>The ruling prompted quick praise from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a state worker union that has been fighting against the health care and pension changes.</p><p>&quot;The Supreme Court ruled today that men and women who work to provide essential public services -- protecting children from abuse, keeping criminals locked up, caring for the most vulnerable and more -- can count on the Illinois Constitution to mean what it says,&quot; AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer was quoted as saying in an emailed statement. &quot;Retirement security, including affordable health care and a modest pension, cannot be revoked by politicians.&quot;</p><p>Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat who pushed an alternative pension overhaul bill on the grounds that it would survive a legal challenge, quickly released his own statement suggesting Illinois lawmakers may have to return to the drawing board to solve the state&#39;s massive pension problem, which had been estimated to be at least $100 billion deep.</p><p>&quot;If the Court&rsquo;s decision is predictive, the challenge of reforming our pension systems will remain,&quot; Cullerton was quoted as saying. &quot;As I have said from the beginning, I am committed to identifying solutions that adhere to the plain language of the constitution.&rdquo;</p></p> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 11:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ruling-backs-illinois-retirees-health-benefits-110445 Left out of economic recovery, workers go underground http://www.wbez.org/news/left-out-economic-recovery-workers-go-underground-110399 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Santana%20CROP.jpg" style="height: 377px; width: 300px; float: right; margin-top: 4px; margin-bottom: 4px;" title="‘I barely make ends meet. Why should I pay taxes?’ a Chicago ice-cream vendor asks. (WBEZ/Chip Mitchell)" />Santana does not want to be part of Chicago&rsquo;s underground economy but says he has struck out everywhere else.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve tried getting a formal job at Menard&rsquo;s, Home Depot, Target, Walmart &mdash; all these big corporations, which usually do hire a lot of ethnicity people,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I have not been called back for an interview.&rdquo;</p><p>So Santana &mdash; who, like other workers in this story, spoke on condition we not publish his full name &mdash; spends most days pushing an ice-cream cart in Little Village, a Mexican-American neighborhood.</p><p>Santana does not earn much. &ldquo;On a decent day, maybe about $90,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>And he comes from a low-income family. &ldquo;I actually have to claim homelessness to get funds from the government such as a Link card,&rdquo; he said, referring to Illinois&rsquo;s food-stamp program. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been paying rent at my mom&rsquo;s since I was 16.&rdquo;</p><p>So Santana says he has good reason to skip paying taxes on his income.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s all off the books,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Five years since the Great Recession, the U.S. economy has grown but a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/left-out-economic-recovery-workers-go-underground-110399#charts" target="_self">key labor-market gauge</a> shows little evidence of the recovery. As of May, more than 41 percent of the working-age population lacked employment, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data on civilian, noninstitutionalized individuals. The most recent figure for Chicago, from 2012, is almost 44 percent.<br /><br />Many of the jobless folks are, like Santana, finding other ways to earn money. And there is reason to believe this shadow economy is expanding.<br /><br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Down but not out</span><br /><br />It is hard to know how many jobless individuals have resorted to working off the books. Few economists will even hazard a guess.<br /><br />But Edgar Feige, a professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, estimates that income not reported to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is as high as $2 trillion a year &mdash; equivalent to roughly 20 percent of the nation&rsquo;s total adjusted gross income. Feige said that number is &ldquo;approaching the levels that we observed during the Great Depression.&rdquo;</p><p>He means the one in the 1930s.<br /><br />Nowadays a business may look legitimate from the street while most of its staff works off the books.</p><p>&ldquo;I get paid $8 an hour to basically just clean this restaurant,&rdquo; a 25-year-old man said as he hosed off a grill in back of a South Side jerk chicken joint. &ldquo;No one here ever gets a check or pay stub. It&rsquo;s all paid in cash.&rdquo;<br /><br />What is driving people to take these shady jobs? Many of the workers say formal employment is beyond their reach. The labor market is particularly tough for young workers, African Americans, people with a criminal record, immigrants in the country illegally and high-school dropouts.<br /><br />And it can be tough even with a college degree. &ldquo;I have a bachelor&rsquo;s in information technology and I&rsquo;d like to be a Web developer,&rdquo; said a man I&rsquo;ll call Jonathan, a 27-year-old in Flossmoor, a suburb south of Chicago.<br /><br />Jonathan says he came up with nothing in searches for an internship or apprenticeship &mdash; anything that would put food on the table while he developed his skills. So he works on cars.</p><p>&ldquo;I go to the junkyard and I pick out an engine,&rdquo; he said. In his mom&rsquo;s garage, he installs those engines in cars he finds on Craigslist. Then he sells the cars.<br /><br />And the title on those vehicles?</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t even transfer the title into my name first,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I actually just pass it straight on to the person that&rsquo;s buying because I&rsquo;ve reached my limit as far as how many cars I can sell.&rdquo;<br /><br />Jonathan admits he is paying no income tax on this work. &ldquo;The choice is, Do I pay my water bill or do I pay my taxes?&rdquo; he said.<br />&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Everyone affected</span><br /><br />If you think Chicago&rsquo;s underground economy operates only in low-income neighborhoods, you are wrong.<br /><br />&ldquo;I live on the North Side of Chicago,&rdquo; said a 45-year-old woman I&rsquo;ll call Jennifer. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a presentation designer and writer. I&rsquo;ve had no full-time employment since 2008.&rdquo;<br /><br />Jennifer does get freelance gigs in her field. &ldquo;But that&rsquo;s infrequent,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />So she resorts to other paid work, much of it off-the-books. It includes dog walking, cat sitting and handing out swag at trade shows and street festivals. &ldquo;Then I figure out what things probably won&rsquo;t go noticed if I don&rsquo;t claim them,&rdquo; Jennifer said.<br /><br />She&rsquo;s not talking about hiding income from the IRS but from the Illinois Department of Employment Security. She doesn&rsquo;t want officials there to dock her unemployment checks.<br /><br />Jennifer says her options are few. &ldquo;Right now, I don&rsquo;t have electricity,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;My electricity was turned off five weeks ago. And I guess I owe ComEd $500 and I have no idea how I&rsquo;m going to get that $500.&rdquo;<br /><br />Even if people report all their income and pay taxes on it, they might still have close ties to the shadow economy. Maybe they have a nanny and do not report her pay to the IRS.</p><p>Or maybe the taxpayers shop at a big-box store. The prices might be great, but that could owe partly to shady contractors that clean the place at night. Those contractors might bring in janitors working off-the-books.<br /><br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Drawbacks</span><br /><br />&ldquo;You can think of these underground economies as actually being a buffer that helps families get through difficult times,&rdquo; said Feige, the economist, pointing out that people making money off-the-books also spend it. &ldquo;It contributes to economic growth in the official economy as well.&rdquo;<br /><br />The informal economy does have its downsides. It does not generate many tax dollars to fund the job training or social services that some workers might need. The workers may also lack benefits and protections such as unemployment compensation and a minimum wage.<br /><br />&ldquo;A young person will have fewer and fewer contacts to the outside regional economy,&rdquo; said Steven Pitts, a labor economist at the University of California, Berkeley. &ldquo;They&rsquo;ll have a résumé that&rsquo;s undeveloped for use in that economy. So you may get a reproduction of poverty because of that.&rdquo;<br /><br />There are other risks, especially when the work is further outside the law, such as drug dealing.<br /><br />On Chicago&rsquo;s West Side, a 23-year-old who calls herself Ebony faces workplace hazards every day. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a prostitute,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;I work the streets.&rdquo;<br /><br />Ebony, a Chicago Public Schools graduate, says she does not enjoy her trade but considers it her best option. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve applied for McDonald&rsquo;s, Walmart, White Castle,&rdquo; she said.<br /><br />Employers have all passed on her &ldquo;because I don&rsquo;t have a work history,&rdquo; she said. Or at least not a formal work history.<br /><br />Ebony says she has been earning a living since she was 16.</p><p>&ldquo;I stand and wait for guys to pick me up,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;You get in a car. They ask you, &lsquo;How much is this?&rsquo; and &lsquo;How much is that?&rsquo; You give them a price. They give you the money. You either do it in the car, you rent rooms from people, or you go to a hotel.&rdquo;<br /><br /><br /><span style="font-size:22px;">Desperate measures</span></p><p>That brings us back to Santana, the young man who pushes the ice-cream cart. Even without paying taxes, he says he is not making enough money. And he could be heading down the same road as Ebony.<br /><br />&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve actually even considered being a sugar baby,&rdquo; Santana said, describing that as spending time with an older woman and providing her all sorts of services. &ldquo;She&rsquo;d be a cougar. I&rsquo;d be a cub. She&rsquo;d basically pay for my bills and stuff like that.&rdquo;<br /><br />To become a sugar baby &mdash; to find his sugar mama &mdash; Santana says he might have to become a stripper.</p><p>With that in mind, he says, he has been lifting weights. He has the shoulders and arms to prove it. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m never going to look this good again in my life,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>In Chicago&rsquo;s underground economy, Santana figures his body might be the best thing he&rsquo;s got.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Employment-population ratio<a name="charts"></a></span></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/chart%201.PNG" style="height: 370px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart%202.PNG" style="height: 390px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart%203.PNG" style="height: 478px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/chart%204.PNG" style="height: 426px; width: 500px;" title="" /></div></div></div></div></div></div><p><em><strong>SOURCE:</strong> U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. <strong>NOTES: </strong>The employment-population ratio is the proportion of the U.S. working-age population (ages 16 and over) that is employed, either full- or part-time. That population includes everyone except members of the military and institutionalized persons. A 2013 figure for the city of Chicago is not yet available. Annual figures are averages of monthly figures. <strong>REPORTER:</strong>&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 24 Jun 2014 14:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/left-out-economic-recovery-workers-go-underground-110399 Mexico City startups eye Chicago as U.S. tech hub http://www.wbez.org/news/mexico-city-startups-eye-chicago-us-tech-hub-110229 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/288732880_a35cf41b31_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago could be further expanding its tech reach with help from Latin America.</p><p>Last fall, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Mexico City Mayor Miguel Mancera signed an economic partnership that includes joint trade initiatives and strengthening overall global competitiveness. As part of that agreement, a delegation from Mexico City this week got a first-hand look at Chicago&rsquo;s economic strategy.</p><p>It&rsquo;s part of an experimental exchange initiated by the Brookings Institution.</p><p>The group learned about Chicago&rsquo;s restaurant business, its tourism efforts and tech scene.</p><p>Felipe Lara was part of the delegation. He was particularly interested in learning more about Chicago&rsquo;s startup environment. He founded a company called <a href="http://www.cono-c.com/" target="_blank">Conoce</a> in Mexico City. It uses camera and algorithm technologies to track shopper behavior. He&rsquo;s hoping to find partners in Chicago to help sell his product in the U.S.</p><p>WBEZ&#39;s Susie An spoke with Lara and Greg Stevens from the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce. Lara explained why international startups might choose Chicago over Silicon Valley.</p><p><em>Susie An is a business reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/soosieon" target="_blank">@soosieon.</a></em></p></p> Fri, 23 May 2014 14:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mexico-city-startups-eye-chicago-us-tech-hub-110229 After Haymarket: Anarchism on trial and a city in search of its soul http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/after-haymarket-anarchism-trial-and-city-search-its-soul-110098 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><a name="top"></a><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/TIOOR_0.jpg" style="height: 223px; width: 620px;" title="" /></div><p><iframe frameborder="0" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/147277419&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>No one knows who threw the bomb near Haymarket Square on the night of May 4, 1886. It&rsquo;s one of Chicago&rsquo;s most vexing unsolved mysteries. But there&rsquo;s little question that this violent act had huge repercussions &mdash; not only in Chicago but around the world.</p><p>Curious City received a question about this legendary and controversial event from a Naperville resident named Sabina:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>&ldquo;How did the Haymarket Square Massacre affect Chicago&rsquo;s culture at the time?&rdquo;</em></p><p>(Sabina didn&rsquo;t leave her last name or reply to our follow-up emails, but that didn&rsquo;t dissuade us from answering this fascinating and important question.)</p><p>We took a wide-angle view of what &ldquo;culture&rdquo; means &mdash; to quote one dictionary definition, it&rsquo;s the &ldquo;ideas, customs, skills, arts, etc. of a particular people or group in a particular period.&rdquo; Talking with five historians who have written about Haymarket, it becomes clear that this 1886 incident changed Chicagoans&rsquo; ideas about many things, especially labor, politics and justice. And in countless ways, it changed how the city&rsquo;s people looked at their fellow Chicagoans &mdash; whether it was a factory owner and a laborer facing off, or a person born in America suspiciously eyeing an immigrant from Europe. &nbsp;</p><p>Haymarket left a lasting stigma on radical movements. Ever since, the public has imagined&nbsp;<a href="#slideshow">anarchists as bomb-throwing fiends</a>. Tensions were already running high between wealthy business owners and poor workers in Chicago, but Haymarket made them even worse. Historians say it set back the labor movement for decades. But it also spurred some Chicagoans to seek ways of defusing that tension and making the city a more civic place.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>The explosion at Haymarket</strong></span></p><p>First, here&rsquo;s a quick summary of the Haymarket story. (Although our question-asker called it a &ldquo;massacre,&rdquo; it&rsquo;s probably best to avoid using that controversial term.)</p><p>On May 1, 1886, hundreds of thousands of people across the country &mdash; and 30,000 in Chicago &mdash; went on strike, demanding an eight-hour workday. Two days later, strikers scuffled with replacement workers at the <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/2204.html" target="_blank">McCormick Reaper Works</a> on the Southwest Side. Police fired into the crowd, killing two strikers.</p><p>Outraged by the police violence, anarchists held a rally on the night of May 4 at Haymarket Square, near Randolph and Desplaines streets. Around 1,500 people gathered to hear speeches. Mayor Carter Harrison Sr. watched for a while, then decided to go home. It looked peaceful to him. By 10:30 p.m., as the crowd was dwindling, a line of nearly 200 police officers came marching down the street. The police ordered the crowd to disperse.</p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><a href="#slideshow"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/v37v.jpg" style="height: 337px; width: 450px;" title="" /></a></div><blockquote><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><strong>Anarchist Lookbook:&nbsp;<a href="#slideshow">Haymarket&#39;s pictorial impact on radical politics</a></strong></div></blockquote><p>Just then, a bomb came flying toward the cops and exploded. Gunfire erupted. Some witnesses said later that the police fired most of the bullets. Others said that people in the crowd were shooting, too. By the time it was all over, seven officers were dead or dying. Four people in the crowd died. Dozens of people on both sides were wounded.</p><p>In the coming days, police rounded up dozens of anarchists across the city. That summer, eight radicals were put on trial. Just a few of them had actually been at the rally in Haymarket Square. Prosecutors didn&rsquo;t know who threw the bomb, but they persuaded a jury that these men were guilty of a bombing conspiracy.</p><p>Seven of the men were sentenced to hang, and one (Oscar Neebe) received 15 years in prison. Two of the men facing the death penalty (Samuel Fielden and Michael Schwab) asked for clemency, and Republican Gov. Richard Oglesby reduced their punishment to life in prison. Another one of the men on death row, Louis Lingg, killed himself in his jail cell with a smuggled blasting cap.</p><p>That left four men who had refused to ask the governor for mercy: Albert Parsons, August Spies,&nbsp;George Engel and Adolph Fischer. On Nov. 11, 1887, they were hanged at the same time on the gallows at Cook County Jail.</p><p>Six years later, a new governor &mdash; Democrat John Peter Altgeld &mdash; pardoned the three Haymarket defendants who were serving time in prison (Fielden, Schwab and Neebe). Altgeld called the trial a miscarriage of justice.</p><p>To find out what effect these events had on Chicago&rsquo;s culture, <a href="#historians">we spoke with five experts</a>. The following is an edited transcript from separate phone interviews with these five authors.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>What sort of tensions was Chicago experiencing leading up to Haymarket?</strong></span></p><p><strong>Dominic A. Pacyga: </strong>We sometimes don&rsquo;t realize how violently divided we were in the 19th century. After the Civil War, people thought there was going to be another civil war, but this would be between the working poor and the rich. It didn&rsquo;t happen, but it certainly seemed like it was going to happen.</p><p><strong>James Green:</strong> It isn&rsquo;t surprising that (the bombing) happened, given the culture of violence and conflict that had been festering in Chicago ever since 1867. Gov. Oglesby signed a bill, making eight hours the legal workday, on May 1, 1867. What happens? Well, employers refuse to obey the law. There&rsquo;s rioting. That starts a cycle of violence. Employers don&rsquo;t want any sort of state intervention. The unemployed demand relief. Well, that causes a riot.</p><p>The radical Republicans &mdash; Oglesby and the folks who saw themselves in Lincoln&rsquo;s tradition &mdash; wanted to mediate this. The failure of that means the more savage forces inherent in the industrial process in Chicago take over. There&rsquo;s a lot of violence in the workplace. There&rsquo;s violence in the streets. People were engaged in violent acts on both sides. And the police are in the middle and often blamed for it.</p><p><strong>Timothy Messer-Kruse: </strong>The bombing occurred in the context of the first-ever national general strike. The idea was that any worker who had not achieved the eight-hour workday at their place of employment would go on strike on May 1. The simultaneous striking of millions of workers would simply create a cascading change across the country. And that would force both politicians and employers to recognize labor&rsquo;s power.</p><p>Everybody in industrial settings, they did toil very long days. In those days, 10 hours was standard. In many areas, it was sunup to sundown.</p><p><strong>Pacyga:</strong> In the packinghouses, they generally worked until all of the animals were slaughtered. Most male workers were completely removed from their family because of the 12-hour or 16-hour day. In the steel mills, there were two 12-hour shifts. You worked six days a week.</p><p><strong>Leon Fink: </strong>The anarchists were the left wing of the eight-hour movement. And within that left wing, there was a fringe of anarchists who counseled the use of bombs and dynamite. They justified it &mdash; at least publicly &mdash; as something they would only resort to in the face of police violence and as a defensive mechanism. But it seems clear there was a fringe of anarchists who were stockpiling bombs.</p><p><strong>Carl Smith:</strong> I think most of (the Haymarket defendants) are nonviolent people. They were convicted for what they said, not what they did. But yes, they certainly rhetorically preached violence as a solution. They preached a sense that violence is being practiced on them, day in and day out in the system &mdash; the billy clubs of the police. In their worldview, it was a life-and-death battle.</p><p><strong>Messer-Kruse: </strong>Among those <a href="http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/haymarket/haymarketdefendants.html">eight defendants</a>, there clearly were people who were willing to use violence for political ends &mdash; Louis Lingg, very clearly. The evidence is overwhelming that he made the bombs, including the bomb that was thrown at the Haymarket rally. He had dedicated his life to the violent overthrow not only of the government but essentially all bourgeois institutions. (The Haymarket defendants include) individuals who philosophically agree that the industrial society was so unjust, so murderous in its daily operation, that it had to be overthrown through some sort of mass, violent insurrection.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>How did Haymarket affect the labor and radical political movements?</strong></span></p><p><strong>Pacyga: </strong>Oh, it devastated the labor movement and the radical movement. Everybody who was involved with the May Day strike was tainted by the bombing. We still don&rsquo;t know really who threw the bomb. But the people in power used this as an excuse to really destroy the labor movement, to destroy the labor press and to move against all attempts to organize workers across the city.</p><p><strong>Smith: </strong>What the press and leading businessmen tried to do was tar all labor organizing with the brush of anarchism and to link anarchism with bombing. People started associating labor unions with bomb-throwers.</p><p><strong>Messer-Kruse: </strong>Haymarket definitely threw a big monkey wrench into the direction of American labor activism. When the bomb went off, Chicago went from being a city involved in what was becoming a complete general strike to a city pretty much on lockdown, with police investigations of this bombing.</p><p>The eight-hour movement was stopped in its tracks. Many workers in Chicago and elsewhere were actually winning concessions from their employers. Workers had been peacefully on strike, negotiating with their employers. When that bomb went off and police were killed, (labor activists) suddenly lost a lot of power and lost a lot of respect. Many employers who had conceded the eight-hour day in Chicago took it back. They simply tore up those contracts and took it back.</p><p>Had that (bombing) not happened, it could very well have gone otherwise. If the eight-hour day had been secured, then labor leaders would&rsquo;ve been emboldened to continue those kinds of tactics &mdash; and to view their role as being not only involved in their individual labor unions but involved in the general politics of the nation.</p><p>When the bomb went off, it went exactly the other direction. Labor leaders abandoned any idea of mobilizing this kind of public activism. America&rsquo;s trade union leaders become very conservative after Haymarket. They primarily become concerned with the interests of their own narrow sector of the workforce, and not with the nation as a whole.</p><p><strong>Green: </strong>It was certainly a crushing blow to that revolutionary left wing. The doctrine of force as a political philosophy disappears. What it did was drastically limit what the public debate about working conditions could be. It was no longer admissible to talk about it being so bad that something radical had to happen. That was out the window.</p><p>If the bomb hadn&rsquo;t exploded that evening, it might have (shown) that citizens could go into the streets and nonviolently protest for their rights, and that the employers would concede and people would move on in some nonviolent way to some kind of mediated workplace situation.</p><p>It would also have meant that there was still a radical voice within the house of labor, saying, &ldquo;We may have the eight-hour day, but there&rsquo;s something fundamentally rotten about this system. And ultimately, unless we replace it with another kind of economy, we&rsquo;re going to be in trouble.&rdquo; But that voice was gone. After Haymarket, the American Federation of Labor started to embrace a very limited version: just shorter hours and better living wages &mdash; that&rsquo;s all we want, you know?</p><p><strong>Pacyga:</strong> There was a tremendous amount of public reaction against labor unions and against<a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/693.html" target="_blank"> the Knights of Labor</a>, which was the largest union at the time. There were about 700,000 members nationally. From that point on, the Knights of Labor really struggled and there was not that much future for it.</p><p><strong>Fink: </strong>Chicago was a leading Knights of Labor center. The Knights encompassed everyone from small businessmen and professionals down to the unskilled, including African-Americans and women. They were probably the most inclusive social movement of the late 19th century. And they were a powerful social force. They saw themselves as the preserver of the American Dream for the mass of people in the aftermath of the Civil War. They were against monopoly and against the seizure of the political system by a new moneyed elite. They believed in the ballot box. They believed in peaceful protest. They really were not in favor of strikes or confrontations, and engaged in them only as a last resort. So, their leadership was quick to disassociate itself from the anarchists, but Haymarket tarred their&nbsp;public reputation. They never ever recovered. The setback here reverberated around nation. &nbsp;</p><p><strong>Pacyga:</strong> It wasn&rsquo;t until the beginning of the 20th century that the (labor movement&rsquo;s) recovery over Haymarket began to take place. But even then, the labor unions were pretty much kept out of power until well into the 1930s.</p><p><strong>Green: </strong>Eventually, more and more workers win the eight-hour day. In 1938, it becomes a mandate of Congress.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>How did Haymarket affect politics in the Democratic and Republican parties?</strong></span></p><p><strong>Messer-Kruse: </strong>It probably didn&rsquo;t shift too much of the politics on the ground. Chicago remained a labor stronghold throughout this period and well into the 20th century, and the politics revolved around labor.</p><p><strong>Pacyga: </strong>People on both sides of the political spectrum, Democrats and Republicans, tried to get leniency for the Haymarket martyrs. But Marshall Field really pushed &mdash; he wanted them to be punished. People like (Haymarket defendant Albert) Parsons had been a pain in his side for a long time. Marshall Field wanted them hanged.</p><p><strong>Green:</strong> Lyman Trumbull (a former U.S. senator who lived in Chicago), who&rsquo;s another one of these Lincolnian Republicans, thinks that these men&rsquo;s lives should be spared. It&rsquo;s a conflict within the Republican Party over this whole thing. In the end of course, there&rsquo;s no question what will be the outcome.</p><p><strong>Smith: </strong>No mainstream politician defended them. And Altgeld (Gov. John Peter Altgeld, the Democrat who pardoned the three Haymarket defendants serving prison sentences in 1893) didn&rsquo;t defend them. He said that they didn&rsquo;t get a fair trial. He called it a miscarriage of justice. He didn&rsquo;t say they were right.</p><p><strong>Pacyga: </strong>He hurt his political career with the pardons, absolutely. He turned the power elite against him.</p><p><strong>Messer-Kruse: </strong>I don&rsquo;t think that&rsquo;s really true. In fact, you could argue that it actually was a springboard into other politics. For example, during the great 1896 Democratic convention in Chicago, Altgeld was clearly the toast of the convention.</p><p><strong>Fink:</strong> For the conservative forces in either party, Haymarket provided a kind of ready reference for the fears and threats of radicalism. The Haymarket defendants were quickly seen as un-American, as a&nbsp;threat to the social order. The Democrats would try to peel off the rank-and-file of the labor and radical movement. They would say: &ldquo;We can provide certain benefits if you&rsquo;ll come under our umbrella.&rdquo; For many former labor movement types, the Democratic Party became the only game in town.</p><p><strong>Pacyga:</strong> The Democratic Party appealed to solid bread-and-butter unionists who simply wanted things like better conditions, better pay, paid vacations.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>How did Haymarket affect immigrants living in Chicago?</strong></span></p><p><strong>Fink:</strong> It forced most immigrant groups to prove their respectability.</p><p><strong>Pacyga:</strong> There was tremendous anti-immigrant reaction and anti-Catholic reaction. Here were these Germans talking about throwing bombs and a bomb gets thrown. It proved the point that these radical ideologies were coming in from Europe and the gates should be closed.</p><p>There was a lot of class tension within (immigrant) communities. A lot of the cops that were killed were Irish working-class cops. (They) were putting down a working-class demonstration, which Irish attended. This ripped all these ethnic communities apart in one way or the other.</p><p><strong>Messer-Kruse: </strong>Haymarket provided tinder for (the anti-immigrant) movement by associating immigration and lawlessness and anarchy, but I wouldn&rsquo;t take that too far. The anti-immigrant tensions in a city like Chicago are not necessarily caused by the Haymarket bombing. They&rsquo;re caused by many factors.</p><p><strong>Green: </strong>Chicago was such a polyglot city that it was almost a little too late to be talking about pulling up the gates. I wouldn&rsquo;t say Chicago in the 1890s was a particularly hostile place for immigrants, more so than any other city.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>How did Haymarket change the police and courts in Chicago?</strong></span></p><p><strong>Messer-Kruse: </strong>The Chicago police were already beginning a long process of professionalization and modernization. And this event certainly sped that process up quite a bit. It also leads many states to take on more responsibility for the policing of labor struggles.</p><p><strong>Smith: </strong>It&rsquo;s the first major Red Scare. It sets a pattern: When something happens like this, you say it&rsquo;s outside agitators who are making this happen, so round them up and punish them. &ldquo;If we catch these guys and hang these guys, the problem will be solved.&rdquo;</p><p>You could never hold a trial like that now. There were plenty of other miscarriages of justice of all&nbsp;kinds, but generally speaking, in this country, trials got fairer. I think there was a sense afterwards that the trial was a case of &ldquo;the ends justify the means.&rdquo;</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>How did Haymarket shape Chicago&rsquo;s reputation?</strong></span></p><p><strong>Messer-Kruse: </strong>Not that Chicago needed a lot of help, as far as its reputation goes, but from this time on, it does have a reputation as a hotbed of radicalism.</p><p><strong>Fink: </strong>It was an immigrant city. It was not in the hands of &ldquo;respectable&rdquo; Americans. So it had a kind of dangerous edge to it in the popular mind. On the other hand, for the political left, especially internationally, Chicago became famous for its radicalism and its martyrs. Like other flamboyant episodes of violence &mdash; like (John) Dillinger or (Al) Capone or other moments of disorder &mdash; it added to Chicago&rsquo;s reputation as a city on the edge.</p><p><strong>Smith: </strong>The bombing hurt Chicago&rsquo;s reputation, certainly. But it didn&rsquo;t slow its growth in any way. The population doubled in the 1880s and then doubled again in the 1890s. So in terms of people voting with their feet or capital coming in &mdash; or the decision to hold a World&rsquo;s Fair here (in 1893) &mdash; Haymarket didn&rsquo;t stop any of that.</p><p><strong>Pacyga:</strong> Chicago&rsquo;s position along the railroad lines and water make Chicago such an optimal place to invest in that (business owners) ignore these things. Plus, you&rsquo;ve got a government that generally supports big business. Ignores pollution. Ignores the times when big business steals water.</p><p><strong>Green: </strong>I&rsquo;m sure that the city fathers, (Tribune publisher) Joseph Medill and all of the big business guys were saying, &ldquo;Well, see, we took care of this problem now. We&rsquo;re not going to let that happen again.&rdquo; It may have in fact enhanced their reputation as tough law-and-order people keeping the lid on things. Of course, they failed. Something far worse occurs in 1894, the Pullman Strike. That was much, much worse violence.</p><p><strong>Green:</strong> In Jane Addams&rsquo; <em>Twenty Years at Hull House</em>, she talks about coming back from England around 1889. The city was still taken up with Haymarket. People were still tense. There was this attempt on her part and other liberals to try to create a civic forum where all of the hard feelings about Haymarket could be discussed and opened up and a new civic culture could be created and there wouldn&rsquo;t be so much hatred and class bitterness. That&rsquo;s what <a href="http://www.encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org/pages/615.html" target="_blank">Hull House</a> was about.</p><p>That&rsquo;s what the liberal Chicago was about: Let&rsquo;s make it a better city. Let&rsquo;s make it a city where there isn&rsquo;t so much hatred, and where immigrants don&rsquo;t feel so exploited, and where the police are not killing&nbsp;people. So that did begin to happen. People were saying, &ldquo;This is terrible. We&rsquo;ve got to fix this.&rdquo;</p><p>The <a href="http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/your-ticket-white-city-108994" target="_blank">1893 World&rsquo;s Fair</a> is the symbolic triumph of that spirit: the great Chicago, the beneficent Chicago, the modern Chicago. Sometimes, these horrific events, acts of political violence, cause a city to do some sort of soul-searching.</p><p><strong><a name="slideshow"></a><span style="font-size:22px;">How did Haymarket affect the image of anarchists?</span></strong></p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="367" mozallowfullscreen="true" scrolling="no" src="http://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1Lz86udgxtNKfpd18q1R-9DFj51O97pEeJ_eELlEnS6E/embed?start=false&amp;loop=false&amp;delayms=5000" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="600"></iframe></p><p><strong>Messer-Kruse:</strong>&nbsp;Before that time, anarchism was a much broader movement. It included a lot of philosophical anarchists who today we might term libertarians. After the Haymarket bombing, the popular understanding of anarchism becomes the bomb-throwing fiend, hiding behind a cape. A very rich and diverse philosophical movement gets collapsed into this one dimension of nihilism.</p><p><strong>Pacyga:</strong> Anarchism seems to me to be a utopian kind of idea. But after Haymarket, anarchists became these kind of slimy, bearded, bomb-throwing, evil monsters. All the cartoons in the press that appeared have people with long beards and long hair, and holding bombs in their hands and knives in their other hand &mdash; just these hideous kinds of criminals.</p><p><strong>Smith:</strong> Look at the (Thomas) Nast illustrations &mdash; a longhaired, wild-eyed, bomb-throwing mad person. No sane person could be an anarchist. And anybody who protested against the existing order was, in some people&rsquo;s eyes, an anarchist. The anarchists became this caricature. And if you didn&rsquo;t like a person who protested against the current order, you called him or her an anarchist &mdash; whether or not they really were. Anarchy became: &ldquo;I want chaos. I want disorder. I want to destroy any kind of order that&rsquo;s out there.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>Fink: </strong>The anarchists were through after Haymarket. Basically, they were rounded up. They were deported if they weren&rsquo;t jailed. Haymarket &mdash; followed by the assassination of (President William) McKinley at the hands of an anarchist just after the turn of the century &mdash; that finished (them) off as all but a fringe within the radical left of the country.</p><p><strong>Messer-Kruse: </strong>The cultural image of the bearded, stooped, dark, bomb-throwing anarchist has carried through to the present day. The very symbol of the sort of the round, globe bomb with the hissing fuse on it passes (through) the popular culture right up to Boris and Natasha and &ldquo;Spy vs. Spy.&rdquo; I think that image was born in the Haymarket. That image of the sulking, loner foreign, bomb-throwing anarchist has a great resonance in American culture.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;"><strong>What connections do you see between the events of Haymarket and today?</strong></span></p><p><strong>Green: </strong>As in the 1880s, Chicago is a city of immigrants and a city of immigrants who are wage-earning people, many of whom are in low-wage occupations, many of whom may not be citizens&nbsp;at all or are viewed as second-class citizens. There are similarities with the Gilded Age and the extremes of wealth.</p><p>The unions are pretty tough in Chicago, but they&rsquo;re under assault. The mayor (Rahm Emanuel) would certainly love to get rid of the teachers union. There&rsquo;s a lot of pressure on unions to give up things. The eight-hour workday &mdash; for a lot of people &mdash; is not feasible anymore. You need to work two jobs and overtime.</p><p><strong>Fink: </strong>The larger issues of inequality, worker rights, the basic decency of the workplace are still very much alive today. And some of the issues &mdash; the length of the workday and whether there&rsquo;s a minimum wage &mdash; have returned to the political surface. Our culture is also constantly challenged by those who would find scapegoats as a way of turning away from the central issues raised by a movement or by radicals<a name="rhymefest"></a>.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="343" scrolling="no" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/iTEcyfQDdIk" width="610"></iframe></p><p style="text-align: center;"><em>(Rapper Rhymefest performs his update of the Haymarket-era &#39;Eight Hour Song&#39;</em><em>)</em></p><p><strong>Pacyga: </strong>The Occupy Chicago movement &mdash; I suppose the police are making these people out to be anarchists, but I don&rsquo;t think that, generally, the Occupy people are violent.</p><p>Think about how (Chicago Teachers Union President Karen) Lewis thinks about (Mayor) Rahm Emanuel today. Whose side is he on, according to the Chicago Teachers Union? There&rsquo;s always been that sort of conflict. In Chicago, people with clout are generally people who have money. And people who have money are not interested in supporting strikes &mdash; generally speaking.</p><p>America is a very middle-class culture. Revolutionary movements sprout up periodically, but they pass &mdash; because the majority of people do not embrace these ideologies. And if they embrace ideologies, they embrace them on the right rather than the left. That&rsquo;s part of our historical tradition.</p><p><strong><span style="font-size:20px;">Our five historians</span><a name="historians"></a></strong></p><p>Sincere thanks to the following the experts, who provided extensive interviews for our coverage of the Haymarket riot and its effects:</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/james%20green%20copy.png" style="float: left; height: 93px; width: 100px;" title="" /><strong>James Green</strong>, a history professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, wrote the 2006 book <em>Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing that Divided Gilded-Age America</em>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/carl%20smithcopy.jpg" style="height: 92px; width: 100px; float: left;" title="" /><strong>Carl Smith</strong>, an English professor at Northwestern University, focused on the incident&rsquo;s cultural effects in his 1995 book <em>Urban Disorder and the Shape of Belief: The Great Chicago Fire, the Haymarket Bomb, and the Model Town of Pullman</em>. He also curated the Chicago History Museum&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.chicagohistory.org/dramas/" target="_blank"><em>The Dramas of Haymarket </em></a>website.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/dompac%20copy.jpg" style="height: 93px; width: 100px; float: left;" title="" /><strong>Dominic A. Pacyga</strong>, a history professor at Columbia College Chicago, put Haymarket into the context of the city&rsquo;s history with his 2009 book <em>Chicago: A Biography</em>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/cruse%20copy.jpg" style="float: left; height: 93px; width: 100px;" title="" /><strong>Timothy Messer-Kruse</strong>, a history professor at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio, has stirred controversy with his books <em>The Haymarket Trial: Terrorism and Justice in the Gilded Age </em>(2011) and <em>The Haymarket Conspiracy: Transatlantic Anarchist Networks</em> (2012), asserting there was actual evidence connecting some of the Haymarket defendants to a bombing conspiracy.</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/leonfink%20copy.jpg" style="height: 93px; width: 100px; float: left;" title="" /><strong>Leon Fink</strong>, a history professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, has written several books on the Gilded Age and labor movements in the late 1800s.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>Robert Loerzel is a freelance journalist and the author of </em>Alchemy of Bones: Chicago&rsquo;s Luetgert Murder Case of 1897.<em>&nbsp;Follow him at <a href="https://twitter.com/robertloerzel" target="_blank">@robertloerzel</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 29 Apr 2014 13:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/after-haymarket-anarchism-trial-and-city-search-its-soul-110098 7-Eleven warns Chicago franchisee who criticized company http://www.wbez.org/news/7-eleven-warns-chicago-franchisee-who-criticized-company-110064 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Syed.jpg" style="margin: 4px 0px 0px 0px; float: right; height: 263px; width: 300px;" title="Hashim Syed, owner of a 7-Eleven franchise on the city’s North Side, received a written warning from the Dallas-based company eight days after WBEZ aired his grievances. (WBEZ/Shannon Heffernan)" />7-Eleven Inc. is coming down on a Chicago franchisee who criticized the Dallas-based company on WBEZ.</p><p>Hashim Syed, who has run a 7-Eleven in the city&rsquo;s Rogers Park neighborhood since 1990, invited two WBEZ reporters to his store for an interview. He told them how the world&rsquo;s largest convenience-store chain has tightened rules for its franchisees over the years.</p><p>Syed said the company, a subsidiary of the Japanese conglomerate Seven &amp; I Holdings Co., had dumped its employment responsibilities on franchisees.</p><p>&ldquo;We are nothing more than a glorified manager,&rdquo; Syed said in the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/bigger-burgers-and-fries-franchising-blamed-low-wages-109978" target="_blank">WBEZ report</a>, broadcast April 8. &ldquo;I take the heat from the customer if anything goes wrong. I take the heat from the workers if something goes wrong.&rdquo;<br /><br />One week after the broadcast, 7-Eleven officials inspected his store. Syed said the inspection took place without notice. He identified the officials as Bill Engen and Ena Williams, both senior vice presidents based at the Dallas headquarters.</p><p>The next day, a 7-Eleven &ldquo;letter of notification&rdquo; accused Syed of violating his franchise agreement because some products were out of stock and because he allegedly was not using one of his hot-dog grills as required. The letter was accompanied by 17 photos showing spots on Syed&rsquo;s shelves where products were sold out. The letter did not mention his statements to WBEZ.</p><p>Warning letters from franchisors are not uncommon. The franchisees usually have a chance to fix the problems. But a letter could also lead to trouble, even a 7-Eleven takeover of the store.</p><p>&ldquo;This is nothing but retaliation,&rdquo; said Jas Dhillon, a 7-Eleven franchisee in Los Angeles and vice chair of the National Coalition of Associations of 7-Eleven Franchisees. &ldquo;We carry over 2,500 items in our store, from soda pops to candies to hot dogs to magazines to lottery tickets. Being out of stock of 17 &mdash; that&rsquo;s less than 1 percent. Any given day, not just at 7-Eleven, at any of the other stores, you&rsquo;re going to have items that we run out of, especially when you just had a hot weekend.&rdquo;<br /><br />Dhillon said 7-Eleven was trying to silence Syed and pointed out that the Chicago franchisee once won a national award from the company because, Dhillon said, &ldquo;he ran the best store in the country.&rdquo;<br /><br />Engen and Williams did not respond to WBEZ requests for comment on Syed&rsquo;s case. Neither did the Chicago-area 7-Eleven official who issued Syed the warning letter.</p><p>Company spokeswoman Margaret Chabris sent a written statement that said her company &ldquo;does not discuss publicly matters concerning our relationships with individual 7-Eleven franchisees.&rdquo; Asked whether the 7-Eleven letter to Syed came in response to his WBEZ interview, Chabris did not answer.<br /><br />The interview was not the first time Syed had criticized 7-Eleven. He publishes a <a href="http://7-elevenfoac.com/data/newsletter/FOACMay2013FinalNewsletter.pdf" target="_blank">newsletter</a> for Chicago-area 7-Eleven franchisees that questions how the company treats them.<br /><br />In the WBEZ report, Syed blamed 7-Eleven policies and the franchise model for his store&rsquo;s low wages. &ldquo;That worker who is working also thinks &mdash; and I know it for a fact &mdash; that I am just greedy and I want to keep all the money in my pocket instead of giving him fair wages,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />The report included competing claims by economists about how franchising affects wages and jobs.</p><p>In the report, Chabris and another 7-Eleven official said workplace conditions were the responsibility of franchisees.</p><p>Chabris added that Syed had a right to speak out. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s freedom of speech,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s fine.&rdquo;</p><p>Syed, meanwhile, is planning to board a Thursday flight from Chicago to Japan, where he will meet with other 7-Eleven franchisees. He said he is working to strengthen ties between 7-Eleven franchisees around the world so they have more power to stand up to the company.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/users/cmitchell-0">Chip Mitchell</a> is WBEZ&rsquo;s West Side bureau reporter. Follow him on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/ChipMitchell1">@ChipMitchell1</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud">@WBEZoutloud</a>, and connect with him through <a href="https://www.facebook.com/chipmitchell1">Facebook</a>, <a href="https://plus.google.com/111079509307132701769" rel="me">Google+</a> and <a href="http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChipMitchell1">LinkedIn</a>.</em></p></p> Wed, 23 Apr 2014 18:02:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/7-eleven-warns-chicago-franchisee-who-criticized-company-110064