Stories by Nick Blumberg

The Chicago Transit Authority holds a job event to recruit workers. (WTTW News)

CTA Works to Tackle Huge Staffing Shortfall, Improve Service and Draw Back Riders Before Stimulus Funding Runs Out

Hiring bonuses, retention bonuses and a raise for new employees are all part of the CTA’s plan to attract and keep bus and train operators and mechanics as the agency claws its way out of a huge staffing shortfall.

(WTTW News)

CTA Overtime Spikes as Agency Hit By Departures; Dozens of Bus and Train Operators Paid for Average Weeks of 80 Hours or More

A WTTW News analysis of CTA bus and train operator work records from 2015 to 2021 shows a growing number of employees paid for long average workweeks, which experts say raises questions about worker and passenger safety and the agency’s bottom line.

Starbucks sign is pictured in a file photo. (WTTW News)

4 Chicagoland Starbucks Locations Join Nationwide Strike, Organizers Say

Starbucks workers at coffee shops in Bucktown, Edgewater, northwest suburban Cary, and west suburban Elmhurst joined a nationwide strike Thursday aimed at coinciding with the coffee giant’s popular “Red Cup Day” promotion, organizers say.

(WTTW News)

CTA Board OKs Budget With No Fare Hikes, But Fiscal Challenges Loom

The CTA’s Board of Directors approved a $1.8 billion operating budget for 2023, a plan that doesn’t include fare increases for passengers. But with ridership still down from pre-pandemic levels, the budget relies on nearly $400 million in federal stimulus money to make up for lost fare revenue. 

Gold Standard worker Barry Rose says the company discriminated against Black workers. (WTTW News)

Chicago Bakery, Staffing Company Move to Settle Discrimination Lawsuit Brought By Black Temp Workers

A staffing agency and the bakery’s then-owner are set to pay more than $1 million to settle the case. Worker advocates say the suit points to widespread problems faced by temp workers, and the possible legislative solutions.

CTA President Dorval Carter addresses the Chicago City Council’s Transportation Committee on Nov. 10, 2022. (WTTW News)

Alderpeople Grill CTA President on Safety, Reliability and Staffing Shortfalls

The transit agency’s leader talked about what the CTA is doing to address staff shortages, homelessness, crime and more. And alderpeople told him what they’re hearing from constituents and seeing for themselves: long waits, angry riders and a tough road back to regular service.

Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle announces the launch of the Building Healthy Communities initiative Tuesday, April 12, 2022. (WTTW News)

Preckwinkle Declares Victory, Republicans Lead Races For 2 Cook County Board Seats Democrats Hoped to Flip

With voting coming to a close in Cook County, Board President Toni Preckwinkle is vying for a fourth term in office and fellow Democrats are looking to maintain the party’s control on all countywide seats.

(WTTW News)

Willis Tower Starbucks Workers Announce Plans to Unionize

The unionization announcement comes one day after Lakeview Starbucks employees voted 11-to-1 in favor of representation, according to voting results shared by organizers. On Monday, Glenview Starbucks workers announced they plan to organize as well.

(WTTW News)

Lakeview Starbucks Workers Vote to Unionize as Glenview Store Announces Organizing Effort

Workers at a Lakeview Starbucks voted 11-1 on Tuesday to form a union, according to vote results shared by organizers.

The Starbucks at Bryn Mawr and Winthrop avenues in Chicago is pictured on Oct. 13, 2022. (WTTW News)

Starbucks Plans to Shut Down One of Its First Unionized Locations in Chicago

Starbucks is shutting down one of the first Chicago locations where workers unionized – just days before the company was set to begin negotiations on a contract.

Amazon workers walk out of a Joliet facility on Oct. 11, 2022. (Credit: Warehouse Workers for Justice)

Amazon Workers in Joliet Stage Walkout Over Pay and Working Conditions

Employees at Amazon’s MDW2 warehouse in Joliet walked off the job Tuesday afternoon, saying the company has not provided a safe work environment or adequate pay.

Advocates staged a tent city in the lobby of City Hall during Mayor Lori Lightfoot's budget address on Monday, Oct. 3, 2022, calling on Chicago to provide a dedicated stream of funding to tackle the problem of homelessness. (Nick Blumberg / WTTW News)

Housing Advocates Stage Tent Encampment in City Hall During Mayor’s Budget Address

Chanting “Housing is a human right! Lightfoot will not stop our fight!” and “Lo-ri! We’re calling on you!” anti-homelessness activists staged a tent city at City Hall to demand a dedicated funding stream for subsidized housing, just as Mayor Lori Lightfoot delivered her yearly budget address.

The Michigan City Generating Station has been burning coal for electricity for nearly a century. (WTTW News)

Advocates Say Cleanup of Coal Ash at Northwest Indiana Power Plant Leaves Regional Water Supply at Risk

Northern Indiana Public Service Company is retiring the 130-acre Michigan City Generating Station, which has been burning coal for electricity for nearly a century. The company is also cleaning up decades of coal ash byproduct. But advocates say plans to leave some coal ash on the site puts groundwater and Lake Michigan in danger of contamination. 

Starbucks sign is pictured in a file photo. (WTTW News)

Elmhurst Starbucks Workers File for Union Representation

Employees at a Starbucks in west suburban Elmhurst say they’ve filed for union representation, joining hundreds of other coffee shops around the country and in the Chicago area.

A rendering of the planned Chicago Fire Club practice facility on former Chicago Housing Authority land. (Courtesy of Chicago Department of Planning and Development.)

Chicago Fire Soccer Facility Planned on 26 Acres of Housing Authority Land Clears City Council

The Chicago Fire’s plan is set to transform the vacant Near West Side property into practice soccer fields and a training and administrative building. The empty land was part of the massive CHA complex known as the Addams-Brooks-Loomis-Abbott homes. 

 A Starbucks worker in Edgewater participates in a one-day strike on Aug. 30, 2022. (WTTW News)

Union Backers Blast Starbucks Labor Practices During Capitol Hill Hearing

House lawmakers heard testimony Wednesday on barriers workers say they face to organizing, and what pro-business groups and Republicans in Congress call Democratic overreach.

(WTTW News)

Cyclist Struck and Killed By Driver in River West; Fifth Cyclist Death in Chicago This Year

A witness to the crash told WTTW News the man was a cyclist riding on an e-bike. The Chicago Fire Department confirmed a man in 40s was struck near Milwaukee Avenue and Morgan Street in River West and taken to Northwestern Memorial Hospital in serious to critical condition, though the department described him as a motorcyclist.

Advocates rally in Roscoe Village’s Fellger Park on Sept. 7, 2022, calling on the city to include more infrastructure upgrades for cyclists, bus passengers, and pedestrians during an upcoming resurfacing of Belmont Avenue. (Nick Blumberg / WTTW News)

Street Resurfacing Must Include Better Transportation Upgrades, Advocates Say at Demonstration

The groups say they don’t just want things like protected bike lanes, signal priority for buses, and other improvements to be limited to this stretch of street, calling on the Chicago Department of Transportation to “perform critical safety and quality-of-life upgrades” in the course of every major street resurfacing citywide.

(WTTW News)

Unionized Starbucks Workers in Edgewater Go on One-Day Strike

Workers at a unionized Starbucks coffee shop in Edgewater walked off the job Tuesday, protesting what they say is a pattern of the company illegally disciplining employees as retaliation for organizing. Similar charges have been echoed by pro-union Starbucks workers around the U.S. 

Starbucks sign is pictured in a file photo. (WTTW News)

Lakeview Starbucks Location Moves to Unionize

The workers at the coffee shop, located at the corner of Irving Park Road and Ashland Avenue, are seeking to join the seven other Chicago-area Starbucks locations that have so far voted in favor of unionizing. 

(WTTW News)

Edgewater Starbucks Union Vote Succeeds as Charges of Company Retaliation Intensify

The results of the election were released by organizers after a National Labor Relations Board vote count Friday morning. The Devon and Broadway Starbucks joins two others in Edgewater, and one each in Bucktown, Hyde Park, North Park and northwest suburban Cary.

Employees at an Amazon warehouse at 250 Emerald Drive, Joliet, have accused the company of a racially hostile work environment. (WTTW News)

Amazon Employees Say Company Retaliated After Charges of Racially Hostile Work Environment

Late last month, 26 current and former employees of a Joliet Amazon warehouse accused the company of allowing a racially hostile work environment. They’ve since been joined by a dozen more workers, who’ve filed charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

This file photo shows a southbound CTA Red Line train in Chicago. (WTTW News)

‘Our Service is Not Meeting our High Expectations,’ CTA President Outlines Plan to Address Schedule Snafus, Safety Worries

CTA President Dorval Carter on Thursday outlined a strategic plan to overhaul the transit agency’s service and bolster its role in the Chicago area’s transportation network. The CTA’s new “Meeting the Moment” initiative is aimed at moving the much-used and much-critiqued transit service into a “post-pandemic” future.

(WTTW News)

Freight Rail Merger Won’t Have Significant Environmental Impact, Federal Agency Says

The proposed merger of freight rail giants Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern – which has faced a swell of opposition – wouldn’t have major environmental consequences, according to a draft environmental impact statement released Friday by the Surface Transportation Board.

(WTTW News)

Sixth Chicago-Area Starbucks Votes to Unionize, Joining More than 200 Across US

The coffee shop, located at Lincoln and Jersey avenues on the border of North Park and West Ridge, is located in the Lincoln Village shopping center. It’s now the sixth Chicago-area Starbucks to vote for unionization – and among more than 200 around the nation to unionize so far.

File photo. (WTTW News)

Joliet Amazon Workers Allege Racist Death Threats, Hostile Work Environment in Federal Complaint

Current and former employees at an Amazon warehouse in Joliet say the mega-retailer has allowed a racially hostile work environment, including death threats against Black employees and workers who are allowed to wear Confederate flag clothing, according to a complaint filed with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Illinois Department of Human Rights.