Stories by Nick Blumberg

Suburban Starbucks Unionization Vote Fails, First Chicago-Area Loss for Organizing Effort

(WTTW News)

Workers at more than 250 Starbucks locations around the U.S. have filed to join a union, and about 50 have voted in favor of unionization. Organizers and their supporters have accused Starbucks of aggressive “union-busting” tactics, including cutting hours, disciplining, and firing pro-union employees. 

Illinois Joins Lawsuit to Force US Postal Service Delivery Fleet to Go Electric

(WTTW News)

The federal lawsuit Illinois joined charges the Postal Service with botching its review of a plan to buy as many as 165,000 new delivery trucks in an effort to modernize its fleet. The contract calls for just 10% of those trucks to be electric vehicles.

As Mayor, Richard Irvin and His Donors Backed Effort Giving Him More Control Over Who Appears on Aurora Ballot

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin is pictured in April 2020. (WTTW News)

Aurora Mayor and GOP gubernatorial hopeful Richard Irvin supported a successful 2018 effort to shutter the Aurora Election Commission – a move that gives him a role in deciding whether certain candidates stay on city ballots.

First Illinois Starbucks Locations Vote to Unionize

(WTTW News)

Starbucks workers at coffee shops in northwest suburban Cary and downstate Peoria have been voting by mail this month on whether they want to be represented by the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United, an SEIU affiliate.

Ken Griffin’s Trading Firm Tied to Company Aided by Richard Irvin: Report

Scientel Solutions, pictured in March 2022, relocated to Aurora after plans for its tower were approved in 2018. (Paris Schutz / WTTW News)

WTTW News previously reported that communications company Scientel Solutions and its employees have given more than $135,000 to Richard Irvin’s mayoral campaign, a PAC run by his mayoral campaign manager, and his former private practice law partner Brittany Pedersen’s judicial campaign.

Chicago-Area Starbucks Workers Pushing to Join Nationwide Unionization Movement

(WTTW News)

In December, a Starbucks in Buffalo, New York became the first of the company’s thousands of U.S. locations to vote for unionization. Just weeks later, workers at Chicago’s Randolph and Wabash location moved to join the effort.

Amazon Warehouse That Collapsed During Tornado Had Structural Flaws, Attorneys Say

Austin McEwen was killed in the Dec. 10, 2021, warehouse collapse. (Provided)

The Amazon facility in downstate Edwardsville where six workers died after the building was struck by a tornado appears to have had major structural flaws, according to a lawsuit and a government engineer’s report released by the plaintiff’s attorney.

Edgewater Store Marks Eighth Chicago-Area Starbucks Moving to Unionize

(WTTW News)

The Edgewater location brings the total to eight area Starbucks coffee shops seeking representation. Those workers are part of a rapidly expanding nationwide effort that organizers now say numbers 176 locations, 10 of which have voted in favor of joining a union.

Rideshare Drivers, Alderman Rally for Ordinance Guaranteeing Minimum Rates and Driver Protections

(Paul Hanaoka / Unsplash)

An ordinance introduced in the city council in February would mandate that rideshare drivers make a minimum rate per trip, per mile, and per minute. And it would prevent rideshare companies from taking a commission of more than 20%.

Seventh Chicago-Area Starbucks Announces Unionization Effort

(WTTW News)

The Bucktown coffee shop, located at Armitage and Hoyne avenues, joins four others in the city – Hyde Park, Logan Square, Edgewater, and downtown – and one each in suburban La Grange and Cary. 

The Week in Review: Mayor Makes Historic Council Pick

(Courtesy Chicago.gov)

Chicago casino proposal final three. City Council to consider replacements for 11th Ward alderperson. Will Congressman Mike Quigley make a bid for mayor? And Senate grills Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Leaders of DuSable Lake Shore Drive Redesign Tout Better Travel Times, Green Space and Ask For Public Input

Proposed lane reconfigurations of DuSable Lake Shore Drive. (Illinois Department of Transportation / Chicago Department of Transportation)

At a virtual meeting of the task force working on the overhaul, members of the Redefine the Drive team outlined a study of how the different potential layouts would affect travel times for transit passengers and drivers under different weather conditions during morning and evening rush hour. 

Sixth Chicago-Area Starbucks Moves to Join Union as City Council Voices Support

(WTTW News)

The Edgewater coffee shop, located at Clark Street and Ridge Avenue, joins three others in the city – Hyde Park, Logan Square, and downtown – and one each in west suburban La Grange and northwest suburban Cary. All six are seeking representation from the Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United, an SEIU affiliate.

Metra Joins Fight Against Proposed Freight Rail Merger That Would Impact Northwest Suburban Tracks

(WTTW News)

In a Tuesday filing with the Surface Transportation Board, the federal agency overseeing rail companies, Metra argued the board shouldn’t let freight giants Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern combine operations. 

City Facing Class Action Suit Over Lack of Accessible Signals for Blind Pedestrians

(WTTW News)

For decades, plaintiff Ann Brash commuted into the city each day for work. Blind since birth, she’s experienced at getting around using a cane. But Chicago’s noisy downtown poses a challenge, and in 2017 she had a near miss.

As New Community Market Opens in Englewood, Leaders Eye Next Steps for Redevelopment

Residents and community leaders gather for the opening of new Go Green Community Fresh Market in Englewood March 8, 2022. (WTTW News)

Residents and community leaders gathered in Englewood on Tuesday for the opening of the new Go Green Community Fresh Market. It’s designed to be as convenient as a neighborhood corner store but with fresh produce, a variety of healthy options, and meals cooked on site. 

Rail Merger Would Mean Huge Spike in Freight Train Traffic, Suburbs Say. But Rail Companies Say Impact is Overstated

(WTTW News)

Suburban officials are worried the proposed merger of two major rail companies would mean more frequent freight trains, which they say could take as long as 10 minutes to clear an intersection.

After December Walkouts, Organized Amazon Workers in Chicago Area Eye Next Steps

An Amazon facility in the Gage Park neighborhood is pictured in January 2022. (WTTW News)

In Chicago, a group of workers called Amazonians United Chicagoland says it’s seen success from its organizing efforts. 

Illinois Prepares for July Launch of 988 Suicide Prevention Hotline

(Jae Park / Unsplash)

Illinois is months away from the scheduled launch of a new suicide prevention hotline, and state lawmakers are working to make sure it gets funding.

Advocates Push for State Money to Replace Lead Pipes Connected to Illinois Child Care Facilities

(WTTW News)

In recent years, a patchwork of government and nonprofit programs have ramped up, offering help with lead testing and mitigation. But the need still far outstrips the available assistance, especially for high-priority places like child care facilities.

Industry Group Aims to Tackle Truck Driver Shortage in Illinois

(WTTW News)

While the U.S. isn’t experiencing the same upheaval as Canada, trucking advocates say the industry still faces huge challenges, many of which predate the pandemic.

Jesse Sharkey on His Time in Teachers Union Leadership, CTU’s Future

Outgoing CTU president Jesse Sharkey appears on “Chicago Tonight” via Zoom, Feb. 08, 2022. (WTTW News)

Jesse Sharkey’s time in leadership has been marked by multiple teacher’s strikes, a contentious relationship with City Hall, and a protracted pandemic. In announcing his departure, Sharkey acknowledged the difficulties of the job, both politically and personally.

Keeping Health Care Workers Safe Amid Spike in Threats, Violence

(WTTW News)

The American Medical Association notes as many as 38% of health care workers face violence during their careers and that those in the field were 50% more likely to be harassed, threatened, or hurt during the COVID pandemic.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth on Jason Van Dyke, Russia-Ukraine, and SCOTUS Vacancy

Sen. Tammy Duckworth joins “Chicago Tonight” via Zoom. Feb. 3, 2022. (WTTW News)

Two U.S. senators are pressing the Justice Department on a federal civil rights investigation into former Chicago Police officer Jason Van Dyke. Senators Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth say the facts of the case are “shocking and upsetting” and are asking the Attorney General for an update into the probe.

The Week in Review: Top Doc Says Chicago Past Omicron Peak

(WTTW News)

Mayor Lightfoot backs embattled top cop. Omicron wave may have peaked as local COVID-19 testing company faces fraud investigations. A shakeup in the Republican primary for governor. And a major merger in local journalism.

Illinois Nursing Homes Face Spike in Cases, Staffing Shortages Amid COVID-19 Surge

COVID-19 cases and deaths at U.S. nursing homes are once again on the rise. (Pixabay)

According to CDC data, Illinois saw its highest-ever case rate for nursing home residents this month, surpassing even last winter’s surge. Cases among staff have also reached record levels.