Stories by Nick Blumberg

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.

(WTTW News)

Surveillance, Threats and Retaliation: Local Starbucks Workers Charge Company With Slew of Labor Law Violations

Claims against Starbucks include unfairly disciplining employees who backed organizing efforts, threatening retaliation against pro-union workers and forbidding staffers from discussing terms and conditions of their employment.

(WTTW News)

‘Chicago Tonight’ in Your Neighborhood: Pullman and West Pullman

Chicago’s Pullman and West Pullman areas were once industrial communities where workers lived and worked. The neighborhoods on the Far South Side have since experienced an economic downfall, but over the years people have pushed for growth to improve the quality of life. 

(WTTW News)

After Highland Park Shooting, a Look at Local Gun Laws and Firearms Access

Just under a month ago, the Highland Park chapter of March for our Lives organized an anti-gun violence rally at Sunset Woods Park – the same location of a Thursday candlelight vigil – following mass shootings in Uvalde, Buffalo, and Tulsa among others. Attendees then marched through Highland Park, including right through the site of this past weekend’s shooting.

(WTTW News)

City Announces Plan to Upgrade All Protected Bike Lanes to Concrete Amid Outcry Over Cyclist and Pedestrian Deaths

The city plans to upgrade 15 miles of existing protected bike lanes and add 10 new miles by the end of this year, and upgrade the remaining existing lanes protected by bollards or other means by the end of next year.

U.S. Rep. Mary Miller. (Credit: Miller Campaign)

Rodney Davis Concedes to Trump-Backed Fellow GOP Incumbent Mary Miller in 15th District

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis conceded to first-term Republican Mary Miller in the hotly contested GOP race in the 15th Congressional district, saying it’s been “the honor of a lifetime to serve the people of Illinois.”

(WTTW News)

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis Wins Over Challenger Kina Collins in 7th Congressional District: AP

U.S. Rep. Danny Davis was first elected to represent the district in 1996 and recently secured the endorsement of President Joe Biden. He’s highlighted the work he’s done in Congress to bring home resources for his constituents, but faced criticism by Kina Collins and some of her backers for missed votes and a lengthy tenure.

(WTTW News)

University of Chicago Faces Calls for Reparations Over Ties to Slavery; School Says Charges Are Misplaced

For the last several years, the University of Chicago has faced calls to make reparations for its ties to the slave trade. The university says it was a prior iteration of the school that benefited from slavery, not its current incarnation. As Chicago Tonight’s Nick Blumberg reports, that claim hasn’t quieted calls for the university to acknowledge history and make amends.

The Chicago Department of Transportation said Friday that it’s launching a new community engagement effort – more than two years since the city’s cyclist and pedestrian safety groups met. (WTTW News)

CDOT Announces New Public Engagement Effort, After Years Without Advisory Group Meetings

The Chicago Department of Transportation said Friday that it’s launching a new community engagement effort. It will take the place of the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Council, Mayor’s Pedestrian Advisory Council, and the Vision Zero Advocacy Group.

(WTTW News)

Send Photos of Blocked Bike Lanes to 311, Alderman Says – But CDOT Says it Won’t Pursue Citations

While the Chicago Department of Transportation encourages residents to submit complaints of blocked bike lanes to 311, “requests sent to 311 are not sent to Administrative Hearings for ticketing,” CDOT said in a statement.

(WTTW News)

Bucktown Starbucks Employees Vote to Unionize; 5th Chicagoland Location, Among 150 Nationwide

With Tuesday’s successful vote in Chicago and another in St. Louis, organizers say there are now 150 union Starbucks locations around the U.S.

(WTTW News)

Redesigned Roads, Better Enforcement, and Changing Driver Mindsets: Cyclists Demand Changes to Make City Roadways Safe for All

Cyclist and pedestrian safety advocates rally for change after two toddlers are killed by drivers on Chicago streets.

A memorial for three-year-old Lily Shambrook at the Uptown intersection where she was killed by a driver while riding in a carrier on her mother’s bike is pictured on June 12, 2022. (Nick Blumberg / WTTW News)

Anger, Tears and Calls to Action at Rally for Cyclist and Pedestrian Safety

The walk-and-roll rally on Sunday began at Leavitt Street and Eastwood Avenue in Lincoln Square, where 2-year-old Raphael “Rafi” Cardenas was struck and killed by a driver June 2 while he was crossing the street on a scooter. At last report, the driver has not been cited.

(WTTW News)

One Win, Two Losses for Chicago Starbucks Locations Voting to Unionize

The Hyde Park vote brings the total number of unionized Starbucks locations in the Chicago area to four. Bucktown Starbucks employees are currently voting by mail on unionizing, with results expected next Tuesday. 

 The Belmont Rocks were a limestone stretch of the lakefront where Chicago’s LGBTQ community started gathering in the 1960s. (Courtesy Owen Keehnen)

AIDS Garden Chicago Opens on a Lakefront Site With a Vibrant Queer History

The AIDS Garden Chicago, a project many years in the making, is now open to the public. Located just south of Belmont Harbor, the garden’s location has a meaningful place in the history of the city’s queer community.

(WTTW News)

Another Edgewater Starbucks Announces Unionization Effort; Second Chicago Location Within a Week

On the heels of Chicago’s first two Starbucks locations voting to join a union last Wednesday, workers at one of the company’s Edgewater coffee shops announced plans to file for representation Tuesday morning. 

Amazon’s Gage Park warehouse. (WTTW News)

Amazon Warehouse Workers Stage Walkout, Claiming Racist Harassment and Wrongful Termination

Amazonians United says Black and Latino workers have been harassed while taking bathroom breaks and that managers have made derogatory and racist comments. The group accuses management of wrongfully firing Rakyle Johnson for sabotaging equipment, despite no proof on video and testimony to the contrary from nearby coworkers.

Workers from two Starbucks locations in Edgewater celebrate successful unionization votes on May 25, 2022. (Nick Blumberg / WTTW News)

2 Edgewater Starbucks Locations Vote to Unionize, Marking First Organized Stores in Chicago

Four other stores in Chicago – in Bucktown, Hyde Park, Logan Square, and downtown – are currently voting by mail on whether to unionize, with results expected in June. It’s part of a nationwide effort to organize Starbucks coffee shops that’s rapidly gained steam in the last year. 

(WTTW News)

CPS Replacing ‘Cornerstone’ Arts Program, Upsetting Some Educators and Students

The Advanced Arts Program has been running for more than 20 years. Before the pandemic, about 150 students were dismissed from their home school in time to travel to the Gallery 37 building for two hours of instruction each day. 

For the first time in more than 50 years, Congress held an open hearing on unidentified flying objects.

Congress Holds First Public Hearing on UFOs in More than 50 Years

Tuesday, Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie and Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray testified for more than 90 minutes before House lawmakers, and later went into closed session to discuss information related to unidentified aerial phenomena(UAP) they won’t yet make public.

Preservationists are calling attention to a style of home known as workers cottages – an original form of affordable housing. (WTTW News)

Cataloging and Celebrating the Workers Cottage, One of Chicago’s Original Affordable Homes

Much of Chicago is defined by its residential buildings, a beautiful mishmash of styles, sizes, and ages. Now, preservationists are calling attention to a style of home known as workers cottages – an original form of affordable housing.

Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, a candidate for governor in the Republican primary, holds a news conference on May 9, 2022. (WTTW News)

GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Richard Irvin Slams Pritzker, Sidesteps Questions on Roe and Trump

Aurora Mayor and Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Irvin slammed Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s handling of a COVID-19 outbreak at a state-run veterans’ home during a Monday press conference – and repeatedly avoided questions about whether he voted for Donald Trump and his stance on Roe v. Wade potentially being overturned.

(WTTW News)

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

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.