Stories by Nick Blumberg

(WTTW News)

Why Will County Residents Are Fighting a Major Logistics Hub — and Why Backers Say It’s Needed

Will County is home to the largest inland port in the United States, taking in an array of products that just about all of us depend upon. But serving as a major logistics hub has made its mark on the community: traffic jams, potholes, open land converted to warehouses.

(WTTW News)

How Byproduct From Local Breweries is Helping Clean Our Wastewater

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District treats stormwater and wastewater for more than 5 million people in Cook County. One of the methods to treat that water is a surprising way to reuse a byproduct from the creation of a very popular beverage: locally brewed beer.

(WTTW News)

CTA’s Reliance on Overtime Continued to Rise in 2022 as Agency Lost Bus Drivers

The staffing shortfall is one of a plethora of issues plaguing the CTA in recent months. Frustrated riders and alderpeople have slammed agency leadership for late or missing buses and trains, inadequate cleaning, safety issues and not providing social services to unhoused people.

(WTTW News)

Greektown Starbucks Workers Announce Union Effort; Organizers Accuse Company of Stalling Negotiations

The Greektown workers’ announcement comes on the heels of Starbucks workers at Old Orchard Mall in Skokie and the location near Main Street and Chicago Avenue in Evanston voting last month in favor of joining Starbucks Workers United, an SEIU affiliate.

(WTTW News)

WTTW News Explains: Why Can’t You Buy a Car on Sundays?

Since the 1980s, it’s been illegal for car dealerships to operate on Sundays in Illinois. WTTW News explains why.

Just 33 of the 2,846 signals the city maintains have an accessible pedestrian signal, like this one pictured. (WTTW News)

Chicago’s Plan to Make Crosswalks Accessible for Blind Pedestrians Moving at a Crawl

Last March, the Chicago Department of Transportation said it was planning to install about 150 accessible pedestrian signals in 2022 and 2023. So far, only nine of those signals are actually up and running – and only eight of them are new, since one of those installations was an upgrade to an older signal.

Russia Brown, a former CTA employee, is now suing the transit agency and his union alleging discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination. (WTTW News)

Trans Former Bus Driver Sues CTA, Union for Discrimination and Wrongful Termination

In 2019, WTTW News covered his successful push for the CTA to add gender affirming care to its health insurance policy. The employee behind that push has since been fired and is now suing the agency and his union. 

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

From Starbucks to Marijuana Dispensaries, 2022 Marked a Year of Gains for Labor Organizers in Chicago, US

Workers at high-profile companies like Amazon and Starbucks have unionized, as have employees at smaller chains and locally-owned firms. Chicago workers have also been part of the wave. Here’s a look at some of the big developments over the past year.

(WTTW News)

Illinois Starbucks Union Organizers Join Nationwide Strike as More Locations Join Labor Effort

Workers at six Starbucks locations in Chicago and the suburbs are joining a nationwide wave of three-day unfair labor practice strikes aimed at the mega-coffee retailer, organizers say.

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.