Despite the Biden administration’s decision to terminate the national Public Health Emergency Declaration on May 11, COVID-19 has continued to spread and mutate, leaving millions dead around the world and millions of others chronically ill, permanently disabled, and/or immunocompromised. The pandemic itself, and the botched responses to it by powerful state and market actors (including, and especially, the United States), have inflicted irreversible damage upon our societies, and that damage has been disproportionately felt by marginalized, poor, and working-class people. But the many injustices working people have had to endure during the pandemic, and the many sacrifices we have had to make, have also played a direct role in galvanizing the emerging wave of worker organizing and the renewed labor militancy we are currently witnessing.
Over the past year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has bused more than 13,000 migrants to Chicago. Many entered the city with next to nothing — and some didn’t even make it safely. Last month, the Texas Department of Emergency Management announced that a 3-year-old girl had died en route to Chicago from Texas — the first known fatality of Abbott’s Operation Lone Star. For years, Chicago has declared itself a sanctuary city, and substantial state and local resources have been allocated, helping many of the new arrivals tomove into more permanent housing. Still, about 6,500 of these migrants are spread out across 15 shelters, and about 1,500 are sleeping at airports and police stations.
On the last Friday of summer break, Stacy Davis Gates was in high spirits. At a back-to-school party in the parking lot of Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) headquarters, she bounced from one group to another, smiling as she posed for photos with alderpersons, union activists, parents and children. Davis Gates, who has been the president of the CTU for a little over a year, has good reason to be happy. In April, Brandon Johnson, a former middle school teacher and CTU organizer, was elected mayor. And Chicago Public Schools (CPS) CEO Pedro Martinez, who often mentions that he’s a product of CPS, was also at the party, beaming and shaking hands.
A quick trip through any major American city and you can see it for yourself – “tent cities” underneath highways or alongside parks, people sleeping on the sidewalk, overcrowded and resource-stripped shelters. It is estimated that there are nearly 600,000 homeless people across the US, marking the highest yearly surge since the government began tracking the data in 2007, according to the Wall Street Journal. Major cities like Los Angeles are seeing homeless populations spike almost 10 percent from last year. This problem has been deeply exacerbated in the post-pandemic era. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, rent was already skyrocketing due to inflation levels as well as “development projects”, forcing long-time residents, mainly minorities, out of their own neighborhoods.
Chicago, Illinois - Following an 11-day strike that galvanized a Chicago West Side neighborhood, around 200 hospital workers treating uninsured and underinsured patients have won and ratified a new contract they believe will help them better serve the community. Members of SEIU Healthcare, the mostly Black employees include nursing assistants, emergency room technicians, mental health workers and janitorial staff at Loretto Hospital, a 122-bed medical facility in the Austin neighborhood. Loretto is a privately run but publicly funded “safety-net” hospital, treating low-income patients regardless of their insurance, especially around issues such as addiction and mental health.
What if there was a way to trade time and share skills with your neighbors in a way that met a range of needs without involving cash? Since 2017, the Kola Nut Collaborative has operated Chicago’s only open-platform time and skills exchange, otherwise known as a timebank. Part mutual aid and community organizing, members come together to hear each other’s needs and share what they have to offer. Founding coordinator Mike Strode speaks with Laura about the changes he has seen in his community, how people are showing up for others, and what it takes to build a solidarity economy. Tune in for more on timebanking, and how it just might work in your community.
Climate change is causing global temperatures to rise, leading to droughts, heat waves and wildfires. It is warming the surface of the ocean, intensifying hurricanes and increasing acidity and ecosystem imbalances. But the climate crisis is also happening beneath our feet, in a phenomenon called “underground climate change.” The concept has been studied for years surrounding issues of railroad tracks buckling in the heat and groundwater contamination, according to CNN. However, it was not until recently, in a new study by Alessandro F. Rotta Loria, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering at Northwestern University, that the effects of underground climate change — also known as “subsurface heat islands” — on civil infrastructure were examined, a press release from Northwestern University said.
On July 14, 300 workers turned out for the latest practice picket and rally at the UPS Jefferson Street Hub on the Near West Side of Chicago. International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 705 and Local 710 organized this event, which was the largest of many practice pickets in the Chicago area that occurred throughout the week. Flyers promoting the event read, “Chicago Teamsters stand up to UPS greed!” The event comes as contract negotiations between the IBT and United Parcel Service remain halted. The Teamsters already negotiated a major win for full-time drivers with the end of the two-tier classification system, known as 22.4.
On Saturday, July 1, more than 70 students and activists gathered in downtown Chicago. They joined the nationwide campaign by Students for a Democratic Society and the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression demanding that the charges on the Tampa 5 be dropped. The Tampa 5 are Gia Davila, Laura Rodriguez, Chrisley Carpio, Lauren Pineiro and Jeanie Kida. They are students and workers in Florida who were beaten and arrested, and now facing ten years in prison, for protesting DeSantis’ far-right attacks on diversity in education. The Chicago rally was called by Students for a Democratic Society and endorsed by a dozen other organizations.
The story I want to tell has to do with the Philippines in the early twentieth century. But it will also have to do with policing across the United States and here on campus, and ultimately with the University of Chicago. In 1898, the United States declared sovereignty over the Philippine Islands, places which President McKinley and most Americans had no idea even existed. But as a result of the Spanish-American war in 1898 the US did come to learn about the Philippines. It sent its troops there to fight the Spanish, and upon defeating Spain, it seized the Philippines and its millions of inhabitants as its new colonial territory.
Twenty years ago, Chicago was in the process of one of the greatest — and most misguided — experiments ever attempted to reform public education in America. It was an effort to completely reshape city schools in the image of the market by emphasizing school-to-school competition, merit-based pay, and a disastrous game of survival of the fittest by closing schools that didn’t test well or meet certain criteria set by the business class. If successful, it would have reshaped Chicago in what would later become the new normal in New Orleans, where the city swapped its public schools for charters after reformers took hold following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
You might think that, having been raised a mile from where 10 workers were killed and 30 more were shot by police while picketing a steel plant, I would have heard of such a tragedy. More confounding, my great-uncle, Eddie Marasovic, was wounded by a police bullet in that violent affair that would become known as a massacre. Yet I knew nothing of it. It happened in May, 1937, before I was born, on the prairie outside the Republic Steel plant on Chicago’s East Side. This spit of land, along Lake Michigan’s southern tip, linked the steel plants of southern Chicago to a long string of industry that reached through Indiana, giving rise to what labor economists called the largest steel producing region in the world.
More than half of all people on Earth live in cities, and that share could reach 70% by 2050. But except for public parks, there aren’t many models for nature conservation that focus on caring for nature in urban areas. One new idea that’s gaining attention is the concept of food forests – essentially, edible parks. These projects, often sited on vacant lots, grow large and small trees, vines, shrubs and plants that produce fruits, nuts and other edible products. Unlike community gardens or urban farms, food forests are designed to mimic ecosystems found in nature, with many vertical layers. They shade and cool the land, protecting soil from erosion and providing habitat for insects, animals, birds and bees.
In July of 2021, after decades of grassroots organizing and pressure, the city of Chicago passed the Empowering Communities for Public Safety ordinance. As designated by the ordinance, 66 people were elected to represent 22 police districts in the council elections this year. They were inaugurated on May 2. The new council will oversee the police in Chicago. Clearing the FOG speaks with Frank Chapman, executive director of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, about how they built the grassroots power to win the ordinance, what it will do and the police response to it. Chapman said NAARPR was formed after the murder of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark and that Hampton's vision is finally beginning to be realized more than 50 years later.