Monthly Archives: May 2016

Chicago Employer Called Out for Insane Executive Pay

Business Man Displaying a Spread of CashIn 1980, the average CEO-to-worker pay ratio was just 42 to 1. Today, that number has skyrocketed to 335 to 1.

The AFL-CIO, the largest federation of labor unions in the country, just released their annual Executive Paywatch report, which shines a light on accelerating income inequality. And this year, the AFL-CIO is shining a spotlight on a Chicago employer currently in the process of laying off 600 Chicago workers.

The Executive Paywatch report calls out Mondelez International CEO Irene Rosenfeld, who they say makes 534 times the average non-supervisory worker in the United States. The company is best known for snack foods like Oreos, and in 2015 Rosenfeld received an executive payment package of $19.7 million, even as she asked workers to give up millions in annual pay and benefits.

The Huffington Post reports that Mondelez International warned Chicago workers their jobs would be moved to Mexico unless they went without $46 million in salary and benefits. Right now, the company is already laying off 600 workers, or exactly half of its entire Chicago workforce.

Today, two-thirds of young people between the ages of 18 and 24 have moved within the past five years, and the U.S. Census Bureau says 43 million Americans move every year, most often to seek out new job opportunities.

Mondelez International is just one of the companies called out by name in the report, but it’s illustrative of the income inequality that’s rampant in corporate America. The AFL-CIO reports that in 2015 executives at the top 500 companies earned 335 times more than the average U.S. worker, with an average executive receiving $12.5 million last year.

“Corporate CEOs have rewritten the rules of our economy to allow themselves to continue to amass wealth and power, while the rest of us are left to the scraps,” said Heather Slavkin Corzo, who directs the AFL-CIO office of investment. “We think it’s important information for investors to understand the compensation practices within individual companies.”

Starting next year, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will require corporations to publicly reveal their internal pay ratios.

Chicago Lawmakers Convene to Craft Budget Agreement

A new budget agreement has been crafted by lawmakers and is now pending approval in legislation. According to sources from Chicago Tonight, the new budget framework will include higher taxes, big cuts in spending, and a possible Chicago casino.
The budget agreement would include almost $8 billion in new taxes and spending cuts, with $5.4 billion in new taxes. This will come to fruition by raising the income tax up to 4.85% and broadening the sales tax in order to cover services.
As far as the $2.5 billion in cuts, Chicago Tonight reports that it includes pension reforms, such as shifting higher pension costs away from the state and instead shifting them toward local districts.

Money

Additionally, the lawmakers discussed the addition of five potential casinos — including a casino in Chicago the city’s mayor says could fund police and firefighter pensions.
However, this agreement does not necessarily mean that lawmakers have established a final budget. Rather, the final word will be said when legislative leaders decide what they want to do with it.
Some GOP representatives have hinted that the final agreement will have to have other reform items. Sources report that a separate bipartisan group is working on said reforms, which include changes to workers’ compensation — something that currently costs employers $83.2 billion nationwide. Other issues include local government consolidation as well as reform in the way local governments deal with public employee unions.
Legislators have yet to agree on education funding and similar issues.
In addition to the budget agreement, the General Assembly passed funding for critical social service programs, allocating a little over $700 million for that include everything from mental health and HIV services to youth employment.
“These are incredibly valuable, worthwhile programs that are funded in here that are critical to provide for the neediest folks in the state,” said state Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago).

800,000 Illinois Residents Could Be Exposed To Lead Poisoning

water glassThe Flint, MI, water crisis is already one of the greatest man-made environmental catastrophes in U.S. history, and now the Chicago Tribune has identified 200 communities in Illinois with lead levels that exceed the federal safety standards. In total, the affected public water systems service more than 800,000 Illinois residents, including many in the Chicago area.

But state officials say those shocking numbers aren’t quite as disturbing as they appear. The Chicago Tribune pored over state data and determined that 200 public water systems have had at least one lead test that exceeded the federal limits during one year or more since 2004.

in fact, some Illinois towns rely on water that regularly contains alarming levels of lead. Locally, the Tribune reports that “Berwyn and Forest View in Cook County, York Township in DuPage County, Barrington and Volo in Lake County, and Marengo and Richmond in McHenry County” also surpassed recommended safe levels of lead. Not only that, but “Testing by those water systems found more than 15 parts per billion of lead in the tap water of at least 10 percent of the homes tested, highlighting the lingering danger from lead pipes and plumbing installed during the past century.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has been criticized for its slow and reactive handling of the Flint water crisis, and now the agency is urging local communities to respond quickly to elevated levels of lead, even if it means supplying residents with bottled water indefinitely.

How Does Lead Get in Our Drinking Water?

For decades the United States has been the largest producer of chemical products in the world. The industry was valued at $770 billion in 2012, and today there are more than 84,000 chemicals on the market, many of which are largely unregulated.

In a 2010 hearing before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health, former Senator Frank Lautenberg said that this lack of oversight turns kids into “guinea pigs in an uncontrolled experiment.”

“Everything from our cars to the cell phones we all have in our pockets are made with chemicals,” EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said at the hearing. “A child born in America today will grow up exposed to more chemicals than any other generation in our history.”

It’s no wonder many parents have turned into “chemophobes,” who try and limit their children’s exposure to chemicals. But the dangers of lead are well known. Lead poisoning is an incurable disease that can cause developmental delays, learning problems, fatigue, hearing loss, and is associated with a higher risk of violent crime.

In the past, lead was commonly used in household paints and pipes, some of which are still in use today. That means that even if a public water system doesn’t contain lead pipes, a home’s internal plumbing could release lead into the water.

In Flint, chemicals in the water supply corroded lead pipes, releasing it into the drinking water. According to the EPA, there is no safe level of lead, and lead pipes may need to be replaced entirely.

To learn more about lead in Chicago homes, read this 2013 EPA study on Chicago’s aging water system.

Attempt to Raise Legal Tobacco Age to 21 Fails in Illinois Senate

man drinking beer and smoking cigarette at barAn attempt to raise the legal age for purchasing tobacco failed in the Illinois Senate last week.

Legislature promoted by Democratic Senator John Mulroe of Chicago would have prohibited the sale of tobacco products to people under the age of 21; however, Thursday’s vote shut down the proposal 23-25.

Supporters of the bill argued that it would prevent young people from getting hooked, but opponents insisted that 18-year-olds, eligible to join the military, should be able to make their own choices regarding tobacco.

This proposal comes in the wake of California’s new laws, which are tightening the restrictions on tobacco sales in the state. Just last Wednesday, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that has raised the age of tobacco purchases from 18 to 21, making California the second state in the U.S. to pass this law.

“What this means for California is now we can know that our youth are less likely to be addicted to this horrible drug of tobacco,” commented Senator Ed Hernandez, the lead author of the bill. “There’s going to be less addiction to tobacco, [and] we’re going to reduce health care costs and save lives.” The state senator, a Democrat from West Covina, says he’s “ecstatic.”

The law will go into effect starting June 9 and will apply to all 18- to 20 year-olds except military personnel, who will still be able to purchase tobacco. This compromise addresses the concerns brought up by opponents of the bill who argue that if a person is old enough to fight for his or her country, that person should be allowed to purchase tobacco.

A recent report concluded that if all 50 states were to follow suit, raising the legal tobacco age to 21, there would be a 12% drop in the number of young smokers. Advocates of the change hope to improve the overall health of the American people. Smoking is known to cause an assortment of health problems, including heart disease and lung cancer, and can double the risk of age-related macular degeneration, which leads to irreversible vision loss.

Chicago Hoteliers Blame Airbnb for Low Sales, Calls for Regulation

Airbnb_Logo_Bélo.svgIn a world where search engines kick off 95% of all Internet experiences, it has become easy to find anything on the World Wide Web. But now, established businesses are getting the state government involved in regulating the cheaper choices available online.

Hotel and bed and breakfast owners are calling for the State of Illinois to investigate and shut down illegal hotels popularized by the website Airbnb.

They believe tourists are coming to Chicago and staying in Airbnb properties because of the low prices their hotels cannot compete with. As Airbnbs function by a homeowner renting out their own house to a guest, they can choose their prices; hotels, on the other hand, typically cannot be that flexible.

The problem, according to the hotels, is not homeowners renting out their rooms for a few weeks a year while they are away. The hospitality industry is, however, urging the government to look into Airbnb users who rent for long periods of time.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association reported that 96% of Airbnb business in the metropolitan Chicago area came from 75% of Airbnb operators renting for more than 30 days a year.

Additionally, 58% of the company’s Chicago-based revenue was from properties available for more than 180 days a year.

Hoteliers and bed and breakfast owners are not only reporting a drop in vacancy, but real estate availability for potential owners is being threatened.

Alderman Michelle Smith, who represents the 43rd Ward, says there is only a 2% vacancy in her neighborhood.

She tells WTTW Chicago, “Every time another person takes an apartment unit off the market and converts it into a vacation rental by an absentee owner-investor, that’s actually taking out space for people who want to live in Lincoln Park year-round.”

In response to this problem, Mayor Rahm Emanuel proposed a bill to limit short-term rentals to 90 days. After this time period, the city would implement strict licensing.

This bill has come with criticism, with the opposition calling for action from City Council.

As of May 10, additional proposals are still on the table.

Non-Profit Illinois-Based Plastic Group Names Four New Members

Businessman looking at Innovation plan.The Plastics Pioneers Association recently announced they have named four new members to their organization, According to PlasticsNews.com. The Plastic Pioneers Association (PPA) is a non-profit organization based in McHenry, IL, and contains over 200 members. Every member has at least 25 years of experience in the plastic industry and the new inductees are no exception.

The PPA is dedicated to preserving the history of the industry and one of their primary modes of doing this is through scholarship awards to students who are interesting in a career in plastics. From their website, their states goals include:

“To recognize achievements in the fields of plastics and/or polymer science, engineering, technology, education, sales/marketing, or management. To support industry-wide educational programs. To promote the study and improvement of plastics and/or polymer science, engineering, and technology in the Plastics Industry.”

The group announced the four new members (two men and two women) at their annual spring meeting, which was held in Florida. Here is a brief synopsis of each new member and their career achievements.

Aline Alroy was one of the two women to be welcomed into the group. Alroy is currently the vice president of sales at a Hackensack, N.J.-based manufacturer of polymer filtration systems, High-Technology Corp.

In addition to her time spent there, Alroy has served on the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.’s Equipment Council and has held various other roles related to the industry.

One of the other new members is Kenneth Pawluck, a plastics and mechanical engineering manager at Pleasanton, Calif.-based Natus Medical Inc. Pawluck is an established inventor/innovator in the industry as he currently holds 23 patents (three pending) of his own. For this kind of work he has been recognized by RandD Magazine and Injection Molding Magazine.

Pawluck was also the chair of SPE’s Product Design and Development and Rotational Molding divisions. Rotational molding is a unique, four-stage method that uses heat to mold resin in a plastic mold. He also owned his own consulting firm for about eight years that specialized in plastics, medical, commercial and industrial product design, development and root cause failure analysis.

To learn more about the other two new members check out the news piece here.

Chicago Woman Arrested for Allegedly Driving Drunk Assaults Officers During Booking

Gavel, symbol of judicial decisions and justiceThis isn’t the first time Latoya King has tangled with the law, but perhaps for her sake it will be the last.

According to ABC 7 Chicago, King, 32, was pulled over at approximately 2:30 a.m. a couple of Saturdays ago in the 3200-block of Harlem in Riverside for speeding. She subsequently failed six field sobriety tests and a plastic cup of Remi Martin was found in her vehicle, according to police.

King ultimately took a breathalyzer and blew a 0.16 blood-alcohol level, which is twice the legal limit. It was at about this time that King started to get violent.

Riverside police officials provided the following account of the events that transpired during King’s booking:

“While she was being fingerprinted and booked, she broke away from the officers and started to kick and punch the live scan booking machine. She then started to violently fight with the arresting officers in the booking room. She punched, kicked and spit directly in one of the officer’s face, mouth, eyes and nose. This fight continued in such a violent manner that the Riverside 911 Center asked for assistance in the booking room. The Lyons Police Department dispatched personnel to assist Riverside.”

The police officer who was directly assaulted was transported to Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood. He was released later that morning with no reported serious injuries or conditions.

Drunk driving in itself is a serious and potentially fatal crime that costs more than $37 billion annually and tens of thousands of lives every year. In addition to felony aggravated drunk driving, King was also charged with aggravated battery to a police officer, obstruction of identification, resisting arrest, misdemeanor drunken driving, driving with no valid driver’s license and several other traffic related citations.

As alluded to at the beginning of this piece, this is not King’s first run-in with police. According to law enforcement officials, she has a record of past arrests for things such as obstruction, invasion of privacy, traffic offenses, assault, damage to property, and theft.

Helping Veterans Go Fishing: Chicago Event to Help Struggling Vets

In Chicago, a recent donation event was hosted encouraging local fishermen and fishing companies to donate their gear to give to veterans for “fishing therapy.”

Joseph Lomalie, 34, from Oak Lawn, was injured in Afghanistan in 2008. Like so many other veterans, he currently suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression.

The Chicago Tribune reports that in 2014, Lomalie founded Helping Veterans Go Fishing after realizing it was fishing that helped him deal with his trauma.

There are more than 38 million Americans who hunt and fish, and there are many reasons as to why these activities are so popular. But for Lomalie, the therapeutic benefits are what drive him to go fishing.

“I realized when I was fishing, it helped me keep my mind off my pain — and brought peace to it — and got me motivated to get out of my house and be active,” Lomalie said.

According to VeteransAndPTSD.com, more than 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or depression.

The event, held at VFW Post 5220 in Oak Lawn, held a raffle to win even more fishing equipment, a guided fishing tour from Army Major and professional bass fisherman Mike Rasco, and a $1,500 boat.

It is the Helping Veterans Go Fishing foundation’s second annual event, and this year more than two dozen veterans attended.

All proceeds from the event will go to a free fishing outing and barbecue in September for veterans and their families.

“We go out fishing to relax,” said Ed Sturtevant, a 48-year-old veteran from Wauconda. He served 17 years in the Army before being discharged in May of 2001. He, too, suffers from depression and believes fishing helps him take his mind off the trauma.

“When we’re out fishing,” Sturtevant said, “we’re not thinking about anything except for the fish.”

Cub’s Kris Bryant Back in Lineup After Mild Ankle Sprain

Painful FootLast Thursday’s MRI results revealed that Chicago Cubs third baseman Kris Bryant’s ankle sprain would keep him out of service for a full weekend; however, he returned to the field for Sunday morning’s game against the Braves.

Bryant rolled his ankle while rounding second base on Thursday and was forced to sit out on Friday’s victory over the Braves. Due to Saturday’s rainout, Bryant was able to get in another day of rest.

“I had a really bad angle going into second, so I tried to make up for it and cut a corner a little too tight,” the third baseman said. “The ankle went the other way… I’ve dealt with a lot worse.”

Manager Joe Maddon expected Bryant to get back into the game on Monday, but Sunday morning’s warmups showed that the player was feeling well enough to jump back in early. “The training staff said, ‘He’s fine. Go for it. Don’t worry about it,'” Maddon said.

Reports estimate that as many as 25,000 Americans suffer from an ankle sprain every day. It is an incredibly common injury, especially among professional athletes.

Bryant has suffered from ankle problems in the past and usually tapes his ankles before every game. Because he had been feeling so well recently, he had actually stopped taping his ankles, which is what caused last week’s injury.

Bryant says he will go back to taping his ankles in order to prevent further harm.

“The [risk] with sprained ankles is to re-jam it somehow,” said Maddon. “That’s the problem with the ankle. You could be feeling fine after even a week or two weeks and you just hit it wrong and you feel it.”

Chicago Just Lost One of Its Best Chefs and You Can Probably Guess to Where

foodIf you’ve ever eaten at the world-famous Next restaurant in Chicago, then you no doubt know who Dave Beran is. Unfortunately, for those that enjoy his innovative and delectable style of cooking you will no longer be able to enjoy it in the Windy City.

In fact, you’ll have to make quite a trek to enjoy his meals again. Here’s a hint: it’s not New York either. Although the Big Apple is considered by many to be the cuisine capital of the world in many ways, Beran chose to take is cooking talents to Los Angeles.

According to Los Angeles Eater, Beran is moving out to the West Coast just as Chicago is about to gain famous Los Angeles chef Julian Cox.

Yet as disappointing as this loss may be for Chicago, the situation does offer unique opportunities, too. Now each city will get a chance to learn, appreciate, and enjoy delicious dishes born in cities quite unlike one another.

Approximately 45 million people move every year for various reasons; oftentimes these moves are tied to employment. Losing top talent is never a good thing for any business, but in a field like the culinary world, it’s a somewhat unfortunate reality that in order to reach the true ceiling, a chef probably has to take a crack at either the New York City or Los Angeles markets at some point.

“It is a bittersweet moment for us to announce that chef Dave Beran will be moving to California to pursue his dream of opening a restaurant in Los Angeles,” Nick Kokonas told LA Eater. “Chef Beran has been an integral part of our team at both Alinea and Next and his leadership and spirit of culinary innovation and discovery has helped Next achieve such great success. While we are sad to see him move on, we understand that it’s a logical next step for him personally and we wish him every success in California.”

The next chef de cuisine at Next will reportedly be James Beard award finalist Jenner Tomaska.