Monthly Archives: June 2016

Chicago Close to Passing Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

cold medsThe Chicago City Council’s Committee on Workforce Development and Audit unanimously approved the earned sick time ordinance proposal, which would require all employers to offer paid sick leave.

Under the ordinance, employees would accrue one hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked, capping at five sick days per 12-month period.

The full City Council still needs to consider the proposal, but if passed, Chicago would join 26 other cities, five states, and one county that already offer paid sick time. The legislation would take effect in Chicago on July 1, 2017.

Some business interest groups have criticized the proposal, calling it overcomplicated and inconsiderate to business owners. They are concerned that the proposed law would not provide enough protection for employers to ensure that workers do not abuse it.

“By this language, anyone could call in anytime, without notice, claim an illness, legitimate or not,” argued Paul Fehribach, chef and co-owner at Big Jones, a restaurant with 25 hourly employees who do not currently get paid sick days.

Realistically, offering paid sick leave would increase labor costs by up to 1.5%, according to the nonprofit organization Civic Consulting Alliance. Small business owners, in particular, have expressed frustration with all of the changes that seem to be happening at once, including minimum-wage hikes and the plastic bag ban.

On the other hand, some business owners have shown support for the proposal, saying that offering employees these benefits would reduce turnover and boost morale. “Our employees need to know that we’ve got their backs,” said Dimo’s Pizza owner Dimitri Syrkin-Nikolau.

Right now, approximately 42% of Chicago private-sector workers do not have access to paid sick leave, and low-wage workers and Hispanics are the least likely to be given access. Thus, this legislation is intended to protect Chicago residents like Noemi Hernandez, who works as a bartender.

Hernandez, a single mother to an eight-year-old, has too often had to forgo a day’s wages and risk her job to stay home with a sick child. “It’s two losses at once,” she said. “You lose the wage and you have to pay a doctor’s bill.”

Many workers, in Chicago and across the nation, feel compelled to go to work when sick in order to protect their jobs and secure their paychecks. Unfortunately, this decision puts an entire workplace at risk as illnesses spread between coworkers.

According to a National Health Interview Survey, influenza alone is responsible for 200 million days of decreased productivity and 75 million days of work absence.

Chicago’s proposed ordinance is designed to prevent the spread of illness while allowing workers to secure their wages and rest assured that their jobs are safe.

Axl Rose Wants an Unflattering Photograph Removed From the Internet

multitasking in handsIn early 2010, a photographer covered a Guns N’ Roses concert, snapping photos of singer Axl Rose. The images accompanied the paper’s positive review of the show. Shortly after, however, they caught the attention of a heavy metal news magazine, which proceeded to republish the photos under a very different headline: “OMFG Axl Rose is fat.”

This was the beginning of the “Fat Axl,” meme that involves rewriting Guns N’ Roses songs to mock the appearance of 2010-era Rose.

It appears that Rose has finally had enough of it, too. Google received a slew of DMCA copyright notices over the past week requesting the removal of one of those images from the Internet.

However, with approximately 4.49 billion webpages on the internet, Axl may have a bit of a challenge ahead of him.

Not only that, but the band is set to go on a summer stadium tour that includes a July 1 stop at Soldier Field. This has only served to amplify the presence of the meme.

The copyright notices, filed on behalf of Rose, target several cropped versions of the original unflattering photo, along with others that have been fashioned into memes. One image is captioned, “take me down to the bakery city/where the pies have cream and the cakes are tasty.”

It’s entirely understandable why Rose would not like the “Fat Axl” meme, which exists entirely to mock his weight, but in his quest for removal of the images lies a small complication.

As TorrentFreak noted in its report on the complaints, the question of who actually owns the copyright to these photos is in dispute.

Winnipeg Free Press photographer Boris Minkevich took the original photos. Mike Aporius, the paper’s photography and multimedia director, said the Winnipeg Free Press owns the editorial copyright for the photos and hasn’t approved any third-party usage.

And the meme itself? “We were only recently made aware of these memes,” Aporius continued, “and while we ethically don’t approve, viral media is impossible for us to regulate. Welcome to the jungle.”

The company representing Rose, however, has a different story.

The company released a statement to TorrentFreak arguing that Rose owned the copyright to the photos, because “all official / accredited photographers at [Axl Rose] shows sign-off on ‘Photography Permission’ contracts.”

Rose isn’t the first celebrity to want a photo removed from the Internet, either. Celebrities like The Foo Fighters and even Beyoncé have had internet photo disputes.

This kind of situation has been deemed the Streisand Effect, for an incident in 2003 where Barbara Streisand tried — and ultimately failed — to erase an aerial picture of her mansion from an online database used by researchers who study coastal erosion.

The Internet truly is a jungle, and only time will tell if Axl will get his wish.

Hundreds of Fans Wait for Hours in Sweltering Chicago Heat to Get Tickets to ‘Hamilton’

standing-in-line-649896_960_720Hundreds of hopeful fans lined up in downtown Chicago last week to get their hands on tickets to the award-winning musical “Hamilton.” Some even camped out on the sidewalk overnight on Monday, June 20, eager to see this year’s hottest Broadway show.

The line began outside The Private Bank Theatre and wrapped all the way around the block. For many patient people, there was no shade in which to escape from the sweltering 90-degree temperatures, but they claimed suffering through the heat was worth it to score tickets to “Hamilton,” which won 11 Tony Awards.

“I have wanted to see this show since before it opened. I love LLM [Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator and star of the musical], and I have so many friends in New York who’ve seen it, and I’ve envied them so much, because this musical is amazing. It’s about the American experience; the way it’s cast, the way it’s sung, it’s just everything that makes America great,” said Olivia Wong.

The award-winning hip-hop musical about the United States’ first Treasury Secretary was an instant hit among Americans from diverse demographics. The racially and ethnically diverse fans in line in Chicago said that the show’s heterogeneous cast drew them to the musical.

“Hamilton was an immigrant, and as the daughter of immigrants, the theme really stuck with me,” said one patiently waiting fan, Rocio Valladares.

The show opens on September 27 and will run for a total of 199 performances until March 19. Though tickets are available by phone at 800-775-2000 or online at broadwayinchicago.com, fans should expect prices to reach outrageous heights the longer they wait. By 11 a.m. on Tuesday, there were still available tickets advertised online for $117; however, by noon ticket prices were ranging from $369 to $8,000 on the StubHub ticket resale website.

Considering that fans in New York paid upwards of $15,000 per ticket, the people patiently suffering in the 90-degree heat in Chicago seem slightly less insane. The average person has between two and four million sweat glands acting as the body’s coolant system to protect it from overheating, and there’s no question that every single one of them was hard at work for those eager fans trying to score “Hamilton” tickets in Chicago this month.

How One Chicago Fashion Company Became a Pillar of Technology

Businessman looking at Innovation plan.Over 95% of individuals in the United States wear t-shirts, but not everyone can say their shirts are from a tech-savvy fashion company. Yet one fashion company in Chicago is changing the way technology impacts their business.

Whoever said the Chicago technology scene was an ordinary cluster of B2B contenders has clearly never met the team at Trunk Club.

Headquartered in River North, the on-demand fashion tech company has become somewhat of an institution in Chicago, a city often criticized for its lack of flashy, consumer-facing products.

Since its launch in 2009, the company has grown into one of Chicago’s key tech triumphs. With a $350 million sale to Nordstrom in 2014 and a growing headcount that’s landed the company on more than one Top 100 Digital Tech Employers list, Trunk Club’s tech-driven approach has lead it to the forefront of technology, fashion, and future of commerce.

“The world is splitting into two halves: a cheap-fast-now, commoditized world that Amazon is going to win at, and the other side is the service and experience-focused commerce world,” said Mike Cruz, Trunk Club’s VP of Engineering. “We don’t sell you what you need. We ask you where you want to be and give you clothes to achieve that goal.”

And to add even more innovation and excitement, the company has recently expanded its sales to include women.

Officially launched in Fall 2015, the program allows customers to try on Trunk Club’s suggestions, and then pick and choose which items they want to pay to keep. They can return any unwanted items free of charge, as long as they’re returned within 10 days, just like the established system for the company’s men’s service.

But the fashion-forward powerhouse doesn’t stop there.

Trunk Club has been an advocate of simplicity since the start, and they’re constantly working to make their technology and internal architecture reflect that.

“We’re making and resizing services because simplicity is a lot easier,” Cruz said. “The goal is to be able to keep the architecture in your head. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting close.”

Cruz said the engineering team alone today sits at about 30, with an additional 70 team members like designers and IP rounding out the team. And that’s in addition to a chic army of personal stylists who curate each trunk and a number of other positions, such as marketing and sales.

In addition to their online presence, Trunk Club also operates five physical locations throughout the country in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Dallas, and Washington, D.C.

Chicago Pilots are Upset Over Stagnant Wages Despite $3.1 Billion Return

Southwest Airlines brought in $3.1 billion in shareholder returns, but their pilots allege that they saw none of the profits.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the Southwest Airlines Pilots’ Association (SWAPA) created an advertisement they hope to share on a billboard to spread awareness about the issue.

Unfortunately, the pilots had needed the assistance of a federal judge in order to display their advertisement in the first place. U.S. District Judge Virginia Kendall ordered a temporary restraining order (TRO) allowing the pilots to display the ad at Midway Airport.

A temporary protective order (TPO), used for domestic violence issues, can be terminated after 30 to 90 days, but a TRO, up to the judge’s direction, may only be appealed after a short amount of time. For the SWAPA billboard, Judge Kendall said she would only entertain a stay of the order for 12 hours if the city of Chicago wished to appeal.

The ad was originally banned by the Chicago Department of Aviation because of a ruling regarding advertising last summer.

“All political and public issue advertising” was banned after a People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) ad drew controversy despite a lack of any official advertising policies at the airport. The city subsequently adopted new guidelines stating that political ads or ads that involve public issues or opinions are prohibited.

“Contrary to SWAPA’s assertions,” the city’s response read, “its proposed advertisement advocating for raises for its member pilots was not rejected by the Chicago Department of Aviation because of disagreement with SWAPA’s viewpoint.”

Lexology reports that the guidelines in place were too vague, and the city’s ban on the SWAPA ad constituted discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. The pilots union, however, believes the city found the ad “offensive” and thought airline officials would disprove of the billboard.

The SWAPA states that they have not had acceptable contracts for the last four years and have not had a raise since 2011. They are currently in federal mediation with Southwest Airlines, and the pilots union plans to protest upcoming shareholder meetings.

Signal Raises $30 Million to Improve Marketing Tech

Building abstractSignal, a Chicago-based marketing technology company, has recently closed a $30 million Series E round of funding to expand its product in global markets.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the funding round was led by I2A, a Chicago-based venture fund, along with investors such as Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Baird Capital, Epic Ventures, and Silicon Valley Bank.

More than 20,000 companies already use Signal’s platform, including powerhouses like Crate and Barrel, Macy’s, and Starwood Hotels and Resorts.

The six-year-old company runs a platform that has changed the game for companies everywhere.

The platform patches together data from different sources to help its clients recognize and track individual customers. The information can come from a variety of sources and can help brands get a comprehensive look at individual customers across multiple mediums.

“It’s not enough these days to know what (customers are) looking at, and then making a recommendation,” CEO and co-founder Mike Sands said.

Countless businesses rely on online marketing strategies to expand their reach, and technology like Signal’s could help them tremendously. The funding that Signal has now will allow them to expand globally, including opening spaces in the U.K., Australia, and even the Asian Pacific regions.

However, many companies aren’t even yet aware of the impact that good marketing technology and strategy can have on their business.

More and more companies are realizing the importance of video marketing as part of their strategy, and for good reason. People are no longer phased by ads on buses, and technology allows them to speed through television commercials.

When consumers need or want something, they reach for their phones. In fact, 62% of companies that designed a website specifically for mobile use reported increased sales across the board.

According to Marketing Tech, video is the most shared content type on Facebook for almost every industry. Sharing is essentially word of mouth marketing, and with minimal spending on a business’s part, is just as effective.

Companies like Signal are revolutionizing online marketing strategy with their software, and with Signal’s initiative to go global, countless companies worldwide will be able to benefit from their services.

Here are 2 New Flavors of Oreos (For Trump To Boycott)

chocolate sweet food dessertAccording to Huffington Post labor reporter Dave Jamieson, Oreos completely explain the insane U.S. election season. When Mondelez announced recently that it would be offshoring 600 Chicago factory jobs to Mexico, each of the remaining presidential candidates responded in their own way.

Trump called for a boycott and pledged to stop eating Oreos for good, while also taking the opportunity to point out how much Chris Christie loves his snack foods. Today, two in three American adults are either overweight or obese, with obesity defined as more than 20% above the “normal weight” for a given height. Still, Trump’s fat-shaming jab at Christie’s weight felt like a particularly cheap shot (and at Christie’s own fundraiser, no less).

Soon after, Bernie Sanders supporters held a rally outside the Mondelez plant. When Hillary Clinton came to town, the Democratic frontrunner met personally with a group of laid-off workers. Clinton also personally called Mondelez CEO Irene Rosenfeld about the offshoring decision. For those keeping score at home, Rosenfeld makes about 534 times the average U.S. worker with a pay package of about $20 million.

“You could have felt the chill in the room when Secretary Clinton said she called Irene Rosenfeld,” Michael Smith, a laid-off worker, told The Huffington Post. “That will be ingrained in my heart forever, wherever her campaign takes her.”

Now, Nabisco is unveiling two new flavors of Oreos on social media, but it may be too little too late for the brand to avoid the bad press that’s come with this campaign season. For a limited time, anyone who isn’t boycotting Oreos can find Blueberry Pie and Fruity Crisp flavored Oreos on the shelves.

Of course, Trump won’t be enjoying the new flavors, at least not until he changes his mind about the Oreos boycott. The Republican candidate has argued repeatedly against free trade deals, which he says lead to offshoring.

Here’s Trump speaking in New Hampshire on August 14 about America’s favorite cookies:

“Did you know that Nabisco, Nabisco. Did you see it yesterday? Nabisco is closing a factory in Chicago, and they’re moving to Mexico. This big factory. And taking many jobs. I think they’re about 1,200 jobs going to be lost in Chicago. No more Oreos. They make Oreos, don’t they, right? No more Oreos. I don’t like Oreos anymore.”

I. Can. Not. Wait. #neworeoflavors #blueberrypieoreo #fruitycrisporeo #oreo #oreos

A photo posted by @scent_ualscents on

Apartment Complex in Willowbrook Loses Roof in Heavy Windstorm

Burned out houseWillowbrook residents were evacuated from an apartment complex on Tuesday, May 31, after its roof blew off in a severe windstorm. The Red Cross is currently helping the 130 people who are now temporarily homeless as they wait for the go-ahead to return to their severely damaged building.

One resident, Giovanna Johnson, who lives on the top floor, said, “I started hearing all the loud noises, and my initial response was to grab my kids and get out. We ran out of the house and it was raining really hard, so we all got soaking wet and they(‘re) telling us we can’t even go back in.”

Johnson and her children were among 20 people who were housed by the Red Cross at Benedictine University on Tuesday night. Most are still not sure when they will be able to return to their homes.

Willowbrook was not the only town in Illinois affected by the treacherous winds. In nearby Forest Park, storm winds damaged a cemetery, ripping up headstones and grave markers.

In Berwyn, an 81-year-old man was left unscathed after the heavy winds caused a tree to fall onto the roof of his house, crushing a portion of it.

“I was just praying that he wasn’t underneath anything, that he was still breathing and with us,” said the man’s son, Glenn Chavez. “He could have been seriously injured. I’m just thankful that he wasn’t.”

Fortunately, there have been no reports of serious injuries caused by the storm in Northeastern Illinois.

While a storm cannot be stopped, serious damage can be prevented before harming a home and its residents. A metal roof, for instance, will protect a home from major damage because it has a wind rating of up to 140 miles per hour. Had the Willowbrook apartment complex been reinforced with a metal roof, Johnson, her children, and many other residents may have been able to stay in their homes.

New Surgical Technique Could Prevent Prescription Pain Killer Abuse

medicineDoctors across the country are taking part in an experimental surgery in order to test different alternatives for painkillers.

The rotator-cuff surgery is a common shoulder operation; it repairs the shoulder tendon from injuries from sports, wear and tear, or falling. It is determined to be one of the most painful surgeries to recover from and causes many patients to rely on prescription pain killers, known as opioids.

With this new surgical method, the doctors can inject a non-addictive anesthetic at the base of the neck to block pain signals. Another option is to send the patient home with a catheter implanted under the skin that provides regular doses of anesthetics for several days.

Additionally, these doctors will promote the use of icing the area and use mechanical stimulation of the surgical site in order to reduce pain and swelling. They also will advise using less addicting drugs, like Tylenol.

The goal is to have doctors widely adopt these procedures in order to cut down on prescription opioid abuse. Researchers both from the University of Chicago and New York University are aiming these methods at orthopedic surgeons, who are the most frequent prescribers of opioids in the medical field.

Andrew Rokito, chief of the division of shoulder and elbow surgery at NYU Langone Medical Center, tells The Wall Street Journal, “As a profession we prescribe too many narcotics for too many patients. Barring unusual circumstances, we should be able to get a good handle on patients’ pain after surgery and minimize their opioid use.”

A July 2015 study from the Mayo Clinic reported that one in four patients who were prescribed a prescription pain killer progressed into a long term addiction.

Nationwide, 100 people die every day from drug overdoses. Two of those deaths are from heroin overdoses in the city of Chicago alone.

Often cheaper and easier to get than alcohol and tobacco, heroin is one of the most popular opioids in use.

With the state of Illinois limiting funding on state-sponsored addiction treatment programs, experts believe that more than 4,000 addicts will be left untreated. So many are holding out hope that this new medical technique will be successful.

And it all goes back to prescription pain killers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believe that 45% of people who used heroin started their addiction with opioids.

Sister Dies Trying to Save Her Brother in Kankakee River

Safety First 3d textOne in five people who die from drowning are children 14 years and younger, and tragically, a Joliet family is mourning the losses of two of their children who died in the Kankakee River early Monday.

The Arroyo family was in the Wilmington area to celebrate Memorial Day when things turned tragic fast. Thirteen-year-old Abiyail Arroyo and her 12-year-old brother were playing on the shoreline of the Kankakee River when her brother went into the river to touch the wall of the dam on the adjacent side.

The boy went past the clearly marked ‘no swimming’ sign and was sucked in by the current before he could get to the wall. Abiyail went in to save him but was also pulled under.

Two good Samaritan brothers were in the area and jumped into the water to attempt to save the children but needed saving themselves. Alvaro Ibarra, 28, was able to grab a rope from first responders, and Ramon Ibarra, 25, was thrown out from the choppy waters and rescued on shore.

Rescuers also tried to throw a rope to Abiyail, but she was unresponsive. They eventually got her out of the water, but she was pronounced dead later that night at a Joliet hospital.

First responder teams searched into the night for her little brother but had to postpone their search as river conditions were too dangerous during the dark.

The search continues and includes police canine teams, boats, and police helicopters.

City officials stand by their decision to post no swimming signs around the river because of its dangerous currents.

Deputy Chief Todd Friddle told The Chicago Tribune, “The dam produces that turbulent effect. That’s why we have the signs posted down there because it’s hard to get out of once you get into it.”

The Kankakee River is about 60 miles southwest of Chicago.