Several Chicago youths are taking part in efforts to increase democracy in the workplace while tackling economic and environmental issues in their neighborhoods through the use of innovative business cooperatives owned and controlled by workers.
Young people from the city's Austin and Rogers Park communities discussed their involvement with cooperative businesses, which are entities owned and managed collectively by workers, at a 2014 Worker Cooperative National Conference held over the weekend at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In the West Side neighborhood of Austin, an impoverished community struggling with high rates of unemployment and crime, students at the manufacturing-focused Austin Polytechnical Academy launched a business cooperative at their school last year called Mech Creations, which makes trumpet mouthpieces. And on the city's far North Side in Rogers Park, which also faces issues of unemployment and crime, young people are participating in a worker cooperative focused on green infrastructure called Grassroots Ecology. The North Side youth-focused cooperative started building green infrastructure, including rain gardens and barrels to mitigate flooding, in 2012 and plans to incorporate as a limited liability company with cooperative by-laws this fall.
Illinois' unemployment rate dropped 0.5 points to 7.9 percent in April, representing the state's lowest jobless level since December 2008, the Illinois Department of Employment Security announced Thursday.
The Federal Reserve struck an encouraging note Wednesday: It will further cut its bond purchases because the U.S. job market needs less help. And it said the economy had strengthened after all but stalling during a harsh winter.
Although gun-control legislation has stalled in Congress, "common-sense gun reform" remains one of U.S. Rep. Robin Kelly's top priorities, the Democratic congresswoman said at a Monday night event in East Hazel Crest to review her first year in the House.
While in Congress, Kelly introduced gun-control legislation meant to place stricter safety standards on guns and keep "violent, dangerous people" from being able to purchase firearms. But supporters of gun curbs simply cannot get gun-control legislation to the House floor for a vote, Kelly said.
"There is gun legislation dealing with background checks, and there is about 180 to 190 bipartisan signatures, Democrats and Republicans," the congresswoman said. "But we cannot get it called to the floor, so what I tell people when people come and see me about the gun issue [is], 'I'm your choir.' So we need to call other people across the United States and call Speaker [John] Boehner [to] at least [bring] the bill to committee and to the floor and let it be voted up or down."
President Barack Obama will announce an initiative on Wednesday to devote $600 million to address a central challenge of today's economy: How to train workers for skills they need for jobs that are open but hard to fill.