PI Original Aricka Flowers Friday December 6th, 2013, 11:14pm

The PI Week In Review

The week that was in Illinois and national news and politics (December 2, 2013 - December 6, 2013).

Chicago & Cook County News:

Hundreds demonstrated outside Walmart stores across the country on Black Friday to protest what they say are “poverty wages” and poor working conditions for workers of the retail giant.

Former Cook County Commissioner William Beavers began his six-month sentence in a Minnesota prison Monday following his conviction on corruption charges.

Roundy's, the owner of the Mariano's grocery stores, has announced plans to buy 11 Dominick's locations in the Chicagoland area.

Meanwhile, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel created a task force to address the Dominick's stores set to be vacant after the grocer's planned December 28 closure.

Chicago's murder toll was down by 20 percent as of this November compared to all murders recorded in the first 11 months of 2012, according to police officials.

Members of the University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty (UICUF) began voting Monday to determine whether or not to strike. The group voted in favor of authorizing a strike. Union officials, however, say they will continue contract negotiations with the university's administration through early January, with the help of a federal mediator, in an effort to avoid a walkout.

As Chicago’s public schools continue to struggle in the face of budget cuts, overcrowding and a city government that seems to prefer to invest in charter schools, a group of parents hosted what they say was the first fair ever to showcase public education in neighborhood schools.

Two former Chicago leaders, and convicted felons, are looking to run for the Cook County Board seat left vacant by William Beavers, who went to prison Monday on corruption charges.

But Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle says she will not put her support behind either of the two felons running for a vacant commissioner seat.

The Chicago Sun-Times is set to rehire four photographers that were laid off last May as part of a collective bargaining agreement with the Chicago Newspaper Guild.

At a Regional Transportation Authority board meeting Wednesday, CTA President Forrest Claypool said "dramatic progress" has been made with Ventra at rail stations, but he stopped short of saying when the full transition to the new fare system would be implemented.

The After School Matters program for teens received a $25 million donation from movie maker George Lucas Wednesday.

Ald. John Arena (45th) says his effort to get a citywide referendum involving an elected Chicago school board is facing another potential setback.

Former Republic Windows & Doors CEO Richard Gillman was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday for stealing some $500,000 from the company.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Pat Quinn on Thursday announced plans for a $492 million revamp of the CTA's Blue Line O'Hare Branch.

Nine community activists who tried to save La Casita at Whittier Elementary School from the wrecking ball in August were found not guilty Friday on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespass to state-supported land.

Juan Rangel is out as CEO of the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO).

State News:

Imprisoned former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich's attorneys filed the final papers in his appeal Monday night.

The We Are One coalition of labor unions and supporter organizations declared pension emergency days Monday and Tuesday, as lawmakers got ready to return to Springfield Tuesday to vote on a controversial pension proposal.

The controversial pension reform bill has passed through committee Monday night and then headed to the state House and Senate as lawmakers prepare to push through a 325-page bill (PDF) that will overhaul the retirement benefits plan for thousands of public employees.

Progress Illinois took a look at the proposal and detailed some of the reaction surrounding the plan.

The Illinois General Assembly passed the controversial pension reform bill Tuesday, and labor is now prepping for a legal fight.

Corporate tax break legislation that passed the Illinois Senate Tuesday will not move forward until the spring session.

People who are out of work as a direct result of the tornadoes that ravaged Illinois last month might be able to tap federal disaster unemployment assistance, the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) announced Tuesday.

The Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) has a lot of work to do if the northeastern Illinois public transit network it oversees plans on becoming a "world-class system" anytime soon, panelists said at a discussion on the topic Tuesday at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).

Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investor Services on Wednesday issued brief statements of approval following the state legislature's vote to pass a controversial pension reform package Tuesday, but it still remains to be seen if they will adjust Illinois' credit rating.

As Gov. Pat Quinn signed the pension reform bill Thursday, a coalition of labor unions told their lawyers to prepare to file a lawsuit against the new law.

Following a strike that lasted more than two weeks, Will County employees resumed work Thursday now that a tentative agreement involving the workers' contracts has been reached by AFSCME Local 1028 and the county.

National News:

The country's growing number of in-home workers are more likely to live in poverty compared to those in other occupations due to low wages and the lack of benefits they typically receive, a new report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows.

As the global community celebrates the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, local and national disabilities rights advocates are calling for the United States Senate to support the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

In an op-ed published on Progress Illinois this week, one immigration reform advocate explained why she participated in Tuesday’s national day of action, which centers around a 24-hour fast.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is once again under fire from critics, including U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL,9), following new revelations published Tuesday in The Guardian about the large conservative group.

With Social Security reform on the table during congressional budget talks to reduce federal spending, about a dozen protesters, most of which were retirees, gathered in downtown Chicago Thursday to call on Congress to reject proposals that “balance the budget on the backs of seniors.”

A few hundred Chicago fast food and retail workers walked off the job Thursday as part of a national day of strikes for higher wages and the right to form a union without retaliation. Progress Illinois provides a snapshot of some of the day's protests.

Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa, died Thursday.

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7 percent in November – the lowest unemployment rate in five years.

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