Janus v. AFSCME Council 31

By Dan Gilbert

 

Dan Gilbert teaches in the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois.

In a matter of weeks the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31, a case originating from our own state that carries profound implications for the future of the labor movement nationwide.
Continue reading

Posted in labor, Labor/Economics, Politics | Comments Off on Janus v. AFSCME Council 31

Anti-Union Rauner, Koch Brothers Aim at a Nation of Wisconsins

By Ricky Baldwin

Ricky Baldwin is a longtime community and union organizer who lives in Urbana.

Anticipating the Janus decision discussed elsewhere in this issue, Central Illinois Jobs With Justice (JWJ) held a public discussion on February 18 in the Champaign Public Library with Cindy Jones, a Wisconsin social worker, and Patricia Rego, Wisconsin nurse. Titled “Turning Lemons Into Lemonade,” the event highlighted the history of recent changes in public sector labor law in Wisconsin, the negative impact of such changes, and how the “Wisconsin case” is of a piece with right-wing attacks on unions at the federal and state levels.
Continue reading

Posted in Labor | Comments Off on Anti-Union Rauner, Koch Brothers Aim at a Nation of Wisconsins

History Matters: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Fight for Economic Justice

By Stephanie Fortado

Dr. Stephanie Seawell Fortado is a Lecturer at the University of Illinois Labor Education Program, providing workshops and extension programming for unions and the general public on the Champaign-Urbana campus and throughout Illinois. Before joining the University, Stephanie served as the Executive Director of the Illinois Labor History Society (ILHS), the oldest state-wide labor history not-for-profit in the United States. She is currently a board member for ILHS. She completed her PhD at the University of Illinois, where she studied African American working class and social movement history. Stephanie is currently working on her first book, with the working title Race, Recreation and Rebellion, which looks at struggles over public space during the Civil Rights Movement in Cleveland, Ohio. She is a past President, Treasurer, Bargaining Team and Strike Committee member of the Graduate Employees Organization 6300, of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and former delegate to the Champaign County Labor Council. She is currently a steward and organizing chair of the newly formed Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition, IFT Local 6546.

“Nothing would be more tragic than to stop at this point in Memphis. We’ve got to see it through. And when we have our march, you need to be there. If it means leaving work, if it means leaving school—be there. Be concerned about your brother. You may not be on strike. But either we go up together, or we go down together.”  On the evening of April 3, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood before a packed sanctuary at Mason Temple in Memphis, Tennessee. As a powerful storm raged outside, King exhorted the crowd to join him two days later for a march to support the city’s striking black sanitation workers. The members of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 1733 were on strike.
Continue reading

Posted in African Americans, Economy, Justice, labor, Voices of Color | Comments Off on History Matters: Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Fight for Economic Justice

Police Gun Violence: An Epidemic in America

By Salma El-Naggar

Salma El-Naggar is a sophomore at Uni High and a member of the student organization team for the local walkout and other social justice even

In the light of the recent Florida school shooting, gun violence has been one of the most talked-about topics in American news media, and America has realized that gun violence is a major issue.

Gun violence has been evident since the creation of this country. It didn’t just become an issue in 2018. We pushed it away and disregarded it as a problem until it spun out of control.

At the same time, police gun violence has recently reached its peak. Police officers are not held accountable for the lives they have taken, but instead are excused for it since they are doing their job. 99% of all the cases of police gun violence in 2015 did not result in any officer(s) being convicted for murder. In 2017, there were only 14 days when police did not kill someone. In 2018 police have killed 321 people. That means that at least three people every day have been killed by the police.
Continue reading

Posted in Gun violence, Police, Students | Comments Off on Police Gun Violence: An Epidemic in America

Student Coalition Protests Gun Violence

By Annemily Hoganson, Anya Kaplan-Hartnett, Victoria Kindratenko and Emma Lowenstein.

 

Left to right: Annemily Hoganson is a junior at Uni High and an organizer of the CU-March For Our Lives. Anya Kaplan-Hartnett is a sophomore at Uni. Victoria Kindratenko is a junior at Uni; she volunteered at the CU-March For Our Lives. Emma Lowenstein is a junior at Uni. All four walked out on March 14, and were organizers of the April 20 school walkout/teach-in.

According to the Brady Campaign, on an average day in the US, seven children are killed by gun violence and 40 more are injured. Each year, around 110 kids are unintentionally killed by guns. According to a 2017 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, 4.2% of kids under the age of 17 have witnessed a shooting in the past year. That’s 4.2% too many. That’s seven deaths, 40 injuries, 110 unintentional deaths too many.

We are a group of local high school students from Central, Centennial, Urbana, Uni, Saint Thomas More (STM), and Danville High Schools, who have united to fight gun violence. After the recent shooting at Parkland High School in Florida, we came together with a goal of ending gun violence in all forms, including police brutality and suicide.

While most conversations about gun violence focus on homicides, three out of the seven children who die from gun violence on an average day die from suicide. In addition, although white victims of gun violence often get more media attention, gun violence disproportionately affects African American, Hispanic, and American Indian children.

But what can a group of teenagers from Champaign-Urbana do to tackle this complex issue? Although most of us are too young to vote, we can still take action against gun violence. We’re calling on our representatives to pass better gun legislation. We’re organizing young voters to elect representatives who support better gun legislation. We’re working to support organizations in our community that have been working for years to reduce gun violence, and we’re educating ourselves and fellow students about gun violence in our community.

On March 14, students from local schools walked out of class to call for better gun legislation. For some students who had never participated in a protest before, the walkout showed them the power of their own voices.

After the March 14 walkout, we worked closely with the Champaign-Urbana chapter of Moms Demand Action to plan a local march as part of the nationwide March For Our Lives movement. Despite heavy sleet and freezing temperatures, almost 1,000 people gathered to protest with us in Douglass Park on March 24th. Community organizations worked tables at the march, educating attendees about gun legislature and ways to contact their representatives. Some march attendees even registered to vote.

On April 20, we organized a walkout/teach-in, joining high school students across the nation to demand change.

Students marched out of school to attend a teach-in, where they learned about gun violence in Champaign-Urbana and how they can effectively advocate for an end to gun violence. Speakers from across the community discussed police brutality, domestic violence, suicide, effective voting, and voter suppression. Students learned from gun violence survivors about their experiences. They also learned how to write and call their representatives. When kids marched back to school at the end of the day, they had the information necessary to continue the fight against gun violence.

However, our political action does not come without consequences. Students at Central, Centennial, and STM who walked out on April 20th faced social criticism and were banned from attending their prom. Uni High students were marked truant and weren’t allowed to make up any schoolwork or participate in sporting events and rehearsals. Nevertheless, over a hundred students attended the teach-in.

We still aren’t finished fighting for change. We’re helping Champaign-Urbana Moms Demand Action with another march on June 2nd to continue educating and empowering our community. We’re accomplishing our goals through non-violent protest actions that encourage students to make change.

Seven deaths is too many. Your silence is too quiet. Help us make change.

Follow the student coalition on Instagram at walkout_teachin and on twitter @CUMarchFOL.

To find out more about CU Moms Demand Action and the march on June 2nd, go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/cumomsdemandaction/.

Note: Statistics from the Brady Campaign consider people ages 0-19 as kids, while statistics from the American Academy of Pediatrics report consider people ages 0-17 as kids.

For Brady Campaign statistics, see http://www.bradycampaign.org/key-gun-violence-statistics

For the American Academy of Pediatrics report, see

http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/06/15/peds.2016-3486

 

Posted in Gun violence, Students | Tagged | Comments Off on Student Coalition Protests Gun Violence

The Real War in Egypt: the Labor Struggle

By Janice Jayes

If you missed the exciting Presidential election news out of Egypt this past March, don’t be too hard on yourself: also missing it were 96 million Egyptians. Yes, a few Egyptians showed up at the polls for an exercise that faintly resembled an election, but the event was lacking a few key ingredients–like actual opposition candidates. Incumbent General-turned-President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi drove five contenders out of the race by arresting or threatening them, then allowed one opposition candidate (a member of al-Sisi’s campaign staff) to register just hours before the deadline. As expected, al-Sisi claimed a “landslide” victory with a Mubarak-esque 97% of the vote.

This election is one of the many things about post-Arab Spring Egypt that look remarkably like pre-Arab Spring Egypt. Egypt is again governed by a military-dominated clique that runs the state like a private investors’ club, elections are staged for international consumption, and any hint of political independence in NGOs, media or labor is ruthlessly silenced. It isn’t just opposition candidates that have been jailed: the 2018 Human Rights Watch Report notes that tens of thousands of Egyptians have been detained, arrested, tortured and disappeared since al-Sisi came to power in 2013. The only notable change from the Mubarak years is that al-Sisi no longer relies on the Communist menace to justify repression and solidify his relationship with Washington; instead, he deploys the newest smokescreen, the War on Terror, to justify mass repression. It’s the old Mubarak machine in new counterterrorism clothing.

Counterterrorism may not be winning the war against terror in Egypt (in November, 310 Egyptians were killed by extremists during an armed assault on a mosque in el Arish), but it is doing a pretty good job of distracting attention from the crackdown on civil rights. For example, in February 2018 the Egyptian Army rolled out a major anti-terrorism operation in the Sinai that flooded the news with tales of troop convoys, bombing operations and weapon seizures. Of course, the media blackout meant that the news available came only from government sources, leaving open the question of who exactly was being targeted and how. Still, the images of Egyptian troops fighting extremism achieved the regime’s information goals at home and abroad. Many Egyptians, cognizant of the civil war hell that has engulfed Libya and Syria, watched the military assault on the Sinai and calculated that now was not the moment to press for freedoms of speech and assembly—even if they might be nice things to have in the month before a presidential election.

The military operation also reminded the U.S. of Egypt’s partnership in the War on Terror, silencing some congressional critics of al-Sisi who had been debating tying part of the $1.6 billion U.S. aid package to political reform.

U.S. military aid has helped Egypt equip counterterrorism units that are also used to break up strikes and protests.

The real war for Egypt isn’t going to be waged in the Sinai, however. It will be waged in the textile mills, railroad yards and teacher’s lounges across the nation. Egyptian unions led the nation into the Arab Spring by creating a space for public protest in the years before 2011, and they are the only civil society sector challenging the government today.

The Labor Spring of 2008

 

In 2008 videos of workers defacing a poster of then-President Mubarak shocked the nation.

While the tech-savvy youth of Cairo captured the world’s imagination in the Arab Spring of 2011, it was actually the Egyptian labor movement that ousted the thirty-year regime of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Between 2004 and 2010 there were more than 4000 unauthorized strikes across Egypt. Working conditions were abysmal and worsening. The official monthly wage was $6 a month (34 Egyptian pounds, set in 1984), and the majority of the population subsisted on less than $1 a day. Some workers earned more ($45–$117 a month), but living conditions were increasingly unstable as the government scrambled to attract foreign investment and loans in the wild west of neoliberal capitalism. Temporary contracts ended traditional labor protections, and the state backed off from commitments to subsidies on basic consumption items.

Striking Workers at el Mahalla, 2006.

The strikes that undid Mubarak’s Egypt centered on the textile industry in el Mahalla al Kubra. More than 20,000 workers shut down production multiple times and, while the demands were focused on workplace issues (wage increases, benefits, work protections and the right to establish unions independent from state control), the day-to-day cooperation required to manage community life during strikes inevitably politicized discussions. Since the 1950s the Egyptian state had controlled the syndicates that organized everyone from lawyers to street sweepers, trading benefits for political support. But by the 2000s the state had abandoned the compact, and replaced bargaining with violent repression. In 2008 strikers in Mahalla moved from an attitude of petitioning to confronting the state.

It was the labor movement that laid the groundwork for the Arab Spring in Egypt, and despite harsh repression since 2013, unions remain the most active civil society sector challenging the regime.

The strikes in Mahalla were largely invisible to most Egyptians due to state media controls, but in April 2008 phone videos showing strikers defacing a poster of President Mubarak went viral, stunning the government (which quickly negotiated a resolution to the strike) and fascinating the few Egyptians with access to social media. The unplanned act foreshadowed a new era of Egyptian politics. Three years later urban youth received the credit for expelling Mubarak, but it was the unions—lawyers, teachers, transportation workers, textile workers, etc.—who led the way.

Unfortunately, workers found that little changed after 2011. Each administration since 2011 has waged a campaign of harassment against labor leaders, criminalizing protests, strikes and independent unions. Repressive laws designed to combat terrorist militias have been used against labor; unlucky activists have been detained in the middle of the night and held for years without charges or tried in military courts for destabilizing the nation.

Egyptian Special Forces raid in central Cairo, Sept. 2017.

Hundreds of Egyptians have disappeared since 2013, but in 2016 the kidnapping and murder of Giulio Regeni, an Italian graduate student studying unions in Cairo, created an international scandal that exposed the brutality of the regime. The signs of torture on his body, consistent with Egyptian security practices, sent a chilling message to international journalists, academics and human rights activists who might once have expected their passport to protect them: in Egypt, no one is safe from the state.

A New Global Chapter in the Labor Struggle

The labor crisis in Egypt isn’t a remote struggle showcasing the horrors of distant countries. It raises the same issues that increasingly confront workers everywhere: how do vulnerable groups achieve a life with dignity in an era when states are abandoning commitments to the public good in favor of serving elites? When capital can travel easily across borders to seek out the weakest regulatory markets?

There isn’t really any road back from globalization—changes in technology and production chains have made that impossible—but we can resurrect an alternative vision of globalization that recognizes the shared concerns we all have with addressing economic and political rights. The U.S. government, blinded by its fixation on Islamist radicals, has given the Egyptian government a free hand to abuse state power, using weapons paid for with American taxpayer money. At a minimum, the U.S. could condemn the harassment of journalists, the midnight detention of human rights activists, the criminalization of strikes and protests, or even the sham of an election that just passed.

Egypt today is more violently repressive than it was during the Mubarak years, but workers continue to challenge a state that is more interested in capturing the approval and investments of international capital than in serving the public they purport to represent. Egyptian labor deserves our attention and support.

Posted in Arab Spring, Egypt, labor | Comments Off on The Real War in Egypt: the Labor Struggle

GloHeart, A Displaced Lullaby: A Play on Immigration Asks Questions About Language

By Al Schneider

Al Schneider is a performance maker and theater researcher currently living in Urbana. Information about their work can be found here: alanddog.co.uk.

What are they doing here?

Dressed in plaid, blue jeans, a ball cap, and boots, a laid-off, Born-in-Beardstown, down-and-out sort scratches his head, and asks the questions we might be asking ourselves. Or maybe it’s our uncle who’s asking the questions, or our mother-in-law, our co-worker, or just somebody we heard on the nightly news. Whichever way, the protests of those who see themselves as suffering from the arrival of migrants to the United States—and central Illinois in particular—are not approached warily in Susan Parenti and Mark Enslin’s play on global and local immigration.

Rather, GloHeart, A Displaced Lullaby makes a point of provoking a conversation around immigration which is sticky and requires its audiences to remain thoughtfully present throughout. Based on the book Global Heartland: Displaced Labor, Transnational Lives, and Local Placemaking by University of Illinois Professor Faranak Miraftab, GloHeart takes its questions from Miraftab’s analysis of a meat processing plant in Beardstown, Illinois and its recruitment of migrant laborers. “What brings these diverse people to this part of the country?,” Miraftab asks in the introduction to her book. Pork slaughtering is neither easy nor pleasant work, and after Oscar Mayer closed in the 1980s over disputes with its unionized workers, the plant—subsequently under the ownership of Cargill, and now owned by JBS USA—was able to reopen without a union, and with far lower wages.

After purchasing the plant in 1987, Cargill began actively seeking and employing immigrant workers. Initially, these workers came from Mexico and Central America and lacked documentation, but Cargill eventually began recruiting people from West Africa who had gotten residency through the so-called Diversity Visa Lottery, and hiring black Americans from Detroit. This influx of migrants to Beardstown was met initially with hostility, but is now presented locally as a success story. Beardstown has been revitalized by its new population, which has renovated houses that had fallen into disrepair and provided the economic growth necessary to building new services and infrastructure. Miraftab scrutinizes this simplified story of Beardstown. She presents an analysis of the conditions that led to the transformation of a small town with a history of racism into a home for a large migrant population, asking why migrant labor continues to be used in grueling workplaces and how these populations have been “produced” in the first place.

These are some of the complexities which GloHeart presents in the form of a forty-minute play. GloHeart is not a work of dramatic theatre meant to incite sympathy for the plight of migrant workers. While each performance begins with a song welcoming newcomers to the United States, and gives insight into the more difficult aspects of emigrating from one’s country of origin, GloHeart is a play that asks questions before prescribing an emotional response, and it does so through the use and interrogation of language. In the first moments of the play we are presented with an overzealous movie director, whose interest in immigration as a potential for producing an “old Go West Young Man” story comically pricks at our nostalgic view of moving to a new land, and asks us to reassess how our ideas about immigration are informed by the language of mainstream media.

I have been involved in performances of GloHeart since moving to Urbana to work on this project at the end of January. Sometimes I wear the ball cap and plaid flannel shirt, portraying a Born-in-Beardstown character more sympathetic to the Togolese worker (portrayed by historian and activist Rick Esbenshade) at the plant than his companion, played by local activist-turned-actor, Karen Medina. Other times I carry intentionally cumbersome homemade movie set props—a pink-feathered boom mic, a cardboard and plastic video camera, a clip-board clapperboard—and silently and awkwardly assist Mark Enslin in his character’s production of Global Immigration 2018: The Story! Still other times, even less comfortably, I don an orange vest to indicate my status as a worker in the break room and spout words I am not accustomed to giving a voice to: “you people,” “those people,” “do you understand my English?,” “with them around.”

In this particular scene, controversy arises during a discussion of pay among workers. John receives two dollars more per hour than his female counterpart for the same work. And Gayle, though she is new and works upstairs in the office, is making vastly more than those “on the floor.” My character, Carol, is outraged to find out that Longhi, the migrant worker, has accepted pay under minimum wage. “I was offered,” Longhi pleads, as Carol points her finger and lays blame for the decrease in wages on the person with the least control over her circumstances. Her rant is muted somewhat by the other workers singing as they exit the stage.

While reanimating these words on a public stage might seem negligent or even dangerous, this scene allows us to scrutinize the persistence of a language which facilitates a commitment to illogical beliefs. One audience member, in response to our performance for the YMCA Welcome Center, commented on the use of having “people actually talking in opposition” as a way of understanding the reality of what words can do, a way to help us “understand the magnitude of what that [kind of language] can lead to.”

The questions GloHeart asks are often prompted by its use of language which pervades our conversation on immigration. Throughout the play, the born-in Beardstown pair repeat common sentiments about immigrants arriving to “take our jobs.” During a talkback following another performance of GloHeart, an audience member who happened to be from Beardstown struggled to move past contradictions in her speech, saying, “I understand it’s not the immigrants’ fault, it’s the company’s fault, because they entice them over.” She paused. “But when they all came, they ran everybody else out. There was a big war, between the people that lived there and them, when they came in.”

The words used by Carol in the break room belong to a game of language being utilized in the larger conversation on immigration. We hear them in snippets, and for most of you reading this article, you—like me—likely scowl or shake your head in some kind of disapproval, brushing these words away, easily dismissing them as nonsense. To give these words the space to be heard, on stage, asks us to pay attention to language more actively, and if we can identify how language is being used to misplace blame and manipulate, perhaps we can work to create new sentences and new conversations.

—————————————–

GloHeart, A Displaced Lullaby, written by Susan Parenti and Mark Enslin, is a project of The School for Designing a Society, which currently holds weekly seminars on immigration on Sundays from 4-6pm. GloHeart will continue to have performances throughout this spring, and will resume in the fall. If you are interested in being involved or have a venue in mind, please email Susan Parenti at susanroseparenti@gmail.com. Information about upcoming performances can be found at:  designingasociety.org/blog/gloheart-displaced-lullaby/.

 

Posted in Immigration, labor | Comments Off on GloHeart, A Displaced Lullaby: A Play on Immigration Asks Questions About Language

Air Pollution in Champaign-Urbana

By Jacquelyn Potter

Why Should We be Concerned?

Our most immediate necessity for life is breathing.  It’s the process of taking in life-giving substances and releasing metabolic by-products; therefore, clean air is vital for survival.  It’s only when substances are introduced artificially that this process becomes degraded.  There are hundreds of air pollutants; some of the common types include: particulates from industry and agriculture that are linked to cardiopulmonary diseases, especially fine particles at 2.5 um (micrometers) or less; heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic and chromium from power plants, industry and agriculture, known to cause brain damage, cancer, autism and birth defects; volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like toluene and benzene, formaldehyde, chloroform and methanol produced by industry and known to cause cancer, neurological, developmental, immune, cardiopulmonary, gastrointestinal and reproductive problems; phosphorus used in electronic, plastic and agriculture industries is linked to skin ulcers, renal malfunction and arteriosclerosis; and nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide produced in petrol and metal refining, power plants, vehicle exhaust and agriculture are linked to cardiopulmonary diseases.

Several air pollution issues are often overlooked.  First, many pollutants are odorless (e.g. heavy metals, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides), and people are unaware when breathing them. Second, while acute, short-term effects can be deadly, long-term, low-level exposure can also cause disease (e.g. VOCs from paint or carpet and low-level release of pesticides and dioxins from plastics). Third, related conditions of bioaccumulation and biomagnification, the former being increased toxicity with increased pollutant concentration over time within an organism, and the latter being increased toxicity of a pollutant as it goes up the food chain. Examples of both include heavy metals, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins. The fourth type, synergistic effects, occurs when toxicity increases as pollutants are mixed (e.g. mercury combined with aluminum or lead; carbon monoxide with methyl chloride; or ozone with nitrogen dioxide). Finally, pollutants travel long distances by air.  For example, according to the National Research Council, a study found polluted air took eight days to travel from East Asia to Oregon.  Therefore it’s unrealistic to think that shorter distances (e.g. several miles) could insulate people from the health hazards of air pollution from nearby sources.

Potential Polluters in Champaign-Urbana

Because much air pollution results from human activities, that means we can do something to change it. However, before we can make changes, we first have to know what is going on that may be causing air pollution, especially in our own community. Champaign-Urbana hosts a large number of industrial operations for a relatively small-sized college town, and there are a multitude of potential pollution sources.  There are a coal-fired power plant, five asphalt companies, three steel plating and metal manufacturing operations, two plastic manufacturers and one polystyrene manufacturer, as well as industrial scale agribusiness operations surrounding the town that use pesticides and biosolids (aka waste-treatment sludge). Some of the pollutants known to be produced by the above types of operations include:  heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, copper, zinc, nickel and mercury, VOC’s such as toluene and benzene, as well as other toxins such as phosphorus, dioxins, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.

Because water is used in industrial operations, waste water released into the municipal waste stream inevitably becomes a source of air pollution as it travels from source toward sanitation facilities. Industries known to use metals or toxic chemicals are required to pretreat waste before it enters the waste stream, the reason being that toxins entering the waste stream can outgas, causing air pollution along the way. The EPA grants permits to sanitation districts, which in turn grant waste-water discharge permits to industries, factories and businesses. The EPA is also supposed to enforce requirements to pretreat pollutants in order to protect local sewers, waste water treatment plants and the public. Otherwise all burden is put on waste water treatment plants, with likelihood that the waste stream en route to the plants includes any one or all of the above pollutants mentioned.  When mixed with other waste it would potentially result in toxic synergistic effects that the public would be subjected to via pipes running near their homes (potentially entering homes via heating/cooling ducts).

The laws intended to protect air quality are there (e.g. Clean Air Act, Illinois Environmental Protection Act, Section 9(a)), and enforced by the EPA via civil or criminal actions. However, there are weak points long unaddressed by environmental regulation pertaining to low-level, long-term exposure as well as synergistic effects.  Also, industry gets away with emitting pollutants due to exemptions and loopholes in environmental law, such as Startup, Shutdown and Malfunction (SSM) events, language loopholes such as using terminology that falls outside the regulatory framework (e.g. biosolids versus sewage sludge). Further, industry is often allowed to “report on itself” as to meeting emission and discharge requirements. The idea of industry as its own watchdog is unrealistic at best. Independent oversight is essential for transparency, which requires independent testing and reporting in a public forum.

What’s Being Done and What We Can Do

So where can one turn to find out what air pollutants occur in and around Champaign-Urbana? A search for organizations dealing with air quality in C-U turned up only a few. The IEPA is supposed to test for pollutants, inspect facilities, and enforce regulations; the Illinois Water Survey conducts air quality research through its Climate and Atmospheric Science section (IWSCAS); and the Sierra Club Prairie Group gets involved in air-pollution issues at the legislative level (e.g. the Coal Tar Sealant Bill). The only organization that has air quality and air sampling in Champaign-Urbana as its primary mission statement is Spotlight Air Environmental (SAE). Preliminary sampling carried out by SAE from 2016-2017 resulted in the detection of pollutants in Champaign-Urbana and the surrounding area. Heavy metals found include: arsenic, lead, copper, nickel, zinc and phosphorus. Also found were the VOCs acetone, benzene, chloroform, chloromethane, ethanol, dichlorofluoromethane, trichlorofluoromethane, heptane, methylene chloride, 2-Propanol, propene, m- & p-Xylene, o-Xylene, and toluene. Fourteen of these are listed on the EPA’s original List of Hazardous Air Pollutants. Although found in relatively small amounts, several of them are highly toxic especially when considering long-term exposure, bioaccumulation and possible synergistic effects.

Because several of the above pollutants are known to be produced by industries in Champaign-Urbana, such evidence points to a need for further air sampling/testing in and around the community. Questions need to be asked as to how pollutants are getting into homes, and there needs to be greater transparency as to whether all industry is being required to pretreat their waste. While there is no way to address all aspects of local air pollution issues in one article, organizations continue sampling, testing and reporting; therefore future articles may be forthcoming. To find out more, consult the EPA website, ECHO (Enforcement and Compliance History Online) reports on permits, inspection/compliance evaluations, violations and enforcement actions. If one detects air pollution in or around their home or neighborhood, it is important one contact the IEPA and fill out a complaint so there is a record of it. Questions can also be directed to SAE’s Facebook page where local air testing reports are posted. The issue of air pollution in Champaign-Urbana deserves more public interest and attention because maintaining air quality is extremely important to our health the health of the community and environment.

Posted in Environment | Comments Off on Air Pollution in Champaign-Urbana

IMC Co-founder Danielle Chynoweth Wins McKinley Social Justice Award!

By Public i editors

Danielle Chynoweth, IMC co-founder and current Cunningham Township Supervisor, won a 2018 Social Justice Award from the McKinley Foundation. She donated the $500 award to the Public i. We extend our deepest gratitude to Danielle for supporting the Public i! At the awards dinner on April 7, she accepted the award and gave the below one-minute speech. Congratulations Danielle on all your amazing work to make CU a better community!

I only have one minute, but
she sleeps just down the street, in a storage unit,
and she calls one day to tell me how lonely she is.

I only have one minute, but
there are two kids with round faces
who worked making tacos, but never got paid,
so now they are sleeping in Carle Park
with their dog to keep them warm.

I only have one minute, but
Dos hermanos visited our office.
First ICE took their mother,
and just now, their father,
right out of Urbana,
so they are trying to get to school every day,
while looking for a place to live.

I only have one minute, but
she worked her whole life as a secretary,
and when her mom died, she lost their home.
So for the past seven months she has been sleeping in her car,
her legs swollen up like two balloons.

I only have a minute, but
she has been asking for seven years for a place to live to get away from him,
pulled a knife on her a hundred times,
she tells us, with staples in her stomach,
as we gather her things from his apartment.
“Every time I was told the wait lists were full.”

Someone threw his sleeping bag in the garbage in the Urbana parking deck.
Someone destroyed the “pallet palace” where they took refuge under the railroad.
Someone pushed the tent city off the Catholic Worker land.
Someone made it illegal to ask for money, but only if you’re homeless.

I only have one minute, but
I wanted to say
to you
That we should not accept
unacceptable problems
just because we inherited them.

I only have …. 5 4 3 2 1.

I am honored to receive this award and to have a minute of your time to speak with you. THANK YOU!

###

Why Danielle donated to the Public i, “a beacon of light and hope”:

Media change is at the root of social and political change. Unfortunately, the right wing figured that out—and grew a huge network of fake and hateful news—while the left struggled to hold onto its relatively small community media infrastructure.

It is no coincidence that the year Trump was pushed to victory through intensive media propaganda, left-wing media crumbled, with the loss of numerous community radio stations and signature programs like Free Speech Radio News. And one of the first initiatives of the Trump administration was to gut net neutrality and prison phone justice.

The Public i is the longest-operating independent newspaper in CU. It has reported on every social justice movement, connecting local to national and international issues. It is a beacon of light and hope at a time of great nihilism and greed.

Sometimes when picking a location for our donations we choose the newest, sexy endeavor. But we should remember the foundation builders like the Public i, which reports on and supports all our work.

I am hopeful this $500 from the McKinley Foundation can help grow a better digital and social media presence for the paper—and inspire others to become sustaining funders.

Posted in homeless, Immigration, safety net | Comments Off on IMC Co-founder Danielle Chynoweth Wins McKinley Social Justice Award!

ICE on Main Street: Undocumented Immigrants Arrested in Urbana

 

When Juan showed up for work one morning at Siam Terrace on Main Street in downtown Urbana, two men were waiting for him in the parking lot. They were dressed in plainclothes, but wearing guns on their hips. They asked him his name and put him in handcuffs. Juan had lived in Urbana for eight years, but this was to be his last day. He was picked up by two agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and sent to a remote jail in Southern Illinois to await deportation proceedings.

A year ago, Urbana proclaimed itself a sanctuary city, but ICE agents are coming through town to sweep up local immigrants without challenge. We often hear in the news about ICE raids in big cities, or along the border. But in Midwestern towns like Champaign-Urbana, ICE is expanding its presence, a sign that the war on immigrants is intensifying under President Trump. Indeed, in 2017, arrests of undocumented people went up by 30 percent. According to obtained documents, last year ICE visited Champaign County on 28 different days, on some days going to several residences.
Continue reading

Posted in Immigration | Comments Off on ICE on Main Street: Undocumented Immigrants Arrested in Urbana