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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. This year's cohort has been placed with more than 160 local news organizations across 45 states and Puerto Rico, including two journalists right here at WNIJ. We are thrilled to announce the addition of JuanPablo Ramirez-Franco to our news team, and a new role for WNIJ reporter Yvonne Boose.Yvonne Boose covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This includes how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities.Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco covers substandard housing and police-community relations. An audio producer and journalist based out of Chicago, he’s also been a bilingual facilitator at the StoryCorps office.He will continue Sarah Jesmer’s award-winning work at WNIJ covering issues of social justice and identity. Jesmer earned a top award from the Illinois Associated Press for reports including: Inside DeKalb County's Unincorporated Apartments; Wigs, Lipstick & Sparkles: The Thriving Drag Scene In Northern Illinois; and Kish College: Anonymous Letters And A Controversial Investigation.These reporting positions come at a time when local journalism is already reeling from years of newsroom cuts and unforeseen challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.Both positions are partially funded by a grant from Report for America. WNIJ must raise an additional $30,000 in local matching funds. Support these important voices in our community by donating to WNIJ’s portion here.Yvonne and Juanpablo’s stories on our community will be collected below.

Northern Illinois Socialists Organize Labor Day Rally For Post Office

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Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
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Rally Outside of the Rockford Midtown Post Office

The Labor Day parade in Rockford was canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but some local organizers came up with another way to support workers.

 

 

In Midtown Rockford, the northern Illinois chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America organized a special Labor Day rally. They’re calling for support of the post office and postal workers. That's amid a string of controversial operational changes at the post office that have contributed to longer wait times and delayed mail. 

 

One of the attendees, who asked to be identified as "H," said you can’t overstate how vital the post office really is. “The post office provides a really essential service for people who are incarcerated. So to get mail to contact their loved ones, to get books, it's really important.”

 

Michelle Gerritsen is a member of the DSA. She said the post office is an essential institution that isn’t going anywhere on her watch. She said, “We just have been rallying behind the post office to make sure that people are aware that we're not just gonna let it get privatized without a fight, and that we don't believe in privatization of this public service.”

 

Gerritson said we can thank organized labor for the safe working conditions we have today and the 40 hour work week. She said there's no better day to support the post office than Labor Day.

 

  • Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project which is a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms.