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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.

SEIU Local 73 Strike Ongoing

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Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
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SEIU members outside of UIC College of Pharmacy

Members of SEIU Local 73 who work at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) are on their second day of strike.

 

 

SEIU Local 73 is calling for the University of Illinois to “respect us, protect us and pay us.” The University of Illinois College of Medicine also has campuses in Chicago, Rockford and Peoria. Dian Palmer is the President of SEIU Local 73 and she says the university failed to meaningfully respond to issues including safe working conditions, adequate staffing, and pay increase 

“Even now, folks are concerned about wearing the same mask for a long time," she continued. "And they just want to be assured that they will have the equipment that they need, because some 300 people got sick at USC and two in our bargaining units side.”

 

Palmer said that in Rockford, workers are facing the same issues and being paid less than their Chicago counterparts. For example, Palmer said Rockford workers, “have the same titles and jobs as they have in Chicago. The university charges the same fees as they charge in Chicago, but they pay those workers oftentimes a little bit less than what they pay in Chicago.

 

As of today, Local 73 has begun negotiations with all four of their bargaining units. Palmer said she’s UIC released a statement saying the University and SEIU have been engaged in collective bargaining over contracts for each of the four bargaining units. UIC says some student services may be curtailed or unavailable until the strike is resolved.

 

  • 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.