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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 On Second Week Of Strike

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Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
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SEIU Local 73 Strike in Front of UI Health L.P. Johnson Family Health Center

Organized workers at the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Rockford continued their strike this week as contract negotiations continue. 
 
Carmen Garcia has worked for the UIC division of specialized child care for more than 20 years. She says she and her coworkers just want a fair contract like other staff are already getting. 

 
“We're not even asking for extra, we're asking to be recognized and treated equally," she said. "And we're not.” 
 
Garcia said that part of the problem is that some workers don’t have guaranteed step increases in their contracts, which means that some workers can work for years without any kind of raise.
 

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Credit Juanpablo Ramirez-Franco
SEUI Local 73 Strike in Front of the University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford

Members of Service Employees International Union Local 73 at the Rockford campus and the UI Health L.P. Johnson Family Health Center are in their second week on strike.

 
They’ve been calling for improved personal protective equipment as well as fair wages.
Teamsters Local 325 said it stands with the SEIU workers. They said their members won’t cross the picket line, and they won’t pick up any waste at the UIC strike locations until further notice.
 

  • 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.