Workers organizing

Baristas in the Loop are the first ones in the Midwest to publicly push to unionize, after Starbucks workers on the East Coast and other major cities have done so. About a dozen employees from the downtown store submitted signed cards to join SEIU, which could trigger a hearing and an election this month. Shortly thereafter they were joined by employees from a Logan Square store. By forming an organizing committee, they are hoping to improve their wages, work schedules, and labor conditions. Meanwhile, employees at the Art Institute of Chicago voted to unionize on Tuesday after months of actions, and will be recognized as the first major museum union in Chicago, representing curators, librarians, custodians, retail workers, and others. Right before Christmas, about thirty Amazon workers staged walkouts from the Gage Park and Cicero facilities during their busiest season, accusing their supervisors of overworking them and underpaying them. They demand fair and consistent pay across warehouses and respect in the workplace, as Amazon rapidly expands in the city and suburbs.

Omicron wave

About half of COVID deaths in Illinois since the beginning of the pandemic are in Cook County, and half of those in Chicago, according to public health officials. Since the highly-transmissible Omicron variant showed up, the City of Chicago and Cook County have mandates in place that require proof of vaccination for anyone over five years old that visits indoor places like restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues where food and drinks are served. Children who are twelve or older are eligible to schedule a booster shot five months after they’re fully vaccinated, per the CDC. While many pop-up rapid testing sites can be found throughout the city, they’re largely unregulated and their reliability is debatable. People with private health insurance can soon be reimbursed for up to eight over-the-counter COVID rapid tests a month per individual, according to the Biden administration.

New laws in 2022

A new year always means new laws. Schools in Illinois can no longer reprimand students for wearing afros, cornrows, locs, braids, etc. or to discriminate against them based on any hairstyle. Illinois gun owners can have their FOID cards automatically renewed if they provide their fingerprints. State Police will also be combining FOID and conceal carry licenses into one, will start a database of all guns that have been reported stolen, and will remove guns from people with revoked cards. In the City of Chicago, all domestic workers, which include nannies, house cleaners, and care workers, must have a written contract with the person who hired them. The documents must be written in the workers’ preferred language and include pay rate, schedule, and work duties, and should be renewed annually or when work responsibilities change.

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