Hundreds of workers on strike at Lear Corp. plant
HAMMOND, Ind. (AP) - Hundreds of workers demanding higher wages walked off the job Saturday at a Lear Corporation plant in northwest Indiana that makes automotive seats, beginning a strike that could affect a major Ford assembly plant in Chicago.
The plant, in Hammond, employs 760 workers making seats for the Explorer and Taurus models produced at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant. The Ford plant could be vulnerable to any serious supply chain disruption because it operates on a just-in-time basis, meaning it receives parts sometimes just hours before installing them in vehicles rather than warehousing them on site.
Saturday's strike shut down the Lear plant, according to a statement from the United Auto Workers. All the plant's workers walked off the job and around 400 of them were on the picket line Saturday after two months of contract negotiations.
A Lear spokesman did not return a call seeking comment Saturday.
Workers complain they are earning fast-food-like wages.
Chicago alderman challenging Emanuel for mayor
CHICAGO (AP) - A Chicago alderman said Saturday he'll challenge Mayor Rahm Emanuel in 2015, saying the city deserves a leader who looks out for everyday people.
Alderman Bob Fioretti, a member of the City Council's progressive caucus and a frequent critic of Emanuel, ripped the former White House chief of staff for closing some 50 neighborhood schools, cutting public-employee pensions and not doing enough to stop the violence that has left too many families grieving.
"I love Chicago and I can't stand by while the current mayor looks out for some of us, but ignores the real struggles some families face - for good jobs, for good schools, for safe streets," Fioretti told a cheering crowd at a downtown college.
Emanuel's campaign spokesman said Fioretti has "shown no backbone for making tough choices."
Emanuel inherited huge financial problems when he was elected in 2011. He said schools had to be closed as a cost-cutting measure, and pension cuts were necessary to ensure employee retirement funds remain solvent.
Fioretti said he'd impose a tax on commuters who travel to Chicago for work and require businesses making more than $50 million per year to pay employees $15 at least per hour.
Medical marijuana law sponsor defends secret bids
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The state lawmaker who sponsored Illinois' medical marijuana law said it bars the release of information about those applying to grow and sell the drug to prevent the state officials who review the applications from being influenced by political connections.
State Representative Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, said Friday that the law's confidentiality clause also prevents companies from getting information about competitors that could give them an advantage.
"The idea was to keep this not secret in the sense of lack of transparency, but secret to keep the process pure," Lang tells the Southern newspaper.
Government watchdog groups expressed concern that keeping applicant names secret would make it harder to determine if politically connected companies had received preferential treatment. Several companies hired lobbyists, including a former chief of staff to Governor Pat Quinn and a former state police director, to help them through the process.
Lang said he understands the concerns, but that he thinks shielding the applicant names from open records requests was the better way to go. He also said he thinks the names will eventually come out in lawsuits brought by companies that are passed over for licenses.
The application period opened Monday and lasts through September 22nd. The state will issue 22 cultivation center licenses and 60 dispensary licenses.
5 men from Kankakee area hit with gun charges
URBANA, Ill. (AP) - Five men are in federal custody on gun charges resulting from investigations of gun violence in the Kankakee area, the U.S. attorney's office in central Illinois announced Friday.
Twenty-seven-year-old Rico Speed; 22-year-old Roosevelt D. Smith; 39-year-old Charles V. Williams, and 34-year-old Carlton Lashawn Smith, all of Kankakee, and 38-year-old Antwon Crite of Hopkins Park, were all charged with felon in possession of a firearm. Speed is also charged one count of distribution of crack cocaine.
US. Magistrate Judge David Bernthal ordered the five detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending trial.
It wasn't immediately known if the men have attorneys.
U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis said a federal grand jury returned the indictments earlier this week but the charges remained sealed pending their arrests and court appearances. Lewis set a trial date for November 12th.
US awards $12M to Illinois health centers
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded $11.7 million in funding to community health centers across Illinois, Senator Dick Durbin announced on Friday.
The money is available through the Affordable Care Act. It will be used to hire additional health care workers, hire new care providers, and allow the facilities to stay open for longer hours.
Durbin said the community health centers serve an important purpose for Illinois families. He said with the federal resources Illinois health centers can "continue to improve the care and critical services they offer those in need throughout the state."
Durbin said the grants will support 78,815 new patients and expand outreach and enrollment assistance efforts as more Illinois residents are able to take advantage of coverage through the health care reform law.
Chabon novel chosen for Chicago reading initiative
CHICAGO (AP) - Chicago residents are being encouraged to enter a world of superheroes through the city's popular One Book, One Chicago program.
The Chicago Public Library Commission announced Friday it has chosen Michael Chabon's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" for its 2014 to 2015 initiative.
One Book, One Chicago began in 2001 as a way to bring people of all backgrounds together around one book and theme.
Set against the backdrop of World War Two, "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" is a work of fiction that chronicles the lives of two Jewish cousins who become major players in the comic book industry with their superheroes and villains.
Chabon will visit Chicago Public Library on October 9th to discuss the novel.
GLEN CARBON-POLICE CHIEF
Glen Carbon village names next police chief
GLEN CARBON, Ill. (AP) - The southwestern Illinois village of Glen Carbon soon will have a new police chief.
The village's governing board has approved of Collinsville Police Department Assistant Police Chief Todd Link as John Lakin's eventual replacement, the Belleville News-Democrat (http://bit.ly/1qQ6Cy2) reported.
Lakin is running unopposed for Madison County sheriff as a Democrat in the November election.
The 48-year-old Link is a Collinsville High School graduate who has bachelor's degrees in English and political science from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He has a master's degree in criminal justice from Lindenwood University.
Link is expected to begin work on October 1st, with an annual salary of $87,300.
U OF ILLINOIS-ENROLLMENT
Freshmen enrollment drops at U. of Illinois
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Freshman enrollment at the University of Illinois's flagship campus is down this semester by 5.4 percent from a year ago, according to the school.
The freshman class enrolled this fall at the Urbana-Champaign campus has 6,937 students. That's down from 7,331 in the fall of 2013. The record high was 7,583 in 2005.
The university didn't provide a reason for the drop but noted without details the percentage of students who are accepted to the university is down. That's become an ongoing problem at the university as the cost of attendance has risen. A year at the university including housing now costs more than $20,000.
Of the freshmen enrolled this fall, 4,297 are from Illinois, according to the release. The class includes 1,061 foreign students. The largest group is from China, with 658 students.
Edwards, Keselowski fastest in final practice
JOLIET, Ill. (AP) - Title contender Carl Edwards is the fastest driver in the final practice for the opening race of the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.
Edwards turned a lap at 186.413 miles per hour on Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway. Brad Keselowski, who struggled to find speed on the opening day of practice, was second fastest at 186.335. Keselowski also led the field with the best 10-consecutive laps average.
The 10-race Chase begins Sunday with a 16-driver field.
Kevin Harvick wins again for JR Motorsports
JOLIET, Ill. (AP) - Kevin Harvick earned his fourth Nationwide Series win of the season on Saturday with a victory for JR Motorsports at Chicagoland Speedway.
Harvick took the lead on a two-tire pit stop 39 laps from the finish when Kyle Busch took four tires. Harvick led for 43 laps in all.
Kyle Larson finished second and Busch settled for third after leading 141 of the 200 laps.
Ryan Blaney was fourth, followed by Trevor Bayne.
Rams sign Quinn to 4-year contract extension
ST. LOUIS (AP) - The St. Louis Rams have signed defensive end Robert Quinn, who led the NFC with a franchise-record 19 sacks last season, to a four-year contract extension through the 2019 season.
The 24-year-old Quinn bested the team record of 17 by Kevin Carter in the 1999 Super Bowl championship season. He also forced seven fumbles and recovered two fumbles, returning one of them for his first career touchdown.
In the past three seasons, Quinn has 29½ sacks, second most in the NFL behind J.J. Watt's 32. He was the 14th overall pick in 2011.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.