What Does Emanuel’s Departure Mean for Chicago’s Progressive Movement?


On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, Emanuel announced that he was not seeking re-election, after two terms in office. The news sent shock waves as did a similar announcement almost eight years ago to the day when longtime mayor Richard J Daley announced that he was done. In the next few days and weeks, many new candidates will likely emerge. Who runs will, of course, be of great interest. But what they run on will be much more important.

We have the opportunity now to build a truly new Chicago – one not dominated by Wall Street greed, but rather one where our communities get the resources they need to flourish.  Grassroots Collaborative and others are working to build a clear, bold platform, a people’s agenda, that lays out clearly what we expect the next leadership to champion. Taking on corporate power and white supremacy is key to winning a city rooted in our diverse neighborhoods and communities – the key to what makes Chicago great.

Mayor Emanuel has been referred to by many as “Mayor 1%” – a title he has more than earned. Emanuel is Wall Street’s mayor. He made tens of millions of dollars as an investment banker and has paid it forward in the form of huge corporate handouts through TIFs, interest rate swaps, and other financial gimmicks. He’s made banks rich off of police brutality bonds. At every turn, he put developers before neighborhoods and banks before our Chicago’s school children.

The outcome of Rahm’s reign is a city which is losing it’s Black population, seeing massive displacement of Black and Brown people within the city, living through tragic violence,and becoming increasingly unaffordable for all working class people.  Bankers and billionaires want a return on their investment – they are less interested in building strong, diverse cities, in which all people can thrive.

There are lots of reasons why Rahm Emanuel chose to not pursue a 3rd term.  Key is the committed and fierce organizing done by so many such as the Mental Health Movement, Erase the Database Campaign, Chicago Teachers Union, #NoCopAcademy, and so many other campaigns and organizations.

Now we are faced with an incredible opportunity and some key questions.  There is an inherent question to ask of us in this moment – what would it look like to govern free from Wall Street control? What does governing power look like for progressives, in a climate where corporate power dominates? What is the bold, transformative vision that we are organizing for look like, and how do we build the political power necessary to ensure not only that the next Mayor runs on that vision, but can govern that vision?

There are no quick answers to these questions. The 2019 elections does give us a moment now to step forward towards this vision, but of course, this is a long-term fight. There are many strategies needed – including getting money out of politics, creating independent Left political formations, militant direct action, resourcing Black and Latinx movement building, and more. Chicago progressives must keep organizing for a bold transformative vision rooted in an intersectional analysis.


At the Collaborative, one key strategy we are rooted in is making the connections between white supremacy and austerity. For years, in the context of budget cuts at the local and state levels, organizations’ demands at protests were to “stop the cuts” – and then, when what was implemented was slightly less awful than the original threat, folks (including us) would claim victory. Or we spoke about how cuts would hurt Black and Brown people most – saying things like the problem is “disproportionate impact.” Neither of these are wrong – but they aren’t exactly right either.

Anti-blackness drives austerity – it isn’t just that Black people are hurt more by cuts, but that the cuts are attempted because of the desired harm to Black people. For example, college in the United States was actually free when it was white students attending. When the civil rights movement led to more Black students applying to college, governments began de-funding public higher education to make college out of reach for Black people, with the final result hurting ALL low-income and middle-income students.

Anti-immigrant racism drives austerity as well – the recent attacks by the Trump administration to dismantle the safety net use anti-immigrant racism and anti-Muslim rhetoric as the reasons why the government should be smaller. The ultimate goal of the right is to destroy the government and privatize the common good – and attacking immigrants is key to that final end.

What does this all have to do with corporate Democrats like Emanuel? Absolutely everything. Emanuel’s economic agenda is rooted in austerity and anti-Black racism. His first budget centered on closing six mental health clinics in communities of color, to save a paltry few million in a $5 billion annual budget. He closed 50 schools in Black neighborhoods. Unless we are doing the work with grassroots leaders around how politicians like Emanuel are moving a racist corporate agenda, it is easy for people to believe the dominant narrative that this is the only way. Political education on racial capitalism is key foundation work that precedes our envisioning and demanding the radical feminist economy we need.

Rahm’s announcement was a reminder of the need for audacious hope. Of imagining the seemingly impossible. Of strategizing with a longer arc.  Organizing brought us to this moment – and it is organizing that is going to move us through.

No Public Dollars for Lincoln Yards


Last week we joined with community residents from across the city for a press conference in front of the proposed site of the $5 billion dollar Lincoln Yards luxury development. Currently, the developer Sterling Bay is seeking up to $1 billion in taxpayer money to fund the building of a massive 70-acre mega development consisting of high rises, corporate headquarters, condos, and a new soccer stadium.

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At the press conference, we called for no public dollars to go towards the project because we know that we are not going to stop the violence and displacement of Chicago’s Black community by building new soccer stadiums and luxury condos.

Mayor Emanuel thinks that handouts to giant corporations will result in prosperity trickling down to everybody. But we know it doesn’t work that way. Taking away resources from our communities and giving them to developers for projects like Lincoln Yards only increases the economic and racial divides in our city.

We need to make it very clear to the Mayor and his corporate allies that we will not stand for the continuation of failed economic policies that have robbed our city of a huge number of Black families and made it harder and harder to live in Chicago unless you are rich and well connected.

If we come together across our neighborhoods and communities we can force our elected officials to invest in the things we need such as mental health services, vocational training, and great public schools. This is what will result in an improved quality of life of neighborhood residents and reduced violence.

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2018 People’s Gala


Mark Your Calendars!

Our annual 2018 People’s Gala is on Wednesday, Sept. 26th. Come join us and members of the Chicago progressive community for an evening to celebrate our past years’ victories, and to re-energize and find inspiration for the work ahead. 

We are so thrilled to be recognizing the following outstanding movement leaders and organizers who have made immeasurable contributions to our fight for economic and racial justice:

Get your tickets here


2018 Labor Leader Award

Greg Kelley

President, SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana


2018 Donahue Justice Award

Dr. Barbara Ransby

Scholar, Activist, Author


2018 Bold Campaign Award

#NoCopAcademy Campaign


2018 Founding Funder Award

Regina McGraw, Executive Director

Carmen Prieto, Associate Director

Wieboldt Foundation


2018 Founding Funder Award

Grace Hou 

President, Woods Fund of Chicago

Statement on Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court Decision


CHICAGO – Grassroots Collaborative unites labor and community-based organizations representing tens of thousands of Illinois residents whose families and communities will be hurt by today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision. The following is a statement by Grassroots Collaborative Deputy Director, Abbie Illenberger.

“Today’s ruling by Trump’s Supreme Court is the latest in a long series of attacks by billionaires and big business seeking to demolish any and all institutions that give a voice to working people.

These attacks have not been limited to the courthouse or Trump. Governor Rauner made undermining the bargaining rights of Illinois workers a cornerstone of his agenda and devastated our social service sector along the way. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has gutted our neighborhoods by shuttering clinics, closing public schools, and displacing Black residents in droves. The public employees harmed by the actions of Rahm, Rauner and now the Supreme Court are disproportionately women and people of color.

Despite the constant attacks on our people and organizations, we see opportunities for Illinois residents to come together like never before. Instead of letting wealthy elites, like the Koch Brothers, divide us by pitting worker against worker and neighbor against neighbor, Grassroots Collaborative member organizations are bringing people together. Just this year Grassroots Collaborative launched a new initiative in central Illinois. The Peoria People’s Project is uniting union members and other community residents to demand elected officials make their wealthy donors pay taxes for the great public services we deserve.”


Close the Loopholes!


Job Posting: Art & Design Communication Intern


Grassroots Collaborative is seeking a talented artist or graphic designer interested in helping to build power for working families through visual storytelling. The Art & Design Communications intern supports both organizational branding efforts and campaign work. They would be responsible for working with organizational staff and members to create strong visuals and work to help make Grassroots Collaborative organizing campaigns more impactful.

Download PDF of Job Description here: Art and Design Communication Intern

TITLE: Art & Design Communication Intern

SUPERVISED BY: Communications Director
SALARY/HOURLY, EXEMPT OR NONEXEMPT: Stipend internship of $3,000. 10-15 hours a week for 16 weeks.

ORGANIZATIONAL SUMMARY: Grassroots Collaborative (501c3) builds power with working families through strategic community-labor organizing, grassroots leadership development, civic engagement, and research. We organize to win progressive policies and systems-change that improve the lives of low-to-moderate income residents and communities of color. We utilize popular education to build consciousness, and build organization that unites residents to create transformative change for a more just society. Our affiliated 501c4, Grassroots Illinois Action, works to build community political power through issue advocacy and electoral strategies.

We have a strong record of leading bold campaigns that shift the narrative of racism, austerity and corporate power.

POSITION SUMMARY:  Grassroots Collaborative is seeking a talented artist or graphic designer interested in helping to build power for working families through visual storytelling. The Art & Design Communications intern supports both organizational branding efforts and campaign work. They would be responsible for working with organizational staff and members to create strong visuals and work to help make Grassroots Collaborative organizing campaigns more impactful.  


  • Social media content creation: Work with the Communications Director on creating and maintaining a social media calendar that engages our online audience on our campaigns and promotes core progressive values.
  • Political Education & Leadership Development: Help support workshops and presentations that educate union members and grassroots leaders by helping to craft visuals and graphics that hbreak downdown complex economic and political structures so that they are accessible and easily understood by community members.
  • Visual Storytelling – Work with the Communications Director to create visuals and amplify public narrative about the need to curb the power of the finance sector, and for the wealthy to pay their fair share.


  • Excellent graphic design and visual communication skills
  • Strong written and verbal communication ability
  • Excellent team player able to meet deadlines
  • Comfortable working in a fast-paced environment
  • Strong support for the mission of Grassroots Collaborative and Grassroots Illinois Action
  • Demonstrated commitment to racial, social, and economic justice

    Grassroots Collaborative is an equal-opportunity employer. People of color strongly encouraged to apply.  For consideration, send a resume, cover letter, example of design work, and reference to Nathan Ryan, Communications Director, hiring@thegrassrootscollaborative.org.  No calls, please. Position open until filled.

Following Trump’s Lead, Rauner Protects Wealthy Money Managers in Budget Address


On Wednesday, Governor Rauner delivered his fourth budget address which was long on rhetoric, but short on solutions. The following is a statement from Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative.

“Today, Governor Rauner again failed to present a budget proposal that would lead Illinois towards stability and prosperity for all. Instead, he proposed that Illinois workers give up more, and invited Illinois taxpayers to play a shell game, one with very serious consequences for our communities, our children, and our state. Just like Trump’s grand infrastructure plan that places the huge burden of payment on local communities, Gov. Rauner’s claims of new investments in education amount to nothing more than forcing new financial burdens on local school districts.

As our state struggles to recover from the damage done by the budget impasse and address the $8.4 billion unpaid bill backlog, our state needs bold leadership. Governor Rauner could have followed the example set by New York’s Governor Cuomo. Facing significant budget challenges, and in anticipation of the fall out that will come from the Federal Tax overhaul, Cuomo presented a budget address that called for new sources of progressive revenue, including one proposal that closes the outrageous carried interest loophole – a proposal that would raise $1 billion annually in Illinois. Governor Rauner, once again demonstrated that he is unwilling to make the hard choice to pass legislation that will ask his peers, including wealthy money managers, to pay their fair share. He is unwilling to bring Illinois in line with our neighboring states, by supporting a graduated income tax.

Today, on Valentine’s Day, Governor Rauner showed no love for the diverse communities that Grassroots Collaborative represents. From Peoria to the West side of Chicago, today’s budget address offered little more than another disappointing example of failed leadership.”

Headshot of Chama St Louis

We Are Growing – Peoria People’s Project Launches New Phase


Exciting news! We are expanding.

It is no secret that Trump and Rauner are trying to divide our communities – pitting Chicago against the rest of the state, parents against teachers, and neighbor against neighbor. They want to keep our attention on our differences instead of the struggles that we all share. That’s why the work of Grassroots Collaborative to bring communities together is more important than ever before.

We can’t win by building an island in a sea of rising conservatism. To win against Trump and Rauner, we need to invest in progressive movement-building across the state. We know we are stronger when we fight together which is why we are proud to announce the next step of the Peoria People’s Project.

Our initiative will bring together residents in central Illinois, connecting union members with social service agencies and community organizations, so together we can work on the issues that are impacting all of us. After months of planning and strategizing, we’ve hired a new central Illinois organizer, Chama St.Louis, who is already hard at work moving the project forward!

Chama Graphic

We want you to hear more about the great work that Chama has planned in central Illinois and invite you to join us for a Facebook Live chat on February 9th @ Noon. On the chat you will get to hear directly from Chama about the problems that residents in Peoria are facing including racial housing segregation, disinvestment in public schools, and rising economic inequality. We have much more in common than we know.

Click here for more info on joining the Facebook Live Chat on February 9th at Noon.

Will you help take back Illinois, one city at a time? A donation of $15, $25, or $50 will go directly towards supporting the critical community organizing happening on the ground in Peoria right now. And thanks to the Marguerite Casey Foundation, all new donations will be matched dollar for dollar, having double the impact! Your support will enable us to reach thousands of new Peoria residents this year, building our movement for racial and economic justice across Illinois. But we can’t do it without you- our most committed grassroots supporters. Donate today!

llinois Must Pursue State Level Solutions to Counteract Failures in GOP Tax Bill


Grassroots Leaders and State Legislators Push to Close Carried Interest Loophole in Illinois Following Passage of GOP Tax Bill

Chicago, IL – As Congress continues to pass legislation and policy that is out of line with the values of the American people, states and cities have jumped in to take action to protect their residents, including city and state action around climate change, net neutrality, and sanctuary status. Now that the GOP has passed its tax bill, it is imperative that Illinois take action to protect our residents by passing legislation to close the egregious carried interest loophole at the state level, generating over $1 billion in new revenue in the first year.

The GOP Tax Bill is especially dangerous to states like Illinois, which has already been destabilized by years of budget crisis and whose communities will be further hurt by changes to state and local tax exemptions. State lawmakers must take action to avoid increased taxes and cuts to local services for working families living in our state. 

State Representative Emanuel Chris Welch (D-HIllside) explained, “The Republicans in Congress have just given the 1% an early Christmas present.  They have chosen to vote for a huge tax break for the wealthy donors to their PACs, instead of protecting the families living in their districts.  We cannot afford to repeat that same mistake here in Illinois. We need to act now and pass legislation that requires the wealthy hedge fund managers who exploit the carried interest loophole to pay their fair share.”

The carried interest loophole is a federal tax loophole that benefits a small, but very wealthy and well-connected group of hedge fund and private equity billionaires. The loophole allows wealthy investors to declare their income as carried interest to receive a lower effective tax rate than kindergarten teachers or truck drivers. Although Trump used the carried interest on the campaign trail as an example of a rigged economic system and promised to close it the GOP tax bill fails to close the loophole.  

Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative, added, “Legislation to close the carried interest loophole (SB 1719) passed the Illinois Senate last year but didn’t make it to the Governor’s desk, as some legislators wanted to wait for the federal government to act instead. The GOP’s tax bill makes it clear that Trump flat-out lied to the American people when he promised to close the carried interest loophole. It is time for Illinois to step up and take action to close the loophole ourselves. We can’t afford to wait.”   



Grassroots Collaborative Response to Mayor Emanuel’s Budget Address


Chicago, IL – The following is a statement from Amisha Patel, Executive Director of Grassroots Collaborative on Mayor Emanuel’s budget address.

“Today’s budget address shows Mayor Emanuel’s continued commitment to policies that have failed Chicago’s families as he continues to prioritize the interests of city elites over those of working families. The Mayor has continued to raise taxes and fees on everyone and everything with the exception of wealthy individuals and corporations. Instead of pursuing regressive revenue fees that further hurt our city’s working families, the Mayor should be implementing revenue solutions such as reinvesting the TIF Surplus funds and reinstating the corporate head tax.

Rideshare and amusement taxes will not fix our city, neither will doling out taxpayer money to try and woo Amazon. Our city needs to reinvest in schools and Black and Brown neighborhoods. Failure to do so will result in more violence and more residents being pushed out of the city.”