Life in plastic, it’s fantastic

A tonally appropriate song for today.

OK so look, in a pandemic and global economic collapse, there are going to be some layoffs that are understandable. The Boka restaurant group, for example, has laid off a few hundred employees and may lay off a few hundred more. Sure. We’re not getting too drunk in that great little back bar at Little Goat. It sucks, but it sucks for everyone. No one is making money here. 

Then there are understandable, if not sympathetic, layoffs. Like United Airlines, which has just collected so much GD bailout money from so many sources over so many years, yet is still furloughing almost 15,000 flight attendants, pilots and operations workers and laying off another 1,400 administrators and managers. Why couldn’t the federal government just give it mooorreeeee.

Then there are layoffs that just, wow. Cook County Health scaling back services and laying off another 100-odd people because it’s trying to care for too many uninsured patients … that seems more like a sign that things are broken. A global health crisis should be, uh, good for the medical business, no? Or at least a reason not to get rid of medical services primarily used by the essential workers and underserved communities most at risk during this pandemic lol. 

Now would be a good time to donate to the Chicago Southside Birth Center. If you’re a paying subscriber of this newsletter, you kind of already did.

Still, there’s one winner taking the cake this week. Salesforce is a piece of software other companies use to sell things. Right now, everyone is doing their selling online in some capacity. That means Salesforce is doing well. Its stock is doing record numbers. It just acquired a big ol’ analytics company with the lots of money it has. And yeah, it’s laying off 1,000 people to “position for growth.” This is, this is the growth position. You are growing. With help from local governments desperate to woo your office buildings. 

Good thing Illinois is offering up another $300 a week in unemployment benefits. Because y’all, we don’t think Mitch McConnell is that committed to helping people who are laid off.

The city is also pitching in, contributing $1.5 million in Neighborhood Opportunity Funds to Little Village orgs planning to open Xquina Cafe, an incubator, coworking space, shared kitchen, art gallery and, yes, cafe. It’s a lot of things, but in this economy? Why not go for broke?

Abbott is — it’s hiring 2,000 temporary workers to make COVID-19 test kits up in Gurnee. These are the same tests Donald Trump already plans to buy all the way up for … who knows what. We know he hates testing. Anyway, it’s a job, and probably a fairly safe one, if for no other reason than Abbott would have an incredible PR situation on its hands if someone making COVID-19 tests tested positive for COVID-19.

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Editor at NextAdvisor
The personal finance publication (launched in partnership with TIME) is looking for a top editor based in New York, Charlotte or remotely, so that sounds like a Chicago journalist to us. Let us know if you’re interested and we’ll connect you. 

Employee Communications & Engagement Manager at Reverb
If internal comms is your jam, check out this role at the Etsy-owned online marketplace for musical instruments. You’d create content for the intranet and company newsletter, handle internal crisis communications, and stay on top of award submissions to make Reverb look like a cool place to work. Or you could just amplify the 100% paid health benefits — that oughta do it.

Director of Marketing Strategy at Chicago Beyond
Develop and execute a marketing plan for the impact investor focused on organizations and individuals creating opportunity and access for young people.

Inspiration of the week

“In such moments, an ossified social order suddenly turns pliable, prolonged stasis gives way to motion, and people dare to hope. Plastic hours are rare. ... Nothing happens unless you move.”

—George Packer in a long Atlantic article care of the great Anne Helen Peterson’s newsletter. We wrestled with this bad boy all the way to the end. It tried to lose us, talking about “democratic faith” and Biden’s LBJ potential, but we stuck with it, and we’re glad we did. 

It does feel like a plastic moment because it feels impossible. We can’t continue. The real we this time, all of us, we’re shot. I can’t remember a conversation in the last six months that didn’t start with a sharp exhale of breath. I spent half the day adrenaline spiked and the other half in tears from the crash and that’s what passes as balance now.

In the same — again just wow so long — article, Packer tosses off that “Most younger Americans have seen no viable kind of politics other than protest.”

He didn’t say it like a positive, but it’s when we started to feel a little hope. Because for the first time in a long time we really are miserable enough that protest seems viable, even preferable, to stasis. Protest can get us some of what we need from these institutions — or it can give us a way to watch them burn. Either way, better than the alternative: that we let it get this bad only to settle for the scraps. As tired as we are, that’s too exhausting to contemplate. 

You’ll have to push it forward without us for a little bit. We’re taking some time off, because one of the Is behind this royal we is having a baby. Like I told you, I’m a goddamned optimist. 

Forward this email to anyone who needs to stay malleable. They can sign up here and get an email that keeps it moving every couple weeks, once we’re back in fighting shape. 

Something tells us it won’t take that long.

Got a tip on an excellent job? Reply to this email, send us a new one at, or reach out on Twitter.

Doing our best to get excited

Because what is the alternative, really?

This newsletter depends on the reporting of other news outlets, full-stop. And that can make it hard to criticize those outlets. They are dear to us, we want them to succeed, and we’ve worked at most of them. But these past two weeks have seen Crain’s walking through the streets tolling a bell of doom and rending its garments over looting. One of the few positive headlines this week: “Looting boosts business for board-up and glass-repair services.” Otherwise it’s looking like this, just a stream of morose asides from a bad grandfather.

We’re not surprised, just disappointed, especially when Crain’s doesn’t seem to connect the dots on the business it’s so eager to protect giving nothing back to the city. Literally, nothing, Water Tower Place and other big downtown landmarks are deferring their tax bills, yet asking for nonstop police protection. Potbelly is once again dipping into that PPP money after laying people off, presumably to pad out its profits during the pandemic. At least it can afford to pay for all those boards over the windows, right? Rightfully disgraced WeWork is breaking past lease promises, and even World Business Chicago, the organization charged with bringing new business to the city, is laying off five staffers and failing to replace four more. 

It’s the wrong looters Crain’s is looking at. And we do not have the time for that kind of racist distraction. 

Instead, we have some actual funding news to focus on! Venture capital firm S2G raised a $100 million fund to invest in startups that promote sustainable seafood and ocean health. OK! We can’t imagine too much of that money is going to stay in the landlocked Middlewest, but still, glad to see Chicago raising money and putting it toward fighting climate change. 

Homeowners’ insurance startup Kin raised an additional $35 million, and plans to use the money to start selling plans in three new states. Do we need insurance for our homes more or less now that we never leave them?  

Still with all the funding, Amazon is the company adding the most jobs to Chicagoland. Until that’s no longer the case, you won’t hear us talking about a recovery. 

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Development Officer at Embarc
Embarc takes low-income high schoolers on cool field trips. A great way to expand your idea of possible opportunities, yes. Also, just objectively, even a terrible field trip is still going to be the best day of your year as a high schooler. The mission of this role is clear: Double Embarc’s fundraising over the next two years to double the number of students it can break out of classrooms for a day. 

Marketing Technology Coordinator at Neal Gerber & Eisenberg
Coordinate all the marketing technology platforms and analytics, manage the law firm's mailing lists, and help the marketing director run webinars and train staff. Basically wow them with your marketing and digital knowledge in what should be a fairly secure setting.

Development Manager at City Bureau
Newsrooms run by venture capitalists don’t seem to be working out. So roll up your sleeves to help this member-supported South Side nonprofit raise funds for the future of journalism. Your deadline to apply is Aug. 30.

Head of eCommerce at ConAgra Brands
This is a big-time e-commerce power job: Work with existing channels and partners and identify new ways to grow brands like Birds Eye, Gardein, Slim Jim and BoomChickaPop through digital marketing, space planning, program testing, content management, promotions and new technologies. Operate the P&L, serve as a thought leader, work with stakeholders and agencies, build a team, engage new retailers. Who’s hungry?

Inspiration of the week

“Tonight I couldn't be prouder to be a loyal union member, a passionate climate activist and a patriotic Democrat. Or as Donald Trump will call me in a tweet tomorrow, a washed-up, horse-faced, no-talent has-been with low ratings. Well, with all due respect, sir, it takes one to know one.”

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, during what turned out to be a powerful, intimate and hopefully effective virtual Democratic National Convention. Check out the JLD DNC supercut here.

It may not be the ticket you wanted — it isn’t the ticket we wanted. But we are going to do our best to get excited about voting regardless, because it most definitely is the better ticket. And all the while, we’ll be looking for the glimmers of hope that it’s a ticket capable of being pushed further left, and doing more for people everywhere than it’s currently promising. 

Forward this email to anyone who needs to feign enthusiasm sometimes. They can sign up here and get an email full of GIFs that will at least elicit a sad smile to keep them going every two weeks. 

Got a tip on an excellent job? Reply to this email, send us a new one at, or reach out on Twitter.

The element of surprise

We just wanted to start a simple newsletter with a simple premise: business news for people. We want to like companies. Jobs are supposed to be good things. But no. We had to start a newsletter in the age of Avant and Enova, of Outcome Health and Tovala, obligating us to take to the streets every couple of weeks banging our pots and pans and screaming “It’s not real! NONE OF IT IS REAL.”

So anyway Enova is paying 90 million ill-gotten dollars to acquire OnDeck capital in what even Crain’s is calling an “opportunistic deal.” Yes. It is a predatory lender. Everything it does is opportunistic. 

Oh but the opportunities for acquisition do not end there. Sittercity is being acquired by day care corp Bright Horizons for an undisclosed sum. On the one hand, where is anyone going that they need to find a babysitter online? And on the other, wow can people really use their computers to pay money in exchange for entertaining loud small people for like a minute?

A deal truly too good to be true — although we are sad to see a classic Chicago startup get acquired by an out-of-state business.

Livongo wasn’t technically a Chicago startup, but founder Glen Tullman always kept a big base of operations in Chicago. It’s now merging with Teladoc for a cool $18.5 billion. The doctor booking service wants in on Livongo’s progress with wearable devices that monitor chronic conditions. Understandable given the current state of virtual healthcare, but given how high Livongo’s stocks have climbed lately, not exactly a bargain.

It’s not just mergers and acquisitions taking advantage of an August full of distractions. Our fave developers Sterling Bay are also planning to plow ahead with Lincoln Yards while everyone’s busy protesting ... ugh, what was it? Systematic racism and oppression in part enforced through a history of redlining, violence and unchecked greed in real estate? Oh yeah that. Anyway Sterling Bay is going to go right on building Lincoln Yards as a rich kid playground over so, so many objections, and you can’t stop it because everyone in power is getting a cut. But look, they’ll give you a life sciences hub in the hope of earning more money from biotech companies!

Speaking of graft, online gambling company Rush Street Interactive is going public in just, mmm, the most 2020 way possible, via acquisition by a “blank-check” company that’s already publicly listed. These special purpose acquisition companies get listed on stock exchanges with … no products, no services, no business. Then they go buy one, and bammo, that newly acquired company is public. Definitely seems like a not at all purposefully opaque way to navigate financial markets. Nope must be legit with a valuation of $1.8 billion. 

There is one opportunistic business we’re rooting for: Chowbus. The food delivery service has raised $33 million by working directly with Asian restaurants and charging a lower fee than the competition. What a lovely success story — an immigrant college student creating a niche service based on the needs he saw in his community and growing it without outside investment. So why is this the news Crain’s decides to play like it’s us? “Apparently the world did need another food delivery service” is a helluva headline to be pulling out in 2020. Tovala raises $20 million for its insanely high-priced microwave ovens and microwave meals, and that’s just smart business in a pandemic. Wow. What looks different?

Y’all we haven’t even gotten to the layoffs yet. Boeing keeps cutting jobs, airplane Wi-Fi provider Gogo somehow still has enough employees to cut 14% of its jobs, and even Navy Pier is laying people off, what with the no events, tourism, summer fun, etc. 

Amazon though, wow, still planning expansions and hiring. Just don’t expect PPE. 

Not a GIF, just accurate.

Still, there is always good news somewhere. Usually where women are doing the work, like this group of ladies launching First Women’s Bank with a goal of specifically lending to female entrepreneurs who are often overlooked, underfinanced and generally diminished.

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Director of Workforce Innovation and five other interesting jobs at P33
Penny Pritzker has pulled together some big money for an initiative to “realize the dream of a more inclusive and thriving Chicago tech ecosystem.” Yeah three white co-chairs should get the job done nicely. But look, the mission is good, the money is there, and the visibility is high, putting you in front of all the organizations who will sign onto this in some fashion. Go for it. 

Email Marketing Specialist and Content Coordinator & Executive Assistant at Packback
The Chicago startup that pivoted from college book rental to an AI-supported discussion platform is about as well-positioned as can be for whatever becomes of higher learning.

Director of Marketing at Public Goods
The online-only seller of eco-friendly, minimalist-chic house-brand goods (think Brandless) says it is “tiny relative to the opportunity.” We’d say that's fair given everyone’s new delivery lifestyle and our personal hoard of sold-out hand soap refills.

Inspiration of the week

“This strain of white-hot stupidity constitutes an open undermining of Harris, Warren, and every other woman who has had the apparent temerity to have already run for president (a choice I had been led to understand was valid for women here in 2020); it also is a dig at Abrams, who in other contexts has been — again, refreshingly — open about her desire to someday sit in the Oval Office. It is offensive on nearly every level when applied to women — and especially to Black women, who have never gotten even close to being justly represented in American elected office, let alone in the executive branch — and is also completely bananas in the context of the 2020 election in which the candidate is a 77-year-old man facing a global health crisis and economic collapse.”

Rebecca Traister on the Biden campaign’s apparent goal of picking a female VP who does not want to be the VP. 

Do you ever, these days, feel like you can’t get any words out beyond a choking “WHAT THE FUCK?” Yeah, same. Whatever we’re dealing with at a personal level — you know it’s some fuckery because it always is — we’re looking up and seeing nothing but our worst uncles willfully bungling any chance to make things even a teeny, tiny bit better. Even when it would cost them nothing! What the fuck?!

So this passage, with its asides and em dashes and even a damn semicolon in service of articulating the pure rage that comes from watching white men in power laugh as they take a shit on the few and fleeting opportunities for someone else to get a foot in the goddamned door? Yeah it speaks to us. 

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez’s speech in defense of herself against another senator’s sexist attacks was lovely, it really was. And Rebecca Traister had some elegant things to say about why it didn’t make any difference. 

So what if we just stop making it our job to say it nicely? Maybe we don’t have to fight “fucking bitch” with thoughtful, restrained oratory on justice and human dignity. Maybe we can raid the punctuation drawer and try to make ourselves felt instead of heard. Growl a “what the fuck” and wait. Sit in that silence and let someone else do the explaining. Because being decorous isn’t doing shit. 

Try it. It feels real good, and at the very least it temporarily stuns the enemy.

Forward this email to anyone who needs the element of surprise. They can sign up here and get an email full of news and rage every two weeks like clockwork. 

Got a tip on an excellent job? Reply to this email, send us a new one at, or reach out on Twitter.

The misplaced energy of professional ambition

When the going gets tough, the bets get safer, we guess. 

Chicago’s aging startup dads are still trading the same few hundred million back and forth across their “innovations.” Mediaocean, an ad tech company founded by Groupon’s Brad Keywell, is acquiring 4C Insights, a “data science” company founded by Northwestern professor Alok Choudhary, for $200 million. 4C Insights ostensibly helps advertisers coordinate their spending across social media and television, technology Mediaocean can integrate into its own platform as it advises big companies on where to buy ads. 

Psst, y’all, over here: What’s a “television ad”?

Electric vehicle startup Rivian raised another $2.5 billion. Which, we get it, self-driving Amazon delivery trucks is a real post-capitalist dream/nightmare. But how many billions does it take to get an idea into production and start turning a profit? It’s potentially good news for the 350 employees in the downstate Normal factory, but it would be even better news if Rivian was making cars people couldn’t stop buying. 

Speaking of Amazon, it continues to gobble apace, with plans for a huge distribution center staffed by hundreds of people near Midway airport. 

Then there’s all the action around healthcare. We don’t know if you’ve heard, but there’s a pandemic, and a bunch of people seem to think the answer is in, you know, more profit from healthcare instead of more access to it. Oak Street Health, a primary care provider that focuses on older folks and Medicare patients, is planning to go public and get huge, estimating that its market size could be as large as $325 billion. 

Also capitalizing: GoHealth, which made a $914 million IPO last week. The online insurance broker immediately saw its shares drop in value, and Crain’s had a completely on-brand response ruing the real problem here: Dual-class stocks that allow GoHealth management to retain control instead of ceding it to investors. A health insurance middleman hitting the market at near a billion dollars in the middle of a medical catastrophe and the concern is shareholders may not make enough money and get enough say in how the company prioritizes profits? Yeah, that’s not the problem we were worried about. 

Meanwhile Livongo, which tracks personal data and “nudges” people with chronic conditions to avoid risky behavior, is getting a lot of attention and money because the market has decided it’s “a tech company in healthcare clothing.” Hmm, yeah yeah yeah, where have we heard that before

If you ever find yourself thinking, “Wow, ghouls will really profit off of anything,” we regret that we must make you aware of a new and damning fact: Highland Park-based Grassroots just made the world’s largest cannabis company with an $830 million acquisition by Massachusetts-based Curaleaf. Ah, yes, Highland Park, Illinois, and Wakefield, Massachusetts, two municipalities that should most definitely be cashing in on the legality of marijuana. Surely those profits will go directly into decriminalization and social justice reforms. 

We do have a couple of pieces of truly delightful news. One, eco-friendly cleaning maker Method is expanding in Pullman, with plans to add 200 jobs. We love to see a job today that doesn’t actively harm the future. 

Speaking of harming the future, the New York Times finally did a good and published a little piece on which corporations go against all their lovely statements by donating to anti-immigrant, anti-women, anti-LGBTQ, anti-black candidates and organizations. Oh yes that’s right money! We can see where yours goes!

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Marketing and Administrative Assistant at ACM Strategies
The homepage tagline says “We turn workers into activists,” which, are we secretly working for this company? The woman-owned firm needs a junior person to help support unions and progressive candidates, a decent way to make a living in our opinion. 

Policy Fellow at Chicago Community Bond Fund 
Put those record donations to work and end cash bond! Yes the max listed salary is $50,000, but someone great should take this job (especially if you don’t have to support yourself and can do it for the pay offered).

Marketing Director and Content and Communications Manager at Levenfeld Pearlstein
LP tries real hard to tell you it’s a different kind of law firm — one that favors collaboration, transparency and community. Worth checking into because surely these are relatively stable jobs with decent pay.

Senior Specialist, Digital Properties at Exelon
Maintain the energy company’s website and intranet. Post content, prepare reports. About as electrifying as you’d imagine, but bet they’ll pay for continuing ed so you can stay ahead. 

Inspiration of the week

“In the present moment, in a time when the pandemic has caused so much uncertainty about the future of so many industries, professional ambition begins to feel like misplaced energy, as helpful to achieving success as chronic anxiety.”

—Maris Kreizman on the joys of working in publishing, and the reality of working under capitalism

Ambition is a tricky thing. Get swept up in it, and you forget to question whether the levels you’re moving through have any value at all. As Maris writes, “What if the things for which you’ve been striving no longer feel important because they’re the spoils of a rotten system that needs a complete overhaul?”

We have said it before and will continue to: Succeeding at capitalism isn’t an accomplishment. Professional movement can’t be subbed in for personal success. Trust us we have tried. If your ambitions are dependent on the respect of others, well, you can spend a lifetime striving and still get nowhere. 

Instead, consider what you really want to accomplish: equality, independence, agency? Identify the systems and people standing in the way, and put your ambition not toward changing them, but upending them. 

Forward this email to anyone who has ambition to spare. They can sign up here, and we will give them some ideas on where to put it.

Got a tip on an excellent job? Reply to this email, send us a new one at, or reach out on Twitter.

Good jobs

And all the things we mean when we say that.

So, OK, we’re still in a pandemic and a recession right? Because you know how sometimes you’ll look at your bank account and be like, “You know what, I don’t have any money anyway, why not buy these shoes?!” Well it seems like every business is doing exactly that. 

Uber is trying to buy Postmates for $2.65 billion in spare change, creating a fearsome competitor for Grubhub, which is set to be acquired for $7.3 billion in stock by Just Eat

Allstate is also doing some emotional shopping, buying insurer National General for $4 billion. And while Walgreens isn’t outright acquiring VillageMD, it is investing $1 billion in the healthcare startup in the hopes of opening up to 700 clinics in its drugstores in the next five years.

Yeah, those stimulus checks really were like winning a plush banana stuffed with newsprint after playing $50 in carnival games. 

Aon, meanwhile, must’ve had good luck in the couch cushions, because it’s reversing its 20% pay cut, paying back the money it withheld and adding 5% on top of it.

Is there, like a secret vaccine we don’t know about? Or were all the gifts to businesses just that good? (Kidding, we know it’s the more depressing one.)

At least our not-at-all-benevolent overlords are throwing some crumbs our way. Facebook is planning a DeKalb data center that should be good for “hundreds” of construction jobs and a steady 100 operations jobs once it’s done. Why? Lol new tax incentives that make the project a dream deal for Facebook, a company that brought in $70.7 billion in revenue last year. 

We can’t honestly believe this is where we’re at, but United is now the only company behaving logically, announcing plans to potentially lay off 36,000 workers, most of them unionized. We hate it, but we at least kind of understand it? Although laying off up to 45% of actual workers and only 30% of management seems like not the perfect ratio, all things considered. 

Despite, well, everything, there are some real signs that workers might come out of this with a few more rights. Chicago enacted a fair workweek law Wednesday that forces employers to provide work schedules in advance, and pay a premium for any last-minute changes. That, plus a bump in the minimum wage to $10 an hour statewide and $14 an hour in Chicago puts us closer to something like livable conditions for the most vulnerable workers. AND, new sexual harassment and discrimination protections give service workers in the hotel and casino industries more avenues to report incidents, while all employers will be required to report harassment and discrimination complaints to the Illinois Department of Human Rights. 

That’s especially good, because getting this shit out in the air finally seems to be working. Case in point: Cards Against Humanity is looking to unionize — and management is promising to honor it — after it got caught out being a creepy, garbage place to work.

Jobs, Glorious Jobs
Associate Manager, Social Strategy at Beam Suntory
This is a brand social role, which means you’ll be hands-on with strategy and execution for a portfolio that includes Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark and several sought-after Japanese whiskies. Downside is that you'll also be handling community management and consumer inquiries.  

PR Manager at Goose Island/Virtue Cider, Social Media Coordinator at Virtue Cider
Meant to note in the last job that alcohol sales are not in a great place right now, so we’ll leave that here for your consideration/interview question.

Press, Public Affairs & Projects Officer for the British Consulate-General
Lead communications and public diplomacy in Chicago and the Midwest. We definitely don’t have public diplomacy among our LinkedIn Skills, but if you do this is a rare find.

Writer (Personal Finance), Writer/Expert (Travel Rewards), Assistant Assigning Editor at NerdWallet
Journalist friends, these 100% remote opportunities are for you.

Tool of the Week
The Aspen Institute Digital Anti-Racism Pledge Tracker. Step one: Make sure a company has said something meaningful. Step two: Hold them to it. Because you know there are a lot of companies out there hoping maybe we’ll all just forget. h/t to Hustler Kate for sending this in.

Inspiration of the week

We tend to romanticize this economic history, saying that good factory jobs have been replaced by bad service jobs. But in truth, there is nothing better about banging hubcaps onto cars on a moving assembly line than about serving hamburgers in a fast food restaurant or changing bed linens in a hotel. The difference between these types of jobs is mainly that industrial jobs were frequently unionized and service jobs are not.

—Richard Rothstein in The Color of Law, a book that just takes your high school history lesson on de facto segregation and lights it on fire. There’s an eight-minute video of the basics making the internet rounds, but we highly recommend reading the whole book. Our dude is a Grade-A no-nonsense grump, and the book flatly and mercilessly lays out all the lies we like to tell ourselves about how the American economy works. This particular nugget isn’t even germane to its focus on legal segregation — it’s tossed off in a footnote. A footnote!  

We’re not going to try and tell you an inarguable case for reparations is a “fun read,” but we did bark-laugh several times while reading The Color of Law, and got caught shouting out advice to historical actors like we were watching a slasher film. So let’s say it’s an interactive book. 

Forward this email to anyone who knows all jobs should be good jobs. We can’t unionize everyone, but if people sign up here, we will constantly remind them that unions are one way to take the power back.

Got a tip on an excellent job? Reply to this email, send us a new one at, or reach out on Twitter.

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