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Kapos: United Airlines CEO on board with diversity

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz | File photo

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz was surely pleased by a federal judge’s decision to stop (at least for now) the travel ban affecting people from seven Muslim-majority countries.

In a letter to employees last week, Munoz reiterated the Chicago-based airline’s commitment to diversity.

“We are a company representing every creed and conviction, background and belief. It is these differences that strengthen us and unite us as a company and a country,” he wrote.

In an interview, Munoz told me the letter was meant to show support for employees struggling with emotions over President Donald Trump‘s executive order. The resulting chaos was “distressful” for many at the company, he said.

“At the end of the day, we all come from immigrants,” said Munoz, whose father emigrated from Mexico. “I keep reminding them that we are a family together” and can’t be “divided by external factors.”

He pointed to some 700 employees gathered at McCormick Place for a leadership conference. They were packing meals that would be sent to 3,000 children in El Salvador. United teamed up with Rise Against Hunger for the event.

Munoz also talked about expansion plans at O’Hare International Airport. United and other airlines have been meeting with City Hall to talk about adding gates at the airport.

“We need to figure out what the details are in the plans and what they’re going to cost,” said Munoz. “But at the end of the day, O’Hare, as the mayor likes to say, is going to be one of our shining gems in the city of Chicago.”

Munoz has been at the helm of United since 2015. A year ago, the health-conscious triathlete suffered a heart attack and had a heart transplant. As he zipped through McCormick Place, it’s clear Munoz’s quick step and firm handshake have returned.

A dig at Trump or Rauner?

Diana Rauner, president of Ounce of Prevention Fund | Provided photo
Diana Rauner, president of Ounce of Prevention Fund | Provided photo

Ulta CEO Mary Dillon led an interesting discussion the other day about leadership and work-life balance.

But before the women business leaders got to the heart of the conversation, Dillon asked panelist Diana Rauner to address the “unexpected” political climate that we’re facing these days.

Rauner is first lady of Illinois and president of the Ounce of Prevention Fund, which sponsored the event.

“These are challenging times,” Rauner said. “And it is a very distracting and disorienting time. But we know that the work we do is a long game. The Ounce has been around for 25 years. . . . We have to keep focused on the future, and we have to be focused on what we know matters and where we know you can have an impact.”

Robin Robinson, the award-winning broadcaster now working as community affairs director for the Chicago Police Department, was quick to respond. “All that, and you never said the name,” she said.

There was awkward laughter from the 200-plus attendees. Was Robinson talking about President Donald Trump or Gov. Bruce Rauner?

Tom Demetrio racks up honors

Attorney Thomas Demetrio | Sun-Times file photo
Attorney Thomas Demetrio | Sun-Times file photo

Tom Demetrio is in Miami where he was honored as one of the nation’s 50 most influential trial lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers.

Demetrio, a partner at Chicago’s Corboy & Demetrio, made headlines in recent years for representing professional athletes and their families, including the family of the late Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson, in concussion lawsuits against the NFL, NHL and helmet maker Riddell.

The top-lawyer list is composed of civil and criminal attorneys who were selected from nominations from readers of Trial Lawyer magazine, which published the list.

Last month, Demetrio was named the No. 1 Super Lawyer in Illinois for 2017 out of more than 93,000 attorneys in the state.

Call it the Trump effect

Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson | Provided photo
Equality Illinois CEO Brian Johnson | Provided photo

Equality Illinois and Planned Parenthood of Illinois say changes in the political climate in Washington, D.C., have given their organizations a boost.

“(It’s) put our community on notice that we have to remain vigilant and protect our rights,” says Brian Johnson, CEO of Equality Illinois. “We saw that at the gala this weekend.”

The event raised $700,000, which is on par with previous years’ fundraising, though organizers say the buzz this year was more intense.

More than 1,200 attended, including U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Johnson Publishing CEO Desiree Rogers.

A few days before, Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, the political arm of Planned Parenthood of Illinois, held a fundraiser at City Winery in honor of the 44th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Some 1,000 people attended, a record for the annual event. During 5 minutes of mobile fundraising, the organization raised $60,000, which was in addition to funds raised from ticket sales, donations and a raffle. Organizers are still tallying it all up.

Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com