Chicago Office Of Labor Standards Passes Workforce Committee

Chicago Office Of Labor Standards Passes Workforce Committee

Workers Clear Final Hurdle before full Council Vote

For immediate release

Media Contact:

Shelly Ruzicka

773-251-5003 | shelly@arisechicago.org | @AriseChicago

 

CHICAGO–After a two-year campaign led by local workers’ rights organization Arise Chicago, on Tuesday, October 23rd, City Council’s Workforce Development and Audit Committee approved the ordinance to amend the municipal code to create an Office of Labor Standards. The ordinance, based on low-wage workers’ experiences working at jobs where employers do not follow the City’s Minimum Wage and Sick Time laws, creates a community-informed city office specifically to enforce those laws. This moves follows other cities in creating similar offices to enforce local worker protections, including New YorkSeattle, and San Francisco. The ordinance which will benefit half a million workers, now moves to a full City Council vote on Wednesday October 31st.

As Arise leader Martina Sanchez, shared during the committee hearing, “From my experience I’ve learned that just passing laws is not enough. Many workers are suffering from wage theft, discrimination, harassment, and other abuse that causes both physical and moral pain, and damages workers’ dignity.”

Sanchez was a leader in winning the Earned Sick Time campaign based on her own experience of living without paid sick days. When her husband was hospitalized and she stayed with him, their household lost both incomes. Though she testified she was present today not just for herself, but for the many workers in her neighborhood and across the city.

Through tears, she pleaded with aldermen to think of their own constituents, such as a worker she recently spoke to, “Someone right now is suffering. He was working repairing roofs, in the cold, risking his life for over eight hours a day. His employer stole his whole week of wages. His wife is pregnant. How can they survive?”

Committee Chair Ald. Patrick O’Connor (40) confirmed with the Chair of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP), which will house the new Office of Labor Standards, that “When the Office investigates, and mediates or brings about a settlement, the City can and would include restitution for those aggrieved.”

Sophia Zaman, Executive Director of Raise the Floor–an alliance made up of eight local worker centers–voiced the need for City-community partnerships in order to best improve low-wage working conditions. “As an alliance of worker centers, we organize in low-wage sectors where the work is most precarious and contingent, and disproportionately held by women, immigrants, and people of color. Every day we see that illegal abuse of Chicago’s most vulnerable workers has become standard practice. This is true for low-wage workers across identities, industries, neighborhoods.”

“Oftentimes, these workers don’t have the protections of a collective bargaining agreement, so they rely on agencies to monitor workplaces and ensure their rights are respected. And in order for agencies to effectively enforce the law, they require the tacit knowledge workers have about workplace practices and conditions. But often, without a worker center bridge, low-wage workers are skeptical of placing their trust in government agencies. That’s why community partnerships are so important. We look forward to working with the new Office of Labor Standards to achieve our shared goals of ending workplace abuse and creating a healthy, stable economy for workers and businesses alike.”

Rosa Escarena, BACP Chair, agreed with the importance of community partnerships. “Our office is grateful for the input of Arise Chicago and Raise the Floor Alliance for thinking through how to design the new Office of Labor Standards within BACP, and we plan to continue these partnerships.”

Other workers shared stories of current violations of City ordinances and asked alderman to vote to approve the Office of Labor Standards, which would be able to  investigate such employers.

Lamar Hendrix-Glass, a former Treasure Island worker shared how in addition to the store closing without properly notifying its workers, the company may also have violated the Chicago Earned Sick Time Ordinance

“I worked at Treasure Island grocery store in Hyde Park until its abrupt closing on October 28th, leaving my co-workers & I unemployed.”

“It wasn’t until workers from the closed North and Clybourn store were relocated to Hyde Park that I learned about Treasure Island’s  “Paid Time Off” or PTO policy. One of the Clybourn co-workers told me about the app I could download from ADP, the paycheck company that showed my schedule and hours, and how much PTO I had earned. The company never told me about the app or PTO so hearing this news left me disturbed. I had been working there for months and not one manager brought that to our attention. As soon as I learned about the app tracking our hours and PTO, I told my co-workers. None of them knew about it either.”

“I even took a sick day earlier in the year, and wasn’t paid. It’s only now, that I see this may have been a violation of the Earned Sick Time Ordinance.”

Juan a member of Arise Chicago is currently experiencing wage theft,  “I work at a restaurant in the West Loop. I began working there in April, when the city’s minimum wage ws $11/hour. The owner offered me $10. It took several conversations requesting the full minimum wage before she agreed to pay $11.”

“In July, when the city minimum wage increased to $12/hour, the owner did not raise our wage. Again, I had to have several conversation just to be paid the full minimum wage.”

“Then in September, the owner decided to may be as flat salary rate as an independent contractor to not pay employment taxes., I’m paid for my 72 hours per week, but I’m not paid time and a half for my 32 hours of overtime. So the owner is stealing $312 from me every paycheck.

“I talked to my co-workers about this wage theft, but they all think that either there’s nothing we can do, or are afraid of losing their jobs. That’s why it’s important for the city to open the Office of Labor Standards. So that if one worker like me reports a problem, they can investigate and benefit all workers.”

Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) gave a statement highlighting how the Office of Labor Standards seeks to address such wage theft and worker abuse. “As we were closing the Working Families Task Force and working to pass paid sick days, Rev. C.J. Hawking from Arise Chicago, who was on the Task Force, stressed that we needed to talk not just about the new law, but also about enforcement. And immediately, myself and others began working with Arise to think about how to make sure the worker protection ordinances we passed in City Council truly benefited the working families we aimed to benefit.”

Dr. Linda Forst, M.D., MPH, MS, Senior Associate Dean and  Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at UIC’s  School of Public Health shared the benefits of a higher minimum wage and paid sick days on public health. “Low wage work has been shown to have a negative impact on health. It is often dangerous, putting workers at risk for illness and injury.  Low wage workers tend to be women, African Americans, Hispanics, low educated individuals, and immigrants. The average age of low wage workers is 36, contrary to the misconception that it is young workers who are most affected.”

I strongly urge the passage of this progressive legislation. The Office of Labor Standards will improve the health of a most precious resource—the Chicago Workforce.  At the same time, it will assure sound business development. But most importantly, it is a demonstration of the moral health and leadership of this great City at a time when we sorely need it.”

The final speaker was Arise Chicago’s Worker Center Director, Adam Kader. “As we anticipate Chicago’s economy to continue to grow, we must ensure that workers share in its prosperity.  For it is the workers who not only produce our economy; it is they who also produce our City’s culture and make it great. Chicago’s culture is made by its neighborhoods.  And those neighborhoods reflect the workers who live and labor in them. The Office of Labor Standards is an affirmation of the value working people in Chicago and represents a commitment to workers’ well-being.”  

*Photos of speakers and the hearing available upon request.

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Release: Low-wage Immigrant Women Denounce Sexual Harassment

For immediate release

Low-wage Immigrant Women Call Out Workplace Sexual Harassment

Release video to share stories, train workers

 

Media Contact: Shelly Ruzicka, Arise Chicago shelly[at]arisechicago[dot]org  | @AriseChicago

Chicago, IL–

While celebrities, elected officials, and heads of corporations remain in the headlines, low-wage workers–especially women of color and immigrants--remain on the frontlines of sexual harassment and abuse at work. At the same time, low-wage working women are on the frontlines of organizing for change and fighting back against sexual harassment.

The country is in an important cultural moment, with brave women speaking out against men in powerful positions. At the same time, low-wage workers who face high levels of harassment and abuse often remain in the shadows. Arise Chicago and other local and national worker organizations are proud to support low-wage immigrant women and women of color as they speak out against sexual harassment and challenge common power dynamics in the workplace .

To bring to light the stories of women from across low-wage industries, worker members from Arise Chicago created a video on their own experiences of sexual harassment. Arise members shared stories and advice in hopes of reaching other women–to help break societal stigma and fear, and to educate workers on what to do in cases of harassment on the job.

Arise worker leader, Martina Sanchez sees the growing outcry from workers as a turning point in the fight against sexual harassment. “There are thousands of women who remain silent out of a variety of fears--fear of what will be said about them, fear of losing their job, or worst of all, fear they won’t be listened to and nothing will change. But this moment is the beginning of a new struggle.”

Arise Chicago board member and domestic worker leader, Isabel Escobar agrees, “This is a very sad time for our country, but also a very important time. A door has opened for more women like me to speak out.” Escobar also emphasized the importance of low-wage workers to speak up, “We want to let people know that this doesn’t just happen to famous women. Abuse is not only committed by famous men in high power positions. Sexual harassment happens every day to low-wage workers, to immigrants, to women of color. And bosses, supervisors, feel they have power over our work, our income. Therefore, many women are afraid to speak up or afraid no one will believe us.”

Escobar herself faced multiple instances of sexual harassment as a home cleaner. Yet, she remains determined to make change for herself and other workers. “I encourage other women to speak up. Nothing will change if we stay quiet. Now is the time to talk. Now is the time to be strong and unite to end sexual harassment at work.”

Arise board member, and worker leader, Rocio Caravantes who also experienced harassment at work echoes the sentiment that now is the time for women to act. “If we speak up now, we will be creating a better path forward for the next generation of women workers.”

View the video

*Contact Shelly Ruzicka to arrange interviews.

Arise Chicago is a worker right organization that educates, organizes, and develops the leadership of low-wage workers–primarily immigrant women–across Chicagoland. Arise Chicago was founded in 1991 to support workers organizing to creating better workplaces through unionization, and opened its Worker Center in 2002 to support non-union, primarily immigrant workers to recover stolen wages and end workplace abuse. Since 2002, Arise worker members have taken action to recover more than $7.5 million in stolen wages and compensation. Since 2013, Arise Chicago and its worker members have been on the forefront of creating systemic change for low-wage workers, by winning the historic Chicago and Cook County Anti-Wage Theft Ordinances, and in coalition winning Chicago and Cook County Paid Sick Days and the Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. Arise Chicago is currently leading the effort to open a Chicago Office of Labor Standards to ensure city protections for workers are effectively enforced.

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Arise Chicago, Workers, Alderman Launch Campaign for Local Labor Office

For immediate release: February 23, 2017

Workers, Alderman Announce Local Labor Office Campaign
Unite to implement Chicago worker protections, on wave of national momentum for local enforcement
Media contact:
Shelly Ruzicka
CHICAGO—Today workers’ rights organization, Arise Chicago, surrounded by aldermen and community allies announced a campaign to open a Chicago Office of Labor Standards to enforce the city’s employment laws—currently anti-wage theft, minimum wage, and paid sick days ordinances. Such an action would join Chicago to the national movement of passing worker protections, and moving to strong local enforcement to ensure those protections are implemented.
Janie Fine, PhD, the national leading expert on labor standards enforcement, of Rutgers University attended the event and emphasized the need for co-enforcement—for the city to partner with trusted groups like worker centers on the ground already in touch with low-wage workers.
 “We have a crisis of employment law enforcement in many of our cities.”
She signaled that local enforcement offices are part of a growing national trend, and that partnering with worker organizations has proven effective.
“Other cities have labor enforcement offices: Seattle, NYC, San Francisco, the state of California, and others. This is the new norm.”
“Workers and workers organizations know things government will never know. So enforcement requires worker participation”
Arise Chicago’s Executive Director highlighted the evidence of non-compliance with current laws across Chicago “A 2009 UIC study found that over $1million per day is stolen from low-wage workers in Cook County.”
“Imagine for a moment what it would be like if we never enforced our parking laws.
Drivers could ignore all ‘No parking’ signs and park wherever they like with no consequences. Our city would be thrown into chaos. That is what has happened to low-wage workers. Their lives have been thrown into chaos.”
Arise Chicago Worker Center member Maria Leon talked about such chaos in her life. 
“I worked as a server for over 5 years at two restaurants in Chicago, owned by the same employer. He paid us under the Chicago minimum wage, stole our credit card tips–only paying them when we asked repeatedly–and did not pay overtime. He thinks he can underpay his workers, because he knows people need the work. He tells workers, if they don’t like the pay, they can leave. But really, he should be held accountable, and pay his workers what they are owed.”
Ms. Leon stressed that enforcement is needed for all Chicago’s employment laws. “If there are employers like mine who did not pay the city minimum wage, there will be employers who do not implement paid sick days when they go into effect. We need an office dedicated to protecting workers’ rights and enforcing all of our city’s employment laws.”
Ald. Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35) shared how, after being approached by Arise Chicago, he supported a worker facing wage theft in his ward.
“I am happy to support workers in my ward. And I’ve done that with Arise Chicago members to recover wages. But we need stronger citywide enforcement, connected to community groups on the ground.”

 

He expressed hope for moving forward.
“Chicago won’t have the first Office of Labor Standards. But working with experts, groups on the ground, and workers, we can have the best Office of Labor Standards.”
Ald. George Cardnas (12) spoke of his own experience growing up in Little Village, the son of Mexican immigrants who experienced workplace problems.
“The Latino community is hard hit by wage theft. An Office of Labor Standards to enforce Chicago employment laws would improve our local community, and the city economy.”
Ald. Ameya Pawar (47) echoed the need for policies to be effective.
“If we are going to pass policies that benefit workers, we also need to enforce them.”
“Enforcing our current local laws is about basic decency and human rights. Other cities have enforcement offices. It’s time for Chicago to catch up and open an Office of Labor Standards”
Ald. John Arena (45) spoke about the need for the city to be open for workers to feel safe reporting violations.
“When workers aren’t paid right or are denied legal benefits, they need a place to find support.”
“It’s important to empower workers to use the benefits they are entitled to, and that city council passed.”

 

Bob Reiter, Chicago Federation of Labor Secretary-Treasurer agreed.
“If employers steal workers wages, we need a way to get that money back”
“City council has passed some important employment laws. The next logical step is an Office of Labor Standards.”

 

Worker interviews available upon request in English and Spanish.
Video of the press conference available here
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Workers Claim Victory to Cook County Paid Sick Days Legislation

For Immediate release: October 5, 2016

 

Workers Claim Victory to Cook County Paid Sick Days Legislation

Cook County becomes largest county in the US with paid sick leave legislation

 

Media Contact: Shelly Ruzicka, Arise Chicago

773-251-5003  /  shelly[at]arisechicago[dot]org  /  @AriseChicago

CHICAGO–Arise Chicago and the Earned Sick Time Coalition claimed victory as the Cook County Board voted to approve an earned sick time ordinance by an overwhelming majority.

Arise member, ChristinaArise Chicago member and food service worker, Christina Padilla testified before the Finance Committee, “I’m here because many employees all over the county, like me, are forced to decide between staying home to recover from illness and going to work and earning a day’s pay without receiving the proper care that we need, simply because if we don’t go to work we run the risk of getting fired. Many employees are often stuck between the two most important things which is their health or a paycheck.”

The victory marks the second local paid sick days ordinance approved this year. The county vote came just months after a June approval by the Chicago City Council. It makes Cook County the largest county in the U.S. with such legislation. The county also joins a growing national movement of cities, counties, and states passing earned sick time legislation.

Like the city ordinance, the county measure will provide workers with up to five paid sick days per year, with workers earning 1 hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked. The accrued paid time can be used for one’s health or the health of a family member. The time can be used for medical visits, in addition to school closings due to public health emergencies and legal appointments related to domestic violence.

Mirroring the Chicago ordinance, the county legislation will go into effect on July 1, 2017.

The ordinance will cover an estimated 441,000 people who work in suburban Cook County. Importantly, many newly covered workers are in the service sector–industries frequently at risk for spreading contagious illnesses due to contact with larges numbers of people.

Commissioners Bridget Gainer (10th) and Jesus Garcia (7th) were lead sponsors on the ordinance, which also had support from President Toni Preckwinkle.

Rev. John Thomas, United Church of Christ pastor and Arise Chicago Board member, helped to gather signatures from 111 religious leaders from throughout Cook County. “This is a significant victory for workers, and those of us in ministry, social services, or health care, who will see the direct impact on families.”

Arise member Martina Sanchez supported the Chicago Paid Sick Days ordinance. Shortly after its passage, her and her husband found new jobs in suburban Cook County, meaning they would not have access to the new legislation. She rejoiced at the Cook County victory. “I’m thrilled for myself and the nearly half a million workers who will benefit from this victory. I’m so happy that the commissioners listened to constituents and workers like me.”

Padilla concluded, “Having paid sick days shouldn’t be a benefit, it should be a right, and not only for those that work in Chicago but also those that work in Cook County. It feels great that we won that right today!”

Contact Shelly Ruzicka for interview requests with affected workers or religious leaders.

Photos available upon request.

 

The Cook County Earned Sick Time Coalition is:

Arise Chicago, Chicago Federation of Labor, Restaurant Opportunities Center – Chicago, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881, Women Employed

Endorsers: AFSCME Council 31, Action Now, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, American Friends Service Committee, Between Friends, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United, Chicago Federation of Musicians, Chicago National Organization for Women, Chicago Religious Leadership Network, Chicago Teachers Union, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Chicago Foundation for Women, Community Renewal Society, Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence, Council on American-Islamic Relations, EverThrive Illinois, Illinois Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics, Illinois Education Association Region 67, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Jobs with Justice-Chicago, Lambda Legal, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, NABET/CWA Local 41, National Council of Jewish Women –  IL State Policy Advocacy Network,, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Employment Lawyers Association – IL, National Nurses United, ONE Northside, ParentsWork, Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Raise the Floor, Rape Victim Advocates, Reclaim Chicago, SAG-AFTRA, SEIU Doctors Council, SEIU Local 1, SEIU Local 73, SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, SEIU State Council, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, Stagehands Local 2, Teamsters 743, Teamsters 777, United Steelworkers District 7, UNITE HERE Local 1, UNITE HERE Local 450, United Electrical Workers Western Region, Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago/Fight for Fifteen, Workers United, Zakat Foundation of America

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Illinois Win brings U.S. One State Closer to Protecting All Domestic Workers

Wednesday, August 17th 2016                                                                                                                                             

Español abajo

Domestic Workers Celebrate Hard-Fought Landmark Victory

Win in Illinois brings movement one state closer to securing labor rights for all domestic workers

Media Contact: Shelly Ruzicka
Contact info: 773-251-5003  |  shelly[at]arisechicago[dot]org  | @AriseChicago

DSC_0230
(Chicago, IL) — Illinois home cleaners, nannies and care workers celebrated a significant victory in the growing movement for domestic workers’ rights through the state’s first Domestic Workers Bill of Rights. After a five-year campaign led by the Illinois Domestic Workers Coalition, the state’s 35,000 workers won a monumental change in state law. The 1938 federal Fair Labor Standards Act explicitly excluded domestic workers, majority of whom are Black women, women of color and immigrant women, and was mimicked by many states, including Illinois.
Following years of worker organizing, on Friday August 12th, Gov. Rauner signed House Bill 1288 into law granting Illinois domestic workers the same protections that other workers have had for generations.

 
Maggie at victory presserPolish domestic worker and Arise Chicago Board member Magdalena Zylinska reflected on the five-year Illinois Domestic Worker Coalition’s campaign: “This is one step in a long process. After so many years of struggling to get by, and so many trips to Springfield, I can finally say that we won! Now we need to make sure that all domestic workers know their rights, and that employers know their responsibilities under the new law.”

 

The new law, sponsored by Sen. Ira Silverstein (D-8th District) in the Senate, and Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-24th District) in the House, ensures that home cleaners, nannies, care workers, and other domestic workers receive the state minimum wage, protection against sexual harassment, as well as a day of rest if they are employed by one employer for at least 20 hours a week by amending four state laws that previously excluded domestic workers: the Minimum Wage Law, the Illinois Human Rights Act, the One Day of Rest in Seven Act, and the Wages of Women and Minors Act.

House sponsor Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez noted the importance of the domestic workforce in Illinois: “Domestic workers are essential for the economy, but too often are excluded. That is, until now.”

Workers like Maria Esther Bolaños shared stories of working without legal protections: “When I started working as a nanny, I worked from 6am to 5pm earning $12 a day. With the signing of this law, we have come out of the shadows. Domestic workers are finally visible in society, with equal protections under the law. Together, we are going to make history.”

Wendy Pollack, director of the Women’s Law and Policy Project at the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law who led the legislative advocacy on the bill, explained the employer mindset change: “We talk to employers, many of them sincerely care about the workers they employ, and often think of them as part of the family, but then they don’t make the leap to the fact that there exists an employer-employee relationship between them. That’s why we plan to do outreach and education for both domestic workers and their employers about their rights and responsibilities under the new state law and the existing federal law.“

Yomara Velez, States Strategy Organizer at the National Domestic Workers Alliance, noted the significance of the Illinois victory on a national scale: “The Illinois Domestic Workers Bill of Rights marks the seventh state win of the domestic workers movement, which had its first legislative victory in New York in 2010. We are another state closer to ensuring that all domestic workers, who care for our children, our loved ones living with disabilities, our aging parents, and our homes, have respect, dignity, and the support to take care of their own families.”

Home care worker Grace Padao reflected on the coalition and the path to victory, “We won because we are organized. We won because we are united. We won because we are brave women who stood in front of politicians and said, we will not be denied! From this day forward, domestic workers in Illinois will never have to endure the conditions I did.”

Rev. Oscar Varnadoe gave a blessing over the workers, prefacing his prayer with his own connection to the campaign: “This is personal. My mother was a domestic worker. As a young boy growing up in the Englewood community, I saw what she was going through. Blessings you my sisters for the work have done and for the work ahead.”

*Domestic Workers are available for interview in English, Spanish, and Polish
*Photos available upon request

The Illinois Domestic Workers’ Coalition is powered by local organizations, including AFIRE Chicago, Arise Chicago, Latino Union, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, Women Employed, Heartland Alliance, and SEIU-HCII, as well as domestic workers, advocacy and community groups, and allies. The Coalition is supported by the National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), the nation’s leading voice for dignity and fairness for the millions of domestic workers in the United States. For more information, please visit: www.respectallwork.org
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ESPAÑOL
PARA PUBLICACIÓN INMEDIATA
ASESOR DE PRENSA: Miercoles, 17 de agosto, 2016

Contacto: Shelly Ruzicka  |  773-251-5003  |shelly[at]arisechicago[dot]org   | @AriseChicago

Trabajadoras del Hogar Celebran Victoria Reñida Histórica
Victoria en Illinois consigue que la mayoría de las trabajadoras del hogar en el país obtengan protecciones legales

(Chicago, IL) – En Illinois, individuos que limpian casas, niñeras y trabajadoras de cuidado domiciliario celebran una victoria significativa en el creciente movimiento por los derechos de las trabajadoras del hogar a través de la primera Carta de Derechos para Trabajadoras del Hogar. Después de una campaña de cinco años dirigida por la Coalición de las Trabajadoras del Hogar de Illinois, las trabajadoras ganaron un cambio monumental dentro de leyes estatales. La ley federal de 1938 conocida en inglés como Fair Labor Standards Act, excluye expresamente a las trabajadoras del hogar, la mayoría de las cuales son mujeres negras, mujeres de color y mujeres inmigrantes, fue replicada por muchos estados, incluyendo Illinois.

Después de años de esta campaña laboral, el pasado viernes 12 de agosto el gobernador Rauner firmó el HB1288 a ley cediendo a las trabajadoras del hogar las mismas protecciones laborales que otros trabajadores han tenido durante generaciones.

Magdalena Zylinska, trabajadora del hogar Polaca refleja en la campaña de cinco años: “Este es un paso parte de un largo proceso. Después de tantos años de lucha, y así muchos viajes a Springfield, por fin puedo decir que ganamos! Ahora tenemos que asegurarnos de que todas las trabajadoras conozcan sus derechos, y que los empleadores conozcan sus responsabilidades en virtud a la nueva ley.”

La nueva ley, patrocinada por el senador estatal Ira Silverstein (D-Distrito 8) y la representante estatal Elizabeth Hernández (D-Distrito 24), proveerá a niñeras, limpiadoras de casas, trabajadoras de cuidado domiciliario, y otras trabajadoras del hogar acceso al salario mínimo estatal, protección contra el acoso sexual, así como un día de descanso para las trabajadoras empleadas durante al menos 20 horas a la semana mediante la modificación de cuatro leyes estatales. Estas incluyen la ley del salario mínimo, la ley de derechos humanos de Illinois, la ley de un día de descanso en siete, y la ley de los salarios de menores y mujeres.

La representante estatal Elizabeth Hernández, patrocinadora de la ley dentro de la cámara de representantes, señaló la importancia de este sector de trabajo en Illinois, “Las trabajadoras del hogar son esenciales para la economía, pero a menudo han sido excluidas. Es decir, hasta ahora “.

Trabajadoras como María Esther Bolaños compartieron sus experiencias en el trabajo sin alguna protección legal, “Cuando empecé a trabajar como niñera, trabajaba de 6am a 5pm ganando solo $12 al día. Con esta ley, hemos salido de las sombras. Las trabajadoras del hogar finalmente son visibles en la sociedad con protecciones iguales ante la ley. Juntas, vamos a hacer historia.”

Wendy Pollack, directora del derecho de mujer y proyecto político en el Centro Nacional de Sargent Shriver, quien dirigió la defensa legislativa en esta ley, explicó: “Hablamos con los empleadores que sinceramente se preocupan por las trabajadoras y a menudo piensan en ellas como parte de su familia pero luego no dan el salto al hecho de que existe una relación de empleador-empleado entre ellos. Es por eso que vamos a hacer alcance y proveer educación tanto para las trabajadoras del hogar y sus empleadores sobre sus derechos y responsabilidades en virtud de la nueva ley estatal y la legislación federal vigente.”

Yomara Velez, Organizadora de Estrategia Estatal para la Alianza Nacional de Trabajadores del Hogar señaló la importancia de la victoria de Illinois en una escala nacional, “Con la victoria en Illinois, ahora más de la mitad de todas las trabajadoras del hogar en el país tienen protecciones laborales, gracias a la la lucha de estas mujeres fuertes.”

Gracia Padao, trabajadora de cuidado domiciliario, refleja en la coalición y el camino a la victoria: “Ganamos porque nos organizamos. Ganamos porque estamos unidas. Ganamos porque somos mujeres valientes que nos pusimos delante de los políticos y dijimos, no seremos negadas! A partir de hoy, trabajadoras del hogar en Illinois nunca tendrán que soportar las condiciones que yo viví.”

El Reverendo Oscar Varnadoe dio una bendición sobre las trabajadoras por la lucha que han dirigido, y su trabajo por venir, antes de su oración compartió su conexión personal con la campaña. “Mi madre fue una trabajadora del hogar. Como niño creciendo en la comunidad de Englewood, vi lo que ella paso. Así que esto es personal.”

*Trabajadoras del hogar están disponibles para entrevistas en Inglés, español y polaco.

Sobre la Coalición de Trabajadoras del Hogar de Illinois

Desde 2011, la Coalición de Trabajadoras del Hogar de Illinois ha tratado de aprobar la Carta de Derechos de Trabajadoras del Hogar en Illinois. La Coalición se compuesta de Unión Latina, AFIRE y Arise Chicago, junto con aliados y grupos de la comunidad, tales como Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, the Heartland Alliance, Women Employed, SEIU/HCII, and The Chicago Coalition of Household Workers. La Coalición está apoyada por la Alianza Nacional de Trabajadores del Hogar, la voz principal de la nación por la dignidad y la justicia para los millones de trabajadoras del hogar en los Estados Unidos. Para más información: www.respectallwork.org

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Car Wash Owner Files for Bankruptcy to Avoid $262,901 Owed to Workers

Car Wash Owner Files for Bankruptcy to

Avoid Paying $262,901 Owed to Workers

Media Contact:

Jorge Mújica, Arise Chicago

Miguel Angel Fernandez May 19, 2016

jorge@arisechicago.org   773-844-9910

Eight former workers from Little Village Carwash were shocked and outraged this morning when they found out that their former employer, Octavio Rodriguez, instead of presenting his case in Cook County Court, decided to file bankruptcy to avoid paying the $262,000 in wages and damages as ordered by the Illinois Department of Labor.

“When I found out the owner filed for bankruptcy, I felt scammed. We know that he owns other businesses, including two restaurants. He has the money” said former “carwashero” Miguel Angel Martinez. “When we filed our claim for owed wages, Octavio told us he’d rather pay a lawyer than give us a penny. But he has the money and the government said he had to pay.”

“We thought the wait for our wages was over after more than three years, and instead find ourselves at the beginning of a new legal battle,” says former Little Village worker Alfredo Ramirez.

“Owner of the former Little Village Car Wash, Octavio Rodriguez owns several houses and buildings, an upscale Mexican restaurantin suburban Summit, and a pizzeria in Chicago. He  sold the car wash last year for $1.5 million. He has the money, but simply does not want to pay his former workers,” said Jorge Mújica, an organizer with Arise Chicago, who has supported the workers in their nearly four-year pursuit of justice.

Like other abusive employers, Octavio Rodriguez used loopholes in the law to avoid paying workers their legally owed wages.

“Unfortunately, this is a practice is all too common among employers of low-wage workers”, said Sophia Zaman, Executive Director of Raise the Floor. Cases like Little Village Car Wash have inspired Arise Chicago and seven other Chicago-area worker centers, under the Raise the Floor Alliance umbrella, to introduce HB 1290. This bill would allow workers to place a wage lien on employers to prevent them from moving or selling assets in order to avoid payment of owed wages to workers. Additionally, it would prioritize workers’ claims for wages over the claims of other creditors when employers declare bankruptcy.  

The former Little Village Car Wash workers voiced their support for HB1290. Had it been in effect now, they would have the ability to collect the legally owed wages and damages awarded by the Illinois Department of Labor.

Background

Little Village Car Wash worker action 2011

Little Village Car Wash worker action 2011

Arise Chicago first started supporting the Little Village Car Wash workers in 2011. After training workers on their rights, Arise found that the owner had systematized extreme wage theft. Rather than pay the legally required minimum hourly wage, car wash owner Octavio Rodriguez divided $5 per car washed among all workers in the crew, regardless of the number working. This often meant workers received 50 cents per car, and on slow work days, went home with as little as $20 for an entire 12-hour day of work.

Workers first filed claims with the US Department of Labor in 2011, won their claims, and the owner began paying correctly. However, after six months, Rodriguez went back to his old practices of stealing wages. Trained and supported by Arise Chicago, the workers then filed claims with the Illinois Department of Labor in late 2012. In May 2013 the workers won their claim, with IDOL ruling that they were entitled to back pay and damages, totaling $262,901. Because the owner never paid, the Illinois Attorney General sued him in October of 2014. The workers had a court date for Thursday, May 19, where they expected to hear a ruling from a Cook County Circuit Court judge on payment up to $262,901. Instead, they received news that their former employer was skirting his legal obligation by filing for bankruptcy.

The full Illinois Attorney General lawsuit can be found here.

Photos from Wednesday May 19, 2016 press conference and previous worker actions in 2011 and 2013 are available upon request.

Interviews with workers available upon request.

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Dunkin’ Donuts Managers Attempt to Infiltrate Worker Meeting, Use Fake Identities

For Immediate Release                                                                                              May 13, 2016

Media Contact:

Adam Kader, Arise Chicago Worker Center Director

773-937-1826 | adam@arisechicago.org

 

Dunkin’ Donuts Managers Attempt to Infiltrate Worker Meeting, 

Use Fake Identities

 

Chicago: On Friday, May 13, 2016, Dunkin’ Donuts workers met at Arise Chicago’s Worker Center to learn their rights and discuss workplace conditions, only to discover that three upper management representatives from several franchises, disguised as workers, were in attendance. Workers immediately identified one as an associate of management named in a current lawsuit while two others remained for the presentation.

 

Workers then came forward after the meeting and revealed the two managers’ true identity. General Manager Evelia Gutierrez and Store Manager Rosa Angulo of a Dunkin’ Donuts located at 6237 S. Halsted falsified names and contact information in order to stay in the meeting, despite organizers stating that the meeting was only for workers and management was not allowed.  Sanjeev Khatau, who owns the Halsted store and 18 other locations in the Chicago area and sits on the Baskin Robbins Brand Advisory Council, faced a class action lawsuit for wage theft in 2007.

 

“We are disappointed that management would go to such lengths to prevent its workers from knowing their rights under the law” stated Adam Kader, Arise Chicago Worker Center Director.

 

The National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from intimidating workers or obstructing their attempts to organize because of the chilling effect it could have on workers exercising their legal rights.

 

Arise Chicago members, Christina Padilla and Jessica Zamudio, are suing their former employer, who owns and operates 16 Dunkin’ Donuts franchise locations, for wage theft. After Padilla led a press conference on May 4, 2016, other former and current workers of Dunkin’ Donuts franchises contacted Arise Chicago.

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On Anniversary of Dr. King’s Death, Clergy Call on Springfield to Negotiate with State Workers

Clergy Call on Rauner to Negotiate with State Workers

Faith leaders appeal to governor’s ethics, lament suffering of workers and service recipients

State workers prayer and press conference April 2016

Contact: Shelly Ruzicka

773-251-5003   shelly@arisechicago.org

CHICAGO–On the 48th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Chicagoland clergy called on Governor Rauner to honor King’s legacy of fighting for economic and racial justice including supporting sanitation workers in Memphis, where he was killed.

Rev. Robert Jones of Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church reflected on the civil rights leader. “Dr. King went to Memphis to advocate that our government be a place where no one is left behind, and that the most vulnerable are cared for with compassion and diligence. We come together today because Dr. King’s message of what government should be continues to resonate here in Illinois.”

AFSCME Council 31 member Stephen Mittons raised concerns for his clients if negotiations do not move forward. “I work for DCFS. We are the parent of last resort for every minor child in the state.  What would abused and neglected children do during a government shutdown?”

He also commented on the rarity of the impasse.

“For over 40 years, Illinois state employees have always been able to reach contract settlements without a work stoppage. Despite sometimes difficult negotiations, state government unions have always strongly preferred to avoid the disruption of services that could result from a strike. We are supporting legislation that provides for an alternative to a strike as a means of resolving disputes in contract negotiations.”

Arise Chicago board member, Rev. Liz Muñoz of La Señora de las Américas church appealed to Rauner’s Episcopal faith. “According to internet source Bruce Rauner claims membership in the Episcopal Church.  As an Episcopal priest I would like to remind him that in our baptismal covenant we promise to respect the dignity of all human beings.  This means we have a responsibility  to work for the common good of all people especially the most vulnerable in our communities.  At our General Conventions, our national assembly, we have affirmed and resolved to support the right for workers to organize for just wages and decent working conditions.  We call on the governor to honor these values and commitments.  This is not only for the physical and spiritual well being of the most vulnerable in our society but also for the well being of Governor Rauner’s own soul.

Rev. Muñoz also shared an open letter to Governor Rauner and the General Assembly, calling for constructive contract negotiations. The letter was signed by 150 faith leaders in Illinois collected by Arise Chicago.

Personal assistant care worker, and Chair of the Executive Board of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Flora Johnson echoed the appeal to Governor Rauner’s morality.

“None of this is about saving taxpayer dollars. And it certainly isn’t about improving the welfare and condition of our vulnerable. This is all about Governor Rauner’s single-minded desire to weaken or exterminate unions outright. The Scripture says that the cries of the Poor reach the heavens. But, as we have seen throughout this nightmare period, they do not reach Bruce Rauner.”

She also voiced concern about those most impacted by the stalled contract negotiations and lack of a state budget. “We are here to commemorate the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King. He understood the direct link between racial justice and economic justice and that is why he died supporting the union movement. It is no coincidence in my mind that the cuts and disruptions being enacted by Governor Rauner fall disproportionately on the heads of women and people of color. This is wrong and we are called by our conscience to stop him.”

Twenty-five year veteran mental health technician and AFSCME member, Roberto Botello said his fellow union members are worried not only about their own families, but the people they serve. “ Every state employee I know wants a peaceful resolution to our current contract negotiations. We want a fair contract for ourselves as workers, and we also want to protect the vital services we provide to our clients.”

Department of Human Services case worker Darneice Cooper reiterated the sentiment of concern for clients. “We care about the people we serve. But what will happen if the governor gets to take out all the safeguards against privatization in our contract? Think about what privatization would mean for the Department of Children and Family Services. How do you put a price on a child’s wellbeing? Why should any big corporation make a profit off of services to troubled families? You cannot truly serve children and at the same time make profits your top priority.”

Rev. Jones called for the kind of government and society that Dr. King envisioned. “We want Illinois to be a place where service providers are not demonized but cherished for the sacrifices they make and respected for the professional services they provide. On this day, let us honor the memory of Dr. King as we claim the urgency for immediate and quantitative change in the lives of Illinois citizens.”

 

Text of the letter from Illinois religious leaders is included below.

OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR BRUCE RAUNER AND THE ILLINOIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Our faith traditions provide a moral compass and direction for the current situation in Illinois.  First, we are called to care for our individual neighbors, especially the most vulnerable among us. Second, the work we do should strengthen the common good of society.  Third, each worker has been created in the image of God and is deserving of dignity.

Therefore, we are alarmed by the recent halt in contract negotiations that: create life-threatening consequences for vulnerable populations; dismantle the serving of the common good; and harm the workers serving Illinois citizens.  

By honoring our state workers who provide vital services each day — helping those in need, safeguarding at-risk children, assisting veterans, protecting the environment, responding to natural disasters, and much more – we care for our neighbors and strengthen the common good.

We call upon Gov. Rauner to work constructively through the established bargaining process to reach a resolution, rather than intensifying conflict.  

We call upon you all to take steps that would allow a process of mediation and arbitration with the public employee union that is far more effective than confrontation, especially in our battle-weary Illinois.

We call upon you all to take measures that promote a peaceful path forward that will best serve all of the people of Illinois.

 

Photos available upon request.


Interviews with clergy and workers available upon request.

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Workers and Faith Leaders Insist on Paid Sick Days Ordinance

PRESS RELEASE

April 5, 2016:  For immediate release

Workers and Faith Leaders Insist on Paid Sick Days Ordinance

Call for swift action after release of Task Force Report

Contact: Shelly Ruzicka

shelly@arisechicago.org I 773-251-5003

 

Arise Chicago welcomes the release of the long-awaited Working Families Task Force report. The report represents recommendations, including a framework for paid sick days, based on the different voices represented on the task force.

“Arise Chicago is pleased that the mayor engaged and listened to the working people of the city, including our members, who are in desperate need of relief in the form of paid sick time” said Worker Center Program Director, Adam Kader. “We now urge the administration and City Council to swiftly pass an ordinance based on the report’s recommendations.”

Abraham Cabrera is a restaurant delivery driver and member of Arise Chicago who has never had paid sick days. “I work hard to provide for my two young children, both of whom have asthma. When one becomes sick, I must bring them to the ER, stay with them for the day, and miss a day of work and pay. No one should have to chose between the physical health of the kids and the financial health of their family. There are many thousands of workers just like me who face these impossible choices, and who would have concretely better lives with a paid sick days ordinance.”

Arise Chicago’s members are low-wage, primarily immigrant workers and workers of color, working in the lowest paid industries across Chicago, and would all greatly benefit from such an ordinance.

Rev. Liz Muñoz, from  Nuestra Señora de las Américas church in Logan Square, and Arise board member sees the benefits an ordinance would have on the working class Latino members she serves. “Low-wage workers, who are disproportionately from Black and Latino communities, have the least access to paid sick days. Passing a paid sick days ordinance therefore is not only the morally right thing to do, but would help address economic and racial injustice in Chicago.”  

Arise board member Ana Laura Lopez worked in retail for 10 years without paid sick days.

“They always told us that if we needed time off we had to give two weeks notice, which was sometimes illogical or impossible. No one plans when they or their child will be sick. Employers must not forget that we are human beings, we are parents, who want to be home with our kids when they get sick just like they do. I really hope for a paid sick days ordinance. It will benefit working parents and really, all workers.”

Faith leaders agree that paid sick days are critical for building strong and healthy families and  communities across Chicago.

“Being able to care for one’s health and the health of family members is a moral issue. A low-wage worker should have the same ability as any other worker to stay home and care for sick child. A paid sick days ordinance can make that a reality” stated Rev. John Thomas, Arise Chicago board member

A paid sick days ordinance would affect almost half of all private sector workers in Chicago. Such an ordinance would mean that workers would no longer need to literally choose between their health and their job. A paid sick days ordinance would also mean that, in many workplaces, such as any related to food production or service, the public’s health would be protected.

complete statement on the release of the report is available on the Arise Chicago website.

 

Below is an excerpt from the Working Families Task Force Report’s Executive Summary

Paid Sick Leave

The Task Force recommended a framework that would provide workers with paid sick leave while having a nominal impact on employer costs. This proposal would:

 

  • Allow workers to accrue and use up to 5 earned sick days over the course of 1 year.
  • Workers would earn sick time at a rate of 1 hour earned for every 40 hours worked. This approach ensures that employees earn and accrue sick time at a proportional rate based on hours worked.
  • Accrued sick leave could be used by new employees after an initial 6-month probationary period.
  • Allow employees to roll over up to 2.5 unused sick days to the following year.
  • Exempt employers that offer combined leave benefits such as Paid Time Off (PTO) from these requirements as long as employees could accrue and use up to 5 days of PTO within a calendar year.
  • This framework would not require the pay out of unused sick days by the employer and it would also exempt sick leave benefits that are negotiated as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

 

 

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Statement on Release of the Working Families Task Force Report

Arise Chicago’s Statement on Release of the Working Families Task Force Report

Abraham at EST presser 2015

Arise Chicago welcomes the release of the long-anticipated report by the City of Chicago’s Working Families Task Force report, and its recommendation for guaranteed paid sick day legislation for Chicago’s entire private sector workforce.

 

At Arise Chicago we hear daily from dozens of workers in some of the toughest, lowest-paying, and most precarious workplaces across the city. We hear workers express their workplace struggles and needs, as well as their desires; desires to lift up their families. Too often, private workplace policies suppress workers’ opportunities to lift themselves and loved ones out of poverty and to advance in their work life.

There are common-sense solutions within reach. Permitting workers to attend to physical and mental health needs without sacrificing pay or their very job is one such solution. When employers, left to their own discretion, fail to provide the most basic of standards, workers must advocate for policies in the public realm.  

That is why three years ago, Arise Chicago joined forces with other workers’ groups and advocacy organizations to form the Chicago Earned Sick Time Coalition. Together, we introduced a paid sick days ordinance and kicked off a city-wide conversation. In the city’s 2015 election, 82% of Chicagoans supported the idea of mandatory paid sick days.  Arise Chicago’s Executive Director, Rev. C.J. Hawking, was selected to serve on the City’s Working Families Task Force, where she advocated for paid sick days as a righteous cause, an economic necessity, and a sensible policy. Arise Chicago mobilized its worker members to participate in 5 of the 6 neighborhood focus groups on the topic and to share stories with the media about their struggle without paid sick days. And Arise Chicago collected signed support from from prominent faith leaders across a dozen religious traditions.     

Arise Chicago is pleased that the mayor engaged and listened to the working people of Chicago, including Arise Chicago’s own worker members, who are in need of immediate relief. The report represents recommendations, including a framework for paid sick days, based on the different voices represented on the task force.

We are saddened by the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Retail Merchants Association’s public opposition to the recommendation. We find it dismaying how out of touch these two interest groups are from the overwhelming majority of Chicagoans.

A paid sick days ordinance would affect almost half of all private sector workers in Chicago. Such an ordinance would mean that workers would no longer need to literally choose between their health and their job. A paid sick days ordinance would also mean that, in many workplaces, such as any related to food production or service, the public’s health would be protected. Such an ordinance would provide a measure of stability and peace of mind from the uncertainty and anxiety currently experienced by Chicagoans from truckers to domestic workers, bus boys to car wash workers. A paid sick days ordinance would allow Chicago to catch up with the 5 states and 22 cities with such a policy, including New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, and Pittsburgh.

Arise Chicago urges the Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the City Council to swiftly pass an ordinance based on the Report’s recommendations.

Below is an excerpt from the Working Families Task Force Report’s Executive Summary

Paid Sick Leave

The Task Force recommended a framework that would provide workers with paid sick leave while having a nominal impact on employer costs. This proposal would:

  • Allow workers to accrue and use up to 5 earned sick days over the course of 1 year.
  • Workers would earn sick time at a rate of 1 hour earned for every 40 hours worked. This approach ensures that employees earn and accrue sick time at a proportional rate based on hours worked.
  • Accrued sick leave could be used by new employees after an initial 6-month probationary period.
  • Allow employees to roll over up to 2.5 unused sick days to the following year.
  • Exempt employers that offer combined leave benefits such as Paid Time Off (PTO) from these requirements as long as employees could accrue and use up to 5 days of PTO within a calendar year.
  • This framework would not require the pay out of unused sick days by the employer and it would also exempt sick leave benefits that are negotiated as part of a collective bargaining agreement.

 

Please direct questions about the report, and requests for interviews about a paid sick days ordinance with Arise Chicago, low-wage workers, or religious leaders to Shelly Ruzicka

 

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