Illinois Unidos calls on industries with Latino workers to comply with COVID-19 work safety protocols
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, July 22, 2020
Shelly Ruzicka, Arise Chicago
773-251-5003 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Illinois Unidos calls on manufacturing, food packaging, restaurants, and other industries with high Latinx worker populations to comply with COVID-19 work safety protocols and procedures
With continuous safety complaints and the increase in COVID-19 cases in Latinx communities, Illinois Unidos urges industries to prioritize the health and safety of their workers and comply with federal and Illinois existing COVID-19 work safety rules and regulations
Chicago, IL – Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers in food processing and manufacturing industries have faced the unfathomable decision between going to work and putting their health at risk, or staying home and putting their job and income at risk. Many of these workers face unsafe working conditions, intimidation from their employers, and no sick benefits, preventing them from making a safe choice for themselves and their families.
Illinois Unidos (formerly the Illinois Latino COVID-19 Initiative) calls on these industries to reevaluate the treatment of their workers and to follow all state and federal health and safety workplace guidelines. Illinois Unidos asks government officials to use their oversight power to ensure workers in these industries are protected, safe and empowered to keep themselves, their families, and their communities healthy without retribution from their employer. See a list of recommendations below.
“Essential doesn’t mean expendable, but that's how corporate giants have consistently treated working people throughout the coronavirus pandemic,” said Congressman Jesús G. “Chuy” García. “Workers are facing the double burden of doing their jobs in uncertain times while fighting for labor rights and protections. We need safer working conditions, especially in industries where Latinos are disproportionately endangered, like manufacturing and food processing.”
“No one should have to risk their life or their loved ones to put food on the table or pay their rent, but during COVID-19, many in my district are doing just that. This is not the time for CEOs or board members to be getting richer. Instead, they need to prioritize the health and safety of our workers, pay them fairly, give them proper protection on the job, and allow workers to negotiate without the threat of being fired for demanding safe conditions,” said Congressman García.
Latinos make up a significant proportion of the food processing workforce in Illinois, Recent data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) puts Illinois in the top 6 states in total number of COVID-19 cases among workers in meat and poultry facilities between April and May 2020 (26), total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases among workers (1,029), and total number of COVID-19-related deaths (10).
In many cases, workers in these industries carry the burden of having to be proactive and seek testing on their own time, as most lack access to paid sick days. Lack of safety protections in the workplace puts them in a dangerous position to potentially contract the virus. In addition, many employers are failing to notify employees when a person in the factory or workplace has tested positive for COVID-19, thereby making it nearly impossible for workers to know if they have come into contact with someone with the virus. This is worrisome as workers are not only putting their health on the line, but also risking their families’ well-being, and potentially spreading the virus without knowing it. In sum, employer inaction and failure to fully protect workers are contributing to the continued spread of the virus.
Jorge Mújica, Strategic Campaigns Organizer at Illinois Unidos member organization, Arise Chicago stated, "Why are there rising numbers of COVID-19 infections in the Latino community? Because Latinos disproportionately work in low-wage, unsafe jobs. They were unsafe jobs before the pandemic. Now they are dangerous and even deadly. Bad employers aren't protecting their workers' lives. Period. And that's why the pandemic keeps spreading. Bad employers need to be held accountable."
When asked what it looks like on the ground, Mújica said, “We are hearing from over 160 workers every week at Arise Chicago; up from about 25 per week before the pandemic--primarily all Latino immigrants who are scared to go to work, but who can’t afford not to work. Bad employers who didn't protect workers' health before the pandemic aren't doing any better now, even when workers' lives are at stake. If employers don't fully implement protocols and precautions to create safe workplaces, we encourage workers to strike for their lives."
The Center for Migration Studies of New York (CMS) released a report that says that immigrants comprise 20 percent of Illinois’ agricultural workers, food and beverage manufacturing and processing workers, grocery wholesalers, and workers in retail grocery and other food and beverage stores. According to the American Immigration Council, the origin country of 36 percent of immigrants in Illinois is Mexico. It is impossible to deny the massive negative impact COVID-19 is having on the Latinx community.
Additionally, the largely Latinx migrant or seasonal farmworkers and landscapers are extremely vulnerable to respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19 due to the nature of the work they perform. The quality of their jobs requires them to work under harsh climate conditions in the middle of the fields, when harvesting, and in nurseries. These populations are critical essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis with the same urgent needs for protections as those in other industries and the most vulnerable. These workgroups labor in close proximity to each other for prolonged periods to operate the field, harvest, collect, transport the produce, and when sharing other communal areas (e.g., workstations, break rooms, and transportation or housing).
Such continued exposure increases the transmissibility of COVID-19 when in contact with infected co-workers. The exposure to the virus in these groups mainly occurs by respiratory droplets from person-to-person. Other forms of contagion in these groups are similar to meatpacking and production worksites--contaminated surfaces or fomites shared tools, equipment, utilities at the workspace, and the poor access to clean water for hygiene purposes throughout the day. However, a distinctive form of transmissibility of the virus in these groups has been attributed to migrant workers when moving from farm to farm, spreading the virus between communities. Similar to other highly populated Latinx industries, employers failing to protect their workers is leading to increased virus spread.
In late May, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation that would increase access to workers’ compensation benefits for those who were deemed “essential.” But even with these added protections, workers in food processing and packing, manufacturing, and clothing industries are still facing an uphill battle from their employers. Many employers continually fail to provide adequate PPE and social distancing guidelines, and they pressure workers to stay in dangerous conditions, according to reports from worker centers like Arise Chicago. Many employers are failing to provide solutions to combating the virus; in many cases in these industries, they are the problem.
“Crowded and inadequately ventilated spaces, such as many of the workspaces where Latinos are largely employed, means risk of prolonged contact with unknowingly infected persons,” said Dr. Marina Del Rios, an emergency physician and member of the initiative. “Close-contact environments facilitate transmission from a small number of cases to many other people, especially if hand hygiene was not performed and masks were not used where physical distancing was not maintained. As we see more outbreaks of COVID-19 related to indoor activities, there is a growing concern that aerosol transmission may be possible, increasing the importance of reducing the amount of time spent in crowded indoor spaces and maintaining physical distancing and PPE such as masks.”
The Initiative has identified the following urgent steps and calls on industry leaders and government to take action:
- Employee Testing, Safety, and Tracking Practices
- Request employers to conduct testing at each respective workplace to detect COVID-19 and prevent spread, or partner with one specific testing site to expedite testing and results.
- Add workplace data points at all Covid-19 testing sites to identify problem workplaces, track specific industry positivity trends and prevent spread in these workplaces and industries.
- Health and Social Services Support
- Connect employees to community-based primary care health centers/clinics, social service organizations to support individuals and families in need of services to access these resources during the pandemic.
- Employer Safety Guidelines and Reporting
- Continue to demand strict health and safety workplace guidelines and request appropriate government entities to fine employers if guidelines are not fully followed.
- Require all employers to provide employees proper PPE, handwashing, and workstations/workspaces that promote physical distancing.
- Institute proper cleaning, disinfecting, and sanitizing practices of all workspaces, surfaces, and shared equipment.
- Require employers to inform ALL employees and local health departments within 24 hours of any reported COVID-19 cases to stop community spread.
- Require workplaces to shut down for 14 days, with pay, after any reported case(s) so that workers can quarantine and prevent virus spread.
- Provide employees and visibly post information about COVID-19 safety practices, resources, and support services.
- Training Services and Practices
- Mandate training on prevention of COVID-19 infection for all employers and their.
- Train managers and supervisors to identify and address signs of mental stress, offering resource lists to their employees.
- State and City Workplace Safety Policies and Procedures
- Ensure all levels of public health departments are empowered to shut down workplaces and fine employers not following guidelines. (In the same way that Mayor Lori Lightfoot has shut down crowded bars and restaurants, city/county/state agencies including public health departments must be able to shut down any workplace that is endangering lives).
- Ensure that prevention and mitigation policies and actions, such as required business closures or limits on numbers of people in a given space, include a focus on workers, not only customers.
- Provide employees who test positive paid leave during isolation, care and recovery.
- Guarantee protection for whistleblowers and any workers reporting unsafe conditions; and fine employers who retaliate against workers who report unsafe conditions or who request PPE or any other improvement to protect worker health.
- Create a state-level task force to address worker needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Provide guidance regarding which state and/or local government agency to contact if compliances are being met (e.g. contact Attorney General Office, Illinois Department of Public Health).
Arise Chicago is an organizational member of Illinois Unidos.
Illinois Unidos (formerly the Illinois Latino COVID-19 Initiative) is a consortium of over 50 Latino elected and appointed officials, together with health professionals, and representatives of professionals and community-based organizations. The initiative aims to present one united voice in stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our communities while addressing related public health issues and the devastating economic impact of COVID-19.
The Initiative as a group has continued to expand and has established a bilingual (Spanish) website IllinoisUnidos.com to share our work and COVID-19 related resources with the public, particularly, the Latinx community.
Contact Shelly Ruzicka at 773-251-5003 for more information or to interview participants including Latinx workers / Organizers / Health Experts / Elected Officials / Community Stakeholders.
Minimum Wage Increases in Illinois, Chicago, Some Suburbs July 1
Worker organizers express the need for minimum wage earners to “Check Your Check”
For immediate release: 6.30.20
773-251-5003 | shelly[at]arisechicago[dot]org
ILLINOIS--On July 1, 2020, the minimum wage will increase in Illinois, some Cook County suburbs, Chicago.
With increases at different levels, it is critical for minimum wage workers to know the details of the changes. In addition to the straight minimum wage, the tipped minimum wage also increases at each level.
See Arise Chicago’s handouts in English, Spanish, and Polish for charts outlining the wage rates at each level of government, including overtime, rates for tipped workers, and exceptions in the Chicago law.
Arise Chicago’s Executive Director Rev. C.J. Hawking highlighted the importance of the minimum wage increase in this time, “"Many workers are returning to their jobs after months away from a regular paycheck. Ensuring full payment of the new minimum wage is vital to make sure workers don't fall further into poverty.”
Starting this Wednesday, workers in Illinois must be paid at least $10.00 per hour, and $15.00 per hour of overtime.
Eighteen Cook County Suburbs in Cook County increase the minimum wage to $13.00 per hour., with overtime at $19.50 per hour.
In Chicago, for the first time, there are two wage rates, depending on the employer size, as well as for domestic workers (home cleaners, nannies, care workers) and some youth workers. Chicago companies with 4-20 workers must increase their minimum wage to $13.50 and $20.25 for overtime, and businesses with over 20 workers to $14.00 per hour and $21.00 for overtime.
Arise Strategic Campaigns Organizer, Jorge Mújica connected the need for the higher wage to the ongoing pandemic, saying "This wage increase comes at a critical time, when workers risk their health and safety going to work. We know that immigrant workers have been particularly hard hit by job loss and Covid-19 cases at open businesses. It is the employer’s responsibility to pay properly and protect workers’ health and safety. But sadly, we know from experience that workers often have to take things into their own hands to be paid properly. Minimum wage workers across Chicagoland and Illinois should check their check to make sure employers are paying the full new rate. And any workers not being paid properly should report to the appropriate government agency, or call a worker center like Arise."
Reminding both workers and employers that domestic workers are covered by the minimum wage across the city and state, Arise Chicago’s Domestic Worker Organizer, Ania Jakubek stated, “Ever since our coalition won the Illinois Domestic Worker Bill of Rights, which went into effect on January 1, 2017, nannies, home cleaners and care workers, have been included in the minimum wage. Until then, historic sexism and racism that has excluded domestic workers from federal employment law allowed legal exploitation of this majority female workforce. It is so important for domestic workers to know their rights, and for all home employers to pay at or above the minimum wage in Illinois, Chicago, and Cook County.”
Indeed, at a time when our city, state, and country are grappling with racial disparities, it is important to look at the minimum wage through a race and gender lens.
Arise Chicago’s Director of Member Organizing, Margarita Klein emphasized the connection between low-wage work, the pandemic, and race and gender injustice, “The minimum wage increase is also a race and gender justice issue. We know that the majority of minimum wage workers are women, immigrants, and workers of color. We know that low-wage jobs are the least safe and least regulated. We know that Black and Latino communities have been hardest hit by Covid-19. It’s all related. We need higher wages and better protections for low-workers.”
*Arise Chicago organizers are available for interview in English and Spanish upon request.Read more
Chicago Office Of Labor Standards Passes Workforce Committee
Workers Clear Final Hurdle before full Council Vote
For immediate release
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 York, Seattle, 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.
For immediate release
Low-wage Immigrant Women Call Out Workplace Sexual Harassment
Release video to share stories, train workers
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.”
*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.
For immediate release: February 23, 2017
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
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 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
Wednesday, August 17th 2016
Domestic Workers Celebrate Hard-Fought Landmark Victory
Win in Illinois brings movement one state closer to securing labor rights for all domestic workers
(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.
Polish 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
PARA PUBLICACIÓN INMEDIATA
ASESOR DE PRENSA: Miercoles, 17 de agosto, 2016
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
Car Wash Owner Files for Bankruptcy to
Avoid Paying $262,901 Owed to Workers
Jorge Mújica, Arise Chicago
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.
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.
For Immediate Release May 13, 2016
Adam Kader, Arise Chicago Worker Center Director
773-937-1826 | email@example.com
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.
Clergy Call on Rauner to Negotiate with State Workers
Faith leaders appeal to governor’s ethics, lament suffering of workers and service recipients
Contact: Shelly Ruzicka
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.