“Essential” Factory Workers Are Afraid to Go to Work and Can’t Afford to Stay Home

By Melissa Sanchez

March 24, 2020

As many Illinois businesses have shut down or instructed employees to work from home to avoid the possible spread of the novel coronavirus, low-wage factory and warehouse workers continue going into work, often doing jobs that people don’t realize are considered essential.

And there seems to be as much, if not more, work available than ever — a situation unlikely to change in the near future. Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s order last week for residents to shelter in place includes exemptions for “essential activities” such as the production of food and medical supplies, and the supply chains necessary to make those goods.

Women Confront Ugly Harassment at Beauty Products Plant

By Bianca Cunningham

February 21, 2020

At a lotion factory outside Chicago, workers endured years of sexual harassment, coercion, gender and racial discrimination, and unsafe working conditions.

Last year the women at Voyant Beauty came together to fight back.

The workers at Voyant are overwhelmingly female, and almost all long-term temps. They blend, bottle, pack, and ship beauty products for brands like Victoria’s Secret, Johnson & Johnson, and Aveeno. 

Black Workers Shut Out

Before the organizing came a hiring discrimination lawsuit, filed in 2012.

At that point Voyant had a workforce of 100, hired through three local temp agencies. The workers were nearly all Latina—even though the factory was located in a majority-African American neighborhood where many Black workers were trying to find jobs.

Employees Of Beauty Products Distributor Claim Harassment

By Rachel Pierson

FEBRUARY 14, 2020 

More than a dozen protestors braved cold temperatures Friday to protest alleged sexual harassment by a Victoria's Secret distributor.

They work for Voyant Beauty, a Chicago company that packages products for Victoria's Secret's beauty line.

"They give us less hours when we made the first protest," said Jasso.

The Chicago protest coincides with a protest in New York City held by The Model Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes fair treatment in the fashion industry.

WBBM reached out to Voyant Beauty for comment, but has not received a statement in response to the allegations.

‘Seal of approval’ sought to curb abuses at temporary staffing firms, Chicago Sun-Times
By David Roeder 
May 26, 2019

Fredy Amador said his more than 10 years of getting factory work through temporary staffing agencies has taught him something about a culture of fear.

He said he’s seen numerous abuses, such as agencies charging workers for their own background or credit checks, pay being less than what’s promised and assignments doled out with preferences for race or gender.

An Illinois law passed in 2017, designed to rein in abuses, was widely hailed as one of the toughest in the country aimed at temp agencies. But Amador said conditions for workers “are only getting worse and worse.”

The law’s effect is minimal because, he said: “People are afraid to complain. They don’t want to lose their job.”

Behind the Headline: Isaura Martinez

By Cynthia Gordy Giwa

 June 10, 2018

Isaura Martinez and hundreds of other temp workers shared their stories with ProPublica to shed light on a shadow system harming workers and burdening the economy. “Once the stories came out, it motivated me to continue denouncing these sorts of injustices,” she said.

In 2012, Isaura Martinez was working as a temp in Chicago. Like the city’s many other immigrant workers employed by temp agencies, she boarded vans each day to work in hazardous conditions at a rotating series of factories and warehouses, often without safety training and protective equipment. Those rides, arranged by the agencies, came with high fees, as did cashing her paychecks. At the end of the day, she earned less than minimum wage.

Illinois temp workers win new protections, Reveal News
By Will Evans 
September 26, 2017

Last year, Illinois Rep. Carol Ammons was raring for a fight with the temp industry.

“The industry is exploiting Latino workers, black workers, white workers,” the Democratic lawmaker told Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. “The goal now is to expose the exploiter.”

After slogging it out in Springfield, Ammons now has something to show for her efforts. On Friday, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner signed her legislation to strengthen protections for temp workers and address systemic discrimination in the industry.

“I think the workers feel that the elected officials in Illinois heard their voices and heard that this is an issue that affects so many people,” said Tim Bell, executive director of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, who helped craft the legislation. “Something has to be done to provide workers with more protections when they’re in these vulnerable, precarious jobs.”

Chicago Workers Collaborative receives funds from CCHD

By Chicago Católico
Thursday, November 9, 2017

When Enedina Zacarías was hurt at her job, she knew there was a problem. A conveyor belt at the candy factory where she worked as a temporary employee worker fell on her and threw her against a metal table.

“I hurt my spine,” she said. “The force of the blow broke my arm, I fractured the bone close to the shoulder, and my tendons were torn.”

Zacarías says that on the day of her accident, the factory did not provide anything for the pain. Given her need to work, she went back the next day, swollen and in severe pain. When her employers took her to the company doctor, the doctor assured her there was nothing wrong with her. 

She eventually sought a second opinion and discovered she had suffered a spinal disc injury. 

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