"Embracing and Resisting: The Variable Relationships Between Worker Centers and Unions"
By Steven Greenhouse
April 22nd, 2021
"Some unions resent temp workers because employers sometimes use them to cross picket lines. But as part of its partnership with organized labor, the CWC organized temps at an Illinois paper bag factory to make sure they didn’t cross a Teamsters strike line there. The CWC also got temps to join an SEIU picket line at a nursing home."
"Barry Rose, who works at Gold Standard Bakery on Chicago’s South Side, was a temp worker who felt cheated. He said that after he had worked 90 days, the bakery wanted to fire him and then rehire him after 30 days as a temp. That would have prevented him from becoming a union member and receiving benefits under the union contract. The CWC objected to such chicanery, and Rose led a worker protest against the bakery. The result: The company agreed to hire Rose as a regular worker, and he thus became a union member of Workers United. His pay jumped by $1.75 an hour, and he received health coverage. Ultimately, the CWC and Workers United got 200 more temps added to Gold Standard’s union rolls by making sure the bakery complied with the provision in the union contract that said temps are to move into the union after 90 days of work."
"The Movement To End At-Will Employment is Getting Serious"
By Jeff Schurke
April 6th, 2021
“It’s like we’re disposable to them,” said Estrella Hernandez, who was abruptly fired from her stitching job at a Chicago-area factory in December 2020. “I got to work one morning at 4am and the supervisor told me I couldn’t be there, that they had let me go the day before… I asked the reason and they said they didn’t have to tell me and told me to just go home.”
Hernandez believes she was fired as illegal retaliation for raising concerns about the inability to practice social distancing in her cramped work area, but she can’t prove it, especially since her employer never provided a reason for her dismissal."
"Do Chicago-Area Temp Agencies Discriminate Based On Race? A New Study Says Yes"
By Odette Yousef
February 24th, 2021
"A new study is lending evidence to claims that have surfaced over the years through lawsuits and whistleblower complaints about racial discrimination in blue-collar temp agency hiring practices. The coalition behind the report, led by the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative and Warehouse Workers for Justice, conducted “matched pair” testing of a sampling of 60 Chicago-area temp agencies."
"Temp agencies have long been accused of discriminating against Black job applicants. An experiment set out to prove it."
By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
February 23rd, 2021
“This report provides really strong evidence that confirms what workers have been saying for years,” said Tim Bell, executive director of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, an advocacy group that produced the report in partnership with Warehouse Workers for Justice, Partners for Dignity & Rights and the Equal Rights Center. “This changes the discourse because it is really clear what is happening.”
"Groups accuse temp agencies of bias in hiring"
By David Roeder
February 23rd, 2021
"The findings show the importance of suing employers that violate state laws about fair hiring, said Atty. Gen. Kwame Raoul, speaking at the virtual conference where the report was announced. Noting that his office created a worker protection unit and has had a task force examine employer discrimination and harassment, Raoul said, “Where we find that this is happening, we are committed to putting a stop to it.”
"‘COVID Jungle’ Report Highlights Experiences of Manufacturing, Warehouse Workers Amid Pandemic"
By Kristen Thometz
February 6th, 2021
According to a new report, Hernandez’s concerns were common among dozens of people hired to work in food manufacturing, distribution and logistics facilities in the Chicago area.
Of the 90 workers surveyed for “The COVID Jungle: Chicagoland’s Food Workers and the Need for Vaccination Priority” — the majority of them temporary workers like Hernandez — 85% said their employer didn’t respond to workers’ complaints, retaliated against those who spoke up with concerns about their employers’ handling of COVID-19, or took action that didn’t improve the situation.
After expressing her concerns in April, Hernandez said she was told not to return. “As a temp worker, we’re seen as disposable,” she said.
"Will County, Chicago area essential workers faced unsafe conditions during COVID-19 pandemic"
By Alex Ortiz
January 15th, 2020
Activists released a report Tuesday detailing how essential workers in the Chicago area, including Will County, have faced sickness and few protections during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A collaboration of workers-right groups, including Warehouse Workers for Justice which organizes in the Joliet area, produced the report which focused on workers in the production, distribution and logistics industry, especially those who handle food.
"Temp and warehouse workers who keep us fed face COVID-19 risks, and more must be done to ensure they get vaccinated, advocates say"
By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
January 12th, 2021
Estrella Hernandez said she was working at a factory making sweets destined for supermarkets when the pandemic hit, and the layout made it impossible to social distance. When people got sick they were sent home without pay. She said she made the “painful decision” to quit her job because she feared exposing her son, who has asthma, and her elderly parents
“I have struggled to find a job that provides me with safety and security,” she said in Spanish during Tuesday’s conference call. She added: “We are essential workers and no one values our work.”
"Warehouses Are Today’s “Dark Satanic Mills”
By Alex N. Press
March 4th, 2021
A recent report put together by Warehouse Workers for Justice and Chicago Workers’ Collaborative notes that warehouses have been second only to nursing homes in COVID-19 cases in Illinois, with at least 165 outbreaks at factories, warehouses, distribution centers, and food production facilities since July 2020. Of the food workers interviewed in the report, 65 percent said that either they or someone they knew at their workplace had contracted COVID-19.
"There are infected people and they don't tell us": protests in four factories in Illinois in the midst of the coronavirus crisis"
By David Palomino and Estefania Florez Rueda April 28th, 2020
In the last 24 hours in 4 factories in the state of Illinois, the day has passed in the midst of employee protests and temporary closings due to alleged cases of coronavirus.
Under the slogan "Stop exposing us to the coronavirus," supported by community activists, a group of Brightstar company workers in Libertyville came out to demonstrate. They demand better conditions to avoid infections.
"What Happens When the Workers Who Make Hand Soap Get COVID-19? They Protest"
By Melissa Sanchez April 28th, 2020
After a worker at a beauty supply factory near Chicago died of COVID-19, her former co-workers staged a protest. But they didn’t seek help from OSHA. They sought help from a new advocate: the state attorney general’s office.
In the weeks before Norma Martinez died of COVID-19, she and her co-workers talked about their fears of contracting the coronavirus on the factory floor where they make and bottle personal care and beauty products, including hand soaps.
"Workers are getting sick and dying, but OSHA won't crack down on businesses that fail to follow COVID-19 guidelines"
By Maria Perez
April 15th, 2020
As more of the nation’s essential workers become ill with coronavirus, the federal agency responsible for employee safety is telling many of them that it won't crack down on businesses that fail to follow COVID-19 guidelines.
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s position has left some workers, unions and advocates scrambling to figure out how to protect employees. Workers say employers aren’t cleaning worksites properly, providing protective equipment or telling them when coworkers became sick with the coronavirus, interviews and records obtained by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel show.
"U.S. Plant Workplaces Emerge as Coronavirus Battlegrounds"
By Alexandra Berzon, Jacob Bunge and Alejandro Lazo April 1st, 2020
Tensions are breaking out between employers and workers across the U.S. as some companies push to keep producing during the coronavirus pandemic and some employees push back over health concerns and other issues.
In recent days, plant workers have walked off the job at companies ranging from poultry producer Perdue Farms Inc. to soda maker Refresco B.V. At Tyson Foods Inc., workers petitioned for more paid sick leave. Some want more protective equipment. Others have complained to regulators about unsafe conditions.
"What to do if someone in your workplace tests positive for COVID-19"
By Telemundo Chicago
March 30th, 2020
A group of workers at the Pactiv company in Bedford Park refused to continue their work on Monday due to concerns about the increase in cases of coronavirus.
"All my colleagues agree that we are not going to work today until they put a piece of paper there on the door that says that it is already free of contamination," said Victor Arroyo, a Pactiv worker.
“Essential” Factory Workers Are Afraid to Go to Work and Can’t Afford to Stay Home"
By Melissa Sanchez
March 24th, 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"
February 21st, 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"
FEBRUARY 14th, 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"
By David Roeder
May 26th, 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.”