Through D.A.L.E, Chicago Leads the Nation In Gaining Protections for Exploited Workers, Including at El Milagro, Hearthside Foods, Midtown Athletic Club, and Dynamic Manufacturing. Advocates Say Permits and Deferred Action Are Needed to Address Some of The Region’s Worst Working Conditions
Media Contact: Kara Rodriguez, Communications Director, Raise The Floor Alliance firstname.lastname@example.org, 201.881.6350
January 11th, 2024, Chicago, IL - As part of a national day of action, Raise The Floor Alliance (RTF) and Illinois worker centers held a press conference and rally with hundreds of immigrant workers and advocates at Federal Plaza in Chicago to urge the Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and the Biden Administration to renew protections for immigrant workers as part of the Deferred Action for Labor Enforcement (DALE) program. Codified by the Department of Homeland Security in early 2023, the DALE protections create a process for immigrant workers in labor disputes to be able to petition for “Deferred Action” and work permits that last for two years while a government agency like National Labor Relations Board, OSHA, or Chicago Office of Labor Standards, investigates for violations at workplaces.
Immigrant workers say DALE protections have enabled progress in labor investigations where they would normally face threats and retaliation for reporting abuses. “Thanks to DALE, I and hundreds of coworkers at El Milagro have work permits and social security cards,” said Pedro Manzanares, a worker at El Milagro for over 20 years and member of Arise Chicago. “With DALE protections, we feel safer and dozens of us are now participating in labor agency investigations.”
“This company hired minors which is why Hearthside workers have been able to initiate a deferred action process,” said Gualberto Maldonado, a member of Chicago Community and Workers Rights who worked for 13 years at Heartland Food Solutions. “I and many of my coworkers have initiated the deferred action process. So now we can work without fear of retaliation and fight for better working conditions at work.
“Today we are hundreds strong to demand action in protecting workers,” said Sophia Zaman, Executive Director of the Raise The Floor Alliance. “We need workers to be able to work without fear and to be able to come forward when there are serious issues in the workplace like child labor, retaliation against workers organizing, and even workplace deaths.”
“Getting a work permit from the DALE program has changed my life,” said Jose Neri, who worked for a cleaning contractor at Midtown Athletic Club and is a member of Chicago Workers Collaborative. “Now I am not afraid of being deported because I participated in a labor enforcement investigation.”
Workers and advocates are demanding guidelines on a renewal process before protections are lost for workers this year. The DALE guidelines, announced on January 13th, 2023, were won by immigrant workers nationwide speaking out about rampant labor abuse and the need for government protection of migrants enforcing their rights. The announcement represents a significant effort by the US Departments of Labor and Homeland Security to reconcile immigration and labor rights enforcement, which have been in conflict for three decades.
RTF along with its member groups have reached thousands of immigrant workers about the DALE protections and have won work permits for hundreds of workers in the region, 25% of all who have gained work permits nationally. “I wonder what will happen after two years run out,” said Lorena Prieto, a former worker at Dynamic Manufacturing, and member of Warehouse Workers for Justice, “I am here to be the spokesperson for all the people working in the shadows who should no longer need to do so.”
Raise The Floor Alliance provides research, communication, legal & advocacy support to Chicago-area worker centers to win policies that advance justice for low-wage workers. Follow us on X/Twitter: @RaiseTheFloor.