Since 2000, the Chicago Workers Collaborative has lifted the voices of precarious workers, a million-strong workforce essential for our state’s economy that operates in the shadows. Rooted in practices of community organizing, workers drive in the creation of CWC’s programs by identifying problems they face and the solutions to these problems. CWC provides a space for workers to build their leadership so that now they themselves manage and operate all the organization’s programs and operations.
Leadership and Advocacy
Former workers with extensive experience leading campaigns to improve conditions in their workplaces, run the Leadership and Advocacy program, which builds the power of historically marginalized people, such as LGBTQ+, women, immigrants, and other workers of color. The program also connects the voice of workers to policymakers to create more responsible workplaces. CWC’s advocacy has led to the passage of Illinois’ laws which are the strongest protections in the U.S. for temporary staffing workers.
Led by Community Health Workers, who are former CWC worker leaders, the Essential Worker Protection Program began in 2020 to mitigate the harm of Covid 19 in dangerous but essential workplaces such as food processing, meatpacking and factories with assembly lines. The program builds the leadership of precarious workers to protect themselves from injuries and illnesses in high hazard workplaces. Often working without any training from their employers, such as temporary staffing agencies, the program partners with the Latino Worker Safety Center, the UIC School of Public Health and County Health Departments to train, certify and enforce workers rights primarily in Lake, Kane, and Suburban Cook counties.
Working Families Legal Clinic
The Working Families Legal Clinic program connects workers to solutions and guides them on a path forward to a remedy. Led by paralegals from the community with the assistance of staff and pro bono attorneys, the program pursues innovative strategies to empower all workers of all statuses in the areas of immigration, family and employment law.
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Provides “know your rights” workshops and services, assisting families to become familiar with the eligibility and application process required to navigate systems and access medical services, social security benefits, financial rental assistance, emergency financial assistance, and other services that may help people overcome economic hardship. The program runs thanks to a robust team of trained Community Navigators supported in partnership with Access to Justice and the Resurrection Project.