Opening the Door Report details pervasive racial discrimination in the temp industry and need for innovative enforcement
Together with our allies at the Chicago Workers' Collaborative, National Legal Advocacy Network, and Partners for Dignity & Rights (formerly NESRI), WWJ recently released a new research report, Opening the Door: Ending Racial Discrimination in Industrial Temp Hiring Through Innovative Enforcement.
The report details the ongoing discrimination against Black temp agency workers, the way temp agencies use discrimination to drive down wages for all workers, and the need for new enforcement mechanisms to ensure that this rampant and ongoing problem is addressed.
The report release has been highlighted in the Chicago Sun Times, Telemundo Chicago, and WBEZ.
To: Governor J.B. Pritzker
From: Warehouse Workers for Justice
The highly-contested Northpoint project to build a massive industrial warehouse complex in Will County, anticipating heightened traffic congestion and more diesel pollution, relies on a proposed bridge spanning a stretch of land in Elwood which electeds and residents alike have rejected. Elwood and the broader Will County community would be most impacted by the effects of a massive industrial project like Northpoint and their autonomy to welcome or deny this project should be respected. Municipalities deserve to be in control of their own decisions about land use and development, especially when it comes to expanding an industry which has already been incredibly harmful to the region.
The existing landscape of ever-expanding manufacturing, distribution, and logistics sites in Will County has already been linked to major health and safety concerns. Community members are experiencing heightened rates of asthma and the added truck traffic from this project would further increase pollution, releasing harmful diesel particles into the air. Truck traffic has also proven dangerous to drivers, with the last IDOT study attributing 43% of car crashes in Elwood to semi-trucks. Bringing in more trucks would make the hyper-congested roadways even more dangerous for residents.
Northpoint seeks to enter an already industry-heavy area and worsen existing threats to public safety and community health while offering little to residents in return. Although Northpoint developers contend that their project will bring jobs to the area, over a decade of unbounded development of warehousing in Will County has shown that these jobs, in their current form, do not offer stable work or livable wages. In January of 2021, WWJ’s 'The COVID Jungle' report found that almost all warehouse worker respondents reported making less than $20 per hour, and 56% reported making less than $15 per hour.
Some of the richest companies in the world profit excessively from this industry, relying on the legal shield of subcontracted employment arrangements and third-party temp agencies to drive down industry wages, discriminate against workers, and retaliate against employees organizing for better working conditions.
The industry’s unstable employment model of an increasingly-permanent “temporary” workforce disproportionately harms Black and Latinx workers who account for 85% of temp workers in Illinois factories and warehouses despite the state’s overall workforce being only 35% non-white. Furthermore, staffing agencies have been shown to perform blatant and illegal discrimination on behalf of the companies they serve, including “unlawfully [targeting] vulnerable workers based on race and ethnicity, and [creating] a segregated workplace where worker organizing is especially difficult,” according to 'Opening the Door,' a 2021 report on discrimination in industrial temp hiring.
Elwood, Joliet, and Will County residents believe that our communities deserve better. Creating more low-wage warehousing jobs, coordinated through racist hiring practices, will not help draw the communities hit hardest by COVID-19 out of the recession. Until warehousing jobs offer more stable employment models and stronger organizing protections for workers, particularly those employed by temp agencies, continuing to expand this industry means relegating working-class Black and Latinx people in Will County to jobs where they are routinely underpaid, exploited, and denied their rights to a safe and dignified workplace.
Labor groups like Warehouse Workers for Justice, grassroots community groups, and the entire environmental justice movement stand with the people of Elwood. We call on Governor Pritzker to be firm in his decision and prevent those with wealth and political connections from overruling the will of a municipal body that deserves to make its own decision about the future of its community.
Volatile jobs and poverty wages will not help our people recover. A true recovery plan in Will County will promote justice for all, building towards environmental justice in our communities, developing robust regulations to hold temp agencies accountable, and empowering a strong labor movement to fight for good jobs for all people.
Warehouse Workers for Justice
Just Say No to Northpoint
Sunrise Movement Chicago
Food and Water Watch
Climate Reality Project - Chicago Chapter
Make the Road NYC
Illinois Environmental Council
Chicago Workers' Collaborative
Food Chain Workers Alliance
Global Labor Justice - International Labor Rights Forum (GLJ-ILF)
South Suburbs for Greenspace over Concrete
Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights
Sunrise Movement Joliet
SEIU Local 1
Neighbors for Environmental Justice
UE Western Region
Fox Valley Citizens for Peace and Justice
Sugar Creek Hills Homeowners Association
Workers' Rights Board of Chicago Jobs with Justice
Illinois Green New Deal Network
Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition
ACES 4 Youth
Clean Power Lake County
Jobs with Justice - National
Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice
Warehouse Worker Resource Center
The People's Lobby
Active Transportation Alliance
Save Our Illinois Land (SOIL)
Faith in Place Action Fund
Respiratory Health Association
Chicago Community and Workers' Rights
Partnership for Working Families
Chicago Jobs Council
Centro De Trabajadores Unidos
Should workers get the vaccine? Is the vaccine safe?
We understand that people haven't received a lot of information about the vaccine and have questions. We want to help workers get accurate information and have their vaccine questions answered. We’re also providing space to express concerns and talk about the vaccine with healthcare professionals. WWJ recently hosted a workshop with Elizabeth Garcia, RN, an ICU nurse who has been working with COVID-19 patients since the beginning of the pandemic.
Watch the recording of the workshop here. Read a transcript of questions and answers here .
WWJ staff all plan to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available to us. We’re looking forward to being protected from COVID-19 and protecting our families and friends.
Who is eligible for the vaccine?
As of January 25th, 2021, Illinois is entering Phase 1b of vaccine distribution. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, phase 1B will include all residents 65 and older, as well as frontline essential workers, "including but not limited to...
(Guidance document available here)
Whether warehouse workers are included in the "frontline essential workers" group eligible for Phase 1B vaccination may vary by location (city of Chicago, Cook County, Will County, or other counties). We will update this page as we receive more definitive information. (Last updated 1/28/2021)
Because Illinois has a limited number of vaccine doses available, essential workers who want to get the vaccine may have to wait for an appointment. Please see below for information about getting the vaccine.
Last week's release of The COVID Jungle directed some much-needed press attention to the challenges that low-wage and temp workers in Chicagoland are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Check out the press coverage for more:
WWJ is proud to present our latest research report, The COVID Jungle: Chicagoland's Essential Food Workers and the Need for Vaccination Priority. The report highlights workers' voices and stories about COVID-19 in their workplaces and the need to prioritize these essential workers for COVID-19 vaccine access.
Read the report here.
Warehouse workers in the food chain keep our grocery store shelves stocked, restaurant kitchens supplied, and food deliveries ready to roll. But jobs in food warehouses are often dangerous and poorly paid, leaving workers to struggle for stability even at some of the world's richest corporations.
2020 was a hard year for warehouse workers - the COVID-19 pandemic magnified existing problems in the industry and deepened the divide between the workers who keep warehouses running and the employers who enjoy the profits. As the world has pivoted to remote work, warehouse workers have never been more essential or more at risk.
Our 2020 Annual Report showcases the fights we led for warehouse workers this year and the ongoing struggle for PPE, safety precautions, and vaccine access. Read the report here.
A second COVID-19 surge is hitting just as the holiday shopping season kicks off, amplifying the existing abuses and problems in the warehousing industry. Here's a collection of recent articles on warehouse workers in Chicago and across the country: