August 13th, 2021
The Honorable J.B. Pritzker
Governor of the State of Illinois
Illinois State Capitol
Springfield, IL 62706
The COVID-19 pandemic brought into sharp focus the conditions of warehouse work across the state of Illinois, and particularly in Will County. Warehousing and manufacturing were the second hardest hit industries for coronavirus outbreaks across the state. Unsafe working conditions in warehouses and damage to surrounding communities were not the result of the pandemic, but were the fuel that allowed the pandemic to rage throughout Will County. The conditions that enabled this destruction were not accidents. They were results of decisions made by elected officials who have allowed major corporations with crucial distribution hubs in Will County to prioritize their ever-expanding profits over the health, safety, and economic security of their workers, their workers’ families and communities.
Despite the glaring injustices illuminated by this global crisis, we are seeing proposals for more unsafe, unstable, low-paying jobs in a sector that is employing predominantly workers of color. More tax breaks for some of the largest and most profitable corporations in the world. More diesel-fueled trucks to finish off the broken roads and bridges in Will County and pump even more air pollution into communities of color already suffering from environmental racism.
The Compass Global Logistics Hub is not in line with what communities in Will County want. Yet, Senators Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durbin, Representatives Bobby Rush, Robin Kelly, Bill Foster, Marie Newman, Will County Executive Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, and Joliet Mayor Bob O’DeKirk are calling on Governor Pritzker to steamroll in despite the local residents’ rejection of the project.
If local communities wanted this project to be built, there would be no need for Northpoint. The billionaire developer behind this project has publicly boasted about using the exploitative warehousing and logistics industry to get rich quickly (flaunting multiple company trips to Bora Bora) to put pressure on the Governor to overrule the will of a municipality to make the project happen.
Residents, environmental justice groups, and warehouse workers alike have repeatedly communicated their rejection of the project, including in an action speaking directly to two signatories on the letter, Senators Durbin and Duckworth, but community demands have been ignored by the very officials who have been elected to represent the needs of these constituents. In their letter to Governor Pritzker, these officials promise that Northpoint “will create thousands of jobs and produce significant new revenue for the state and local economies.” This is the promise.
Now to the reality. What do we know such a development will produce? We know that major corporations like Amazon will continue to snowball their profits off increased production and massive tax breaks, as they did with previous major developments. We know that these corporations will continue to contract out their labor to temporary staffing agencies that have been repeatedly found to pay poverty wages to, discriminate against, steal from, and unjustly terminate workers of color. We know that the trucks and warehouses that move product for these major corporations will continue to destroy roads and bridges, pollute the air surrounding communities breathe and deplete the water they drink. Where is the guarantee of better working conditions, family-supporting jobs, crucial infrastructure investment, healthier communities, and environmental justice? There are no guarantees. There are no lessons learned.
In light of this, Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) is calling on you to listen to your constituents, especially the workers and communities of color who will be most impacted by this project’s bad jobs and environmental injustice, and say “no” to Northpoint. We applaud Governor Pritzker for not giving in to calls from those with wealth and political connections to overrule the will of local municipalities such as Elwood, whose residents have been nearly unanimous in their opposition of this project. Residents should have the right to make these key decisions about the future of their communities.
Warehouse workers and their families in Will County are demanding a better deal, a deal where those most impacted by the expansion of the warehousing and logistics industry have power to demand better labor and environmental conditions and use the strategic role Will County plays in the global supply chain to set a higher standard for the industry as a whole.
We reject the paradigm that all new jobs are unquestionably good. Warehouse workers’ bodies have the scars to prove otherwise. Decisions should not be made to bring more bad jobs under short-term political considerations and pressure from groups like “Elected Officials for Jobs & Economic Development in Will County.” Decisions that will affect workers, their families, and their communities for generations should be made by them, not by business groups purporting to speak in their interest.
Warehouse Workers for Justice