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