Category: Latest News

Arise Chicago Declaration of Solidarity with Communities Under Attack

Whereas:

  • Within the first days of the new administration President Trump, through executive orders and reckless rhetoric, has initiated unprecedented and cruel attacks on immigrants and refugees;
  • Some employers already feel emboldened by the new administration to further unleash unlawful and immoral attacks on immigrant workers;
  • Women workers have become increasingly vulnerable to sexual harassment in the workplace;
  • 26 states have “Right to Work” laws in place with additional states poised to follow suit;
  • The nomination of a new labor secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor appears to signal the imminent weakening or dismantling of the Department, including the NLRB, OSHA, and EEOC protections, and the emboldening of similar moves by state legislatures, signaling a renewed and intensified war on working people;
  • Our Muslim brothers and sisters have been targeted by the new administration, emboldening hate crimes against them and rumors of a mandatory Muslim registry, all of which greatly impacts Muslim workers, their families and their advocates;
  • Our Black sisters and brothers continue to face police brutality and racist enforcement and criminal justice practices and institutions, and inappropriate language and generalized statements from the White House;
  • All of the above are a complete contradiction to the spirit and/or the letter of the U.S. Constitution and the basic tenets of all faith traditions.

 

Whereas:

  • Arise Chicago is an organization based in low-wage worker and faith communities, with a membership of individual low-wage workers of color and immigrants, and of congregations from a variety of socio-economic, racial and ethnic backgrounds.

 

Let it be resolved that Arise Chicago will:

  • Educate, protect, and act in support of our individual worker members and congregation members;
  • Stand against workplace raids and will deploy all of its resources in support of workers and their families when such raids occur;
  • Train immigrant workers on their rights in the workplace, including preparedness for a workplace raid;
  • Train women workers on how to avoid, combat, and report sexual harassment in the workplace, and how to create fair and safe workplaces;
  • Broaden and deepen its alliance with groups that advocate for the rights of immigrants, Black, and Muslim working people;
  • Create Rapid Response Teams to respond to all emergency situations regarding immigrants and Muslim workers;
  • Advocate for public policies that offer explicit language regarding protection for immigrant workers and workers of all faith traditions;
  • Educate unions, allies, congregations, lawyers, etc. on the lawful protections workers have in the workplace;
  • Track and communicate all changes that occur in government that impact immigrant workers, including the Morton Memo that currently protects workers from ICE while in a labor dispute;
  • Assist congregations in deepening their  understanding of how their faith traditions and Scriptures call on all of us to stand with the oppressed and persecuted.  

 

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Workers Claim Victory to Cook County Paid Sick Days Legislation

 

For Immediate release: October 5, 2016

 

Workers Claim Victory to Cook County Paid Sick Days Legislation

Cook County becomes largest county in the US with paid sick leave legislation

 

Media Contact: Shelly Ruzicka, Arise Chicago

773-251-5003  /  shelly[at]arisechicago[dot]org  /  @AriseChicago

CHICAGO–Arise Chicago and the Earned Sick Time Coalition claimed victory as the Cook County Board voted to approve an earned sick time ordinance by an overwhelming majority.

Arise member, ChristinaArise Chicago member and food service worker, Christina Padilla testified before the Finance Committee, “I’m here because many employees all over the county, like me, are forced to decide between staying home to recover from illness and going to work and earning a day’s pay without receiving the proper care that we need, simply because if we don’t go to work we run the risk of getting fired. Many employees are often stuck between the two most important things which is their health or a paycheck.”

The victory marks the second local paid sick days ordinance approved this year. The county vote came just months after a June approval by the Chicago City Council. It makes Cook County the largest county in the U.S. with such legislation. The county also joins a growing national movement of cities, counties, and states passing earned sick time legislation.

Like the city ordinance, the county measure will provide workers with up to five paid sick days per year, with workers earning 1 hour of paid sick time for every 40 hours worked. The accrued paid time can be used for one’s health or the health of a family member. The time can be used for medical visits, in addition to school closings due to public health emergencies and legal appointments related to domestic violence.

Mirroring the Chicago ordinance, the county legislation will go into effect on July 1, 2017.

The ordinance will cover an estimated 441,000 people who work in suburban Cook County. Importantly, many newly covered workers are in the service sector–industries frequently at risk for spreading contagious illnesses due to contact with larges numbers of people.

Commissioners Bridget Gainer (10th) and Jesus Garcia (7th) were lead sponsors on the ordinance, which also had support from President Toni Preckwinkle.

Rev. John Thomas, United Church of Christ pastor and Arise Chicago Board member, helped to gather signatures from 111 religious leaders from throughout Cook County. “This is a significant victory for workers, and those of us in ministry, social services, or health care, who will see the direct impact on families.”

Arise member Martina Sanchez supported the Chicago Paid Sick Days ordinance. Shortly after its passage, her and her husband found new jobs in suburban Cook County, meaning they would not have access to the new legislation. She rejoiced at the Cook County victory. “I’m thrilled for myself and the nearly half a million workers who will benefit from this victory. I’m so happy that the commissioners listened to constituents and workers like me.”

Padilla concluded, “Having paid sick days shouldn’t be a benefit, it should be a right, and not only for those that work in Chicago but also those that work in Cook County. It feels great that we won that right today!”

Contact Shelly Ruzicka for interview requests with affected workers or religious leaders.

Photos available upon request.

 

The Cook County Earned Sick Time Coalition is:

Arise Chicago, Chicago Federation of Labor, Restaurant Opportunities Center – Chicago, Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881, Women Employed

Endorsers: AFSCME Council 31, Action Now, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 308, American Friends Service Committee, Between Friends, Brighton Park Neighborhood Council, Chicago and Midwest Regional Joint Board of Workers United, Chicago Federation of Musicians, Chicago National Organization for Women, Chicago Religious Leadership Network, Chicago Teachers Union, Chicago Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, Chicago Foundation for Women, Community Renewal Society, Coalition Against Workplace Sexual Violence, Council on American-Islamic Relations, EverThrive Illinois, Illinois Chapter-American Academy of Pediatrics, Illinois Education Association Region 67, Illinois Federation of Teachers, Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Jobs with Justice-Chicago, Lambda Legal, Mujeres Latinas en Acción, NABET/CWA Local 41, National Council of Jewish Women –  IL State Policy Advocacy Network,, National Domestic Workers Alliance, National Employment Lawyers Association – IL, National Nurses United, ONE Northside, ParentsWork, Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Raise the Floor, Rape Victim Advocates, Reclaim Chicago, SAG-AFTRA, SEIU Doctors Council, SEIU Local 1, SEIU Local 73, SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, SEIU State Council, Southsiders Organized for Unity and Liberation, Stagehands Local 2, Teamsters 743, Teamsters 777, United Steelworkers District 7, UNITE HERE Local 1, UNITE HERE Local 450, United Electrical Workers Western Region, Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago/Fight for Fifteen, Workers United, Zakat Foundation of America

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Chicago Workers Prevail Over Powerful Industry Lobby and Win Earned Sick Days in Chicago

Arise Chicago and the earned sick time coalition won historic legislation for Chicago workers today

For the first time in Chicago’s history workers will have the right to paid sick days!

Chicago Workers Prevail Over Powerful Industry Lobby and Win Earned Sick Days in Chicago

Chicago Workers Prevail Over Powerful Industry Lobby and Win Earned Sick Days in Chicago



Arise worker members led the three-year campaign leading to this momentous victory.

Members like Kahphira reminded Chicago voters why paid sick days is an urgent necessity for families like hers who currently have to choose between family health and finances in an op-ed in Crain’s Business.

Members like Martina reminded aldermen that 82% of Chicago voters support the right to paid sick days so that workers like her would not have to leave a seriously ill spouse home alone.

With the ordinance providing right to earn 5 paid days annually, workers will improve their family health and financial stability.

Member Alex Jr. shared his story of being a working dad with Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, on how with paid sick days, he won’t be afraid of losing his job when asking for a sick day for himself or his children.

Member Noemí, who made the front page cover of the Chicago Tribune won’t have to choose between a day’s pay or her child’s emergency.

Join Arise and our members in celebrating this monumental victory!Arise is proud to be a Steering Committee member of the Earned Sick Time Coalition, alongside Women Employed, UFCW Local 881, ROC-Chicago, and Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law.

Car Wash Owner Files for Bankruptcy to Avoid $262,901 Owed to Workers

Car Wash Owner Files for Bankruptcy to

Avoid Paying $262,901 Owed to Workers

Media Contact:

Jorge Mújica, Arise Chicago

Miguel Angel Fernandez May 19, 2016

jorge@arisechicago.org   773-844-9910

Eight former workers from Little Village Carwash were shocked and outraged this morning when they found out that their former employer, Octavio Rodriguez, instead of presenting his case in Cook County Court, decided to file bankruptcy to avoid paying the $262,000 in wages and damages as ordered by the Illinois Department of Labor.

“When I found out the owner filed for bankruptcy, I felt scammed. We know that he owns other businesses, including two restaurants. He has the money” said former “carwashero” Miguel Angel Martinez. “When we filed our claim for owed wages, Octavio told us he’d rather pay a lawyer than give us a penny. But he has the money and the government said he had to pay.”

“We thought the wait for our wages was over after more than three years, and instead find ourselves at the beginning of a new legal battle,” says former Little Village worker Alfredo Ramirez.

“Owner of the former Little Village Car Wash, Octavio Rodriguez owns several houses and buildings, an upscale Mexican restaurant in suburban Summit, and a pizzeria in Chicago. He  sold the car wash last year for $1.5 million. He has the money, but simply does not want to pay his former workers,” said Jorge Mújica, an organizer with Arise Chicago, who has supported the workers in their nearly four-year pursuit of justice.

Like other abusive employers, Octavio Rodriguez used loopholes in the law to avoid paying workers their legally owed wages.

“Unfortunately, this is a practice is all too common among employers of low-wage workers”, said Sophia Zaman, Executive Director of Raise the Floor. Cases like Little Village Car Wash have inspired Arise Chicago and seven other Chicago-area worker centers, under the Raise the Floor Alliance umbrella, to introduce HB 1290. This bill would allow workers to place a wage lien on employers to prevent them from moving or selling assets in order to avoid payment of owed wages to workers. Additionally, it would prioritize workers’ claims for wages over the claims of other creditors when employers declare bankruptcy.  

The former Little Village Car Wash workers voiced their support for HB1290. Had it been in effect now, they would have the ability to collect the legally owed wages and damages awarded by the Illinois Department of Labor.

Background

Little Village Car Wash worker action 2011

Little Village Car Wash worker action 2011

Arise Chicago first started supporting the Little Village Car Wash workers in 2011. After training workers on their rights, Arise found that the owner had systematized extreme wage theft. Rather than pay the legally required minimum hourly wage, car wash owner Octavio Rodriguez divided $5 per car washed among all workers in the crew, regardless of the number working. This often meant workers received 50 cents per car, and on slow work days, went home with as little as $20 for an entire 12-hour day of work.

Workers first filed claims with the US Department of Labor in 2011, won their claims, and the owner began paying correctly. However, after six months, Rodriguez went back to his old practices of stealing wages. Trained and supported by Arise Chicago, the workers then filed claims with the Illinois Department of Labor in late 2012. In May 2013 the workers won their claim, with IDOL ruling that they were entitled to back pay and damages, totaling $262,901. Because the owner never paid, the Illinois Attorney General sued him in October of 2014. The workers had a court date for Thursday, May 19, where they expected to hear a ruling from a Cook County Circuit Court judge on payment up to $262,901. Instead, they received news that their former employer was skirting his legal obligation by filing for bankruptcy.

The full Illinois Attorney General lawsuit can be found here.

Photos from Wednesday May 19, 2016 press conference and previous worker actions in 2011 and 2013 are available upon request.

Interviews with workers available upon request.

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On Anniversary of Dr. King’s Death, Clergy Call on Springfield to Negotiate with State Workers

Clergy Call on Rauner to Negotiate with State Workers

Faith leaders appeal to governor’s ethics, lament suffering of workers and service recipients

State workers prayer and press conference April 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contact: Shelly Ruzicka

773-251-5003   shelly@arisechicago.org

CHICAGO–On the 48th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, Chicagoland clergy called on Governor Rauner to honor King’s legacy of fighting for economic and racial justice including supporting sanitation workers in Memphis, where he was killed.

Rev. Robert Jones of Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church reflected on the civil rights leader. “Dr. King went to Memphis to advocate that our government be a place where no one is left behind, and that the most vulnerable are cared for with compassion and diligence. We come together today because Dr. King’s message of what government should be continues to resonate here in Illinois.”

AFSCME Council 31 member Stephen Mittons raised concerns for his clients if negotiations do not move forward. “I work for DCFS. We are the parent of last resort for every minor child in the state.  What would abused and neglected children do during a government shutdown?”

He also commented on the rarity of the impasse.

“For over 40 years, Illinois state employees have always been able to reach contract settlements without a work stoppage. Despite sometimes difficult negotiations, state government unions have always strongly preferred to avoid the disruption of services that could result from a strike. We are supporting legislation that provides for an alternative to a strike as a means of resolving disputes in contract negotiations.”

Arise Chicago board member, Rev. Liz Muñoz of La Señora de las Américas church appealed to Rauner’s Episcopal faith. “According to internet source Bruce Rauner claims membership in the Episcopal Church.  As an Episcopal priest I would like to remind him that in our baptismal covenant we promise to respect the dignity of all human beings.  This means we have a responsibility  to work for the common good of all people especially the most vulnerable in our communities.  At our General Conventions, our national assembly, we have affirmed and resolved to support the right for workers to organize for just wages and decent working conditions.  We call on the governor to honor these values and commitments.  This is not only for the physical and spiritual well being of the most vulnerable in our society but also for the well being of Governor Rauner’s own soul.

Rev. Muñoz also shared an open letter to Governor Rauner and the General Assembly, calling for constructive contract negotiations. The letter was signed by 150 faith leaders in Illinois collected by Arise Chicago.

Personal assistant care worker, and Chair of the Executive Board of SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Flora Johnson echoed the appeal to Governor Rauner’s morality.

“None of this is about saving taxpayer dollars. And it certainly isn’t about improving the welfare and condition of our vulnerable. This is all about Governor Rauner’s single-minded desire to weaken or exterminate unions outright. The Scripture says that the cries of the Poor reach the heavens. But, as we have seen throughout this nightmare period, they do not reach Bruce Rauner.”

She also voiced concern about those most impacted by the stalled contract negotiations and lack of a state budget. “We are here to commemorate the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King. He understood the direct link between racial justice and economic justice and that is why he died supporting the union movement. It is no coincidence in my mind that the cuts and disruptions being enacted by Governor Rauner fall disproportionately on the heads of women and people of color. This is wrong and we are called by our conscience to stop him.”

Twenty-five year veteran mental health technician and AFSCME member, Roberto Botello said his fellow union members are worried not only about their own families, but the people they serve. “ Every state employee I know wants a peaceful resolution to our current contract negotiations. We want a fair contract for ourselves as workers, and we also want to protect the vital services we provide to our clients.”

Department of Human Services case worker Darneice Cooper reiterated the sentiment of concern for clients. “We care about the people we serve. But what will happen if the governor gets to take out all the safeguards against privatization in our contract? Think about what privatization would mean for the Department of Children and Family Services. How do you put a price on a child’s wellbeing? Why should any big corporation make a profit off of services to troubled families? You cannot truly serve children and at the same time make profits your top priority.”

Rev. Jones called for the kind of government and society that Dr. King envisioned. “We want Illinois to be a place where service providers are not demonized but cherished for the sacrifices they make and respected for the professional services they provide. On this day, let us honor the memory of Dr. King as we claim the urgency for immediate and quantitative change in the lives of Illinois citizens.”

 

Text of the letter from Illinois religious leaders is included below.

OPEN LETTER TO GOVERNOR BRUCE RAUNER AND THE ILLINOIS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

Our faith traditions provide a moral compass and direction for the current situation in Illinois.  First, we are called to care for our individual neighbors, especially the most vulnerable among us. Second, the work we do should strengthen the common good of society.  Third, each worker has been created in the image of God and is deserving of dignity.

Therefore, we are alarmed by the recent halt in contract negotiations that: create life-threatening consequences for vulnerable populations; dismantle the serving of the common good; and harm the workers serving Illinois citizens.  

By honoring our state workers who provide vital services each day — helping those in need, safeguarding at-risk children, assisting veterans, protecting the environment, responding to natural disasters, and much more – we care for our neighbors and strengthen the common good.

We call upon Gov. Rauner to work constructively through the established bargaining process to reach a resolution, rather than intensifying conflict.  

We call upon you all to take steps that would allow a process of mediation and arbitration with the public employee union that is far more effective than confrontation, especially in our battle-weary Illinois.

We call upon you all to take measures that promote a peaceful path forward that will best serve all of the people of Illinois.

 

Photos available upon request.


Interviews with clergy and workers available upon request.

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