Category: Latest News
La Grange Residents Celebrate Saving Paid Sick Days and Minimum Wage
For immediate release: March 14, 2017
La Grange Residents Celebrate Saving
Paid Sick Days and Minimum Wage
March to Village Hall to thank Board for listening to voters
Media Contact: Shelly Ruzicka, Arise Chicago
LA GRANGE, IL–In the midst of a growing snow storm, last night dozens of La Grange residents gathered at First Congregational Church in downtown La Grange. They made handmade signs showing their support for Cook County paid sick days and minimum wage increase. Other signs expressed gratitude to the Village Board for keeping La Grange a caring community. The group then gathered outside in the snow, and marched to Village Hall chanting “Ho ho, hey hey, worker rights are here to stay!” gaining attention from passersby and restaurant goers on South La Grange Road.
The march came one month after the La Grange Village Board presented a draft ordinance threatening to opt out of the Cook County paid sick days and minimum wage ordinances–and any future similar ordinances. Shortly after that meeting, community members, including those who are part of Indivisible La Grange/La Grange Park, began organizing. Supported by workers’ rights organization, Arise Chicago, the local residents formed the La Grange Working Families Committee to collectively share their concerns, and act to save both worker protections.
Once the group arrived at Village Hall they shared stories of why they joined the Committee and took action to save La Grange paid sick days and the county minimum wage.
“I’m here tonight as a member of Indivisible LaGrange/LaGrange Park and the Working Families Committee to thank the Village Board and President Livingston for listening to residents like me–who are part of the vast majority of La Grange voters who support paid sick days and a minimum wage for local workers. “The voters of LaGrange have spoken on these issues in 2014 and 2016 referendums and overwhelmingly support treating the lowest paid among us with dignity.”
“As drafted, the so-called opt-out ordinance proposed at your February 13th meeting, would have not only blocked workers from receiving the currently proposed Cook County minimum wage and paid sick leave, but also ALL future county-level wage and sick leave ordinances. So it is for both the current protections, and potential future protections, that I celebrate your decision to embrace ethical benefits for La Grange workers. I am so proud that our Village Board listened to the research, listened to the will of its residents”
“I was heartened when Cook County passed the new minimum wage. And I voted in the 2016 referendum for paid sick days. I represent the majority–the vast majority–the 73% of La Grange voters who want paid sick days. When I heard La Grange may opt out, it made me feel like my city didn’t support me, and that my voice and my vote didn’t matter. I’m now so proud to know that my elected officials listen to residents. Proud to know that my voice and vote do matter.”
Residents also gave testimony at the Village Board meeting, sharing why they supported both ordinances, and thanking trustees for listening to voters.
Siobhan Greene is originally from La Grange, and is now raising her family there. She was also concerned when she heard about the Village potentially stripping away rights.
“I work in early childhood education. I’ve experienced first hand what happens when parents don’t have paid sick days. I’ve had to hold a sick child and say, ‘sorry, Mommy can’t come right now’ knowing that this mother risks losing her job by picking up her sick child. This is heartbreaking and no one should have to make that choice.”
“I’m a proud resident of La Grange. I grew up here, and am proud to live here now as an adult, raising my family. I’m even more proud of my hometown this evening, knowing that we will live up to our reputation as a thriving, caring community.”
Long-time resident, active community and Indivisible La Grange/La Grange Park member Jim Longino voiced that fair workplace policies are not only good for workers, but for the community and its reputation.
“If everyone operated fairly we wouldn’t worry about making sure sick leave and fair wages were provided. But some unscrupulous people will take advantage of the absence and cause others to have their business at a competitive disadvantage and thus disadvantage workers. And more importantly, treating employees fairly should never be considered a ‘disadvantage’.”
He went on to thank the board, and also remind them that individuals and groups like Indivisible will continue to actively participate in local issues.
“I would like to thank the board for reviewing the positions and considered the impact dropping out of the county ordinances would have unfairly presented, not only to our workers here, but the message it would have sent about us to the larger community.”
“You’ve done the right thing tonight and I look forward to having your official position of supporting and adhering to the county ordinance for minimum wage and earned sick leave read into the record. I also believe in holding our village officials accountable and they should always be on the forefront of working to better our people and village through actions and future policies.”
Photos available here. Credit any photos to “Arise Chicago”
La Grange residents and march participants available for interview upon request.
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
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 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
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!
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.
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
Jorge Mújica, Arise Chicago
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.
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.
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
Contact: Shelly Ruzicka
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.