Missed the Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) community meeting on Thursday, July 27th? Don’t worry; JCN got you covered with an insightful event recap. Read the highlights and key takeaways from an engaging gathering of passionate individuals advocating for workers’ rights.
Before the meeting began, attendees were treated to light refreshments. In addition, several vendors were present, each offering their resources to the participants. The vendors included: Will County Health Department, Guardian Angels, The Salvation Army, and the ACLU.
WWJ’s Executive Director, Marcos Ceniceros, gave opening remarks, emphasizing the need for better wages, accessible healthcare, and respect for workers.
“We’re advocating because you deserve wages where you can have a home and raise a family,” says Marcos Ceniceros. “You deserve accessible healthcare, to take time off and go on vacation, and to be treated with dignity and respect. Warehouse Worker for Justice believes in making warehouse work good work. And we do this by supporting workers and building collective power necessary to force change in the warehouse industry.”
Attorney Chris Williams provided an update on a new bill, the Temp Worker Fairness and Safety Act, an amendment to The Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act. This amendment, co-authored by Williams, aims to address “safety violations and assignment discrimination” based on race, gender, or other protected characteristics, holding the temp agency and the company using the agency equally accountable over violations.
The bill also requires employers and staffing agencies to provide temporary workers pay and benefits equal to directly-hired employees in the same role after 90 days of employment and general and site-specific safety training for temporary workers before they begin working at a job site.
Temp Worker Fairness Act will also simplify the process for workers to take legal action against temp agencies. Additionally, the legislation would create obstacles for temp agencies attempting to employ noncompliance clauses and other tactics to prevent workers from transitioning to permanent positions with a client.
Some critical points of the law are equal pay for equal work, a minimum of 4 hours of pay, and protection against wage theft. Although the Illinois Department of Labor has imposed fines over labor violations, the new amendment creates tools to ensure staffing agencies and companies using staffing agencies comply with the law more efficiently.
During the community meeting, supporters of WWJ gave testimonies on the challenges they faced in the workplace, including safety concerns and sexual misconduct, and how WWJ was instrumental in bringing awareness and initiating investigations.
Montrell, a warehouse worker at the Amazon warehouse, shared his experience with Warehouse Workers for Justice, the efforts, and collective achievements. After meeting with WWJ members at a gas station, Montrell says he decided to get involved because he feels the working conditions at the Amazon warehouse can be “better.”
“Their priorities are not where they need to be, said Montrell. “So, with me working on the inside, I’m able to tell WWJ what I’m seeing and the different ways we can help.” Montrell explains how being a voice during an organized walkout of Amazon employees opened his eyes to the impact Warehouse Workers for Justice can make.
“Warehouse work is something you shouldn’t be ashamed of. It’s something you should be proud of,” – Councilman Cesar Guerreo
Other guest speakers included Illinois Representatives Dagmara Avelar, Natalie Manely, and Larry Walsh. Joliet City Councilwoman Suzanna Ibarra and Joliet City Councilman Ceaser Guerrero addressed the audience, emphasizing the importance of solidarity among workers.
“All work is dignified as long as it’s honest,” Councilman Guerrero, a former warehouse worker, implied. “Warehouse work is something you shouldn’t be ashamed of. It’s something you should be proud of. That’s why I’m happy to collaborate with Warehouse Workers for Justice. So we can ensure that we pass protections for temp workers, improving pay and working conditions.”
WJJ organizers Maria and Tommy spoke briefly about Warehouse Workers for Justice’s Heat Campaign. Noting that “bosses are responsible for ensuring warehouse temperatures does not reach dangerous levels. If temperatures reach unsafe levels, report it to OHSA and get your coworkers to come together to fight for a workplace free from excessive heat.”
WWJ’s organizers emphasize that they’re out in the streets supporting warehouse workers in contacting OHSA about unregulated temperatures and providing the tools workers need to come together without fear of retaliation.
The meeting was filled with a lot of information for those working in the logistics, warehouse, or distribution centers. The devotion of the organizers, members, and supporters is uncanny. The cheers and applause were plentiful throughout the meeting.
“We’re fighting for the warehouse workers,” Marcos Ceniceros says. “We’re organizing across the state and building political prowess to bring better wages and dignified working conditions for the workers in the warehouse industry.”
The event concluded with WWJ raffling off 3 $50 gas gift cards and a call to action, urging attendees to stand united and continue their fight for better warehouse working conditions, fair pay, and equality. #NothingMoveWithoutUs!
About Warehouse Workers for Justice
Warehouse Workers for Justice is an 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2008 to win stable, living wage jobs with dignity for the hundreds of thousands of workers in Illinois’ logistics and distribution industry. WWJ provides workshops about workplace rights, unites warehouse workers to defend their rights on the job, builds community support for the struggles of warehouse workers, and fights for public and private policies that promote full-time work at decent wages in the warehouse industry.
To support the work of WWJ click here.