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Across Industries, Low-Wage Workers Unite for Justice

Restaurant, warehouse, domestic + day laborers unite to @RaiseTheFloor of wages, safety + justice Tweet This

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On December 9, the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen hosted a milestone event in the fight against poverty.

The celebration officially launched the Raise the Floor Alliance, a unique cross-industry collaboration among eight Chicago-area worker centers to foster full-time, family-supporting work for low-wage workers.

The Alliance will provide research, communications and policy advocacy for its member organizations:

Welcoming the crowd gathered for the launch event, executive director Sophia Zaman decribed the Alliance’s goal to enable these vibrant and powerful member organizations to take “collective action for bigger and better things.”

Crowd gathered at the National Musuem of Mexican Art for the launch of the Raise the Floor Alliance
Photo by National Economic & Social Rights Initiative (NESRI)

 

The Alliance was created through lead grants from The Chicago Community Trust and the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, of which the Trust is a co-chair.

Trust senior program officer James Lewis calls the Alliance “perhaps the nation’s most ambitious worker center collaborative.”

Mark Meinster, the executive director of Warehouse Workers for Justice, echoed the Alliance’s importance not just for members, but for our local economy as a whole. “A vibrant labor movement in this city,” Meinster said, “is the only way we are going to fight back against poverty.”

As the event’s keynote speaker, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan explained how her office receives about 500 referrals for labor investigations each year, and that pursuing their claims has resulted in collecting and restoring over $1 million in wages owed to workers.

“Without the worker centers, without the legal clinics, these issues would never get to me,” Madigan said.

“Not only am I interested in watching Raise the Floor grow into a larger and more vibrant organization, but I am also really excited to be here because the work that these organizations have done has been really vital for my office.”

Learn more about the Alliance’s creation from the Trust’s James Lewis: Raising the Floor Through Collaboration

The evening culminated with the Bringing Justice to the Community Award, which honors an organization demonstrating commitment to advocating, enforcing and protecting the rights of low-wage workers in Illinois. This year, the award honored the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, for its partnership with the Alliance to defeat proposed cuts to the state workers compensation system.

Accepting the award on behalf of ITLA, president Perry Browder encouraged everyone in attendance, “Be proud of what you’re accomplishing—because the people in Springfield will hear you if your voices are out there.”