Low-wage workers in warehouses, restaurants, car washes, day labor, temp agencies and domestic settings struggle with common problems of violation of wage/hour laws, difficult and fluctuating schedules, discrimination, and sometimes dangerous workplaces.
Because these workers are rarely represented by unions, the organizations protecting these workers, commonly called “worker centers”, have grown organically within particular industries or within geographic or ethnic communities.
Until recently, Chicago’s worker centers were aware of their common mission, to improve the rights and quality of life of their worker members, but did not work together as effectively as they might have to address needs of low-wage workers, both in and outside their organizations.
Through lead grants from The Chicago Community Trust and Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, of which the Trust is a co-chair, eight Chicago-area worker centers—Arise Chicago, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, Chicago Community & Worker’s Rights, Chicago Workers Collaborative, Latino Union, Restaurant Opportunities Center, Warehouse Workers for Justice and Worker Center for Racial Justice—have banded together to form the Raise the Floor Alliance, perhaps the nation’s most ambitious worker center collaborative.
When fully implemented, Raise the Floor will provide legal services, a federated fund-raising campaign, research and coordination of policy advocacy campaigns to its eight member organizations. By operating more collaboratively, the group will be able to reach donors who care about the rights of low-wage workers, but may be unaware of the individual worker centers.
The groups will be enabled to maximize their collective networks, membership and organizing skills for advocacy, and will be able to afford legal and research resources heretofore unavailable to some of its smaller organizational members.
The Trust assisted the collaborative through its grant making, and also helped facilitate its initial planning and branding.
Raise the Floor enjoyed an outstanding kickoff event in December featuring Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and is poised to build on the important work its member organizations have already accomplished.