Archive for December 2011

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The New Blue Collar: Temporary Work, Lasting Poverty And The American Warehouse

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Huffington Post
By Dave Jamieson

JOLIET, Ill., and FONTANA, Calif. — Like nearly everyone else in Joliet without good job prospects, Uylonda Dickerson eventually found herself at the warehouses looking for work.

“I just needed a job,” the 38-year-old single mother says.

Dickerson came to the right place. Over the past decade and a half, Joliet and its Will County environs southwest of Chicago have grown into one of the world’s largest inland ports, a major hub for dry goods destined for retail stores throughout the Midwest and beyond. With all the new distribution centers have come thousands of jobs at “logistics” companies — firms that specialize in moving goods for retailers and manufacturers. Many of these jobs are filled by Joliet’s African Americans, like Dickerson, and immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.

But many bottom-rung workers like Dickerson don’t work for the big corporations whose products are in the warehouses, or even the logistics companies that run them. They go to work for labor agencies that supply workers like Dickerson. Last year, she found work as a temp through one of the myriad staffing agencies that serve big-box retailers and their contractors. Thanks largely to the warehousing boom, Will County has developed one of the highest concentrations of temp agencies in the Midwest.

Getty Images

Read the rest at Huffington Post…

Group maintaining fight for fair labor

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

Joliet Herald-News
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain

JOLIET — The cozy Warehouse Workers for Justice office buzzed with activity earlier this month as volunteers and employees gathered to tackle the day’s tasks.

A pot of freshly brewed coffee fueled their efforts. Group members chatted while working on computers and laptops and legal aides assisted workers with complaints.

Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media

WWJ came to town three years ago to improve working conditions for Will County warehouse workers. The group is staying put until all the workers are paid fair wages by the temp agencies that employ them, said organizer Abraham Mwaura.

Recent lawsuit

Workers complain that they’re paid by containers they unload and not by the hour so they’re making less than minimum wage. They also say they’re not getting overtime owed to them.

In the past two years, WWJ has filed nine lawsuits and numerous complaints with state and federal labor departments in attempt to get employees money they are owed.

Read the rest here…

WWJ Receives 2011 Creative Movement Award

Sunday, December 18th, 2011

From Chicago Arts
By Jennifer Patino

And the Creative Movement Award goes to…

The 2011 Creative Movement Awards honored eight amazing people, projects, and organizations for their contributions to inspiring a climate for social change in the U.S.

Insight Arts and Rumble Arts Center partnered together to present the awards at the School of the Art Institute on Dec. 9th, 2011 as a joint fundraiser for their nonprofit endeavors….

…Warehouse Workers for Justice, Gender Just, and The Unemployed Action Center each took to the stage with force to tell the audience about their causes. Warehouse Workers was founded after the 2008 occupation of the Republic Windows and Doors plant forced Bank of America to honor workers benefits. They received an award for their continuing the fight against wage theft and exploitation of the 150,000 warehouse workers in Chicago. Member Robert Hines was not paid his wages after working overtime for Walmart the week before Black Friday last year and he ended up being evicted:

“Some people literally have to work in the factory, in these warehouse that are literally raking us over the coals. I’m tired of not being able to provide for my family and with organizations like you all this is going to stop TODAY, I promise you!” [audience erupts into clapping and cheers]

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