Immigrant Women Temp Workers Stand Up for Their Rights

CWC1.jpg

"Have A Heart for Immigrant Women." That's what immigrant women workers from Chicago Workers' Collaborative (CWC) and their supporters called for on Valentine's Day. The rally in front of Walgreen's Chicago Loop store highlighted the complaint to the Economic Equality Opportunity Commission that CWC filed that day, charging the labor supply agency Staffing Network with age discrimination. Staffing Network supplies workers to Norelco, manufacturer of shaving products that were being featured at Walgreen's as an attractive Valentine's Day present for that special guy.

The Valentine's Day rally focused on women whose intersecting oppressions based on their class, gender, age and, for some, their immigration status, make them vulnerable to exploitation. But these women, working through the CWC's Women's Committee, have banded together, fought back and sometimes won.

The workers report that, when they reach age 35 to 40, Staffing Network replaces them with younger women. "I have worked at Staffing Network for years, never missing work and helping make Staffing Network and Norelco a lot of money," says Maria Guadalupe, CWC member and a plaintiff in the case. "And now I am tossed aside like a broken piece of machinery. We deserve better for our loyal years of service." CWC's International Women's Day message notes that another CWC member, Adela, "was once told to get out of a staffing agency van which was taking her and others to work. She and other 'old' women were told only young women could go to work that day. A couple women were ordered out of the van right there, on the side of the road, far from home."

The age discrimination suit is only one of a number of campaigns waged by CWC's Women's Committee. The committee was formed after CWC member Airsa was sexually assaulted by her Burger King manager and successfully fought back. Hers is not the only victory. Another CWC member, Leonila, recently won a large discrimination settlement stemming from a sexual assault at her workplace. 'I went through hell in the past months,' [she said],'" but with the help and support of the Comité, I had the power to hang on and win the charges. I feel much better for fighting back and showing other women that it is possible to win if we stay united and support each other.'"

CWC2.jpg

Temp work is a growing sector. Currently, staffing firms hire nearly 13 million temporary and contract workers annually. Hiring temp workers through staffing firms enables employers to cut costs, for example by not offering benefits. As the American Staffing Network website advises, "The most important step companies can take to protect themselves is to amend their benefit plans to clearly exclude staffing firm [i.e., temp] employees."

Formed in 2000, CWC organizes to improve conditions for low-paid workers, primarily temp staffing workers. It's a membership organization, but not a union. CWC uses a variety of tactics. Direct action, such as this rally at Walgreen's and another at a Norelco assembly plant outside of Chicago in January, spotlighted problems with the companies that use temp agencies to avoid the obligations that they would incur with full-time, permanent employees.

Legal protections provide another angle from which to work. "Due to our legislative work at CWC," says Executive Director Leone Jose Bicchieri, "the laws in Illinois allow us to hold the client companies liable for the actions of their staffing agencies, so our legal pressure is usually pretty effective in terms of creating change at client companies. Through this legal pressure, and through our direct actions and direct worker organizing, we can improve the lives of the 350,000 staffing workers in Illinois, and we can also help open the door for organizing at the client companies." Through its Working Hands Legal Clinic, CWC has brought actions against 24 staffing agencies, resulting in $15 million in settlements.

CWC offers skills training to its members. And, although many of its members are Latino immigrants, another focus of CWC work is building bridges between Latino and African American workers. In addition to several Workers' Centers that primarily serve Latinos, CWC has an office on Chicago's South Side whose primary clientele is African-Americans.

Listen to an interview with CWC's Executive Director Leone Jose Bicchieri on Chicago DSA's podcast, episode 18: http://www.chicagodsa.org/audarch6.html

 

Sources:

CWC:

http://us5.campaign-archive2.com/?u=45cfcd07f7b38f2dd84976c28&id=3d7be236a6&e=c909a1e94d

http://us5.campaign-archive2.com/?u=45cfcd07f7b38f2dd84976c28&id=4ee2a3f796&e=c909a1e94d

OECD: http://www.oecd.org/els/soc/LMF1.6%20Gender%20differences%20in%20employment%20outcomes%20-%20updated%20081212.pdf

Photo credits: Chicago Workers' Collaborative. Image 1: CWC members and supporters at Valentine's Day event protesting age discrimination. Image 2: Rosa, a co-founder of the Women's Committee, displays the check she received from her lawsuit.

Peg Strobel is a member of DSA's National Political Committee.

Film Discussion: When Abortion Was Illegal

March 26, 2017
· 11 rsvps

Directed by Dorothy Fadiman, When Abortion Was Illegal (1992, nominated for an Academy Award, Best Documentary Short Subject) reveals through first-person accounts the experiences of women seeking abortion before the Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973. We are one Supreme Court nominee away from a return in many states to back-alley abortions. Join Amanda Williams, Executive Director of the Lilith Fund, to discuss challenges to reproductive justice and abortion access. (Lilith Fund funds abortions for women in need in the Central and South Texas area.) Learn about how to participate in April Bowl-A-Thons to raise funds for low-income women. View the film here for free before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

March 30, 2017
· 25 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  9:30 PM ET; 8:30 PM CT; 7:30 PM MT; 6:30 PM PT.

LGBT Activism: A Brief History with Thoughts about the Future

April 01, 2017
· 50 rsvps

Historian John D'Emilio's presentation will do 3 things: Provide a brief explanation of how sexual and gender identities have emerged; provide an overview of the progression of LGBT activism since its origins in the 1950s, highlighting key moments of change; and, finally, suggest what issues, from a democratic socialist perspective, deserve prioritizing now. John co-authored Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America, which was quoted by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in the 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision that ruled state sodomy laws unconstitutional. 1 pm ET; 12 pm CT; 11 am MT; 10 am PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Peg Strobel, peg.strobel@sbcglobal.net.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Film Discussion: Documentaries of People's History in Texas

April 02, 2017
· 29 rsvps

Join DSA members Glenn Scott and Richard Croxdale to discuss videos produced by People’s History in Texas (PHIT), a project that brings to life the stories of ordinary people in significant socio-political movements in Texas. They will discuss The Rag, their newest documentary, which tells the story of an influential underground paper based in Austin, Texas, from 1966-77. Click here to view Part I (the early years as an all-volunteer paper covering the student, anti-Vietnam and Civil Rights movements), Part II (the impact of Women’s Liberation on the paper) and Part III (building community: covering local politics, nukes, co-ops, feminist institutions). But also check out the video on the Stand-Ins about a group of university students who led a movement to desegregate Austin’s movie theaters in 1961. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT. Here's a blog post about PHIT.

Introduction to Democratic Socialism

April 04, 2017
· 52 rsvps

Join Rahel Biru, NYC DSA co-chair, and Joseph Schwartz, DSA Vice-Chair, on this webinar for an overview of what we in Democratic Socialists of America mean when we talk about "socialism," "capitalism" and the goals of the socialist movement.  9 PM ET; 8 PM CT; 7 PM MT; 6 PM PT.

  1. This webinar is free for any DSA member in good standing.
  2. You need a computer with good internet access.
  3. Your computer must have headphones (preferred) or speakers; you can speak thru a mic or use chat to "speak".
  4. If you have questions, contact Joseph Schwartz, schwartzjoem@gmail.com.
  5. If you have technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt, schmittaj@gmail.com, 608-355-6568.

Feminist Working Group

April 12, 2017
· 13 rsvps

People of all genders are welcome to join this call to discuss DSA's work on women's and LGBTQ issues, especially in light of the new political reality that we face after the elections.  9 pm ET; 8 pm CT; 7 pm MT; 6 pm PT.

DSA New Member Orientation Call

April 16, 2017
· 6 rsvps

You've joined DSA - Great. Now register for this New Member Orientation call and find out more about our politics and our vision.  And, most importantly, how you can become involved.  8 pm ET; 7 pm CT; 6 pm MT; 5 pm PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 9 rsvps

Join Victoria Bynum, Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, Texas State University, San Marcos, to discuss The Free State of Jones. STX Entertainment bought the film rights to Bynum's book of the same title. She also served as a consultant and appears in a cameo scene. What was the Free State of Jones? During the Civil War, an armed band of deserters led by Newt Knight, a non-slaveholding white farmer, took to the swamps of southeastern Mississippi and battled against the Confederacy in an uprising popularly known as “The Free State of Jones.” Joining Newt in this rebellion was Rachel, a slave. From their relationship, there developed a controversial mixed-race community that endured long after the Civil War had ended. View the film here for $6 before the discussion. 8 ET/7 CT/6 MT/5 PT.