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.

DSA Queer Socialists Conference Call

April 24, 2017
· 36 rsvps

DSA is in the process of forming a Queer Socialists Working Group. This call will cover a discussion of possible activities for the group, its proposed structure, assigning tasks, and reports on the revision of DSA's LGBT statement and on possible political education activities. 9 pm ET/8 pm CT/7 pm MT/6 pm PT.

 

Introduction to Socialist Feminism Call

April 30, 2017
· 51 rsvps

Join Philadelphia DSA veteran activist Michele Rossi to explore “socialist feminism.” How does it differ from other forms of feminism? How and when did it develop? What does it mean for our activism? 4-5:30pm ET, 3-4:30pm CT, 2-3:30pm MT, 1-2:30pm PT.

DSA Webinar: Talking About Socialism

May 02, 2017
· 6 rsvps

Practice talking about socialism in plain language. Create your own short rap. Prepare for those conversations about socialism that happen when you table in public.

Join us for our latest organizing training for democratic socialist activists: DSA’s (Virtual) Little Red Schoolhouse.

This training is at 9:00pm Eastern, 8:00pm Central, 7:00pm Mountain, 6:00pm Pacific, 5:00pm Alaska, and 3:00pm Hawaii Time. Please RSVP.

Instructor:

Steve Max, DSA Vice Chair and one of the founders of the legendary community organizing school, The Midwest Academy

In Talking About Socialism you will learn to:

  • Have a quick response ready to go next time someone asks you about democratic socialism.
  • Create your own elevator pitch about democratic socialism and DSA.
  • Use your personal experience and story to explain democratic socialism.
  • Think through the most important ideas you want to convey about democratic socialism.
  • Have a concise explanation of what DSA does, for your next DSA table, event or coalition meeting.

Training Details

  • This workshop is for those who have already had an introduction to democratic socialism, whether from DSA's webinar or from other sources.
  • If you have a computer with microphone, speakers and good internet access, you can join via internet for free.
  • If you have questions, contact Theresa Alt <talt@igc.org> 607-280-7649.
  • If you have very technical questions, contact Tony Schmitt <schmittaj@gmail.com> 608-335-6568.
  • Participation requires that you register at least 45 hours in advance, by midnight Sunday.

 

DSA New Member Orientation Call

May 06, 2017
· 44 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.  2 pm ET; 1 pm CT; 12 pm MT; 11 am PT.  

Film Discussion: Rosa [Luxemburg]

May 31, 2017
· 69 rsvps

Join DSA member Jason Schulman to discuss the film Rosa, directed by feminist filmmaker Margarethe von Trotta. View it here at no cost before the discussion. Marxist theorist and economist Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) played a key role in German socialist politics. Jason edited Rosa Luxemburg: Her Life and Legacy and has a chapter in Rosa Remix. 9 ET/8 CT/7 MT/6 PT.

Film Discussion: The Free State of Jones

June 11, 2017
· 18 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.