Why Millions of Working Americans Are Not Getting Paid - And What We Can Do About It

Tag Archives: State – Illinois

5 Faces Of This Week’s Fast Food Worker Strikes (PHOTOS)

Thursday, August 1st, 2013   Posted in Uncategorized

“Hundreds of fast food workers in New York City, Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and other cities are walking off their jobs this week, demanding higher wages and the right to union protection. Strikers say their employers are subjecting them to unfair labor conditions while paying them a wage that’s too low to live on…”


Coalition Protests Unfair Labor Practices, Calls For Increased Wages

Friday, July 26th, 2013   Posted in Uncategorized

“A coalition of local labor organizations and low wage workers took part in a national day of action Wednesday afternoon calling out unfair labor practices and demanding an increase to the minimum wage. More than 200 protesters took to the streets first on the city’s west side at Little Village Car Wash on Cermak, fighting for an opportunity for the workers to unionize and calling on the car wash to pay employees the minimum wage and overtime. Holding a large sign which read “I will bring my car here when little village carwash has a union,” two members of Arise Chicago collected signatures from supporters picketing on the sidewalk, pledging to patrionize the business if worker demands were met. “Right now Little Village Car Wash workers, they’re not even making the minimum wage,” said Antonio, a member of Arise. “They’re making $0 an hour, just surviving on tips.” …”


Stand Up Chicago: Series of Minimum Wage Protests

Thursday, July 25th, 2013   Posted in Uncategorized

“CHICAGO–(ENEWSPF)–July 25 – A coalition of low-wage workers, community and labor groups marked a national day of action yesterday with a series of three protests calling for an increased minimum wage. Starting with a mid-afternoon rally at the Little Village Car Wash and moving to protests at the Little Village Walmart Neighborhood Market and at Capital Grille in the Magnificent Mile, hundreds of working Chicagoans called for an increased minimum wage to help the city’s struggling families….”


Chicago City Council Takes Aim at Wage Theft

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013   Posted in Uncategorized

“Activist groups in Chicago are trying to raise awareness of an ordinance passed this year by the City Council that can strip employers of business licenses if they’re found guilty of wage theft — the illegal withholding of wages from employees.

The ordinance, which was passed in January and takes effect in July, says that companies found to have committed two or more “willful or egregious” violations may have their licenses revoked….

One new tool activist groups are turning to is a 32-page graphic novel called “Wage Theft: Crime and Justice….”

Chicago Ordinance

Monday, April 15th, 2013   Posted in Uncategorized

For Angel Nava, Chicago’s newly adopted wage theft ordinance is particularly personal.

Until recently, Nava had worked at the same car wash business in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood for 14 years. The 55-year-old employee did it all — washing, detailing, buffing — for about 50 hours each week. Then, his boss decided to stop paying overtime.

In fact, Nava didn’t receive the overtime he was owed for the last four years he worked at the car wash. He told me (though a translator) that none of his co-workers were receiving overtime either — “everyone was very upset.” Nava said he knew his employer was acting illegally, but he didn’t know how to file a Department of Labor complaint or know of any community group that could help him fight for his wages. Eventually he was referred to the Arise Chicago Worker Center.

With the Worker Center’s help, the Department of Labor launched an investigation, and Nava eventually received a check for $1,300 — not nearly what he was owed, but it was something. Because of the wage theft experience, Nava quit his longtime job and now works for a different car wash making $7 an hour, which is above minimum wage for tipped employees in Illinois. (Employers must pay tipped workers $4.95 per hour, and tips are expected to bring the workers’ earnings to the state minimum wage of $8.25.)….


Victory in Chicago! Local Ordinance Passed

Sunday, January 20th, 2013   Posted in Uncategorized

The city of Chicago is adding a bit more muscle to its laws against wage theft. On Wednesday, the Chicago City Council passed an ordinance which empower the city to strip companies of their business licenses if they cut corners on wages owed to employees. Supporters of the law hailed it as a crucial step forward for workers’ rights in the city.

Liliana Baca, a member of Arise Chicago’s worker center, said she had been a victim of systematic wage theft over the course of her five years working at a local grocery store. ”So many people have had their wages stolen, and this ordinance will help them recover their wages and prevent wage theft from happening to other people,” she said in a statement released by Arise Chicago, which supported the legislation.

Supporters also argued that the new ordinance would help businesses which abide the law. “What it does specifically is, for those who have business licenses, it creates a fair playing field for them,” Latino Union of Chicago executive director Eric Rodriguez told MSNBC. “It’s a good thing for workers and businesses….


Chicago Area Walmart Workers File Suit Over Wage Theft

Thursday, October 25th, 2012   Posted in Uncategorized

Twenty Walmart workers sued the company and two Chicago area staffing agencies, Labor Ready Midwest and QPS Employment Group, for alleged failure to pay overtime and less than the minimum wage on Monday. The workers, who mainly stock shelves at Walmart stores, want backpay from the last four years.

A Walmart spokesman told the Huffington Post that the United Food and Commercial Workers is driving the lawsuit. Walmart says UFCW seeks publicity and the ability to unionize the workers.

The lawsuit comes after subcontractors in a Will County Walmart warehouse last month sued RoadLink, another employment agency that does business with Walmart, for similar wage theft issues. The legal action also follows Walmart retail workers across the country staging walkouts earlier this month.


Walmart supply chain: warehouse staff agencies accused of wage theft

Monday, October 22nd, 2012   Posted in Uncategorized

Phillip Bailey knows there are people worse off than him working inside the gigantic Walmart warehouse that dominates the small town of Elwood in rural Illinois.

He sleeps at a Catholic hostel in nearby Joliet and so has a solid roof over his head after a day of helping the endless flow of consumer goods supplying Walmart stores across America. Not all his colleagues can say that. One squatted in abandoned houses. Another lived rough in the woods in between work shifts. “He just set up a tent in there for a few weeks,” Bailey said.

Bailey is a warehouse worker in the outsourced Walmart supply chain that criss-crosses America, part of one of the most vulnerable workforces in the US. Bailey and his colleagues…


Study: Wage theft rampant in Chicago car washes

Saturday, September 22nd, 2012   Posted in Uncategorized

It’s no secret these days that some Chicago employers pay workers less than what the law requires. It’s a practice known as wage theft. A University of Illinois study, released Thursday, suggests that wage theft in one Chicago industry goes beyond a few rogue employers. We report from our West Side bureau.

MITCHELL: Researchers at the university’s School of Labor and Employment Relations designed a survey that reached employees of 57 Chicago car washes. The researchers expected to turn up some wage-and-hour violations. But Alison Dickson Quesada — she designed the survey — she says the car wash wage theft was more widespread than she had ever imagined.


Low-wage workers facing wage theft fall between the cracks at the Illinois Department of Labor

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012   Posted in Uncategorized

Illinois has a good standing among other states around the country in terms of wage-theft law. It is one of 30 states that have criminal penalties for unpaid wages and one of six states that allow workers to file complaints anonymously.

Its standing is so good, in fact, that a 2011 report on wage-theft legislation around the county by the National Employment Law Project used the recently amended Illinois Wage and Payment Collection Act as model legislation for advocates in other states to push for.

But there’s a catch: Whether the changes to the worker protection act, effective since January 2011, will significantly help workers  depends on the agency in charge of implementing it, the Illinois Department of Labor. The latest Chicago Reporter investigation found that the agency tasked with following up on wage theft and labor complaints often fails the workers it was created to protect.

By analyzing “wage claim inquiry pages,” reporter María Inés Zamudio found that “among the cases completed and closed, the department found wage-law violations an estimated 59.5 percent of the time, but only an estimated 28 percent of those cases led to verifiable full payments, while an additional 17.6 percent resulted in settlements and other resolutions or ended up…


Restaurant workers sue, alleging racial discrimination

Saturday, February 18th, 2012   Posted in Uncategorized

Last week, as part of a campaign called “Dignity at Darden,” workers in New York, Washington, D.C., and Chicago announced that they have filed a class action lawsuit against Darden Restaurants for discrimination and wage theft at Capital Grille restaurants in those cities.

According to the lawsuit, the workers accuse Darden of violating the Civil Rights Act and believe it’s a reflection of a corporate-wide policy of racial discrimination. They have also accused Darden of violating the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state wage and hour laws for all employees.


Sudden Business Closures in Chicago Prompt Wage Theft Fights

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012   Posted in Uncategorized

Losing your job is hard on any worker. But imagine discovering from the company website that your job is gone.

It happened in December to 136 employees of an upscale bakery in the Chicago suburb of Lincolnwood. Unfortunately, worker center advocates say, such sudden closures with mass firings are not uncommon. Two Chicago worker centers are fighting for laid-off workers left in their wake.

Karen Leyva was the assistant office manager at Rolf’s Patisserie. She said workers were told on a Saturday the bakery would be closed for cleaning on Sunday and to report to work on Monday.

But a worker who helped maintain the company website spotted the closure announcement online. Leyva and Deyanira Alvarez, a customer service rep, quickly organized a phone tree.

Workers weren’t officially informed of their termination until weeks later, in early January, after they’d started a campaign with the ARISE Chicago worker center and filed a lawsuit.

Their lawyer, Thomas Geoghegan, said the owner failed to follow the WARN Act, which requires 60 days’ notice of a closing or the equivalent in severance pay.


Raising Voices, Raising Wages!

Saturday, February 4th, 2012   Posted in Uncategorized

January 31st was a day that I will never forget.

I joined 67 of my fellow brothers and sisters in faith in Springfield, as part of the Raise Illinois coalition, to present petitions to our state legislators to pass Senate Bill 1565, a bill to raise the minimum wage in Illinois.  The petitions we presented were in the form of a scroll that included signatures of over 200 religious leaders from all over Illinois.

I was overwhelmed to be a part of such an action because it is so personal to me. Being the eldest daughter to a widowed mother of five, I felt like it was my responsibility not just for myself, but also for my family. After my father passed away in 2002, money was tight; with no family to turn to, my mother had no choice but to work a minimum wage job.  Remembering this motivated me as I struggled with my wheelchair on the Amtrak train we took from Chicago to the Capitol.


Wage Theft at Mom and Pop Stores—and How to Fight It

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011   Posted in Uncategorized

Maria Garcia started working at Huaraches Dona Chio, a popular  family-owned restaurant in Chicago, after befriending a relative of the family at classes at a community center on the city’s North Side.

She was the only person working there who was not part of the family. But the relationship soured, and now Garcia says the restaurant owes her more than $7,000 in unpaid overtime and back wages over three years because, among other things, she says she was not given a raise when the Illinois minimum wage increased from $7.75 to $8.25.

A co-owner of the restaurant, Sofia Calvente, told me that she has nothing personally against Garcia but thinks Garcia is lying and that the dispute erupted because of personal issues between the 34-year-old mother and other members of the Calvente family. Since, like many small businesses, the restaurant did not keep detailed records or pay stubs; the dispute basically comes down to one person’s word against another.

The workers’ rights group Arise Chicago often deals with …


Warehouse workers sue Walmart subcontractor for wage theft

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011   Posted in Uncategorized

Chicago is a massive hub for warehouses and distribution centers handling goods for chains like Walmart, Home Depot, Target and more. Railroads and interstate highways come together there, making it a perfect location for, at this point, half a billion square feet of warehouse space, staffed by around 150,000 warehouse workers. As you might guess, those workers don’t fare so well on wages, benefits, working conditions or general treatment. It’s not like Walmart treats its own directly employed workers acceptably to begin with, let alone when it has the plausible deniability of the jobs being subcontracted. Then they rely on us to figure that abuses are all the subcontractor’s fault, or just not to pay attention to abuses at some company we never heard of. Abuses like wage theft:

On November 19 the group Warehouse Workers for Justice helped workers file their fourth class action lawsuit since 2009 against companies that operate Walmart warehouses in the Chicago area.


Who’s fighting for low-wage workers?

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011   Posted in Uncategorized

Many of us can’t imagine raising a family on $10 an hour. And yet, every day, thousands of Chicagoans do it. The U.S. government estimates that one-third of all American workers are “low-wage workers”–people who’s wages are so low that even if they worked full time, their wages wouldn’t lift them above poverty.

So, what happens to these workers when their checks are shorted? Or don’t come at all?