May 26, 2017
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Chicago, IL – Chicago has more than 180 low-wage workplaces where workers regularly experience unsafe conditions, wage theft, injuries, sexual harassment, and discrimination and are afraid to complain about it, according to a study released May 18.
“That’s more sweatshops than Starbucks in Chicago,” said Brittany Scott, senior research strategist at the National Economic and Social Rights Initiative, which prepared the report, Challenging the Business of Fear, with the Raise the Floor Alliance of Chicago worker centers. The study, based on surveys and interviews with nearly 300 workers in low-wage industries such as warehousing, manufacturing, food service, and retail, found that 58% of workers who’d made complaints said they’d experienced retaliation, and more than 80% of those who reported violations to government agencies had. The most common kinds, it said, were firing workers, cutting their hours, or putting them on a “Do Not Return” list with the temp agency they were hired through. Employers also threatened to call immigration authorities. Retaliation has become “so normalized, it’s basically a way of doing business,” Raise the Floor Alliance head Sophia Zaman said at a press conference May 18. “It’s too often impossible for workers to prove they were fired out of retaliation, because employers can fire them for virtually any reason at all.” Read more