"The economy must serve the people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is form of continuing participation in God's creation."
U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
The challenges facing Black workers are vast. We suffer from some of the highest rates of unemployment and low wage work. In Chicago and nationally, more than 50% of Black workers are either unemployed or stuck working a low wage job. And to add insult to injury, a significant portion of low wage Black workers are victims of Wage Theft. Our Dignity of Work Campaign focuses on organizing marginalized Black workers to fight for access to good jobs, family-supporting wages and benefits, and freedom to speak up at work or form a union without fear of retaliation from employers.
Our Dignity of Work Campaign consist of four core areas:
- Jobs Vouchers for Formerly Incarcerated People - The State of Illinois spends around $25,000 per year for each person we incarcerate. The majority of these people are Black and Latino. As we work to end the criminalization of race and reduce the prison population, we're advocating for that money to be reinvested in the people and communities most impacted by racialized criminal justice system. That's why we're pushing for policy that will give a $15,000 tax credit to businesses that hire formerly incarcerated people, and pay them a living wage with benefits. But instead of the tax credit going directly to the business, it will be in the form of a voucher that is tied to the individual. The Jobs Voucher will be a big incentive for businesses to take a chance and hire someone with a criminal record.
- Increase the Minimum Wage - Around 40% of Black workers in Illinois are working in low wage jobs. That means they're not making enough money to support themselves and their families. The minimum wage in Illinois is $8.25 per hour. That means a single mother with two children, working full time at a minimum wage, would be living in poverty. No worker can survive on $8.25. That's why we're fighting for a $15 minimum wage.
- The Blacks in Construction Project - There is a long history of anti-Black bias and discrimination in the construction industry. Our organization is fighting against racial discrimination and for equal opportunity in one of the few industries that pays family-supporting wages. Black workers are grossly underrepresented in the construction sector in the Chicago area. Although Blacks represent over 30% of the City of Chicago's population, they make up less than 5% of the construction workforce. We are working with our allies at the Coalition of Black Trade Unionist (CBTU) to put an end to the discrimination against Black workers in construction.
- End Wage Theft - It's ironic that while Black people are the most criminalized group in this country, we are at the same time the criminalized by employers through the stealing of our wages. Our leaders have been surveying Black workers throughout the City of Chicago, and we've discovered that more than 60% them have been victims of Wage Theft. But due to a lack of awareness or the belief that any job is better than no job, none of the workers we surveyed filed a complaint or tried to fight to recoup their wages. Our organization is committed to raising awareness in the Black community about Wage Theft, and organizing Black workers to fight to get back the money that's been stolen from them.