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Ten years ago on February 1st - at the outset of Black History Month in 2012 - a group of formerly incarcerated Black workers officially launched the Workers Center for Racial Justice in Chicago.

These founding members were united in particular by the dearth of employment opportunities they faced due to their records. Like many others in their communities, they had been forced into the informal economy due to years of community disinvestment and criminalization, as well as discrimination towards Black workers.

They perceived a pressing need for an organization specifically devoted to addressing issues faced by Black workers. They founded WCRJ with a mission to pursue Black Liberation through the "4Ps" - political education, protest, policy advocacy, and politics*, with a focus on those challenges that originate at the intersection of over-criminalization and exclusion from economic opportunity.

In keeping with 501c3 compliance, the "Political" aspect of WCRJ's strategy is pursued through our sister 501c4 organization, the Center for Racial and Gender Equity (CRGE).

In the 10 years since WCRJ was founded, we have built a powerful base of grassroots Black leaders who have devoted their time and resources to making Black History through collective action. They have conceptualized and advanced transformational policies; taken to the streets to protest and disrupt state-sanctioned police violence against Black people and communities; and driven record-breaking Black voter turnout in local, state and national elections.

They have changed the narrative about Black workers, educating communities and policymakers about the true roots of community violence: concentrated poverty and disinvestment, mass incarceration, segregation, discrimination, and lack of economic opportunity.

All throughout 2022, we will be celebrating a decade of progress, and leveraging this milestone to build resources and support for our next 10 years of work. We will be asking each of our supporters to contribute to this effort: by hosting a birthday fundraiser to benefit WCRJ, becoming a 10th anniversary sponsor, attending WCRJ membership meetings and events, and helping to gather petition signatures.

We'll also be asking you to donate to our 10th anniversary campaign with a gift of $100 or more, or a monthly Sustainer gift of $10/month in honor of our 10 years.

For questions about how you can support our 10th Anniversary Campaign, please contact Sarah Wilson, Development Director at

We look forward to celebrating with you this year!

In solidarity and struggle,

DeAngelo Bester

Executive Director


On Friday, November 19th, the United States House of Representatives passed a sweeping social safety and climate change spending bill, as part of President Biden’s agenda to broaden and improve America’s social safety net.

The Build Back Better bill is being hailed as the largest reform of social safety, education and health care in decades, and comes at the conclusion of bitter battles, both in Congressional chambers, and in our communities.

Workers Center for Racial Justice worked with our partner organizations across the country, including Community Change Action, to mobilize everyday voters to call their elected representatives urging them to vote for the Build Back Better agenda. Our members and supporters urged elected officials in Congress to provide robust funding for items such as expanding the Child Tax Credit, as well as an expansion of access to affordable health care for working families.

“This represents the largest investment in low-income and working class people in the history of this country”, said DeAngelo Bester, WCRJ Executive Director. “We are very excited to be a part of the work to get this bill passed out of the House, but the work is not done and there is still more to do in the Senate to get the bill to President Biden’s desk to be signed”.

The bill now heads to the Senate, where it can pass with a simple majority using budget reconciliation, but still faces some obstacles and opposition in getting enough votes to push the bill through. We will continue to engage with our community members and partner organizations to make sure this groundbreaking bill becomes law of the land.


This week Representative Kambium Buckner, in partnership with the Workers Center for Racial Justice, introduced a momentous justice reform bill (HB 4109) which would abolish Illinois' racially targeted system of Extended Terms sentencing for every felony level, and allow individuals who are currently serving extended terms sentences to petition the courts for retroactive re-sentencing.

More information can be found at:

Extended Term sentencing is an overly punitive facet of Illinois' criminal code, which permits the courts to add long stretches of additional prison time onto already excessive sentences. In some cases Extended Terms can impose a fivefold increase on a person’s prison term.

In recent decades, the practice of Extended Term sentencing has been a key driver of mass incarceration in Illinois. Even as the state adopts new legislative reforms to reduce the prison population, the upward trend of increasingly long prison sentences has undercut this progress. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of people serving prison terms longer than 10 years in Illinois increased by 14%.

Moreover, by offering judges wide discretionary power to lengthen sentences on the basis of broadly defined factors, Extended Terms magnify racial bias in our court system. Between 2000 and 2015, the incarceration rate among Black men in the U.S. dropped by 24%. However, during this same period, the length of prison sentences for Black individuals has steadily increased at nearly twice the rate of white defendants.

Excessive prison terms have also proven to have no positive impacts on crime deterrence or recidivism rates. To the contrary, overly punitive and racially biased sentencing policies have only served to further aggravate the symptoms of structural inequality that erode public safety.

"We have made great strides in Illinois to create a legal system that truly has justice as its core component,” said Illinois Legislative Black Caucus Chair Kambium Buckner. “In order to continue to do that work in the best way possible, we have to pursue sentencing reform as well. Sentencing policy must be shaped in a way that produces rational, fair, and effective outcomes for communities and individuals. Extended Terms have driven mass incarceration and left our communities less whole, less safe, and further from true justice.”

By abolishing the destructive system of Extended Term sentencing practices, HB 4109 would promote safety, justice, and liberation in Illinois.

For more information visit: or contact Louisa Manske at Workers Center for Racial Justice by email at or phone at 773.787.9762.

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