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The Workers Center for Racial Justice celebrates today's passage of the landmark omnibus bill on criminal justice championed by the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (ILBC) and grassroots community groups across the state. This momentous policy package would take crucial steps in advancing racial equity, justice, and liberation in Illinois by enacting targeted reforms to anti-Black systems of law enforcement and mass incarceration.


WCRJ applauds the ILBC for its leadership, vision, and responsiveness to Black-led community organizations in crafting the omnibus bill. The ambition and strength of this historic racial justice legislation attests to the unassailable imperative that public policy be led by the constituents and elected officials most impacted by the issues at hand. Guided by community input, the ILBC’s policy package would enact long overdue reforms to anti-Black systems of policing, and revise overly punitive and racially targeted sentencing laws.


Members and supporters of WCRJ played an instrumental role in shaping and advancing the omnibus bill on criminal justice. Since the nationwide uprisings for Black Liberation began this summer, WCRJ has mobilized thousands of local residents to participate in direct actions and policy advocacy with Illinois lawmakers on issues pertaining to racialized police violence and mass incarceration. Our members have spoken with Illinois legislators, filed witness slips, placed phone calls, and sent more than 40,000 emails urging action on key racial justice legislation.


During the lame duck session, WCRJ provided committee hearing testimony, policy analysis, and legislative language in order to ensure that the omnibus bill reflected community demands. Through our efforts, WCRJ secured the following victories:


  • The omnibus bill adopts key police accountability language drafted by WCRJ, which would outlaw the destruction of police conduct records, and prohibit unjust barriers to filing officer complaints, such as the sworn affidavit requirement currently in place in many police departments.


  • In partnership with CHANGE Illinois, WCRJ championed a provision to abolish Illinois’ system of prison gerrymandering, ensuring more racially equitable federal funding and democratic representation in government.


  • As a member of the Chicago Coalition to End Money Bond, WCRJ supported the fight to end the racialized practice of wealth-based pretrial incarceration in Illinois.


Our work is not over. WCRJ members now call upon Governor J.B. Pritzker to sign the ILBC’s omnibus bill into law. And in the upcoming session of the Illinois General Assembly, we will mobilize community members behind a policy agenda to abolish systems of police impunity, end extended term sentencing, and invest in equitable access to employment for formerly incarcerated Illinoisans.


WCRJ would like to thank Senator Elgie Sims, Representative Justin Slaughter, Representative Carol Ammons, and Representative Kambium Buckner for their exemplary leadership in guiding this landmark legislation. We also acknowledge the tremendous contributions of the many allied grassroots organizations who fought tirelessly to secure other major victories in the policy package.


Most importantly, WCRJ extends our deepest gratitude and respect to the tens of thousands of local residents who participated in the political uprising for Black Liberation this summer. This historic expression of Black community power catalyzed the political will needed to pass this historic legislation.


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The Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ) applauds the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus (ILBC) for its leadership, vision, and responsiveness to Black led community groups in crafting the landmark criminal justice omnibus bill that was introduced by Senator Elgie Sims this week.


This historic legislative package would take crucial steps in advancing racial equity, justice, and liberation throughout Illinois.The bill adopts critical language put forth by Representative Carol Ammons and WCRJ, which aims to upend systems of police impunity enshrined in municipal contracts and state law. Specifically, the bill would outlaw unjust impunity provisions in police union agreements, and repeal the sections of Illinois statute that reinforce these bulwarks against officer accountability and systemic reform.


Throughout Illinois, city contracts shield police from investigations of alleged misconduct and abuse. Local law enforcement unions, like Chicago’s Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), have negotiated watertight municipal agreements that are engineered to obstruct nearly any effort to regulate departments or hold officers accountable for criminal acts. Many of these unjust measures are also mirrored in Section 20 of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act.


Impunity provisions in police contracts and state law are a key driver of racialized officer brutality and corruption. Armored by unjust contract protections, police officers are often emboldened to exceed the limits of their powers with the assurance of virtual immunity. Such agreements also upend local efforts to enact structural police reform.

  • States that recently authorized collective bargaining powers for police unions, witnessed a subsequent increase in racially targeted police brutality. After Florida legalized union contracts for deputy sheriffs in 2003, complaints of officer violence rose by 40%.

  • Another recent investigation of the nation's one hundred most populous cities found that impunity provisions in police contracts are correlated with increased officer violence.

  • In this study, Chicago ranks the highest, both in terms of contract shields against accountability, as well as rates of police brutality.

Workers' rights to collectively bargain are a vital mechanism for ensuring equity and justice in our labor system - and by extension, throughout our society as a whole. And yet, for nearly half a century, politicized unions, like the FOP, have worked in bad faith to undermine the rightful intentions behind these powers. In municipalities across the state, police unions weaponize bargaining rights as a means to evade accountability for officer wrongdoing and perpetuate systems of racialized police violence, abuse, and corruption.


Historically, when unions have exploited collective bargaining powers to advance ulterior ends outside the scope of labor rights, the law has intervened. For example, in decades past, when workers' unions negotiated racially exclusionary contract terms, the courts ruled these activities to be unlawful.


Under the ILBC’s omnibus bill, police unions would retain their full rights to collectively negotiate legitimate workplace conditions, including compensation, benefits, and hours. However, the measure would outlaw bad faith provisions in police contracts that obstruct public accountability, such as mandatory destruction of misconduct records, narrow statutes of limitations on police complaints, and shields against officer liability in civil suits.


We extend our deep gratitude to Representative Carol Ammons, Representative Justin Slaughter, and Senator Elgie Sims for championing WCRJ’s policy proposal in the ILBC’s momentous omnibus legislation.



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Ahead of Monday's city council meeting on the 2021 budget, the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ) is amplifying community demands for a city spending plan that reflects the true priorities and values of Chicago residents.



Several weeks ago, the city of Chicago quietly released the results of a public survey on the 2021 budget. According to the report, 87% of the 37,000 respondents support spending cuts for the Chicago Police Department (CPD) and a reallocation of those funds to city programs that promote real safety, equity, and opportunity in our communities.


Despite the overwhelming constituent support for equitable redistribution of CPD's bloated budget, Mayor Lori Lightfoot has put forth a 2021 spending plan that represents a troubling continuation of Chicago's failed approach to public safety investment. The mayor's proposal would maintain the city's reckless overspending on ineffective, inhumane, and racially targeted systems of law enforcement. Moreover, Lightfoot's budget would perpetuate dangerous austerity conditions on vital human services such as housing, public health, and family services.


WCRJ has advanced a community-driven proposal for Equitable Public Safety Reinvestment that addresses the key city spending concerns voiced by the tens of thousands of Chicagoans who participated in the city's budget survey.

WCRJ's three year plan calls for a series of funding reductions to CPD, as well as concurrent budget increases to social services and public health programs. The proposal also provides for a newly established Community Safety Unit to deliver residents emergency public safety dispatch services, outside of law enforcement.


Your advocacy is essential to ensuring that our budget priorities are included in Chicago's 2021 spending plan.


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