Even as we confront the challenges of a global pandemic and the practical limitations imposed by social distancing practices, the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WCRJ) has persevered in our mission to leverage the collective power of Black workers in the struggle for equity and justice in the labor system. Yesterday WCRJ celebrated a tremendous victory in this fight when our comrades at the Sonia Shankman Orthogenic School filed for their union

Securing a majority of mental health counselors' support and signatures was no small feat, especially under the statewide shelter-in-place orders. WCRJ began organizing workers at the Orthogenic School after many employees witnessed significant cuts in their hours and felt coerced into not filing for unemployment amidst COVID-19 shutdowns. In partnership with Raise the Floor Alliance and attorney Celeste Ntuen, WCRJ held a virtual know-your-rights training, highlighting the recent changes to unemployment benefits, which kickstarted the union organizing drive.  

These caring, passionate, and skilled workers are the engine that keeps the Orthogenic School running, but all too often, they face unjust working conditions and constraints on their ability to provide adequate treatment to clients. Employees of the Orthogenic School are seeking the power to negotiate equitably, believing that collective bargaining ensures more fair labor conditions for all workers.

Now under the representation of AFSCME, Orthogenic School counselors ask that the Leslie Shankman School Corporation board and management respect their right to form a union free from intimidation, coercion, or management interference. WCRJ stands with these workers in urging Orthogenic School management not to waste resources by engaging high-cost anti-labor lawyers, using paid work time to hold anti-union meetings, or distributing propaganda that undermines workers' organizing efforts.

In the weeks to come, WCRJ will continue to work in solidarity with counselors at the Orthogenic School, offering guidance and organizing assistance as they pursue full unionization. To stay updated on WCRJ's workers rights campaigns, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Please contact us directly with questions or for more information about our organizing work.


This week, the Workers Center for Racial Justice (WC4RJ) in partnership with Illinois State Representative Kambium Buckner hosted the Black Resilience Roundtable. At this virtual town hall event, we convened more than 150 community residents and members of the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus for a public dialogue on the devastating toll the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the health and economic security of people of color across the state. Together, we explored long standing structural inequalities that underpin the disproportionate impact that this historic pandemic has on Black Illinoisans, and outlined WCRJ's racial justice COVID-19 policy agenda for the state.

Take a moment to view the highlights of this powerful community led event.

You can catch full coverage of the event next week on CAN TV at the following times:

Tuesday, May 19th @ 6 p.m. on Chicago cable channel 27

Wednesday, May 20th @ 8:30 a.m. 5:30 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Chicago cable channel 27

Thursday, May 21st @ 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Chicago cable channel 27

WCRJ has put forth an assertive COVID-19 response plan that explicitly addresses the most urgent policy priorities of Black Illinoisans in the midst of this public health crisis. Your voice is essential to ensuring that these critical measures are implemented by our elected officials.

Take 30 seconds to send a pre-written email to Illinois lawmakers, urging their immediate adoption of these important racial justice policies.

For more information about WCRJ's COVID-19 response agenda, please contact us directly.


As public health officials release preliminary details on statewide COVID-19 death rates, a harrowing, yet all too familiar trend has become evident: In communities across Illinois, deep seated systems of racial inequality have disproportionately exposed people of color to the fatal consequences of this historic pandemic. Staggering racial divides in generational wealth, employment opportunity, homeownership rates, and healthcare access account for the fivefold disparity in death rates between Black and White Illinoisans. Similarly, early economic indicators confirm that the COVID-19 crisis will only further exacerbate the abiding structural barriers to financial opportunity that Illinois’ Black workers, business owners, and households have endured for generations.


Read our Racial Justice Agenda for COVID-19 here.

Despite the projected magnitude of this unprecedented catastrophe and its astoundingly racialized impacts, initial government relief measures have proven to be, not only distressingly modest in scope, but also markedly “color blind.” Over the course of the past century, communities of color have witnessed how purportedly “race neutral” national recovery mobilizations have, in fact, expressly served to advance white prosperity to the exclusion of Black opportunity. Time and again, from the New Deal, to the post-war G.I. bill, to the 2008 financial crisis bailouts, U.S. domestic recovery policies have served to exacerbate racial inequality in every aspect of American society.

The preliminary government response to the COVID-19 pandemic forecasts a comparable trajectory. The national CARES Act falls disastrously short in providing sufficient levels of economic relief to American households, and leaves large populations of disproportionately Black individuals behind altogether. Moreover, by failing to account for the overwhelming institutional barriers Black business owners face in accessing financial credit, the bill’s small business recovery program will only serve to further amplify the nation’s alarming racial wealth gap.

In order to counter the devastating racialized toll that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on the health and economic stability of Black communities across Illinois, WCRJ has put forth an assertive COVID-19 response plan that explicitly addresses the most urgent policy priorities of Black Illinoisans in the midst of this public health crisis.


We need your help to ensure that these critical measures are implemented by demanding action from our elected officials.

Take 30 seconds to send a pre-written email to Governor Pritzker, Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, and members of the Illinois Black Legislative Caucus, urging their immediate adoption of these important racial justice policies.



2243-2245 East 71st Street

Chicago, IL 60649

(312) 361-1161


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