Low-wage workers face a unique set of challenges and often feel trapped for a number of reasons. Sadly, these challenges are amplified if the worker is an immigrant.
Arise Chicago Worker Center Director Laura Garza joined the America’s Work Force Union Podcast to explain how the organization helps workers combat wage theft and other workplace issues. She also discussed the outlook for immigrant workers under the labor-friendly Biden administration.
Working with unions and Arise Chicago
Garza said she was always interested in helping working people. During college, she volunteered with various unions in the Chicago area. Once she earned her degree, she applied for a job with the Service Employees International Union, where she worked for over 20 years.
Garza came to Arise Chicago with a wealth of organizing and union knowledge. Arise Chicago is a worker center that helped thousands of low-wage, typically immigrant workers. Many of the workers who seek help work in either the restaurant or service industry.
Garza said these workers are often taken advantage of due to their immigration status or ability to easily be replaced. These workers should not be afraid to take actions against these injustices, and Arise is helping them fight for their rights. Many of the workers deal with wage theft issues, where companies steal their already small wages in order to cut costs.
Arise Chicago has led the way in pushing for better wage theft laws. They advocated for the establishment of wage theft ordinances within Chicago and Cook County. Garza insisted unionization is the best form of protection, however.
Climate for immigrant workers
The Trump administration took a hardline against immigrants, threatening harsh penalties for those caught in the U.S. without documentation. Garza said this scared many workers, even the documented, and caused them to not report workplace crimes committed against them.
Since the Biden administration took over, immigrant workers feel more comfortable reporting their issues, according to Garza. Employers who were emboldened to take advantage of immigrant workers have scaled back their attacks, but there is still plenty of work to be done. It is a new day, but Arise Chicago knows there is plenty of work left.