CFL News
June 21, 2019

National AFL-CIO Awards LIFT Fund

National AFL-CIO Awards LIFT Fund

The Chicago Federation of Labor is getting a big lift in its latest effort to grow the movement and strengthen workers’ rights. The Labor Innovations for the 21st Century (LIFT) Fund is recognizing the CFL’s project, in partnership with the Chicago Workers Collaborative, that will focus on the fastest growing area of the workforce, temp workers.

According to the temp industry group, American Staffing Association, there are more than 540,000 temp workers in manufacturing in Illinois. The vast majority of those manufacturing temp workers live and work in the Chicago area.

“It’s always a challenge to organize temp workers at a facility,” said Don Villar, CFL Secretary-Treasurer. “When organizers establish contacts with workers at a facility who are temps, and management learns that their temp workers are unhappy with their wages, hours and working conditions and are thinking about forming a union, the temp agency will simply stop hiring the temp workers or move them to another facility. Those actions will hobble the organizing effort.”

“We are excited to work with the CFL and affiliated unions to bridge worker center and union power via the Temp Worker Union Alliance Project,” said Tim Bell, Executive Director of the Chicago Workers Collaborative. “TWUAP provides a vehicle to include all of a shop’s workers in a powerful unit to win better wages and working conditions. The CFL is the best and most critical organization to serve as the hub of this innovation.”

Thanks to the two-year, $150,000 LIFT Fund grant, the TWUAP has begun work on achieving its three goals to raise up the lives of temp workers. The first is the creation of a temp worker agency seal of approval from the Illinois Department of Labor, with enforcement from the Illinois Attorney General. The second goal is to pave the way for CFL locals to organize temp workers into their existing collective bargaining agreements. The third goal is to create a local and national model for organizing other temp workers.

“While globalization and offshoring may have led to a decline in union density in manufacturing during the past couple decades, we’ve actually seen a number of manufacturers grow or relocate to Chicago because of what the metropolitan area offers in transportation infrastructure and resources,” said Villar. “Instead of hiring fulltime workers, many of these companies are staffed by temp workers who desperately need a voice and a union.”