The following was written by Ron Kurowski of MoveOn.org.
Income inequality and its negative results on society were addressed in a Joliet town hall meeting on the jobs crisis.
Ed Cole, member of the South Suburban MoveOn Council that organized the meeting, explained how historically high income inequality keeps companies from expanding or hiring new workers because no one has money to buy goods and services.
And according to Eveleyna Washington, president of the Joliet Chapter of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, inequality is not restricted to income. Minorities and young people have a much higher rate of unemployment than the national average.
But it was the plight of workers who labor in the warehouses as temps in Joliet and Will County that riveted the attention of the audience. Abe Mwaura, director of Warehouse Workers for Justice, described what it is like to work as a temp. “These are workers who work for years without any benefits, no health insurance, no vacations, no overtime pay and no sick days. They suffer wage theft, safety violations and discrimination based on gender, age and national origin.”
Many temps work multiple shifts, but don’t earn enough even to feed their families. Food pantries in Joliet are overloaded and can’t keep up with the need.
Much of what goes on is blatantly illegal, but the state does not have the resources to enforce the law. If a worker complains, they can be fired at will since there is no union representation. “Slavery”, is one word Abe said that could well describe what goes on in some of the warehouses.
What she heard almost brought tears to her eyes, said one woman after the meeting. But perhaps Rev. Craig Purchase, Pastor, of Mt. Zion Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Joliet, captured what most in the room felt when he said, “What is going on in America is simply wrong”.