Quick Hit Aricka Flowers Thursday October 24th, 2013, 9:38pm

Teachers Rally For Stolen Wages Outside TEFL Institute

Some 30 protesters, including teachers and their advocates, rallied outside of the TEFL Institute in Chicago's North Center neighborhood demanding payment for the instructors' work. The teachers, who carried signs and chanted "Teachers, teachers 1,2,3. TEFL make me work for free!", allege that the school owes them a collective total of $18,000 in stolen wages.

"I worked as an online instructor and was not paid," said Noreen Haque Colombe, who taught students who are planning to teach English abroad. "It's been over a year. I'm part of a group and we're all waiting for our paychecks. This is an extremely difficult position for us to be in."

Nine instructors say they have spent more than a year trying to get paid for their work, placing several calls, emails and visits to the TEFL Institute in attempts to get their pay. But all of their attempts were to no avail.

"I never imagined that I would have to spend so much time making phone calls, sending emails, contacting the Better Business Bureau, contacting the Department of Labor, researching labor laws, consulting lawyers, contacting community organizations, just to get paid for my work," said former TEFL Institute instructor Willow Barn. "I found out that wage theft can happen to anyone, in any field."

After failing to get their pay from TEFL owner TiRon Gibbs, the workers reached out to Arise Chicago for assistance. On September 6, the teachers, Arise Chicago and Gibbs gathered for a meeting, during which the TEFL Institute owner signed an agreement saying he would pay the instructors their missing pay. But the teachers say they have yet to see a dime from Gibbs.

"I have never experienced anything like TEFL's theft and lies," said Lilia Benenson, a former TEFL Institute instructor who has been teaching for 20 years. "It's especially frustrating that his behavior should come from an educational institution whose very mission is to impart values to students."

Gibbs could not be reached for comment on this story.

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