Women day laborers founded the Latino Union of Chicago in 2000 with a vision of a democratic organization that would value their experiences and participation as agents of social change in their community. Since its inception, the Latino Union has successfully organized day laborers from street corners and temporary agencies to improve wages and working conditions.
In 2002, a mass day laborer strike shut down 75 temporary agencies and hunger strikes led to passing the Day Laborer Services Act, one of the only pro-day labor pieces of legislation in the country that regulates temporary agencies across Illinois. A coalition led by the Chicago Workers Collaborative and San Lucas Worker Center saw to the passing of an improved version of the Day Laborer Services Act in 2005 to further clean up the temporary agency industry.
In December, 2004 a four year worker and community organizing effort resulted in the Latino Union opening the first Workers’ Center for street corner day laborers in the Midwest. The Albany Park Workers’ Center acts as an alternative to the hyper-competitive street corner hiring site that reduced incidents of wage theft to below 1% and raised the median wage available to Northwest side day laborers 50%.
During the summer of 2005, the Latino Union successfully responded to sweeping arrests of day laborers who seek employment at a construction supply store in the suburb of Cicero. Through worker organizing, media campaigns, and courtroom advocacy with the National Lawyers Guild, the Latino Union saw to the dropping of all charges and reestablished workers ability to meet employers at the decade old traditional hiring site.
The Latino Union is a founding member of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network and is a catalyst of local and national coalitional efforts for immigration reform. In the Spring of 2006, the Latino Union participated in the press committee of the March 10th Movement, the 200 member coalition responsible for mobilizing over 1,000,000 people over the course of three marches for legalization for all undocumented workers.