June 17, 2016
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel
Chicago, IL – “Heavies” meant men and “lights” meant women, while “guapos” (Spanish for “good-looking”) meant blacks and “feos” (ugly) meant Latinos. Those are some of the codes used by leading temporary work agencies in Illinois, according to former agency workers and worker-center activists.
Rosa Ceja, a supervisor at a packaging plant in Chicago’s northwestern suburbs, told the Chicago Reporter that in 2014, when she asked her agency to send more workers, she was told there were only “guapos,” and her bosses said they only wanted “feos.” “Most of the time, people will choose by race,” former Most Valuable Personnel dispatcher Pamela Sanchez told a state legislative committee last year. Derell Pruitt, 40, said that when MVP sent him to the packaging plant, a supervisor took all the Latinos in the van and told the black workers there was no work for them. Black workers, said Leone Bicchieri of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative worker center, are more likely to complain about wage theft or unsafe conditions than Latinos, who might be worried about their immigration status. Last year, the Collaborative crafted a bill that would require temp agencies to keep track of the race and gender of all job applicants, but it was blocked by state Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago), who said the agencies were giving jobs to his Latino constituents. Last August, six agencies, including three accused of discrimination, donated $5,000 to Arroyo’s campaign fund. Read more