Carousel Linen Rentals

Strikes/Riots

Video of Katie Jordan Describing the Carousel Strike
In the fall of 2001, the workers at the Carousel Linen Company, went out on strike to demand union representation. For years, the thirty-seven women and three men (all of whom were Mexican-Americans) had suffered sweatshop conditions at minimum wages with few if any pay raises. The workers finally walked when they discovered that an injured co-worker was left unaided on the shop floor for 1 ½ hours. As activist Katie Jordan reports in the accompany audio, the workers declared, "It's better to die on your feet than to live a lifetime on your knees." The Carousel workers won widespread support from labor, community, church, and student groups across the metropolitan region, such as the Student Labor Action Project, the workers at V & V Supremo Cheese Company who were also on strike at the time, the Day Laborers Project, Jobs With Justice, the Chicago Teachers Union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 2858, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1, the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 1, and the AFL-CIO. Together these groups pressured politicians to support the Carousel workers, and they held a rally at the Chicago Wedding Expo to publicize the struggle with Carousel. In addition, the Illinois General Assembly formally affirmed their right to union representation. Copy of HR0884 On June 18, 2002, after thirty-eight-week struggle, the Carousel workers won their first contract with UNITE. The three-year contract included an 85 cents per hour raise (above the $6.15 per hout minimum), family health care, a pension, and a grievance process. For their bold struggle, labor activist Katie Jordan has named the road in front of Carousel Linens, "Brave Workers Lane."

Labor Trail

US

IL

Highwood

Lake

454 Sheridan Rd

Labor Trail

The Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies (CCWCS) is proud to present the Interactive Labor Trail, made possible by a generous grant from the Illinois Humanities Council. This on-line history resource builds on “The Labor Trail: Chicago's History of Working-Class Life and Struggle,” a map of 140 significant locations in the history of labor, migration, and working-class culture in Chicago and Illinois. The Labor Trail is the product of a joint effort to showcase the many generations of dramatic struggles and working-class life in the Chicago area's rich and turbulent past. The Trail's neighborhood tours invite you to get acquainted with the events, places, and people -- often unsung -- who have made the city what it is today. In addition, the statewide map is just a starting point for further exploration of Illinois' labor heritage. This Interactive Labor Trail expands the number of locations and provides a greater depth of information, while giving map users the chance to add their knowledge of locations and events in the Chicago area’s working-class history.

We invite all individuals, groups, and institutions interested in the labor and working-class history of Chicago, Cook County, the Calumet Region, and Illinois to contribute to the map. Users can add new sites, edit or build upon existing entries with additional text, photographs, primary sources, audio and video files, as well as links to related websites.

Easy-to-use instructions for adding to the on-line version of the map are available at www.labortrail.org.

More information on the Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies is available at: www.workingclassstudies.org

The Labor Trail: Chicago's History of Working-Class Life and Struggle

Project Director:
Leon Fink, University of Illinois at Chicago

Project Advisors:
Tobias Higbie, Newberry Library
Lisa Oppenheim, Chicago Metro History Education Center
Liesl Miller Orenic, Dominican University

Administrative Director:
Jeffrey Helgeson, University of Illinois at Chicago

Project Assistants:
Aaron Max Berkowitz, University of Illinois at Chicago; John H. Flores, University of Illinois at Chicago; Erik Gellman, Northwestern University; Dan Harper, University of Illinois at Chicago; Emily LaBarbera-Twarog, University of Illinois at Chicago

Web Design:
William Atwood and Melissa Palmer