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 Â½ 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."