In 2010, after 18-year-old Woodlawn resident Damien Turner died waiting for an ambulance to drive him 10 miles to a downtown hospital instead of two blocks to the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC), a movement began. What started with one youth group became the Trauma Care Coalition: a collaboration of community organizations, faith leaders and University of Chicago student groups dedicated to reopening a Level-I adult trauma center at UCMC, the most well-resourced hospital on Chicago’s South side.
On December 17, 2015, after five years of relentless campaign work, the University of Chicago announced it would be opening a Level-I adult trauma center on it medical campus in Hyde Park. This plan was unanimously approved by the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board on May 10, and the trauma center is expected to open in early 2018. This was an incredible and historic breakthrough for the campaign, and an amazing example of the power of community organizing. JCUA is proud to have worked alongside the community organizations that led this campaign to success: Southside Together Organizing for Power (STOP), Students for Health Equity (SHE), Kenwood Oakland Community Organization (KOCO), National Nurses United and the Interfaith Leadership Coalition.
Why JCUA was involved
Of all our Jewish values, our obligation to preserve life supersedes nearly everything else. That is why JCUA organized the Jewish community to take a stand for comprehensive trauma care. For the victory to be complete, we must ensure crucial components are not left out. In October 2017, the University of Chicago announced the formation of a Community Advisory Board, including two leaders from the Trauma Care Coalition. We continue to call on the University to be responsive to the needs of the surrounding community. This should include providing significant funding for wraparound social services, including violence interruption and social work programs.
Domestic workers are the backbone of our country’s labor force. Their work is essential: they care for our loved ones, assist people with disabilities, clean our homes, and nurture our children. Yet, despite the value of their labor, domestic workers have historically been excluded from the protections that, under state law, are extended to other industries. This has led to a workforce that is isolated and vulnerable. Domestic work ranks among the top industries where trafficked workers are found.
JCUA continues to work on this campaign by educating employees on their new obligations and informing workers about their new rights including:On Friday, August 12, 2016, Governor Rauner signed the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights into law. This historic victory is a testament to the dedication of the workers who led a 5 year campaign for their own basic labor rights. JCUA has endorsed this campaign since Summer 2015, and officially joined the IL Domestic Workers Coalition in February of 2016.
- IL Minimum Wage Law: Guarantees domestic workers the state minimum wage.
- IL One Day Rest in Seven Act: Guarantees domestic workers who work for one employer 20+ hours a week one day of rest in each work week.
- IL Human Rights Act: Guarantees a right to recourse for sexual harassment
- IL Wages of Women and Minors Act: Ensures domestic workers receive wages that are fair and reasonable.
Why JCUA was involved
Our tradition has numerous texts dealing not only with the fair treatment of workers by their employers, but also workers’ rights to establish these guidelines for themselves. The Jewish community also has a long-standing history of working on labor issues and fighting for the fair, equal, and safe treatment of all workers. We stand as allies with workers fighting for these basic rights for themselves, rights we all too often take for granted.
JCUA mobilized Illinois voters to pass the Fair Tax referendum on Election Day. The Illinois constitution mandates a flat tax system, in which everyone pays the state the same percentage of their taxable income (the current rate is 4.95 percent). In May 2019, the General Assembly passed a joint resolution to amend the state constitution to allow enactment of a graduated income tax. In addition, the General Assembly passed and the Governor signed a bill that would institute a new structure of graduated income tax brackets (see graphic below). Under this proposal, only those with yearly incomes of more than $250,000 would pay a higher tax rate..
Why JCUA was involved
The State of Illinois is critically underfunded, with insufficient revenue generated to pay for necessary social services. The problem has only grown worse in recent years, as agencies and critical service providers have shut down across the state. As the system works now, Illinois is balancing its books on the backs of those least able to pay.
Fighting for and implementing a Fair Tax will serve JCUA’s mission to combat racism and poverty throughout Chicago. The current flat tax system, which generates insufficient revenue for critical public services that low-income people rely on, is yet another manifestation of systemic racism. Governments historically have written tax codes in ways that disproportionately burden the poor and people of color. A Fair Tax would work to relieve some of that burden.