A united voice, Raise the Floor Alliance was founded by eight Chicago area worker centers. Worker centers help organize and provide support to communities of low wage workers who are not already members of a collective bargaining organization or have been legally excluded from coverage by U.S. labor laws.
Raise the Floor Alliance (RTF) is a Chicago based non-profit and legal clinic whose mission is to ensure that low-wage workers have access to quality jobs and are empowered to uphold and improve workplace standards. RTF provides free and direct legal assistance to low-wage workers in the greater Chicago area and surrounding suburbs in the area of employment law. Additionally, RTF provides legal expertise which informs and advances policy development and campaigns. RTF also undertakes strategic cases to test the gaps in the current law and enforcement. RTF also achieves its mission by providing research, communications, policy, organizing and legal support for efforts to win public and private policy changes that raise the floor for all workers. Both an alliance and a support center, RTF brings area worker centers together into a collective voice for economic policies that foster permanent, full-time family-supporting work.
Raise the Floor’s model is to build shared capacity for worker centers in the areas of:
Legal Services. Working Hands Legal Clinic has transitioned into the Raise the Floor Legal Department. Legal services have played a critical role in bringing members to worker centers. These workers are developed into worker-leaders through skills trainings, educational programs about their rights, and participation in policy campaigns. Beyond litigation, Raise the Floor attorneys provide legal expertise which inform and advance policy development and campaigns. In addition, Raise the Floor Legal undertakes strategic cases to test the gaps in current law and enforcement. In doing so, Raise the Floor Legal works to develop strong case law and demonstrate the need for stronger, comprehensive policy solutions which are built into broader policy campaigns.
Research. Successful policy advocacy requires strong research. The Raise the Floor investigates broad labor market trends affecting wages & work, and economic trends impacting low-wage industries. Raise the Floor Research builds off of community expertise by collecting data and tracking issues to demonstrate the need for policy changes.
Communications. The Raise the Floor Communications helps position worker centers as the experts on low-wage worker issues. We do this by continually shaping the low-wage worker narrative and empowering low-wage workers to speak for themselves about the issues that most deeply impact their lives. Raise the Floor communications develops strategies for building broad public support for policies that create permanent, full-time living wage jobs, and crafts appropriate messaging about workforce needs and solutions that can reach worker audiences and decision-makers alike.
Impact Litigation. Planning, preparing, and filing and defending law suits from low-wage workers that are focused on challenging the law. When there is a question or gray area about the law, our attorneys can identify an issue that affects a number of low-wage workers through impact litigation. One example to illustrate impact litigation is looking at the minimum wage ordinance, which only applies to employers that are located in Chicago. However, there are cases where an employer is located outside of Chicago, but has workers in Chicago. Impact litigation allows our attorneys to see that the law isn’t clear about who an employer is.
Identifying Gaps. Our attorneys identify gaps in the law by identifying weaknesses, inconsistencies and holes in the law where one assumes are covered but are not.
Informs Policy. Through impact litigation and identifying gaps in the law, this informs our policy work. If our attorneys identify a certain gap in the law, or if the courts are not upholding the law, or if the law isn’t clear, we take that knowledge of the gap or misapplication of the law to pressure our legislators to change the law to benefit low-wage workers. We push campaigns and advocacy efforts to pressure legislators to change the unjust systems within the low-wage industry.
Monitor. After there are amendments to the law, our attorneys can file a lawsuit to ensure that it is being upheld the way it should. Then the cycle continues.