In 2018, the National LGBTQ Workers Center launched with the goal of dismantling workplace oppression and discrimination.
"We are a collective of trans and queer BIPOC workers," National LGBTQ Workers Center Chicago Chapter President Angelina Nordstrom told Windy City Times. "Membership is open to queer and trans community members across the country, no matter what city or state you live in. Through issue-based grassroots organizing and labor education, we work to create social change with an emphasis on uplifting queer and trans people of color."
A year later, Nordstrom and others formed the Chicago chapter, where they also serve as the local chair of the national chapter. Nordstrom said "the work that has been done on the ground from day one was initiated in Chicago, which makes the Chicago chapter our flagship chapter."
"I became involved because after attending the first Economic Justice Summit a few months prior, I was interested in learning more about my rights as a worker and how to protect myself and other trans and queer workers in Chicagoland," said Nordstrom. "At the time, I was working for an employer that represented the LGBTQ community, but I was not feeling the love from them as a worker, employee and member of that collective.
"When I saw the opportunity to apply for the Chicago board as the workers-rights hotline chair, I jumped on the opportunity because I wanted to see the entire picture of what I was experiencing because I did not want to believe that my employer was devaluing me, but in hindsight, they were. Joining the LGBTQ Workers Center has added additional layers to some of the advocacy work that I am very passionate about.
"Once I was laid off from my former employer, I realized that I made the best decision by joining the LGBTQ Workers Center because they encouraged and empowered me to focus on my advocacy work when almost no one else did. My workplace experiences prepared me to be as passionate and as resourceful about the work that we do as part of the LGBTQ Workers Center and we are only getting started."
Chicago LGBTQ Workers Center LBGTQ Economic Justice Chair Roni Lee said she got involved "in order to fight for the basic rights of my people, and make sure they have the knowledge and support to be able to thrive in their work. In my role, it is a priority that everyone not only has access but feels included in the resources and programming that we do. In the summer of 2020, I saw an ad posted that they were looking for volunteers and organizers and I jumped at the opportunity to help out in the Chicagoland area."
Chicago LGBTQ Workers Center Secretary Isabel Tames first became involved as a hotline volunteer.
"Once I got the chance to get to know the organization better, and realized they were aligned with some of my personal values, I wanted to become more involved and applied to become a board member," said Tames. "I have learned so much about workers rights and workplace discrimination. It has given me more motivation to continue fighting against discrimination for LGBTQIA+ folks, and at the Workers Center we work every day to do exactly that."
One of the primary things the Chicago chapter does is hold free monthly membership meetings on the last Saturday of the month; at these events, they discuss workers' rights and Black trans worker history, among other topics.
Because of those discussions, a workers'-rights hotline (also known as the Anti-Discrimination Hotline) was launched for Chicago-based workers who are experiencing workplace oppression and discrimination.
The Chicago chapter decided to launch the hotline after a 2019 Chicago LGBTQ Needs Assessment determined that a top concern was employment discrimination. The hotline helps to track LGBTQ worker discrimination, ensuring that workers know their rights and provide support for people attempting to navigate the complicated worker justice systems as well as connecting with others, building community and organizing to make workplaces better for queer and trans workers.
"For those who are experiencing issues in their workplace and need community support or resources, please contact our confidential hotline at 312-870-0110 or complete our confidential intake form at lgbtqworkerscenter.org/chicago-chapter,&; said Nordstrom. "Our worker advocates will provide valuable and local resources for how one can best navigate workplace discrimination or oppression. The best part of the hotline is that we are also accepting calls from Spanish-speakers."
Additionally, the National LGBTQ Workers Center will hold its Annual LGBTQ Economic Justice Summit in September. This will be the center's third annual summit and is free for everyone to attend. Like the 2020 summit last September, the upcoming 2021 summit will be virtual to protect attendees due to ongoing the COVID-19 pandemic. (The exact dates have not yet been determined.)
"The summit will consist of a myriad of workshops and spaces to learn about different aspects of worker's rights as well as panel discussions regarding community organizing facilitated and moderated by members of the board as well as members and leaders of the LGBTQ and worker's rights community at large," said Nordstrom.
Nordstrom added that donations can be made via charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/lgbtqworkerscenter/neophilanthropy?modified=1.
See lgbtqworkerscenter.org/get-involved .