Cervantes Peters Villanueva RTF2

SPRINGFIELD — Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, including State Senators Robert Peters, Celina Villanueva, and Javier Cervantes, joined representatives from Raise the Floor Alliance in support of a new initiative to expand protections against worker retaliation based on an employee’s immigration status.

“As the proud daughter of hardworking Mexican immigrant parents and a Senator representing an immigrant community, I will always fight for working class people and immigrants in my community and throughout the state,” said Villanueva (D-Chicago). “We must demand dignity and respect for all Illinois workers, including immigrants, who have been exploited by their employers for too long.”

If workers are targeted for speaking up against labor violations such as wage theft, discrimination and sexual harassment, they are being retaliated against, and are entitled to protections under current labor laws. However, current law does not consider threats to call immigration authorities, or other forms of immigration-based threats as “retaliation.” This oversight has left many employees who have experienced retaliation based on their immigration status or perceived status unprotected and vulnerable to wrongful treatment or termination.

Raise the Floor Alliance, a non-profit dedicated to protecting low-wage workers and improving workplace standards, has joined forces with some Senate Democrats to introduce legislation that would protect immigrant workers. The Work Without Fear Act, led by Peters in the Senate, would expand the current definition of retaliation to include retaliation based on immigration. If passed, it would protect people from immigration-related retaliation for exercising rights under state employment laws or local regulations, empowering workers to continue to speak up about unjust labor practices without fear that they would be retaliated against based on their immigration status.

“Illinois must remain a labor-friendly state for every individual in our workforce,” said State Senator Robert Peters (D-Chicago). “No matter who you are, no matter where you’re from — we are in Illinois now, and everyone in Illinois deserves the same dignities and protections.”

“Our families and loved ones shouldn’t have to work in fear,” said Cervantes (D-Chicago). “Without protections, bosses can weaponize fear of termination or deportation to get workers to take on additional hours or work in unsafe conditions. Illinois needs to take a stance against bad employers so immigrant workers can have a safe, productive work environment, because that is a basic right.”

Senator Peters will work with his colleagues in the coming months with the goal to pass the Work Without Fear Act – filed as both Senate Bill 3464 and House Bill 5071.