Our work is dedicated to creating a democratic society in which Black Chicagoans engaged in the informal economy—activities, enterprises, and jobs not protected by the state—have the resources to change the social and economic conditions affecting their lives.
“There’s too many just keep your head above water opportunities and not enough life-changing opportunities. That ratio, ultimately, will leave a lot of people in the wind.”
INFORMAL WORKER SPOTLIGHT
For the last two years, Barbara has been making bulk purchases of a variety of candies, along with plastic bags for individual sales. She purchases the candy at a suburban mall and some specialty stores on Chicago's West Side. The bulk candies are then mixed, 10 pieces in each bag, and sold for $1 each. Barbara sells her candy in several large buildings where here white-collar workers form her customer base. She sells candy all day, three or four days a week. On a good day, she clears $80. On a bad day, she earns $30. With weekly product costs of $70, her first two days of sales can cover those costs plus $10 to $30 in income. Her third day of sales could then be expected to generate an additional $30 to $50 in income, yielding weekly earnings of between $40-80. These earnings are low, but her options are few. Now approaching her 59th birthday, Barbara remarked ruefully, "Who's going to hire me? It is hard out here."
$16,962 per capita income
$10,951 per capita income
$12,756 per capita income
"Don't compete with me, EAT with me."
What We Do
Our research program supports policy development, advocacy, and community organizing campaigns.
We develop, endorse, or support policies that change public perception of the informal economy, decriminalize participation, and remove barriers to employment for those seeking careers in the formal economy.
Our Bridging Labor Access to Community strategy fosters nonexploitive exchanges between community members and EAT organizers.
We amplify the voices of participants in the informal economy, shape public policy at the local and national levels, and change the narrative and stigma attached to individuals engaged in the informal economy.
The Corner Podcast
The Corner is a platform for informal workers to address barriers to economic justice and define their vision of safety and equity for Chicago.