It is painful to watch overflowing tensions between staff, management and the board at PASO West Suburban Action Project. Seven of eight staff members are currently on strike against the nonprofit which does essential work on behalf of immigrants in our immediate area.

Workers complain of a toxic work environment. The board has hired a specialized law firm to mediate the dispute, a response workers have thus far rejected. At least three board members have resigned as this dispute has ignited.

We don’t know the inside details. We don’t take a side. We hear worker complaints of screaming and mocking. We hear remaining board members talk of growing pains while acknowledging the rights of workers to organize. We know that Oak Park attorney Mony Ruiz-Velasco, the organization’s invaluable executive director, is the embodiment of this organization and brings passion and intensity to this work. Calls for her resignation, we fear, could effectively end this necessary organization’s work. 

Certainly we are at a moment in our country’s history where the full-on assault against immigrants by Donald Trump is a crisis, and effective opposition is vital. PASO has led that opposition in Chicago with effectiveness stretching from the courts to suburban city halls, from well-played media outreach to compassionate support.

We need PASO. And right now PASO needs compassionate leadership that we don’t see coming from an outside law firm. Acknowledgment of pain inflicted, a listening plan that puts all the parties in a room, a determination to make change so forward movement is possible. That is what we want to see.