New Jersey’s low-wage temporary workers face physical hazards without any health benefits. The Senate can fix it. , Opinion

by Janice Fine and Carmen Martino

Right now, the world’s largest corporations — brands like Amazon, Target, UPS, and Walmart — are hiring tens and even hundreds of thousands of temporary workers for holiday shopping. Production, storage and logistics facilities are growing with temporary workers. And the holiday season isn’t the only time of year that logistics companies have employees facing the instability, physical hazards, low pay, and non-existent benefits that come with working in today’s temporary worker industry.

When the temporary staffing industry began in the United States, few could have imagined what the industry would look like today. Where once temp jobs were advertised as a flexible job for moms to make a little money and start a career, today, some New Jersey staffing agencies offer benefits, helping them avoid paying for unemployment. clearly advertises the benefits it offers to employers. , and workers’ comp insurance for their workforce. This should come as no surprise.

Rutgers professors such as Carmen Martino have demonstrated for decades the extent to which temporary workers are subjected to wage theft, predatory pricing, hazardous working conditions, and discrimination as a result of the greed and corruption of agencies and the corporations that contract with them. is done.

The reality is that temp agencies are the result of some of the most cancerous policies and systems of the modern world. Dominated by black and brown workers, and by formerly incarcerated workers and undocumented workers, temp agencies serve as a “catch-all” for workers who find themselves on the fringes of society. Huh. These workers are intentionally pushed into a cycle of poverty: persevering in temporary jobs for lack of full-time benefits.

In fact, the term “temp worker” itself is misleading, as most agency workers are not hired directly in a pinch, but rather for jobs that may last two or more years. . Rather than offering temporary help, workers hired through staffing agencies are what actually keep the logistics industry running.

As of 2015, a study of 142 logistics facilities in our state showed that more than half of those facilities used workers employed through staffing agencies, and of those, temporary workers made up more than half of the workforce. have built. Those agency employees worked an average of 39.2 hours per week. There’s nothing “temp” about it, but “temp” is certainly a simpler descriptor than “full-time worker” who doesn’t have the same basic protections as other full-time workers.

Over the past 10 years, while working for warehouse agencies contracted by companies like CVS and American Eagle, working in sugar plants that produce sugar for companies like Ben & Jerry’s and Snapple, and handling New Jersey’s temporary workforce Has died. Order for Amazon. In an industry where workers are considered cheap and invisible, they too often pay the ultimate price.

If you listen to the agencies and the corporations and their lobbyists, you would think that they are suffering. Corporate lobbyists claim that passing the temporary Workers’ Bill of Rights (A1474/S511) would “collapse” the industry and “make New Jersey an unfriendly place to do business.” They claim it will “punish” employers.

This may sound familiar. Last year, when Gov. Phil Murphy signed a set of bills to address misclassification of employees, the NJBIA argued that the legislation was a “sweeping expansion of power that will only add to New Jersey’s well-earned reputation of being unfriendly to business.” will increase.”

On moving to pass earned sick leave for New Jersey employees in 2015, the NJBIA explained, “This is not the time for paid sick leave in New Jersey. We are trying to overcome the reputation of being a hostile place for businesses. Despite constant predictions of doom, logistics and warehousing in our state has been described by unbiased observers as “red-hot”, “flourishing” and in “insatiable demand”.

These arguments only serve to perpetuate the industry’s privilege of cutting labor costs on the backs of Black, Indigenous and people of color in order to keep their profit margins wide. Regardless of industry buzzwords, make no mistake: New Jersey’s temporary worker industry is in dire need of reform and regulation.

Fortunately, the temporary workers’ rights bill is just one Senate vote and one signature away from becoming law. This will create a fair standard for working conditions for temporary workers in our state and level the playing field among staffing agencies to prevent responsible agencies from competing with bad actors who rely on exploitation, abuse and exploitation. Can free Intimidation of law enforcement agencies.

The bill would eliminate the predatory fees that agencies charge for background checks and transportation of workers. It would align temporary workers’ pay and benefits with their direct-hire counterparts, and impose tougher penalties for retaliation and discrimination, which are a routine part of what these vulnerable but necessary workers experience. This bill is the most comprehensive of its kind, and it is critical to the health of our state’s economy.

Having already passed both our Assembly and Senate twice, with broad support from unions, community organizations, racial and gender justice groups, and immigrants’ rights advocates, this bill actually addresses the mistreatment of workers and the economic exploitation of temporary workers. Addressing the tightness has become an example. Industry has affected us and our communities.

After failing to muster enough yes votes to be able to finally pass A1474/S511 into law in October, our Senate majority will have a chance to pass this common sense legislation again this month, with Black Friday and Cyber ​​Monday just before the peak season for many logistics operations. , Senators who truly value our workers, who care about our economy and communities, who value fair competition, and who hold justice close to their hearts will vote “Yes” on A1474/S511 . Senators, more than 120,000 New Jersey working families are counting on you.

Janice Fine and Carmen Martino are professors in the School of Management and Labor Relations at the State University of New Jersey, Rutgers.

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