Temp Workers Demand the “Right to Know”
Every morning at the crack of dawn, Adrian Ventura is sent off by a temporary agency to a host of jobs – landscaping, house keeping, fish packing, or construction. He’s done it all. But soon he found that thetemporary agency had short-changed him and his co-workers, paying him just 40 of the 48 hours he worked each week.
But because the temp agency never provided Adrian with the name of their employer, he was unable pursue his right to recover those wages.
On October 28, Ventura joined a coalition of temp workers, faith-based leaders, community groups and unions who testified before the state’s Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development in support of a bill that would prevent workers from being sent off to work without so much as knowing the name of their employer or the wages they are to be paid.
“I feel very strongly that every company should pay us for what we have worked and to provide you with the necessary information when you are hired,” Ventura told the legislators. “I would like to ask for your support to pass the temp worker right to know bill.”
Sponsored by Representative Linda Dorcena Forry and Senator John Hart, “Temp Worker Right to Know” bill (Senate Bill 680/ House Bill 1797) requires that a temporary agency provide its employees with basic information about the job they are being hired for in the language which the temporary agency usually communicates with the worker. This information includes the name of the employer, rate of pay, and hazardous conditions. All this information could be contained in a simple form. The requirements would be enforced by the Division of Occupational Safety, and exempts higher wage jobs as well as professional, scientific or technical services.
“I am testifying because MassCOSH has encountered so many workers in temp jobs who do not have the most basic of labor rights that you and I take for granted,” said Isabel Lopez, a worker rights educator from MassCOSH, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health. “We spoke to temp workers who suffered eye injuries and respiratory problems, others who were exposed to asbestos and one whose coworker was hit by a forklift because the operator had been put to work without training. These workers had difficulty obtaining medical treatment because they were unaware of who the temporary agency’s workers compensation provider was, or even if the agency had purchased workers comp.”
Close to a 100,000 workers in Massachusetts are employed by temporary agencies; a quarter of these workers are “on-call” or day laborers. Since temporary jobs are largely low-wage and characterized by high turnover, these workers constitute some of the most economically and physically vulnerable members of the workforce. Even though many are primary breadwinners for their families, workers in temporary jobs are also more likely to be paid poverty-level wages than workers in permanent jobs.
Union supporters, like the Mass. AFL-CIO and the New England Regional Council of Carpenters see this bill as an effort to not only improve conditions for workers in temporary jobs, but to raise the standard for all working people in Massachusetts.
For more information, contact Isabel Lopez at 617-825-7233 x18