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Abused and Exploited Temp Workers May Finally Get a Break

April 3, 2014 in Blogs

By Michael Grabell, ProPublica

CA bill would hold companies legally responsible for wage and safety violations of subcontractors and temp agencies.

California could become one of the first states in the nation to hold companies legally responsible for wage and safety violations by their subcontractors and temp agencies if a bill proposed Friday becomes law.

The bill tackles the longstanding complaint of labor leaders that companies can often shirk responsibility for the abuse of workers by hiring them through agencies or contracting with smaller firms.

A ProPublica investigation last year found that temp workers face high rates of wage violations and on-the-job injuries, but rarely have recourse against the brand-name companies whose products they move, pack or assemble. Typically, only the agencies or subcontractors that directly employ workers face fines when something goes wrong, even when fulfilling contracts with larger firms that indirectly control or influence the work conditions.

Unions and other worker advocates say the bill would protect temps and subcontracted workers, such as building janitors, by holding the companies at the top of the supply chain accountable.

“Current law is simply insufficient to protect workers’ rights in the shadows of the subcontracted economy,” Caitlin Vega of the California Labor Federation said in a letter supporting the bill. “This simple rule will incentivize the use of responsible contractors, rather than a race to the bottom.”

California is at least the second state this year to take up bills to protect temporary and subcontracted workers. Earlier this month, a New Hampshire legislator introduced a bill to curb the practice of charging workers fees to be taken in temp agency vans to work for unknown companies. That bill would limit such fees and require agencies to tell workers in writing their wage, the name of the company, the location of the job and the workers’ compensation insurance carrier in case of injury.

At least 10 states currently have laws that regulate temp and day labor agencies in some way. Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas, for example, require them to register with the state. Florida and Georgia limit or prohibit fees they can charge for transportation …read more


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