On Tuesday, August 6, Governor Deval Patrick signed into law The Temporary Worker’s Right to Know Act that will prevent unethical temporary employment agencies from exploiting temporary workers. UAW Local 2320 member and Lead Attorney in the Employment Unit at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), Monica Halas, assisted in drafting and lobbying for the legislation on behalf of her client group, MassCOSH and the REAL (Reform Employment Agency Coalition).
Sister Halas and her colleagues recognized that the gap in current law which left temporary agencies unregulated resulted in injury and wage violations that were difficult to address without a paper trail. Many temporary workers who came to their office for representation reported being sent off to dangerous jobs with virtually no information about their employment– not even so much as the name of their employer and workers’ compensation provider, nor the amount of their wages.
UAW Local 2320, UAW Region 9A and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO worked in coalition with the Central Labor Councils, Mass COSH, worker centers and faith and community groups to seek reforms in the temporary industry. The new legislation requires temp agencies to provide written notice of key details of job assignments, disclosure to workers of how to reach the Department of Labor Standards, and the name of the workers’ compensation provider, among other protections.
The statewide extent of the abuse was recently outlined in a University of Massachusetts Amherst report on unregulated employment agencies, a rapidly growing sector in the evolving Massachusetts economy. The report states that approximately 25,000 Massachusetts temporary workers toil in these hazardous jobs every day, employed by over 900 temporary agencies. This past March, the US Department of Labor pointed to the role of Operations Management Group, a Natick-based staffing agency, in the majority of $1.2 million in unpaid overtime and minimum wages to nearly 500 Massachusetts workers employed in 34 area restaurants.
“We had so many temporary workers coming to us for legal assistance – with unpaid wages, injuries, illegal fees– and we couldn’t help them,” said Halas. “There was no documentation of where they worked and what they were supposed to be paid to take legal action. The final success in this legislative campaign is a tribute to the power of community groups and labor coming together to fight for economic justice for all workers.”