Groundbreaking temp worker law now in effect!

January 31, 2013

On January 31, workers and advocates launched a multi-city van tour to temporary agencies and community centers to educate workers on the new Temporary Worker’s Right to Know Law, ensure law compliance, and deter violations.

When Jose Mutz first began work as a temp at a Millbury-based marble & granite cutting plant, he received legally-mandated overtime pay every week he worked over 40 hours. However, when the plant began to use a temp agency named Operation Management Group (OMG), Mutz began to receive two checks, one for 40 hours of work from the plant and the other from OMG for any hours over 40 – neither of which paid him the overtime he was owed. With little regulation to follow, OMG was able to continue to underpay Mutz for the next two and a half years, cheating him out of thousands of dollars.

On January 31, across the state, temp workers, labor, and community supporters shined a spotlight on a new law to end abuses of the state’s most vulnerable workforce: temp workers. Dubbed the “Temp Workers Ride to Know,” a van-load of workers and community members traveled throughout Massachusetts to raise awareness of the Temporary Worker’s Right to Know Law that went into effect that day.

The law grants critical protections to Mutz and the over 65,000 temporary workers employed in the Commonwealth and will serve as deterrent to temp agencies who seek to flout the state’s labor laws. Temp agencies will now be required to give each worker a written job order, providing information that every worker has a right to expect before going to a job, including overtime pay. It also provides tools for the Department of Labor Standards to ensure transparency and accountability within in the once shadowy temp industry.

“A temporary worker will now know what wages they can expect, what safety equipment they might need, and who to call if they become injured on the job,” said state Representative Linda Dorcena Forry, who was the bill’s lead sponsor in the House. “[Before] there was no law ensuring they had rights to this information. Protecting our residents’ basic rights is critical to progressing as a Commonwealth.”

Organized by the Reform Employment Agency Law (REAL) Coalition, representing over 40 faith groups, labor organizations, safety groups and advocacy organizations, the symbolic Temp Workers Ride to Know action started early in the morning with participants handing out sample job orders to temp workers and management at Labor Ready in Lawrence to ensure that the temp business community knows they must comply with the new law or face substantial fines.

“This law is so important,” said Soledad Araque, a former temp worker and Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety & Health (MassCOSH) Worker Center member. “I worked for a temp agency and didn’t get paid all my wages, was charged $3 every day for transportation and got no information about my job. This law will make a huge difference in protecting workers.”

The action also included a press conference in New Bedford to raise public awareness of the law, followed by a community forum in Lynn for advocates who want to learn more about the law and discuss temp worker concerns.
“We have been fighting for years for these basic temp workers protections,” said MassCOSH Worker Center Organizer Mirna Montano. “Now we are fighting to ensure that every temp worker and every temp agency in Massachusetts knows that the law and all of its protections are in full effect.”

Temp Workers Ride to Know concluded with a program and celebration at the Chelsea Collaborative in Chelsea. The workers’ rights organization hosted the many community, labor, and public officials who made this law possible, including Jeff Webb, Fair Labor Chief of the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office, which is responsible for enforcement of the law, along with the state’s Department of Labor Standards.

“A law is simply a piece of paper unless those who are affected know about their rights and these rights are protected by strong regulatory and enforcement provisions,” said Monica Halas, Lead Attorney at Greater Boston Legal Services. “This law accomplishes these objectives – it will require temporary agencies to inform workers about their rights, the Department of Labor Standards will ensure that this notification is provided and that temporary agencies are registered, and the Attorney General will enforce workplace protections and prohibit retaliation for asserting workplace rights. [This law] will go a long way towards ensuring the dignity, safety and fairness on the job for workers in temporary jobs."