Temp Worker Law Birthday Presents Results

February 24, 2014

On January 30th, in MassCOSH’s new East Boston worker center office, temporary workers and community and labor supporters commemorated the anniversary of the Temp Worker Right to Know Law’s passage with chants and testimonies.  The group, known as the REAL Coalition (Reform Employment Agency Law), also released an official progress report, highlighting the laws’ first year achievements and impacts on the hard-working people who work in temporary jobs (click here to view the report).

"We need to recognize that this law is extremely important," said MassCOSH Worker Center  Tomás Garsia. "We have this law because we advanced it and now we have the benefits we demanded."

The law was enacted after temporary workers and their allies urged legislators to shine a light on temp agencies operating in the darkness of Massachusetts’s underground economy. For decades, a lack of legal oversight allowed temp employers to cheat workers out of millions of dollars in overtime and minimum wages. The law now requires the state’s temporary employment agencies to give each worker a written job order, providing critical information such as the name of their employer, wages and safety training required. It also prohibits certain fees and provides the Department of Labor Standards with the authority to carry out inspections and refer violators to the state’s Attorney General’s Office.
 “As a worker, I know what it is like to work through a temp agency where they do not tell you about your workers’ rights, and if you try to speak about your rights you are at risk of getting fired or being put on a black list,” said Diega Gonzales, a temporary worker and Chelsea Collaborative member to a packed room. “Today, as temporary agency workers, we can ask freely about the details of the type of work we will be doing, and know who will be responsible to pay our wages.”

 “The law was a huge victory, but it would be just words on a page were it not for the dedication and hard work of the state’s Department of Labor Standards, federal OSHA, the Attorney General, temporary workers and community groups who are making sure the law does exactly what it set out to do,” said MassCOSH Worker Center Organizer Mirna Montano.

The REAL Coalition progress report released that night highlighted the achievements of the past year, including:

Providing access to essential information for temporary workers:
The job order requirement and new oversight by the state’s Department of Labor Standards (DLS) have been critical in increasing the transparency of temporary agencies, and have benefited the many workers who are now receiving the job order. DLS inspections and reinspections have proven to be successful at achieving compliance.

Exposing violations:
As a result of the law, workers are pursuing action to achieve their rights, and violations are coming to the surface. Many more workers are aware that they can pursue their rights and can identify violations.

Temp agency outreach:
The state’s Department of Labor Standards (DLS) sent information about the law to the state’s licensed and registered agencies, as well as conducting inspections of temporary agencies to ensure compliance. Representatives from the REAL Coalition conducted educational visits numerous temporary agencies.

State enforcement:
Of the 48 temporary staffing agencies inspected, 21 were not complying with the job order requirement. All agencies came into compliance upon reinspection.
More important than the numbers, advocates said, is the impact on workers who had reported being sent off to dangerous temporary 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 – intentional actions that had allowed employers to lie and cheat their workers.

According to Rachel Smit, an employment lawyer at Greater Boston Legal Services (GBLS), which represented the REAL Coalition in the legislative campaign to pass the new law.

 “When our clients are armed with critical information about their job assignments, it makes a real difference in their ability to enforce their workplace rights,”

Interested in learing more about the Temp Right to Know Law, its history, and next steps? Click here. To get involved, email Mirna Montano at mirna.montano@masscosh.org