New Jersey’s 130,000 temp workers, who largely labor inside the state’s warehouses, are one step closer to securing better working conditions.
The state Senate convened for a rare August session on Monday to retake a vote on the so-called “temp worker bill of rights,” which threatens temp agencies that fail to follow new regulations with daily fines of $5,000. The measure initially passed both legislative chambers in June, but the Senate voted on a version of the bill that didn’t match the Assembly version, and had to redo the vote. The bill passed 21-15 on Monday.
“We were thrilled and then sad but this time is definite,” Reynalda Cruz, an organizer with New Labor and former temp worker, told Gothamist in Spanish after the vote. “There is going to be more control for temp agencies.”
The bill bans temp agencies from paycheck deductions for costs such as meals or transportation to and from work sites. It also requires temp agencies to disclose where they’re sending workers and their rate of pay. Workers who are taken to job sites but are sent home without work must also be compensated for at least four hours of work, the bill states.
If Gov. Phil Murphy signs the bill, Cruz said, that will mean extra dollars in temp workers’ paychecks. She said temp agencies often make non-itemized deductions from workers’ paychecks that lower their take-home pay to below minimum wage.
“This will mean more money for their pockets, for their families, and now that food is so expensive,” Cruz said.
Sen. Joe Cryan, D-Union, who sponsored the bill, said the measure targets protections for temp workers in New Jersey’s warehouses. They fuel a quarter of the state’s warehouse labor, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Secretarial and clerk temp workers are exempt from the measure.
Cryan said many temp workers have effectively become permanent workers at certain warehouses, returning year after year, but don’t earn the same as workers employed by those companies.
“Some agencies can get rather large, some can employ hundreds of people at a time. How many people have to fall into a loophole where they have no workers rights?” Juliet Meneses, a member of Make the Road New Jersey, told Gothamist.
She said the bill “gives the workers an ability to actually put their foot down and be like, ‘These are the things you are supposed to provide for me.’”
A representative for the New Jersey Staffing Alliance didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment Monday afternoon, but previously warned the bill would jeopardize jobs by discouraging companies from using temp workers due to the new state requirements.