Study Tracks Trend Toward Abuse of Temporary Workers

A new report, "Permanent Struggle, Temporary Success: Contracting Out America," finds a worsening trend in the abuse of temporary workers, day laborers and other low-wage contingent workers.

A new report issued by the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support, "Permanent Struggle, Temporary Success: Contracting Out America," finds a worsening trend in the abuse of temporary workers, day laborers and other low-wage contingent workers.

In addition to documenting the emerging trends in contingent workforce abuses, the report also highlights specific cases and makes policy recommendations that would ensure more equitable and fair treatment of workers.

The report comes fast on the heels of reports out of New York that low wage and immigrant workers doing the clean up work in Lower Manhattan are being exposed to hazardous conditions and the announcement by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that it is launching special initiatives to protect Hispanic workers. The Senate Subcommittee on Employment, Safety and Training and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have also been holding hearings on the plight of low wage and immigrant workers.

"Permanent Struggle, Temporary Success: Contracting Out America," catalogues trends ranging from occupational safety and health and wage and hour violations to race, gender and age discrimination, immigrant exploitation, workers'' compensation violations and extortion. The report also describes how grassroots organizations are addressing the problems locally with promising outcomes.

A key finding in the report is that federal welfare dollars are squandered as welfare and workforce agencies place recipients in temporary jobs, allowing the temporary agencies to collect federal tax credits for hiring "disadvantaged workers." Meanwhile, according to the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support, these low income workers are denied access to training or education that would prepare them to qualify for permanent employment, and are often denied the most basic occupational safety and health training.

"Low wage contingent workers fall through the cracks of the labor laws and enforcement systems that are meant to protect workers against abuses," said Mary Ochs, field policy organizer of the National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support. "These laws and enforcement mechanisms must be strengthened so that all workers can seek address when faced with abusive hiring and employment practices."

Victor Narro, staff attorney, Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, noted, "Seemingly reputable companies are hiding behind the lawless behavior of temporary agencies, day labor companies and subcontractors - allowing employers to cut labor costs and evade workers'' rights laws. Law-abiding businesses cannot compete financially with these bottom-feeding employers."

The report recommends that President George W. Bush and Congress reward law-abiding businesses that treat workers fairly by punishing unscrupulous employers that cut costs by violating workers rights and ignoring federal regulations such as occupational safety and health standards.

The National Campaign for Jobs and Income Support includes 1,000 grassroots organizations and networks that represent the poor, working class and middle class.

by Sandy Smith ([email protected])

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