Local temporary workers gather to celebrate new protection law


Local temporary workers gather to celebrate new protection law

By Chris Stevens / The Daily Item

LYNN — Temp workers gathered at Operation Bootstrap to celebrate the new Temporary Worker Right to Know Law with pizza, soda and a lesson on what the law will mean to them.

“Today is a very important day … we’re excited because finally temp agencies are taken out of the shadows,” said the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) Executive Director Mary Goldstein-Gelb about the law which went into effect Thursday,

The new law essentially lays out a number of items that temp agencies must provide for its workers including written notice of exactly who is hiring them and contacts, names of a work site employer and workers’ compensation carrier. The law also limits fees employers can put on workers and protects workers from retaliation if they report a violation.

Learn more about the law

Goldstein-Gelb said some of the issues might sound like common sense, like providing a job description or the name of the company hiring the worker, but those things were not being done.

“Nowadays, people are picked up at street corners and don’t even know their employer or temp agency,” she said. “Many are being paid by a third party.”

Goldstein-Gelb said they found out about the troubles plaguing temp workers when they started showing up after being injured on the job. The site worker would tell the injured temp worker that it was the temp agency’s responsibility but tracking down the temp agency nearly always proved fruitless, she said.

“They know a guy named Joe picks them up in a white van,” she said. “How do you track that down?”

Temp agencies used to be a haven for out-of-work white collar workers but the field has seen incredible growth that now includes many blue collar jobs, Goldstein-Gelb said.

Your right to know your new rights

  • Temporary employers must give written notifications of job descriptions, special duties/trainings and daily start and times.
  • Employers must limit fees charged to pay temporary employees and conduct drug tests.
  • Employers cannot charge temporary employees a fee for registering with an agency.
  • Employers cannot charge temporary employees for transportation they provide.
  • Temporary employers cannot retaliate against employees who report violations to the government.

Facts courtesy of newlynncoalition.org

The new law levels the playing field between workers and agencies, Goldstein-Gelb said.

Raysa Alvarez, community organizer for the Workers Center for Economic Justice, called Thursday’s party a victory celebration. Before the law, she said, it wasn’t unusual for temp workers to be sent on a job without knowing what they would be doing, if they needed a specific uniform or tools, if they would be charged a fee if a uniform was provided for them or even the pay scale.

Alvarez said a women who worked as a residential cleaner came in for help and all she had was a phone number. A woman would pick her up and drive her to jobs, Alvarez said, and everything was fine at first. But then the paychecks stopped and soon the woman stopped coming around.

Alvarez said they called the number several times with no response. When she sent a text warning to the agency that they would pursue them with the support of the Attorney General’s office, “then we were able to recover her wages.”

Not all the stories end that well, Goldstein-Gelb noted, which is why the bill is such a coup.

Jeff Crosby, president of the North Shore Labor Council, called the law a big step for the city, which has always taken pride in its working class residents.

“People should be paid fairly for the work they do and if this establishes even minimal laws it will help raise the floor of wage levels,” he said. “The AFL-CIO (The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) worked really hard on this. We’re very proud and very glad.”