How California Bill AB 1897 Can Help End Temporary Worker Discrimination

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez

Temporary worker discrimination may become a thing of the past if the California state Senate passes AB 1897. The bill, sponsored by Assembly member Roger Hernandez, is designed to hold companies accountable for wage and other violations, such as workplace safety, when they use workers supplied by staffing or labor agencies.

Due to the economic changes in recent years, more and more companies are turning to temporary staffing agencies to fill their workforce. Today, the temporary industry employs 2.8 million workers, and this growing number is leading to rising workplace abuses.

According to a ProPublica analysis, the problem with this model is workers are not being protected. In California alone, temp workers have a 50 percent greater chance of being injured. The reason for this is that workers are being forced to work harder than fulltime employees for lower wages, and, sometimes, in unsafe conditions, without health insurance or any other type of benefits.

A recent post by James P. Hoffa in the Huff Post LatinoVoices, profiles the abuses committed by one of the largest salad processing plants in the world, Taylor Farms in Tracy, California. He spoke to long-term temp workers of the plant about the conditions they are forced to deal with, including low wages, long hours without bathroom breaks, lack of protective gear needed to remove bio-hazardous material, other dangerous conditions, and the risk of losing their job should they become sick or injured.

In fact, as Hoffa reported, one worker was fired after slipping on the wet floors of the plant and injuring himself. Even though the plant’s doctor had only cleared him for light work, the temp employee’s supervisor fired him for not being able to perform in the same capacity as before the injury.

Taylor Farms isn’t the only company treating its temporary workforce in such a manner. However, they are considered the poster child for this growing problem in not just California, but in the United States as well. Thankfully, temporary workers in California are standing up for their rights in hopes of getting AB 1897 passed, and teamsters and their allies are joining the fight as well. Hopefully, this will be the first of many bills to help protect all temporary workers in the US.

The next hearing on Bill AB 1897 is scheduled for August 4, 2014.

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