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HomenewsA Bill Protecting Temporary Workers Is Narrowly Approved by The Senate.

A Bill Protecting Temporary Workers Is Narrowly Approved by The Senate.

On Thursday, February 2, 2023, workers who crowded the Statehouse to persuade senators to enact the Temp Workers’ Bill of Rights meet Sen. Richard Codey with smiles and applause. (Daniel DiFilippo | The New Jersey Monitor)

Thousands of temporary employees earned a long-fought win Thursday when the California Senate barely passed a bill that will create workplace rights for them.

Cheers, applause, and chants of “¡Sí, se puede!” (yes, we can!) erupted in the Senate gallery as 21 senators — the minimum needed to pass a bill — voted yes on a legislation that’s known as the Temp Workers’ Bill of Rights.

The law is now on its way to the governor, who is anticipated to sign it. It will give protections, such as equitable pay, transparency in job assignment, anti-retaliation measures, and the elimination of unnecessary fees, for more than 127,000 important temporary workers in New Jersey.

Last year, the bill cleared both chambers, including twice in the Senate when a procedural error necessitated a redo. In October, however, Governor Phil Murphy issued a conditional veto, citing enforcement problems and urging modifications. The revisions were accepted by the Assembly, but some senators withdrew their support after staffing agencies warned that the plan would increase costs for employers.

Thursday’s vote nearly exclusively followed party lines. Sens. Shirley Turner, Fred Madden, and James Beach abstained from voting, while Republican Sen. Vince Polistina pushed the bill to passage by voting with the Democrats. Polistina explained that he voted in favour of the bill because he supports it and wanted to commemorate the vote that Sen. Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson), who has been missing from the legislature for months due to illness, would have cast.

Before the vote, workers applauded the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union), and other supportive senators as they entered the Senate floor.

Following the passing of the law, happy workers hugged and celebrated on the Senate balcony and outside the Senate chambers.

On February 2, 2023, Reynalda Cruz celebrates the Senate’s approval of a bill to strengthen job rights for temporary workers. (written by Hal Brown for New Jersey Monitor)

Reynalda Cruz, a temporary worker from New Brunswick and champion for the workers’ rights organisation New Labor, stated, “I am really thrilled today because I have struggled for 22 years.” It’s a triumph for all the workers in New Jersey.

Cruz, along with temporary workers Steven Mercado, Diana Bello, and several dozens of others, distributed educational pamphlets to Statehouse visitors prior to the vote.

Jersey City resident Mercado remarked, “The agencies simply take advantage of all their employees.”

Cruz stated that she never received sick or vacation time during her fourteen years of temporary warehouse employment. Bello claimed she was terminated after criticising the staffing firm she worked for regarding excessive transportation costs. She saw the voting while on crutches, as she had been unemployed for four months due to a foot injury resulting from a temporary job that forced her to stand all day.

Bello, a resident of Elizabeth, stated, “It is no secret that the fight against all the abuses and exploitation we face while working for temp agencies has been ongoing.”

Cryan stated that the purpose of his bill is to assist workers who are “prone to mistreatment” due to their status as first-generation Americans and persons of colour.

This workforce is invisible and has been rendered vulnerable to exploitation and mistreatment. Employers have defrauded them out of pay, denied them benefits, pushed them to work in unsafe conditions, and charged them unjustifiable fees, he claimed.

The executive director of the immigrants’ and workers’ rights organisation Make the Road New Jersey in Elizabeth, Sara Cullinane, referred to the bill as “common sense legislation.”

More than 125,000 temporary workers in New Jersey perform essential work every single day during the pandemic, ensuring that people’s packages are delivered and that they have food on their shelves, yet they are denied the most fundamental labour protections — minimum wage, paid sick days, and health insurance, according to Cullinane. This will be remedied by the Temporary Employees’ Bill of Rights, which will provide fundamental rights to a crucial and far too frequently exploited category of workers.

The vote occurred on the same day that the New Jersey Monitor reported that 17 of the temporary employment agencies belonging to the lobbying group opposing the measure are not registered to conduct business in New Jersey.

Therefore, Joseph Niver, an attorney with Make the Road New Jersey, relished the bill’s passing on Thursday all the more.

Niver stated, “This is only the beginning of our pursuit of responsibility for workers who have been subjected to abuses, such as OSHA breaches, minimum wage, overtime, and unlawful transportation deductions.” “Workers have fought for this for decades, and now the process of holding these agencies accountable for willfully breaking the law begins.”

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