Lawmakers to take do-over vote on bill protecting rights of temp workers
Sen. Joe Cryan said the bill is the same as the one that passed in the Assembly, but a procedural snafu means the Senate must vote on it again. (Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)
State senators will take a break from their summer recess Monday and head to Trenton for a do-over vote on a bill intended to give temporary workers new protections.
The measure passed in June, but a procedural error — failing to substitute the Senate version of the bill for the Assembly version that will head to the governor’s desk — will require senators to cast their votes again.
“You just have to substitute one for the other to move the bill, and we missed that,” Sen. Joe Cryan (D-Union) told the New Jersey Monitor.
It’s uncommon for lawmakers to return to the Statehouse for a do-over vote, especially during the summer. Some senators are also scheduled to be in Trenton Monday for a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
Cryan noted the bill was approved on June 29, when myriad bills were voted on during a marathon session ahead of the budget season wrapping up on July 1. On that day alone, the Senate approved 107 bills, half of the bills the upper chamber has approved since the current legislative session began on Jan. 11.
Cryan, prime sponsor of the bill, said he found out the next day that the error had been made. The bill (S511) passed 23-14, largely along party lines, with three lawmakers not voting.
The Office of Legislative Services — a nonpartisan body that drafts bills and conducts research for legislation — did not comment on the matter, referring questions to the Senate Democrats’ office, which did not respond to a request for comment.
The measure up for another vote Monday, known as the “temp worker bill of rights,” would offer new protections to nearly 130,000 workers employed by temporary staffing agencies. It would require staffing agencies to pay temporary employees no less than permanent workers in the same position. Temporary workers would also be compensated if they show up at a worksite and are sent home without work.
The bill would also ban certain pay deductions, like fees for transportation, background checks, and check cashing. Staffing agencies would also be required to keep records of each hire for at least six years, in an effort to prevent wage theft and discrimination against workers.
Temp agencies are often found in densely-populated immigrant communities like New Brunswick, Passaic, and Elizabeth. Because the industry depends on immigrants seen by employers as cheap labor, activist groups have been pushing for a bill of worker rights for nearly two decades, said Reynalda Cruz, an organizer with New Labor, a New Brunswick-based workers’ rights group.
She worried after finding out the bill needs to go up for a second vote that lobbyists would pressure some lawmakers to change their votes. She and other organizations, like Make the Road New Jersey, will be at the Statehouse Monday to talk with senators ahead of the vote.
“It passed once, so we’re staying positive. I don’t know what we’ll do if it fails,” she said. “We keep fighting, and finding new ways to fight.”
Make the Road, the New Jersey Alliance for Immigrant Justice, the Working Families Party, and 20 other organizations penned a letter to senators underscoring the importance of new protections for temporary workers and urging them to keep their vote the same.
The New Jersey Staffing Alliance, which advocates for staffing and recruitment agencies, came out against the measure Thursday, claiming employers would have a more difficult time hiring temporary workers if the bill passes, citing administrative burdens and payroll revisions.
“Temporary workers are vital to an economy experiencing a recession. We already see companies putting hiring freezes in place and laying off workers to keep head counts down. This bill being considered would put companies, staffing agencies, and temporary workers’ jobs in jeopardy,” the organization said in a statement.
For workers like Nidia Rodriguez, who takes jobs at different temporary agencies to keep her family afloat, the legislation would give her the confidence to speak up when something violates her rights as an employee.
Rodriguez, an Elizabeth resident, works largely in warehouses. As temperatures soared last week, her job didn’t allow her to take extra breaks to deal with the heat in the non-air-conditioned warehouse, she said. When she asked to keep a fan near her working station, a boss told her they wouldn’t provide any.
She said she was subsequently let go from the temporary agency that found her the job, and she feels it was retaliation.
“There’s no benefits. There’s no job stability. They know we’re there because it’s the only job we have right now, so we can’t complain at all,” she said. “They think we don’t know our rights, but we do.”
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