In Brief

Democrats postpone final vote for temporary worker bill

By: - October 18, 2022 6:34 am

A vote on the bill was postponed because "the lives of temp workers simply don't matter enough to the people who need to vote," Sen. Joe Cryan said. (Edwin J. Torres | NJ Governor’s Office)

The state Senate tabled a vote Monday on a bill that would expand protections for temporary workers amid Republican opposition — and apparently, some from Democrats.

“It got held because the lives of temp workers simply don’t matter enough to the people who need to vote,” said Joe Cryan (D-Union), the bill’s prime Senate sponsor.

Both chambers of the Legislature passed the bill along narrow margins this summer, but Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed it last month, suggesting a raft of changes that include a narrower definition of temporary worker, a $1 million appropriation for enforcement, and a 90-day runway to train state officials on the bill’s provisions.

The bill would require temporary staffing agencies to register with the state Department of Community Affairs, bar certain fees charged to temporary laborers, and enact wage floor protections, among other things.

Temporary and warehouse workers have seen a spate of deaths in recent months, including four workers who were killed when a van transporting them from a job crashed on the Palisades Interstate Parkway.

“It’s quite clear that those lives simply don’t matter enough, much less the workers who endure conditions and abuses that no one would consider acceptable,” Cryan said.

Business groups oppose the bill, calling its provisions onerous and saying it might drive staffing agencies out of business.

Advocates from Make the Road New Jersey briefly interrupted Monday’s voting session to urge for the bill’s passage, and Sen. Dick Codey (D-Essex), who was presiding over the Senate at the time, eventually ordered them to be removed from the chamber’s gallery.

The Assembly concurred with the governor’s veto on Oct. 3, but narrower margins in the Senate have complicated the upper chamber’s efforts to do the same.

When senators passed the original bill for a second time in August after a technical flub, they did so with only 21 yes votes. Two Democratic senators, Sens. Fred Madden (D-Gloucester) and Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), were absent from that session. New Jersey Advance Media reported Madden saying Monday he no longer supports the bill because of a new conflict of interest, declining to specify.

Two other Democrats, Sens. Sandra Cunningham (D-Hudson) and Joe Vitale (D-Middlesex), were absent from Monday’s voting session. Both voted yes in August.

The Senate’s next voting session is scheduled for Nov. 21. There is no deadline to concur with a conditional veto.


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Nikita Biryukov
Nikita Biryukov

Nikita Biryukov most recently covered state government and politics for the New Jersey Globe. His tenure there included revelatory stories on marijuana legalization, voting reform and Rep. Jeff Van Drew's decamp to the Republican Party. Earlier, he worked as a freelancer for The Home News Tribune and The Press of Atlantic City.