Lawmakers approve protections for New Jersey’s 130,000 temp workers

Lawmakers approve protections for New Jersey's 130,000 temp workers

A bill to regulate New Jersey’s growing temp worker industry passed the state Senate and Assembly on Wednesday and is now headed to Gov. Phil Murphy’s desk.

The measure will improve working conditions for the state’s nearly 130,000 temp workers who fuel about a quarter of New Jersey’s warehouse labor. Last year, Gothamist reported on the largely unregulated industry and found some temp agencies were operating without a state license and subjecting workers to unsafe conditions during the pandemic.

“This was a years-long fight that required lots of testimony before lawmakers and many stories about abuses workers have endured,” Reynalda Cruz, a former temp worker turned organizer with New Labor, told Gothamist. “This is going to be a tool to stop abuses from temp agencies and better conditions for temp workers.”

The bill, called the Temp Workers’ Bill of Rights, will require temp agencies to tell their workers what they are getting paid, where they will work and the name of the temp agency. Temp agencies often operate out of nondescript buildings and don’t disclose their names on paychecks, which makes it hard to lodge complaints, workers previously told Gothamist.

Under the bill, temp agencies will also no longer be allowed to charge workers for transportation to and from worksites. Many temp workers don’t have cars and rely on temp agencies — who often employ third-party transportation companies — for rides. But workers said they often earned less than minimum wage once their rides were reduced from their pay stubs.

Workers also told Gothamist temp agencies often cram them into vans, above vehicle capacity limits and kept up the practice during the worst days of the pandemic. The bill will require temp agencies or third-party transportation companies to have a seat and a seat belt for each worker. It also mandates any paycheck deduction to be itemized and requires workers to be paid the minimum wage.

Temp workers have become a source of cheap labor for the state and a space for immigrants or formerly incarcerated people to find jobs. The industry took root along the state’s old industrial arteries as temp agencies opened their doors in densely-populated cities like New Brunswick, Elizabeth and Passaic creating so-called “temp towns.”

More than 300 temp agencies are registered with the state but Gothamist found many more exist. The bill will increase penalties for temp agencies that are not registered with the state to $5,000 a day.

Democratic state Senator Joe Cryan, D-Union, who co-sponsored the Senate bill, previously called the industry a Wild West and said temp workers were a critical part of the supply chain.

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