Every day, the State Capitol is full of paid lobbyists pushing bills on behalf of clients. So when workers come to Sacramento to support a bill, folks take notice. Today, dozens of workers from around the state made the journey to the Capitol to advocate for AB 1897, critical legislation that would curb abuses of temporary and subcontracted workers, a portion of the workforce that is growing and especially vulnerable to exploitation.
At a noontime briefing hosted by the California Labor Federation, Teamsters and UNITE HERE, workers told their stories to legislative staff. And the stories were powerful. A hotel worker employed by a staffing agency who was hurt on the job, but couldn’t get the medical care she deserved because the hotel and the agency kept passing the buck on who was responsible for her care. A Silicon Valley worker whose temp agency threatened to fire him from an $8 per hour job because he had to miss a few days’ work after coming down with pneumonia. A warehouse worker who moved merchandise for Walmart who complained to the mega-corporation about working conditions only to be told ‘It’s not our problem. Talk to the temp agency.’ And a worker at subcontracted Taylor Farms, who was fired for speaking out about abuses on the job.
These are the faces of the new economy, an economy increasingly reliant on temp workers as corporations continue to shed costs in order to pad profits.
Yashira Martinez worked in the Doubletree Hotel in Santa Monica but was employed by HSS, a hotel staffing company. When she severely injured her knee on the job, she was told she wasn’t allowed sick pay because she’s a temporary employee. To make matters worse, she got the run around when she tried to get medical care. The hotel pointed the finger at the staffing agency and the staffing agency pointed the finger at the hotel. As a result, she had no choice but to continue working on her badly injured knee.
A law like (AB 1897) would really help me because it would put an end to the hotel and company passing responsibility back and forth so I could get the medical attention I need to keep working. This law would be for more than just me. It would help workers stay safe and keep working to take care of our families.
AB 1897 (Hernandez) holds companies accountable for serious violations of workers’ rights, committed by their own labor suppliers, to workers on their premises. This rule will incentivize the use of responsible contractors, rather than a race to the bottom. It will protect vulnerable temporary workers, as well as businesses that follow the law and don’t profit from cheating workers. It offers workers a clear path to accountability for workplace violations and it offers employers a clear path to compliance.
The reason this law is needed is simple. A recent report by ProPublica found that in California, temporary workers like Yashira face a 50% greater risk of getting injured on the job than permanent employees. That disparity was even greater for serious accidents, especially since the growth of labor contractors has been most pronounced in blue-collar industries.
Many workers in the new subcontracted economy are victims of wage theft, unsafe working condition and other abuses. When subcontracted workers try to resolve these problems, big companies point the finger at agencies they’ve contracted with. The agencies point the finger at someone else. In the end, the workers are left out in the cold, often owed money that is never paid to them.
AB 1897 would stop these abuses by holding agencies jointly liable with the companies that employ them when workers are cheated. In other words, it puts an end to the blame game and provides workers with the recourse they deserve when things go wrong.
Far too often, legislative debate in Sacramento is in the abstract, absent the voices of those who are most impacted. Today legislators heard from real people about a real problem that is undermining our economy and hurting workers. Let’s hope those in power take these stories to heart, and pass AB 1897 to provide much-needed relief to workers like Yashira.
Learn more about AB 1897.