Latino Worker Activists Stand United with African-American Workers to Address Temp Staffing Industry Hiring Practices
On Wednesday, October 8th, Illinois State Representative Kenneth Dunkin (D-5), leader of the Black Caucus of the Illinois General Assembly, announced he will introduce legislation which will offer hope to thousands of African-American job-seekers who are routinely denied work on the basis of their race by the temporary staffing industry.
“It is a shame that we have to hear about the abuses Latino workers are suffering at the hands of some of the bad actors in temp staffing,” Dunkin said, “And it is sad that in 2014 that we still hear from African American workers that they find it very difficult to be accepted for employment at temp staffing offices.”
“However, this is a new day,” stated Dunkin, “And I am proud to be a part of this growing Bringing Down Barriers coalition, so that we can attain justice for all workers in our states temp staffing sector.”
The African American unemployment rate tends to be about double that of whites, regardless of the economic climate. A 2011 Economic Policy Institute (EPI) study concluded that labor market discrimination is at the root of African-American male underemployment. The study analyzes employment data and determines that occupational preferences and a dearth of “soft skills” are not the causes of employment disparities between blacks and whites. By systematically excluding those other causes, EPI concludes that discrimination must exist in today’s job market.
Unfortunately, many African-American workers have approached the Chicago Workers Collaborative with a similar story: When they apply for work at day and temporary service agencies, the agencies do not hire them.
“The temporary staffing industry is the gatekeeper for hundreds of thousands of jobs in our state,” says Richard Wallace, the main organizer of the Bringing Down Barriers Campaign. “It should play by the same rules as other large businesses and not be used to shut out certain races from jobs.”
Numerous recent media reports describe how Latino temp workers often labor segregated from native-born workers in deplorable, unsafe conditions; experience wage theft, sexual harassment, and other violations to their rights.
“Temp agencies believe that they can take advantage of immigrant workers like me,” says Rosa Ramirez, a temp rights activist with CWC. “For example, I have often seen that companies will put two immigrant temp workers to operate a machine which is designed to be operated by four workers. We immigrants are learning our rights and say that two more workers should be hired to operate that machine. And they should be African-American.”
The bill amends the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act to require a day and temporary service agency, as part of its record-keeping obligations, to collect demographic information from job seekers on a contact form which allows each laborer to self-identify his or her race and gender. The bill requires that this information to be maintained separately from any personnel files used to make job assignments.
We would like to thank a number of important allies who were present to support the Bringing Down Barriers policy campaign:
Chicago Jobs with Justice
Coalition of Black Trade Unionists
Men and Women in Prison Ministries
Northern Illinois Jobs with Justice
Raise the Floor (Worker Center alliance)
United Food and Commercial Workers Local 881
Worker Center for Racial Justice