“Amazing that so many people showed up to support my employment agency law reform bill today!” – tweeted Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry – right after the hearings of her petition with the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development – for legislation to establish a “right to know” policy for certain temporary employees. Someone immediately tweeted back: Just left your hearing, sad to see many suits smirking while the day laborers testified!
This is sad testimony to the fact that the bill is very relevant to protect the needs of a section of temporary workers – many of whom testified as to how they routinely work more than 40 hours for no additional pay, mostly do not know who their on-site employer is. It cares!
There is little doubt that some agencies operate in the shadows, commit wage theft, and violate the various laws governing minimum wages, overtime, meal & rest break, off-the-clock work and documentation of the work/pay/tax related data. They retaliate against the employee if any complaints are raised. They never compensate the worker even if he is injured while on duty – making a total mockery of the system which has devised these laws to ensure the welfare of the workers.
So, can we laugh it off and say what is this big deal being made of one more bill? It may prove to be no big deal for the habitual violators. But, it will create an unbearable burden of bureaucratic paperwork and additional costs and innumerable legal liabilities to every single law-abiding staffing company in MA – working hard and sincerely to serve a genuine need in the market – while the unscrupulous ones may just add one more violation to their already unending list. How smart is it to set a house on fire, just to clear it of a rat infestation?
There are so many unanswered questions staring us in the face here. How far are the regulatory bodies able to ensure that no worker in America is facing any discrimination which can be directly linked to attributes like age, race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability? Why do these workers suffer untold tyrannies unless they lack the knowledge of what the system promises to them? Some of them may have something they fear from the process of law themselves – like the immigration law, for one or may just have lost faith in it for some reason. Why do all these people still go back, day after day (after day) to these same ‘shadow’ operators, fully knowing that they are and will be exploited? Why do they not boycott them and seek work elsewhere? Do the lawmakers really and fully understand the ground realities of such lives? Last but not the least, are they genuinely committed to make a difference or grab a few brownie points and move on?
We all know that a number of laws have been already passed without proper and effective implementation. Is it necessary to pass another law to curb these malpractices? Will it be possible to find a way for them to unearth this parallel/underground economy where it has taken roots and established itself so strongly as to catch a giant like Wal-Mart in its snares?
As of now, our wait for the events to unfold continues and we hope to have some, if not all, of our questions answered before the show comes to an end.
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