July 17, 2020

KENNEDY, CLEAVER INTRODUCE RESTORING WORKER POWER ACT

Legislation will overhaul wage and workplace protections for temporary workers

Washington, D.C. – As millions of temporary workers face unemployment, lost wages and reduced hours as a result of COVID-19, Congressman Joe Kennedy III and Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II introduced the Restoring Worker Power Act to comprehensively overhaul federal protections for temp workers. In recent years, corporations have become increasingly reliant on temp worker staffing agencies precisely because lax regulations allow for workplace discrimination and exploitation. This legislation would increase wages, strengthen workers’ rights, ban predatory corporate practices, enshrine equal pay, extend health and safety protections, enact anti-discrimination measures, and increase transparency in the industry.

“Temporary workers battle daily against discrimination, wage theft, workplace abuse, and predatory corporations,” said Congressman Kennedy. “But long before COVID-19 shook our economy to its core, temp workers were intentionally carved out of policies meant to enshrine economic justice, which has left them vulnerable to the worst actors in our society. Through the Restoring Worker Power Act, we can immediately give hardworking Americans a raise, while extending worker rights and workplace protections.

“Over the last decade, Corporate America has become increasingly aware that they can exploit their workforces for higher profits by taking advantage of temporary workers and labor loopholes,” said Congressman Cleaver. “Every worker in America deserves equal pay for equal work, and the federal government cannot allow temp workers to be an exception. The time has come for a temp workers Bill of Rights, and I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Rep. Kennedy, which would boost wages and benefits, increase protections, and help restore the power balance between working class Americans and corporate executives.”

The Restoring Worker Power Act will:

1. Ensure temporary workers are paid the same as directly-hired employees.

2. Ensure temp workers receive basic information regarding their work assignments such as work hours, rate of pay, and the name of the contact of their worksite employer.

3. Prohibit temp staffing agencies from charging temporary workers for performing background checks and drug tests.

4. Ensure temp workers receive the same basic safety training as other employees, require that temporary workers are made aware of injury reporting guidelines, and inform temporary workers of hazards associated with their worksite in an effort to lower high rates of injury among temporary workers.

5. Prohibit the use of forced arbitration agreements and non-compete agreements by temporary staffing agencies and host employers.

6. Limit the use of conversion fees that hinder the future job prospects of temporary workers by either prohibiting host employers from hiring temporary workers directly or requiring the host employer to pay the staffing agency a fee.

7. Address discrimination in the temporary staffing agency industry.

8. Require temp staffing agencies to register with the Department of Labor and publish critical data of each agency’s employment practices.

9. Eliminate the 500 employee cap in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that shields temporary staffing agencies from providing critical paid family and medical leave during the pandemic.

“Regardless of how a business structures its relationship with its workers, work should be a place where everyone is treated equitably and with respect,” said Laura Padin, senior staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project. “For decades, however, corporations have sought to create categories of workers—such as temp workers—that are excluded from these basic principles, in order to rid themselves of obligations to the workers who are central to the success of their business. This legislation is a crucial first step toward change.  It holds temp agencies, as well the companies that contract with them for labor, accountable for working conditions they control, and it gives temp workers the tools they need to improve their workplaces.”

"This bill provides millions of ‘essential’ workers the equal pay for their equal work that they deserve now, and a fair chance to turn their temporary positions into stable, long-term employment moving forward,” said Dave DeSario, Director of Temp Worker Justice, the national organization for temporary workers. "This is the first comprehensive federal bill to attempt to bring fair pay, safe workplaces, and a path to permanent work for the millions of people working in temporary jobs across the country. Temporary workers are paid an average of 41% less for the same work, are twice as likely to be injured, and can be kept in so-called 'temporary' jobs for years. This bill can be celebrated by the millions of Americans working through temporary staffing agencies in healthcare, warehousing, manufacturing, and throughout the economy. The promise of temp-to-perm jobs fails to deliver for 93% of temp workers. This bill provides the fairness that workers expect, and ensures a clear path to permanent work for those who have earned it. This bill is a win-win for temporary workers and the companies where they are placed on the job. It provides fairness for workers while they are temporary, and a path to permanent work that allows employers to develop and keep the best talent."

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