Controlled Chaos: New Report Exposes Abuses for New Brunswick Temporary Workers

A new report released by the city-based nonprofit New Labor in partnership with the Center for Women and Work at Rutgers has uncovered a series of abuses in the labor conditions of temporary workers in New Jersey.

The results of the report, titled “Controlled Chaos,” are based on focus groups conducted with female “perma-temp” warehouse workers, mostly Latino immigrants, in fall 2014.

Participants in the focus groups were asked about five main concerns:

· methods of recruitment to warehouse jobs

· experiences on the job

· compensation

· work/life balance

· home lives.

Dana Britton, director of the Center of Women and Work at Rutgers and co-author of the report, said that “this research provides a better understanding of the issues facing New Brunswick’s women warehouse workers and helps to identify areas in which policy interventions are needed.”

The findings obtained from the research present a discouraging scenario.

According to the report, the structural disorganization of the system intensifies the negative conditions, especially for female workers.

“The agencies don’t care where they send workers. They care about the bill that they send for all the workers that they assign. They don’t care what the employee is doing over there. They don’t care if they are trained to do the job. They don’t care how they are going to be treated. The only thing that matters to the agency is to earn their money, that’s it!” said a worker in the report.

Deductions on payment rates with no reason and wage theft constitute other forms of exploitation.

The report states that “most respondents indicated that they earned ‘the minimum’ (which ranged from $7.25 to $8.75) at their jobs, out of which they paid for transportation and from which the agencies also took a cut.”

In addition to that, workers are forced to use agencies’ unsafe van transportation. Women are exposed to sex segregation and pay inequality, as well as some instances of sexual harassment, according to the report.

This situation is heightened due to the lack of instances where workers can request a higher pay or report abuses. Complains about these issues might end up with layoffs or otherwise ignored.

“(The companies) don’t pay any attention to agency workers. If we complain, they kick us out. That’s why we don’t complain,” a focus group participant said in the report.

Since 2000, New Labor has been fighting for better conditions for immigrant and low-wage workers across New Jersey through educational programs and community empowerment.

Louis Kimmel, the director of New Labor said it is necessary to look for different forms of organizing to change the conditions of a cheating system where multinational corporations will contract out to third party intermediaries, which ultimately hire workers, leaving little at the bottom for them.

“Training is good, but is not enough,” Kimmel said.

In the same context, “Temped Out” a nationwide report from the National Employment Law Project, has revealed the deficiencies of the employment services industry.

This report reveals that in northern and central New Jersey, there is a high concentration of staffing agencies, which operate in majority Latino communities like New Brunswick, Elizabeth and Union City.

As part of the community of New Brunswick, some Rutgers’ students say academia is playing a role in creating awareness about these problems and that it is important for social change.

Jaime Flores is a senior in journalism at Rutgers, who came from Ecuador with his mother at the age of 11.

Flores said that students often want to have a good impact on the world but they’re not sure how they can contribute to change.

“I believe that a lot of times they don’t realize that what they do to help their local communities, can have a significant impact on a larger scale. Young people can create change fast,” he said.

Based on its findings, the “Controlled Chaos” report gave recommendations to state and federal policymakers, job agencies and employers, worker centers and workers themselves, and scholars to conduct further research on these issues and make the pertinent interventions.