Seems like we are swimming in a veritable ocean of bad news on an almost hourly basis. Therefore a story that shows even a small glimmer of sanity must be spotlighted in hopes that whatever caused it to happen is contagious.
Wednesday we have a story out of Illinois of all places that shows at least a glimmer of hope to the lowliest on the labor scale. Temp workers in Illinois have gotten some protections against at least some of the abuses and injustices they suffer as part of their status in society.
What is surprising is that Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, a billionaire whose assault on workers in his state created a huge budget crisis actually signed this bill. Based on Rauner’s public persona one would think that there would be no bottom to what he would allow workers to sink to. Maybe even the coldest of the cold are feeling some heat?
Temp workers throughout this country exist in a dark limbo that is seldom exposed to the public. Employers often get good workers for extremely low pay and no benefits. Labor laws seldom apply to their situation. Employers exploit these workers and then they are tossed away like refuse. Temp work is literally a dark corner of our society that most politicians (especially Republicans) prefer to leave dark.
That is why this bit of good news of a bill passing and being signed in Illinois was so astounding – especially given the history of their governor. I mean imagine Branstad signing such a bill – wouldn’t happen.
The Responsible Job Creation Act, or HB690, represents the most ambitious attempt to date by any state to regulate the growing temporary staffing industry. Introduced in January, the bill gained bipartisan support in the Illinois General Assembly and was signed into law by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner in late September. The law will take effect June 1, 2018.
The legislation, which addresses job insecurity, hiring discrimination and workplace safety, was championed by the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative (CWC) and Warehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ), as well as the Illinois AFL-CIO and Raise the Floor Alliance, a coalition of eight Chicago worker centers.
The law will require staffing agencies to make an effort to place temp workers into permanent positions as they become available—a step forward in the fight to end “perma-temping.” To address racial bias in hiring, the new law requires temporary staffing agencies record and report the race and gender of all job applicants to the Illinois Department of Labor. And in an effort to reduce the workplace injuries that temps frequently suffer, agencies will also now have to notify workers about the kinds of equipment, training and protective clothing required to perform a job.
State Rep. Carol Ammons—a Democrat from Champaign-Urbana who supported Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign—was the bill’s chief sponsor. Activists credit her with getting the bill to the governor’s desk.
“Legislators don’t always get down into the deep part of the process, but this was so personal to me,” Ammons tells In These Times. After her son told her about the problems he had experienced as a temp worker in another state, she began looking into the temp industry in Illinois and became convinced that it needed reform.
With the onslaught of anti-worker, anti-union and especially anti-public-union legislatures across the country this is indeed raises some hope. With the spate of anti-worker “right to work” laws going in at state levels with talk of a national “right to work” law – let’s be honest – these are really right to exploit workers laws – this is a truly unexpected turn.
Electing Democrats next year will change the anti-worker direction in this country.