Temporary workers live in the cycle of exploitation; The government office bill will break it

By STEVEN MERCADO

Every morning, I get up at 4 a.m. to get ready for a new day at work. I rent a room in an apartment that I share with several people because I can’t afford my own accommodation. “You have to be here at 5 a.m. and maybe you can get some work” is the expression that we, the temporary workers or the “pema-temp” workers – the tens of thousands of we temporary workers who work in the same factory or warehouse day after day but never get hired permanently, hear every day. We have to wait hours before we get a chance to work, and there is never a guarantee that we will work 40 hours that week. Every day is a gamble, waiting to see if we are lucky enough to be called to work.

On the days when we are lucky enough to get a job, temp agencies throw us into a van with no information about where we are going. Often the vans don’t have seat belts and we’re crammed in, too many to fit in the seats, – even during the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve seen too many of my colleagues get sick and never come back to work.

My job as a permanent contract worker is to unload and pack boxes for one of the largest retailers in the world. If you’ve ordered a new outfit, the latest gadget or anything from these online retailers, you’ve counted on the help of temp workers like me.

I learned to use a forklift, which makes me more desirable to warehouse employers, but I still earn less than direct hires earn doing the same job. . I’ve worked for months, years, for some of the biggest companies in the world – names most New Jersey households would recognize – but I still don’t have access to basic benefits like health insurance, or even paid sick leave. For the more than 127,000 permanent temporary workers like me, this is something we can dream of. Our only hope is not to get hurt at work.

At the end of each day, the temp agency supervisor brought us back in the vans, often late and sometimes we were dropped off far from the temp agency. We are not paid for any of these hours of travel or waiting. And then the next day it all starts again. Many people have asked me why I don’t just talk or complain. If I do, I won’t have a job the next day or next week, and eventually they won’t call you at all.

Then there are the days when work is cancelled. If the company we are going to decide on does not need us, the agency does not tell you until you are on site. Imagine waking up at 4 a.m., driving for an hour on 95 in a crowded van, only to find there’s no work. After the agency van has dropped off the workers at different locations, we have to wait until they finish dropping off all the other workers to be picked up. By then it was already 11 o’clock. When we return to the agency, they tell us that there are no more jobs available. We lost a day’s pay. Yet they still charge us for transportation. I go home with less in my pocket than when I left.

No matter your education, work experience or current situation, if you are a permanent temporary worker, you will never be considered a person who can progress in this country. We pay rent. We are active members of the community. We pay our taxes every year. However, fundamental rights other workers do not exist for us.

As a temporary worker, I am attached to a job where I earn just enough to live. Some people ask me why I don’t look for another job. For many temporary workers, who are mostly immigrants and people of color, this is not an option. We don’t have the same access to opportunities as many others in this country. Sometimes it’s the only job we can get.

Hasan from New Jersey possibility of change for the more than 127,000 temporary workers across the state: The Charter of Rights for Temporary Workers.

When lawmakers voted yes to pass the Temporary Workers Bill of Rights this summer, they stood with workers like me who do the essential work to keep New Jersey businesses going. My colleagues and Ico-workers are counting on NJ elected officials to once again stand with us and our families as the bill returns to the Legislature following the Governor’s conditional veto, which will make this bill clearer and more streamlined for workers, for businesses and for government agencies. I urge the Legislature to stand with workers like me – we move the economy and we deserve respect and dignity.

Steven Mercado is a member of Elizabeth’s Make the Road New Jersey

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