The New Jersey Star-Ledger ran an investigative report on the temporary employment industry in New Jersey. Death, discrimination and despair in N.J.'s temp industry documents “abuses” allegedly suffered by predominantly immigrant individuals seeking work through the hundreds of private temp agencies operating in cities around the state.
I left these comments, edited and expanded for clarity:
The headline of this series would have you believe we’re dealing with some kind of quasi-slave trade.
Yet in the articles, you find that actual “abuse,” whatever that is, is rare. (Allegedly “low pay” and lack of paid holidays or vacations is not abuse. They are terms of employment the worker agreed to. I spent 46 years in the construction trades, and never had paid vacations or sick days. I never felt “abused.” On the other hand, failure to pay agreed-upon wages or instances of sexual harassment are abuse.)
In reality, you’d be hard pressed to find “death and despair.” What you find are mostly people who willing immigrated to America looking for higher pay, and finding it thanks to profit-seeking companies that provide it, consumers willing to buy the products their jobs depend on, and the temp agencies that facilitate job placement. They are people who willingly take jobs that, by their own judgement, are better than the jobs they left behind in their native countries. Why? To make better lives for themselves and their families, and the opportunity to build a base for economic advancement. If they are so abused, why stay in the job? Just read the related article about one illegal immigrant named Rafael Sanchez ('I am illegal': How one Mexican became a N.J. temp worker).
Instances of actual abuse notwithstanding (such as sexual harassment), the temp industry looks to me to be an honorable industry. As I see it, the worst abuser is our government.
First, it rips 15.2% in FICA taxes right off the top, whether the worker wants to pay it or not.
Worse, there is our horrific immigration policy, which turns honest, hardworking people into illegals, stifles their opportunities, and fosters the rise of illegal and abusive human smuggling rings. As you read about Rafael Sanchez, you’ll see that low pay is not his main problem. Lack of the shot at upward mobility due to his illegal status is his main problem. Immigrants should pass criminal background checks, screening for infectious diseases, ties to terrorist organizations or terror supporting countries, and other criteria to make sure they are not a threat to Americans’ safety and rights. Coming here to work is not a threat. People who pass proper background checks and can demonstrate they are here to work should be free to enter our country without fear of legal retribution. Those already here working their butts off should be recognized legally and offered an official apology.
For its part, N.J. temp firms call for stricter enforcement of laws in light of investigation, but no new laws or regulations. As Kelly Heyboer reports for NJ.com,
The New Jersey Staffing Alliance, a group that represents more than 140 employment companies, released a letter last week calling for new fines and more staff at state agencies overseeing the industry in response to "The invisible workforce," an NJ Advance Media series published last month.
The series detailed racial discrimination, low wages, unsafe working conditions and sexual harassment some New Jersey temp workers say they face on a daily basis.
Many blue collar temp workers -- who are usually paid between $8.38 and $11 an hour in warehouse or factory jobs -- said they avoid reporting mistreatment because they are immigrants living in the U.S. illegally.
The abuse, real or imagined, afflicts some workers, usually those who are victims of our immigration policies. Once again, the main problem stems from immigration policy. It’s described as “a cloud that hangs over all of this. ... The threat of being deported is real."
Amnesty for Illegal Immigrants is not Enough, They Deserve an Apology by Harry Binswanger