June 16, 2014
By Neal Tepel
Sacramento, Calif. — Like similar legislation that is already law in Illinois, California state legislators are considering passing a bill that would address a rapidly spreading corporate shell game in which companies claim that the men and women who do their work are not really employees but "temporary" workers for labor contractors or agencies. This scam allows corporations to deny responsibility for compliance with basic worker rights standards involving pay, benefits, and working conditions.
"I have been a temp worker for the last ten years, ever since I received my first paycheck," said Jose Gonzalez, who works at Taylor Farms, but is employed by a labor contractor called Slingshot. "To me this is hurtful. I am being robbed of the fruits of my labor every hour I work. Why not pay me the money going to the temporary agency for my labor? As a temp worker I have no health care, sick or vacation pay or retirement security. I have no future. It's like I'm a modern-day slave."
Taylor Farms is the world's largest salad processor, supplying to McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominos, Subway, Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden and Red Lobster), and many other restaurant and food chains. At its processing plant in Tracy, a majority of the people who do the work actually are employed by two temporary staffing agencies and not by Taylor Farms. One of these agencies, known as Slingshot, has its office on the company's premises, and Taylor is its only customer.
Many workers are paid a minimum wage of $8 an hour with no benefits and no guarantee that they will have a job the next day. Many have reported wage theft and there is currently a wage theft lawsuit pending against the company.
Workers have been fired once they become injured or ill; as a result, others fear reporting injuries.
"This shell game is a significant contributor to the crisis in our economy today," said Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa. "More and more people are working harder with less to show for it. Their low wages, unhealthy working conditions, and lack of benefits subsidize the greatest wealth at the top in the history of the world. Holding corporations accountable for violations of basic worker rights on their premises would be an important step in the right direction."