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News :: Labor
Temp Agency, EDA, joins with community group to support labor reform
23 May 2011
Community groups representing immigrants, labor, faith, and workplace safety are pushing for legislation to reform temp agency practices. Today they have won over one temp agency to voluntarily follow new standards.
5.19.2011 EDA - Chelsea Collab Press Conference CLose up.jpg
At a signing ceremony Thursday morning, the Chelsea-based temporary employment agency EDA Staffing pledged to employees and local community groups to meet a higher standard of workers' rights.

The agreement comes a year after Chelsea Collaborative began meeting with EDA employees to hear their grievances. With the support of community, labor, safety, and faith groups a plan was developed to hold a picket line outside EDA offices. But after an arranged meeting with the three co-owners of EDA last Friday, an agreement was reached, turning the event into a joint celebration.

EDA employees in attendance were applauded for having the courage to speak out and demand their rights. “I am happy to be able to make a difference because I know that there are hundreds of temp workers who are being exploited and working in places where their health is in danger and they do not have the tools and/or the basic information necessary to address work issues,” said Elmer Vela, one of many former EDA workers present for the signing. “I hope that EDA fulfills their promises and that the workers report any concerns. I also call upon other temp agencies to change their practices and treat their workers with respect and in accordance to the law."

The signed memorandum of agreement commits EDA to support House Bill 1393, the Reform Employment Agency Law (REAL), and to voluntarily practice its guidelines which including giving every employee information in their own language detailing the type of work they will be asked to perform, the employer they will be working for, any workplace hazards, safety guidelines, and necessary training they may need, as well as any fee for transportation to the work site. The form also gives workers a number to call if they feel their rights are being violated.

While EDA received much praise throughout the program, it was clear these former adversaries still did not see eye to eye on what past practices had been. Before both parties signed the agreement, Gladys Vega, Executive Director of the Chelsea Collaborative, commented, “One of the biggest complaints we got was when their hours get close to 2000 they are let go so they don't have access to vacation.”

Speaking directly to the workers present, EDA Executive Joe Avila responded, “It's not in the interest of EDA not to pay the vacation to the employees. That is wrong. We offer the vacation because we want to thank our employees for the work they do. This is something we give. It's not in our interest to have you reach 2000 hours then not let you work. We never did that and I would never do that. EDA has a lot of people. We try to make them understand that there are rules to get their vacation pay. We're going to do the best we can to support and help you guys.”

Despite this breakthrough agreement, EDA is only the first of some 900 temporary employment agencies in Massachusetts to sign on. Massachusetts has a record of temporary agency fraud cases that is among the worst in the country. Over the last three years, owners of temporary agencies in Stoughton, Worcester County, and Dartmouth (in 2010, 2009 and 2008, respectively) were indicted for tens of millions of dollars of unpaid wages, workers compensation, unemployment insurance and taxes – two of which were included on the United States top ten fraud list.

Richard Rogers, Secretary Treasurer of Greater Boston Labor Council, spoke on behalf of the labor movement, “We at GBLC are proud to be supporting REAL. It's time to end exploitation at these agencies. So I'd like to congratulate the Chelsea Collaborative and EDA for this negotiations victory. We in the labor movement believe in negotiations to overcome problems. Unfortunately it's impossible to reform the practices of these agencies one at a time. There are nine hundred of them around the state.

“Where we are successful, labor needs to be in three places. We need to be in the workplace, fighting for our members and bringing in new members. We need to be in the halls of government at every level. And we need to be in the community.

“So the Labor Council is going to take our moral and political capital up to Beacon Hill and we're going to work with all these groups to make this happen.”

The REAL campaign spokesperson, Isabel Lopez of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health appealed to the audience, “Join us June 9th at the State House to tell legislators that this is what temporary workers need in order to go to work.”

This work is in the public domain.
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