Day laborers have filed a class action lawsuit against a second temporary agency – with “many more planned,” organizers say – charging widespread violation of the new Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act and minimum wage laws.
Five workers are individual plaintiffs in a suit filed August 1 against Ron’s Staffing Services, Inc., which has branches at 4700 W. Diversy and 2413 S. Western. Also named are client companies of Ron’s including the Chicago Park District’s Soldier Field, Paper Source, and Ashland Cold Storage.
Under the new law, the plaintiffs could be awarded up to $500 for each violation, said their attorney, Chris Williams of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative Legal Clinic.
The suit charges that Ron’s workers were not paid for all hours worked, and that weekly compensation was routinely split into multiple paychecks so the agency could avoid paying overtime; that illegal transportation charges to worksites were deducted; and that required employment notices and pay statements detailing assignments, pay rates, and hours were not given as required.
Without the required paperwork, workers “had a hard time proving it when they were shorted in pay,” Williams said. The employment and payment statements are “a very real issue that means money for people.”
Even today Ron’s fails to provide required work and pay notices, said Ari Glazer of the San Lucas Workers Center, 2914 W. North, which organizes day laborers who work through employment agencies. “They just don’t want to be bothered,” she said.
Soldier Field and Ashland Cold Storage were charged with failing to provide day laborers with work verification forms, and Ron’s and Paper Source were charged with retaliation for terminating one worker when she complained about safety concerns.
A day laborer at San Lucas said he had been shorted on pay and stranded at suburban worksites with no way home late at night during three years he worked for Ron’s. “You have to be [at Ron’s] every day at 4 a.m., and you’re lucky if they send you out once or twice a week,” he said, complaining that dispatchers discriminate against African Americans and Puerto Ricans. He said that after deductions he would make $35 or $40 for eight hours of “very heavy work.”
Ron’s is one of a “large proportion” of agencies that are “just ignoring the law and doing things the way they always have,” Glazer said.
Earlier this summer San Lucas workers with Workers’ Collaborative Legal Clinic representation filed suit against Staffing Network for violating the day labor law passed last year.
San Lucas and other day labor organizations in the Coalition for Day Labor Enforcement are planning further legal action against day labor agencies “until they start obeying the law,” Glazer said.
The groups will also continue pressure on client companies, she said. “They shouldn’t be using agencies that are so abusive and have such histories of legal violations.”