Illinois Should Protect Temporary Workers


| Jim Coogan

Illinois is located in the geographical middle of the United States.  Because of our access to rivers like the Mississippi, lakes like Lake Michigan, and the intersection of so many well-traveled Interstate Highways and Rail lines, we’re at the center of American commerce.  The convenience and utility of our location and infrastructure is one of our great strengths.  This is one reason why Northern Illinois, and the Chicagoland Area in particular, is home to an enormous number of temporary Laborers.

The nature of the shipping and logistics business means that companies who transport, distribute, pack, sort, re-pack, and otherwise move goods across the country often rely heavily on short-term or temporary laborers.  In fact, Illinois has some good protections already in place for temporary workers, specifically because some of our lawmakers are concerned about some of the unique risks that temporary workers face.  There’s a law currently on the books called the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act. But more could be done.

According to the American Staffing Association, Illinois had 840,000 temporary workers employed in 2015.  Indeed, NPR published a significant review of Temporary Workers today, April 20, 2017, written by Daisy Contreras that explores the reasons why we have so many temporary labor jobs, the trends in those jobs, and the issues those workers face.  In the Chicago area, according to the article, 63% of warehouse workers are temporary workers.  This means that there are thousands and thousands of workers doing jobs for short durations in places that present falling, tripping, noise-related, heavy machinery, and lifting risks every day.

In particular, Temporary workers are at a disadvantage when dealing with their employers.  A staffing agency may run the administrative aspects of their employment, while they’re sent to a particular company to do the work.  Who is in charge of training?  What about the materials needed to do the work?  Safety equipment?  Who is supposed to tell the workers what kind of apparel (steel-toed boots, long pants, shirts with sleeves, etc.) that they should be wearing?  All of these points of confusion can contribute to unnecessary job risks.  One proposal to protect workers contained in a potential new law (House Bill 690, proposed by Carol Ammons of Champaign) would include a penalty for violations of health and safety rules.  Currently, there is no penalty under Illinois law.  HB690 would create a $50 penalty.  This is the kind of incentive that businesses would respond to, knowing that ignoring safety rules would affect the bottom line.

If you read this article and are concerned about the state of labor protections for temporary workers in Illinois or workers in general, please urge your Congressional Representatives in the Illinois General Assembly to support HB690.  It would also be worth your time to read the entire NPR piece by Ms. Contreras as it is an excellent review of the issues facing workers and their work sites in Illinois.  And if you have questions about your rights in the work place or about your rights if you have been injured or are concerned with workplace safety, please do not hesitate to call or otherwise contact the law firm of Coogan Gallagher

Illinois is located in the geographical middle of the United States.  Because of our access to rivers like the Mississippi, lakes like Lake Michigan, and the intersection of so many well-traveled Interstate Highways and Rail lines, we’re at the center of American commerce.  The convenience and utility of our location and infrastructure is one of our great strengths.  This is one reason why Northern Illinois, and the Chicagoland Area in particular, is home to an enormous number of temporary Laborers.

The nature of the shipping and logistics business means that companies who transport, distribute, pack, sort, re-pack, and otherwise move goods across the country often rely heavily on short-term or temporary laborers.  In fact, Illinois has some good protections already in place for temporary workers, specifically because some of our lawmakers are concerned about some of the unique risks that temporary workers face.  There’s a law currently on the books called the Illinois Day and Temporary Labor Services Act. But more could be done.

According to the American Staffing Association, Illinois had 840,000 temporary workers employed in 2015.  Indeed, NPR published a significant review of Temporary Workers today, April 20, 2017, written by Daisy Contreras that explores the reasons why we have so many temporary labor jobs, the trends in those jobs, and the issues those workers face.  In the Chicago area, according to the article, 63% of warehouse workers are temporary workers.  This means that there are thousands and thousands of workers doing jobs for short durations in places that present falling, tripping, noise-related, heavy machinery, and lifting risks every day.

In particular, Temporary workers are at a disadvantage when dealing with their employers.  A staffing agency may run the administrative aspects of their employment, while they’re sent to a particular company to do the work.  Who is in charge of training?  What about the materials needed to do the work?  Safety equipment?  Who is supposed to tell the workers what kind of apparel (steel-toed boots, long pants, shirts with sleeves, etc.) that they should be wearing?  All of these points of confusion can contribute to unnecessary job risks.  One proposal to protect workers contained in a potential new law (House Bill 690, proposed by Carol Ammons of Champaign) would include a penalty for violations of health and safety rules.  Currently, there is no penalty under Illinois law.  HB690 would create a $50 penalty.  This is the kind of incentive that businesses would respond to, knowing that ignoring safety rules would affect the bottom line.

If you read this article and are concerned about the state of labor protections for temporary workers in Illinois or workers in general, please urge your Congressional Representatives in the Illinois General Assembly to support HB690.  It would also be worth your time to read the entire NPR piece by Ms. Contreras as it is an excellent review of the issues facing workers and their work sites in Illinois.  And if you have questions about your rights in the work place or about your rights if you have been injured or are concerned with workplace safety, please do not hesitate to call or otherwise contact the law firm of Coogan Gallagher

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