‘Bill of rights’ for temporary workers back in play after Murphy’s veto

The state Capitol building in Trenton, New Jersey. (Evelyn Tu for WHYY)

The state Capitol building in Trenton, New Jersey. (Evelyn Tu for WHYY)

The New Jersey General Assembly passed several pieces of legislation Monday including protections for temporary workers that Gov. Phil Murphy conditionally vetoed last month.

Assemblymembers approved Murphy’s recommendations to the bill, known as the “temporary workers’ bill of rights,” by a vote of 42 to 27 along party lines.

It would require temporary work agencies to provide contracted temporary workers with pertinent information such as job location, terms, and compensation in English and the workers’ primary language, and states that a worker’s wages must not fall below state minimum wage, following deductions for meals and equipment. Temporary work agencies and third-party clients would also be required to register with the Division of Consumer Affairs and maintain records about workers and their employment.

Failure to do so would result in fines up to $1,000 per violation. 

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Murphy also suggested that lawmakers appropriate $1 million to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development to enforce the regulations.

At Monday’s voting session, Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Morris) claimed that the measure would “dramatically increase the cost of temporary labor to business.”

Sponsors said the legislation would help protect Black and Latino workers, who make up a large share of the temporary workforce. According to the Legislature, more than 127,000 people work for temporary staffing agencies, many in production, transportation, material moving, and manufacturing industries.

Temporary worker advocacy groups erupted in applause following the bill’s passage Monday morning.

The New Jersey Alliance For Immigrant Justice heralded the move on Twitter.

“The time for this bill to become law is long overdue, and we stand in celebration as the Assembly takes one final step to get us there,” the organization tweeted Monday afternoon.

The temporary workers’ bill of rights is likely to head to the Senate again for a vote as early as Oct. 17.

Senator Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen) introduced alternative legislation on Monday that she said would “create important protections for workers without strangling New Jersey’s staffing sector with burdensome red tape.

Schepisi’s bill isn’t currently listed on the Legislature’s website, but she said it is modeled after a similar program in Massachusetts. It would still require temporary staffing agencies to provide details about the job, compensation, and deductions to workers.

The Assembly also passed a fix to a child tax credit passed during New Jersey’s budget season that would make the $500-per-child refundable credit available for income earned in 2022.

It passed in the Senate last Friday and is headed to the governor’s desk.

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