TWJ Blog

  • Dave DeSario

The risk for contracting COVID-19 remains high for all employees within AbbVie, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, as it limits worksite COVID-19 testing to “employees” only, excluding contractors and temps working on-site in the same facility.

AbbVie is offering free rapid 20-minute testing at its North Chicago facility, a location where the company is working on developing COVID-19 therapeutics. When requesting a screening, individuals must certify that they are internal employees on this form:

As reported by a temporary worker in that facility, “there is a large number of temp-ed out clerical staff, facilities maintenance contractors, construction contractors and subcontracted scientific staff on site at any given time.” These workers are all excluded from this precaution despite working side-by-side AbbVie employees.

In an announcement published on the drugmaker’s website, the company provides a list of strategies to protect employees from COVID-19 without mentioning non-employees in their workplaces.

This type of policy should not only alarm temp workers, but permanent staff and policymakers as well. Temp workers and their families are put at greater risk without access to free testing. This endangers all people in workplaces where permanent employees are blended with contingent workers. Unlike benefits like health insurance, retirement contributions, or performance incentives, the virus is shared equally, regardless of employment status.

Beyond the risk to individuals, exclusionary policies like AbbVie’s contribute to racial disparities in COVID-19 infection and fatality rates. A recent study of demographic data from Illinois revealed that temporary laborers are more than 2.5x more likely to be African-American and Latinx than the overall workforce. Therefore, “employee only” safety policies may contribute to the unequal burden that communities of color are enduring.

Are you a temp worker that has been put at risk of contracting the Coronavirus? Take the brief Coronavirus Temp Work Survey to let us know about your experience, or contact us at Temp Worker Justice.

  • Dave DeSario

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

Most blue-collar temp jobs in the U.S. are staffed by African-American and Latinx workers. This is not a measure of diversity: it’s discrimination. There is “diversity” in temp staffing as there is among pay-day loan recipients or in the prison system. Newly available data shows that the problem is even worse than previously known.

The Illinois Department of Labor began tracking demographic information of temp agency workers in 2018/2019 as mandated by the Responsible Jobs Creation Act. The data collection methods differ from established U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) practices, capturing a clearer picture of blue-collar temp workers. This first ever analysis of the new data reveals:

  • 85% of blue-collar temp assignments are staffed by non-white workers in a state where non-white workers are just 35% of the workforce (Illinois). 78% of those temp assignments went to African-American and Latinx workers.

  • Blue-collar temp workers are nearly 3 times more likely to be African-American and Latinx than the overall workforce. (2.80x for African-American and 2.74x for Latinx - Illinois)

  • The over-representation of African-American and Latinx workers found in blue-collar temp assignments is more than twice as significant as BLS data has established for the temporary staffing industry.

Temp jobs perpetuate poverty instead of providing a pathway out of it. They often require the same skills and responsibilities as traditional, direct-hire positions, but offer far less compensation and stability. As companies cut corners and cut costs, it's often temporary staffing agencies that facilitate the race to the bottom. Temp workers receive less training and suffer higher rates of injury. They almost never receive benefits, have unpredictable schedules where assignments can end at any moment, and are treated like second-class citizens in workplaces where legal barriers make unionization almost impossible, and where managers and permanent workers may never bother to learn their names. That is not even to speak of abuses like wage theft, sexual harassment, hidden non-compete agreements that block access to good jobs, and permatemping: where so-called “temps” are on the job for years. In Illinois, the average temp spends six years in “temporary” assignments, and 4 out of 5 never have a temp job turn into a permanent one.

The temp industry may get a worker’s foot in the door, but it isn’t letting them all the way in, preventing a mostly African-American and Latinx workforce from achieving stable employment, economic security, and equality.

Read the full report here:

Race, to the Bottom Dec 2020
Download PDF • 11.78MB

  • Dave DeSario

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

The Restoring Worker Power Act of 2020 was introduced yesterday, co-sponsored by Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-MA) and Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO). It is the first federal bill to propose regulating temp agencies and protecting temp workers since 1999, and a major victory for workers and our allies.

What it Means for Temp Workers

The bill is a long way from becoming law. But, if enacted, it would give temp workers additional rights and the power to enforce those rights. Most importantly:

1. Equal Pay For Equal Work

Temps will earn the same pay as regular employees for doing the same job. This is particularly important in the staffing industry where low wages and an overrepresentation of Black and Latinx workers perpetuates economic and racial inequality.

2. Safe Workplaces

Temps will be given equal safety training as permanent employees doing the same work, must be included in all health and safety meetings in the workplace, and told of any potential hazards 48 hours before beginning a job.

3. Right to Know

Temps will receive information about the terms and conditions of their employment, including how much agencies take out of their paychecks, eliminating undisclosed fees.

4. A Path to Permanent Work

Non-compete agreements and forced arbitration are banned, and all conversion fees for hiring workers into permanent jobs will be eliminated after 60 days of temping. This will reduce the abusive practice of permatemping, ensuring a path to permanent work.

Advancing the Interests of Temp Workers

Temp Worker Justice is continuing a national survey of temp workers. Data from the survey is often requested by policymakers and advocates to better understand the experiences of workers, and how to improve the temporary staffing industry. Current and recent temp workers should take the survey here:





Temp Worker Justice is a nonprofit that supports temporary workers and workers’ organizations seeking justice and fairness in the workplace.

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