- Tim Bell
Current Law Fails To Protect Workers, Leading to Avoidable Deaths.
New worker protections are needed in Illinois to ensure the health and safety of workers, and the end of avoidable workplace deaths.
Wed, Feb 15th- Temp staffing lobbyists are claiming that workers are being sufficiently protected in the workplace with the current laws in effect. They are referencing laws such as Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA regulations), which on the surface there is an appearance of adequate health and safety protections for temp workers. However, these laws lack the weight behind them necessary for accountability on part of the employers. The voices of those affected by these laws need to be listened to; these laws are not doing enough.
Thurman Wenzl, an occupational health scientist and former health and safety staffer of the International Chemical Workers Union in Ohio, wrote about the ineffectiveness of OSHA regulations in stopping the increasing number of food industry temp worker fatalities. The claims that workers are sufficiently protected with current laws flies in the face of the fact that workers are dying and current law is inadequate to stop these deaths.
“Workers in food factories in Illinois continue to be at high risk of injury and
death, and OSHA interventions have not been adequate.
Over the past year, pizza factory workers in both Lake and Will counties were
killed by workplace machinery. In both instances, OSHA had visited over the
preceding year, and cited the companies with modest fines.
In the case of the factory outside Joliet (Rich Products), just 4 months before an
African immigrant worker was killed, that same plant had been fined $37,000 by
OSHA, but still the company had not put into place the (lock out - tag out)
procedures that would have prevented this death.
In another pizza factory in Schaumburg, Nation Pizza in 2019, OSHA found
another violation of the lock out - tag out rules and proposed a penalty of
$148,000, which they settled for a $55,000 fine.
We need state action to make sure that these risks are properly recorded and
more well known - since both of these deaths were completely preventable
with better machine maintenance and worker training.
This sector of industry continues to grow, as more stores carry frozen prepared
foods often with ‘private labels’ - manufactured by firms like Rich Foods and
Miracapo Foods, which most of us have never heard of. Prior to the death in
late 2022, Miracapo had been visited by OSHA in October 2021 as a result of a
Because there is competition among these companies to supply the big
retailers, they seem to be placing cost cutting and speedup above worker
safety - and the costs are being borne by many
immigrant and temp workers, who have little opportunity to complain.”
It’s time to pass new Illinois legislation to ensure the health and safety of our workforce, and to end needless and completely avoidable deaths in the workplace. CWC has launched our campaign for the Temp Worker Fairness and Safety Act, which seeks new protections and enforcement measures for the state's 650,000+ staffing agency workers.
Passage of the Temp Worker Fairness and Safety Act will create greater transparency that helps workers and enforcement agencies fight against discrimination that has plagued workplaces with temporary staffing agencies. If passed, the bill will do the following:
Create Equal Pay provisions which we believe can create pathways to permanent positions
Equal Pay provisions will put billions of dollars back into communities of Illinois and working families
Will give workers tools to stand up for their rights in the workplace, creates a path to union membership, and provides the funds and authority for regulators to enforce the law
Require training of workers who work around machinery
This act comes with precedent set by our friends in New Jersey, New Labor and Make the Road New Jersey, who passed their worker protections act on February 2, 2023. It’s Illinois’s time to adequately protect our workers and to end avoidable workplace deaths.
Media Contact: Emily (Em) Smith | email@example.com
Source Writing: Thurman Wenzl
Founded in 2000, the Chicago Workers' Collaborative promotes the creation of stable, living wage jobs with race, class, and gender equity for precarious workers in the Chicago region.