Will County, Illinois seems to be popping up quite often when I Google “temporary worker news.”
Over the last couple months, the suburban Illinois area has been the site of several lawsuits involving warehouses and the staffing firms that supply their workers.
The latest implicates the Columbia, S.C.-based staffing firm Prologistix in a class-action wage theft accusation.
Prologistix provided temporary warehouse employees for Kraft/Cadbury in Joliet.
Earlier this week, the Warehouse Workers for Justice filed a lawsuit against the staffing firm, alleging its workers were cheated out of wages for the hours they worked and unused, promised vacation pay.
The workers also said they weren’t properly informed of employment and wage payment notices. (Hear that, Massachusetts? Proponents of HB 1393 would have a field day.)
Prologistix has denied the allegations, saying the company treated its workers “consistent with its obligations under applicable federal and state law.”
The warehouse’s parent company, the German-owned DB Schenker, is under fire, too.
Workers filed a complaint in April with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, claiming Nazi and KKK graffiti on the walls was creating a hostile work environment. (A German company with swastikas on its walls. Original.)
Three other lawsuits, incriminating three separate staffing agencies, came solely from a Wal-Mart warehouse in Will County.
Guess what the terms of these lawsuits were?
Yep – unpaid wages and improper employment information.
What would WWJ do?
They would file four class-action lawsuits. This last one, with Prologistix, signifies the eighth legal action the organization has taken.
But are they successful?
I tried contacting the WWJ for some answers. Specifically, I wanted to know if WWJ has ever won a lawsuit against a staffing company.
Of course, it’s hard to find an answer when the listed phone number doesn’t work, and email goes unanswered.
WWJ, which started two years ago, claims it defends workers’ rights, turns warehouse jobs into “good” jobs and supports its workers in their struggles.
Their website says WWJ sees crises occurring in the Chicago warehouses, with the recurring problem being the “perma-temp” structure. WWJ wants to see permanent workers receiving regular hours and pay in the warehouses.
WWJ coordinator Abraham Mwaura was quoted as saying that by opting for perma-temps over direct hiring, more benefits and wage issues arise.
“When you have that many temps, it just opens it up for abuse,” he said.
Sounds to me like WWJ wants to put the staffing industry out of business.
Sometimes activism benefits no one.
I’m not discounting the fact that these may be legitimate complaints, and the staffing companies involved were in the wrong.
I’m pretty sure there’s not a single working-class citizen who doesn’t believe in fair wages and employment practices.
However, when a “growing epidemic” of similar situations bring forth lawsuits, the latent skeptic in me comes out.
The skeptic decided to stick around when she couldn’t find any instances of successful legal action in WWJ’s favor.
Maybe it’s time for the organization to invest in some giant rats.