The debate rages in Oregon over a senate bill that was scheduled for a work session on April 20.
The stated purpose of the bill, which was introduced at the request of the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project and Oregon Coalition to Stop Wage Theft, is to ensure that temporary workers are paid in full for the work they perform.
Yet in the East Oregonian, several Oregon staffing agencies are crying foul. They say the bill would require such heavy surcharges per employee that it would drive them out of business.
It’s not hard to tap into the mistrust that currently pervades American politics, or to draw parallels to the battle lines drawn in the labor disputes in Wisconsin and Ohio.
In the case of SB 610, is the staffing industry in Oregon trying to keep a profitable loophole open? Or is the government using employer theft as a guise to gain control over the staffing industry?
The subhead of the East Oregonian article doesn’t help. “Bill would mandate equal pay for everyone, regardless of experience, skill,” it says, at a time when terms like socialism and government takeover are often carelessly bandied about. In fact, it turns out that there’s nothing in SB 610 mandating equal pay for all workers.
Most of the bill contains straightforward rules and definitions that would seem helpful to conducting business on either side.
However, Section 2, Subsection 2 of the bill states, “An employer, including joint employers of employees at a client work site, may not discriminate in any way in the compensation paid as between full-time employees and part-time employees, whether or not the employees are employed in permanent or contingent jobs, or between employees employed in permanent jobs and employees employed in contingent jobs.”
D. Michael Dale, executive director of the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, points out that the bill also states: “However, variations in compensation are not prohibited when the variations are based on differences in job duties.”
This means, for example, a permanent foreperson could earn more money than temporary workers because of the foreperson’s experience and knowledge, even though the actual job duties may be similar.
Dale also recently said that the troublesome parts of the bill were dropped from it long ago. But were they?
Section 3 says: “For the purpose of determining the compensation paid to full-time employees that will be used to determine whether the employer is discriminating against contingent workers or part-time workers, full-time compensation is deemed to be the gross hourly wages of similarly situated full-time employees, plus a 30 percent surcharge. The surcharge is deemed to be paid to the contingent employee or part-time employee if the surcharge is included directly in wages or is offered as part of the cost of health, welfare and retirement benefits.”
That seems pretty clear, at least at face value. And there do not appear to be any exceptions to this anywhere in the bill. Staffing firms say that they already charge employers about 20 percent extra for temporary employees, and the additional 30 percent would have to be added on top of it. This can’t be true. Can it?
If we take the current national political climate and its resulting state-level legislative conflicts as a boilerplate, there’s quite a battle ahead.
And the outcome still remains unclear.