New Bedford Speaks Out Against Temp Worker Abuse

Rep. Cabral joins workers urging legislature to enact the REAL bill

real_press_conf_1Wednesday, August 10, 2011, NEW BEDFORD — "The state should regulate every employer across the board equally," said State Representative Antonio Cabral yesterday. In one sentence, the New Bedford Democrat summarized the essence of the REAL Bill, an act that would update and streamline the state's employment agency law. As detailed in a recent report by the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a lack of simple regulation has allowed unscrupulous employment agencies to abuse workers in myriad ways, from withholding their overtime pay to denying them basic safety equipment. The REAL Bill would greatly curtail abuse by simplifying an outmoded two-tier registration system that allows some agencies to escape state supervision.

Speaking at a press conference in the basement of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a New Bedford church,  Representative Cabral was joined by local advocates who explained that thousands of immigrants and other low-wage workers living in New Bedford are open to exploitation in the current dysfunctional system.The press conference was part of a statewide effort to move the REAL bill, co-sponsored by 80 legislators, in the fall legislative session.

Also speaking were Adrian Ventura from the Community Center for Workers, Maggie Gomes from CAP/Coalition for Social Justice, Sonny Eddleston of the Greater Southeastern Mass. Labor Council AFL-CIO, Rev. Marc Fallon of New Bedford Catholic Social Services, and Epifanio Coz and Katy Lina, two longtime area temp workers who detailed their personal plights.

Ms. Lina, a 25-year-old Guatemalan immigrant, described being shuttled to jobs at local farms and fish processing plants without being told of her wages, her destination, or the nature of her work. "We're here because temp agencies need to value not only our work, but also ourselves, as human beings," she said.

The press conference also included a recognition ceremony for the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, tomato pickers from Florida who are in Massachusetts campaigning to convince local supermarket chains like Stop and Shop to help improve their working conditions and pay.

"We are here today to support you," said an Immokalee Worker representative at the close of the press conference. "We know your fight is our fight."