Worcester Workers Demand Back Wages and End to Temp-Agency Fraud
12/20/2011 WORCESTER â€” Today, on the morning before the longest night of the year, 40 workers, union leaders, elected officials and community organizers sang, chanted and raised signs outside Discover Marble and Granite in Millbury to "shed some light on the darkness of temporary agency abuse," in the words of Father Kevin Bean, from All Saints Church in Worcester.
Father Bean opened the rally with the prayer that this public demonstration would lead to "fair payment of wages" for former workers denied overtime compensation, and also raise the "strength and solidarity" among manual laborers who have been duped by temporary agencies across Massachusetts.The ultimate goal is the passage of the REAL Bill â€” the Reform Employment Agency Law â€” which would allow closer oversight of agencies through simplified registration and also provide workers with clear details about their employment conditions.
In the case of Discover Marble, the company used a temporary agency, Operations Management Group (OMG), which denied workers' overtime payment and then disappeared when the shortage became evident.
"Thank you for coming and asking for the overtime wages for the stone cutters and installers of Discover," said Diego Low, Coordinator at the Metrowest Worker's Center, the prime organizer of the demonstration. "But we're also here to talk about the temporary agencies that companies like Discover use to hide behind, like a flimsy screen."
The words were echoed by Marlene, who worked for Naked Fish restaurant and spoke to the gathering about her struggle to get paid over a full week of overtime from the same phantom agency, OMG. Other workers on hand experienced similar mistreatment through temporary agencies employed by Metrowest restaurants and a food processing factory. This year, the Department of Justice brought a successful related action against OMG, which was fined over $200,000.
"Here in the state of Massachusetts today, I'm disgusted that we have companies that don't pay their workers," said State Representative James O'Day to rousing applause. "We're here to tell the folks at Discover that we have an expectation that they're going to treat their workers fairly!"
Others on hand included Worcester City Councilwoman Sarai Rivera, and Manny Gines, of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters.
To close the event, workers marched with spirited chants up to the door of the company, and a delegation entered the building to hand management a letter demanding the company pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in overtime, withheld from workers for over four years. When the delegation returned, workers cheered and chanted to the company, "We'll be back!"