CHICAGO – On Monday morning, state Rep. Edgar Gonzalez, Jr., D-Chicago, joined workers’ rights organizations at Hearthside Foods in Bolingbrook to demand accountability from corporations who use day and temporary staffing agencies after a whistleblower living in the 23rd House District was fired for exposing child labor and unsafe working conditions.
“My constituent relayed troubling stories of minors being assigned to certain machines, because they operated at higher speeds that older workers could not handle,” Gonzalez said. “In another story, one minor was reprimanded after complaining to his supervisor that his back was hurting after carrying heavy materials. These are just a few of the many stories of unacceptable and unconscionable actions by corporations and the staffing agencies they contract to circumvent blame for impropriety.”
Gonzalez’s House Bill 1604 expands the capacity for industry oversight, makes workplace documentation available in their preferred language, empowers workers to refuse employment at workplaces experiencing lockouts or strikes without consequences, and standardizes pay rates given employment duration guidelines.
Gonzalez has been a longtime supporter of expanding labor rights. He sponsored House Bill 2521, which allowed labor unions to collect show of interest cards and electronically cast ballots, expanded the life of these cards to 12 months, and allowed workers to file an unfair labor practice if they face retaliation or permanent replacement during a lawful strike.
“Upon hearing the news of the whistleblower from my district, and the extent to which companies have violated safety regulations, child labor laws, and basic human decency, I am even more convinced this bill needs to become law to protect workers and punish bad actors in the industry,” Gonzalez said. “Representatives of the Illinois staffing agency industry have expressed they too are in favor of punishing bad actors. If this is true, they would want this bill as much as we do. I’ll be presenting the bill in committee on Wednesday, and I hope their testimony addresses the concerns we have brought up here today.”