The Joliet City Council this week stalled votes on two staffing agencies after warehouse workers contended such businesses contribute to low-wage, temporary jobs.
“We believe they drive down labor standards,” Roberto Jesus Clack, associate director of Warehouse Workers for Justice, told the council Tuesday before a decision was made to table two votes that would have allowed staffing agencies to open on Collins Street and Larkin Avenue.
Clack and others said local warehouses rely on the staffing agencies to supply temporary workers that they use to avoid hiring full-time workers with benefits.
He called on the city to consider a moratorium on staffing agencies. Clack said there are 14 staffing offices now in Joliet and 99 in Will County.
“Bad job quality is directly related to the issue of staffing agencies,” Clack said.
The council decided in a 5-3 vote to table special use permits sought by HR Metrics and Innovative Staffing.
The city began to require special use permits to open staffing offices in 2001, a requirement typically imposed because of concerns about the impact of the business.
In September, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted, 3-2, in favor of the special use permits. But zoning board Chairman Ed Hennessy asked city staff to review the numbers of staffing agencies coming into Joliet.
Sonia Diodata with HR Metrics told the council this week that it should not view all staffing agencies the same.
“It’s not a fair comment to paint all the agencies with the same brush,” Diodata said, adding that her agency helps workers reach full-time status and provides sick pay with other benefits. “We’re not in the business of using and abusing.”
Council member Terry Morris said he agreed that not all staffing agencies should be viewed alike, but called for the votes to be tabled so city staff could take a closer look at the businesses.
“I am concerned with the quality of the staffing agencies that we do allow in the city,” Morris said. “I’ve been hearing this for years now – people not being treated right and being fired on the 90th day.”
Ninety days marks the point when a temporary worker would be converted to a full-time employee with benefits.
Brandin McDonald of Joliet, a member of Warehouse Workers for Justice, said he was unable to get permanent work at local warehouses and even made less than minimum wage when employed through one staffing agency.
“We’ve been fighting to make these regular permanent jobs,” McDonald told the council. “It’s hard.”