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August 9, 2005

Governor Blagojevich signs legislation to help protect over 300,000 day laborers
New law strengthens protections for day laborers and provides harsher penalties to unlawful agencies

CHICAGO – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that will make Illinois the most aggressive state in the nation when it comes to safeguarding day laborers from abuses at the hands of day and temporary labor agencies. 
House Bill 3471 provides the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) with stronger enforcement tools, imposes stiffer penalties on violators, and provides important protections for vulnerable day and temporary laborers. The law will protect over 300,000 day laborers across the state.
“Thousands of families in Illinois depend on the hard-earned money brought home by day laborers. But too often, these workers end up victims of abuse by the very agencies that hire them out. This law will allow us to impose severe penalties against abusive agencies that cheat workers of wages by doing things like illegally deducting meals and transportation charges from their paychecks, and leaving them unprotected while on the job,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Today marks the achievement of many organizations and leaders in the General Assembly whose leadership made this new law possible.”
According to a survey conducted by the National Employment Law Project, 50 percent of day laborers in Los Angeles, Chicago and Long Island reported non-payment of wages by temporary and day labor agencies.  The survey included a day labor study done in Chicago, which revealed that 46 percent of workers who participated in the survey were concerned about their health and safety on the job.
Sponsored by Rep. Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago) and Sen. Miguel del Valle (D-Chicago), HB 3471 will help clean up the day labor industry, by going after those day labor agencies that operate outside of IDOL’s enforcement radar. 
“Today is a true victory for day and temporary laborers and their families.  It’s high time that unlawful day and temporary agencies realize the consequences of breaking the law and violating day laborers’ rights in this state.  I applaud the Governor for his continuous support and thank him for signing this important legislation,” said Rep. Cynthia Soto (D-Chicago).
“The purpose of this day labor reform law is to protect low-wage day and temporary laborers who are particularly prone to employer abuse and are unprotected in the workplace.  It guarantees safer working environments for day laborers and ensures that they are treated fairly and with respect,” said Sen. Miguel del Valle, chief author of the Day Labor Services Act of 2000, upon which many provisions of HB 3471 were built.
“We needed a tougher law to protect hard-working day laborers and to impose harsher penalties against illicit day labor agencies who undercut legitimate businesses that follow the rules.  We look forward to enforcing the law and conducting outreach to further educate the public,” said Art Ludwig, Director of the Illinois Department of Labor.
Day laborers and temporary workers are short-term employees working in industries such as landscaping, construction, food processing, domestic and factory work, agriculture and food service industries. According to the National Employment Law Project, the majority of workplace laws protecting day laborers and temporary workers were written for full-time, permanent employees. The short-term nature of the day labor and sub-contracting pose significant barriers to enforcement of laws and the workers do not receive the same benefits or wages as full-time permanent employees performing the same work.
Several organizations worked closely with the Governor and legislative leaders to pass this law, including the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative and Day Laborer Collaboration, the Chicago Interfaith Committee on Workers’ Issues, the Chicago Federation of Labor, the Latino Union of Chicago, St. Pius Church, and the San Lucas Workers Center.
“Day laborers wrote these amendments to stop the abuses leveled against them by unscrupulous employers. Governor Blagojevich has heard their voices and his support will now provide Illinois’ most vulnerable workers with the strongest protections of their rights in the country”, said Tim Bell, Executive Director of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative.
“Workers toil in subhuman conditions in the day labor industry all throughout the United States.  The Governor of the State of Illinois has once again taken a stand on a moral issue that affects hundreds of thousands of both native born and immigrant workers.  As people of faith, from many denominations, we welcome the Governors’ steadfast determination to improve the life of working people throughout the state,” said Jose Oliva, coordinator of the Interfaith Workers' Centers Network.
Highlights of the new law include:
  • Requiring agencies to provide workers with detailed employment and wage notices, which can be inspected by the IDOL;
  • Protecting day laborers’ paychecks from unreasonable deductions for meals and equipment;
  • Requiring agencies to pay workers for lost time when they are sent to a job, only to be sent back because the agency sent too many workers;
  • Requiring employers that contract with day or temporary labor agencies to verify that they are registered with IDOL or face monetary penalties;
  • Prohibiting agencies from charging workers fees for transportation between the agency and the job site and requiring that such transportation meet basic safety standards; and
  • Prohibiting agencies from retaliating or discriminating against a worker who exercises his or her rights under the Act and giving workers the right to sue for damages when harmed by violations.
Although there are approximately 150 registered day and temporary labor service agencies with nearly 600 branch offices registered with the state, there are also many unlicensed agencies in Illinois. 
This new law will allow IDOL to impose a $500 penalty against a day labor agency for each day it is not registered.  For all other violations, the department may fine first-time violators up to $6,000 and repeat violators up to $2,500 per violation per day.  To pay for increased enforcement of the day and temporary labor industry, the legislation increases agency registration fees to $1,000 and adds a fee of $250 per branch office. 
If you are a day or temporary laborer and are a victim of unfair working conditions, please call the Day Labor Services Hotline at 877-314-7052 to file a complaint or get information online at www.state.il.us/agency/idol/
HB 3471 becomes effective January 1, 2006.
Since the beginning of his administration, Governor Blagojevich has made protecting workers’ rights one of his top priorities. Through executive or legislative action, the Governor has:
  • Signed legislation that strengthens the Prevailing Wage Act by increasing penalties against contractors who unlawfully fail to pay construction workers the wages they have earned.
  • Signed legislation that broadens picketing rights for labor unions and other workers involved in labor disputes with their employers, allowing workers to picket, post temporary signs, park vehicles and set up tents or other temporary shelter areas for the picketers on public rights of way without having to require a permit.
  • Signed legislation that dramatically changes the workers’ compensation system to increase benefits for workers, reduce costs for businesses, and fight fraud.  After the Governor made workers’ compensation reform a top priority in his 2005 State of the State address, he convened negotiations over several months with business and labor leaders and members of the General Assembly that resulted in the first major overhaul of Illinois’ workers compensation system in nearly 20 years.
·                    Expanded health care benefits to working families. Since Governor Blagojevich took office, 313,000 more men, women and children have received health care through the KidCare and FamilyCare programs – at a time when most states are not only not providing more coverage for the working poor, but also kicking people off of Medicaid or significantly reducing their benefits.  This year’s budget included funding to add another 56,000 men, women and children.  The Kaiser Foundation has ranked Illinois the best state in the nation for providing health care to people who need it. 
  • Raised the minimum wage to $6.50 an hour, benefiting an estimated 450,000 Illinois workers. The raise made Illinois one of several states in the nation to increase the minimum wage above the federal level of $5.15 an hour, which hasn’t changed since 1997.
  • Signed legislation protecting hundreds of thousands of workers from being stripped of their right to overtime pay by new federal regulations.
  • Signed legislation to protect workers from employer indoctrination and confinement, making Illinois only the third state in the nation to enact card check recognition of public employees. The law provides that if 50 percent or more of workers sign union authorization cards, union recognition is automatic.
  • Signed legislation to help ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work.  Under the law, if a man and a woman do the same job they must be paid the same.
  • Signed legislation to protect U.S. jobs by requiring companies bidding for state business to certify whether the terms of the contract will be performed in the United States, and encouraging state agencies to buy products that are manufactured in the United States.   
  • Expanded rights of Illinois workers to join a union. This directly benefited 50,000 home childcare workers, 20,000 personal care assistants and thousands of graduate students and court reporters.
  • Signed legislation to improve the structure and funding of the Unemployment Trust Fund.
  • Signed legislation that requires every contractor providing equipment, materials or supplies to the State of Illinois to specify that no foreign-made equipment, materials or supplies be produced by children under the age of 12.  Provides for penalties for a contractor who knowingly furnishes goods to the state produced by foreign child labor.


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