New Jersey has one of the highest concentrations of temp workers in the country. Many of them staff huge warehouses that process consumer products shipped into the bustling Port of Newark.
But there’s a grim underbelly of the industry, summed up in a special report by NJ Advance Media in three D’s: “death, discrimination and despair.”
With assistance by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, NJ Advance Media spoke with dozens of temp workers, recruiters, activists and officials to detail the many tribulations of this “invisible workforce.”
There are unlicensed agencies, reporter Kelly Heyboer found, operating in apparent violation of New Jersey state law.
There are deaths, like the temp worker who was crushed in a conveyer belt at an Amazon fulfillment center.
And there are undocumented immigrants eking out a precarious livelihood. Heyboer and her colleagues chronicled the life of 65-year-old Rafael Sanchez, who lives in a cramped garage and works on a factory assembly line as a temp worker.
With help from Reveal, Heyboer also documented allegations of temp agencies hiring based on race and sex, part of a nationwide discrimination problem in the temp industry.
Some agencies even post signs advertising jobs specifically for men or women. Women are often paid less and face sexual harassment.
New Jersey-based Lyneer Staffing Solutions “recruited, hired, and sorted candidates based upon race,” according to a lawsuit from the company’s former director of human resources. The agency referred to black workers as “number 2s,” the lawsuit said.
A Lyneer recruiter stated in a separate lawsuit that her supervisor turned away black applicants in favor of Latinos and said, “We don’t want ghetto people.”
Lyneer’s president, Bryan Smith, told NJ Advance Media, “That is absolutely not our policy.” He said some employers have requested workers of a certain race, but that his company refused to do business with them.
The stories are available in Spanish online and in a special edition of The Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s biggest daily newspaper.