Over forty protesters rallied on Tuesday, November 26 under the banner of the Greater Minnesota Worker Center with the intention of generating awareness for alleged injustices by a local temporary employment agency, the Work Connection. Protesters chanted “What do we want? Justice!” as they braved the morning wind chill temperature of zero degrees and marched in front of the agency’s office.
Local workers charge Work Connection with discrimination, labor violations and what amounts to wage theft through the use of an unfair pay card system.
Back in July, the McDonald’s franchise ceased paying its workers with a pay card system, after outcries that the cards were loaded with numerous fees that left workers essentially paying a bank for access to their wages.
At the protest a Somali women, Asli Adan said:
“I came here this morning because I wanted to participate in this rally against the injustice that Work Connection is practicing. A manager there called me names when I applied for employment through them. She said “bitch” to me and that’s why I’m crying.”
Stephen Philion, St. Cloud University Sociology Professor and Chairman of the Greater Minnesota Worker Center described the protest in broader terms, “Temp agencies like Work Connection provide workers for local businesses including St. Cloud-based GNP Company, a Midwestern chicken producer whose brands are Gold’n Plump and Just Bare. GNP uses temp agencies like Work Connection to evade the liabilities of a full-time workforce.”
“We are witnessing the transformation of our economy from good wage, middle class jobs to low wage, temp jobs, simply so businesses can circumvent U.S. labor laws,” says Philion.
Temporary employment disproportionally affects racial minorities, especially immigrants. St. Cloud’s Somali community provided the majority of the complaints against Work Connection. One Somali worker took his grievances directly to Work Connection’s management.
“There have been numerous allegations of mistreatment and disrespect in this place,” said the worker. “When I brought a girl here to fill out an application and help her with the process she was told to remove her shoes. That is totally inhuman and disrespectful when you tell somebody to remove their shoes.”
Rally participants called on GNP and other companies to stop using the Work Connection and instead, to do as Jennie-O has done and hire their workers directly, which would provide higher wages to employees and avoid the abuses experienced at temporary employment agencies.