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SPRINGFIELD — Legislation aimed at improving working conditions for Illinoisans who work in the temporary-jobs industry was introduced Wednesday by state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana.

HB 690, referred to by supporters as the Responsible Job Creation Act, would affect as many as 800,000 Illinois residents employed by temporary-job agencies, primarily in manufacturing and warehouses, according to the American Staffing Association.

"Unfortunately in Illinois, people are suffering, are abused in hard, worn-down temporary jobs, all with no benefits for their families," Ammons said at a Statehouse news conference. "While direct hires at least receive a wage that they can live on, the conditions for temporary workers are not the same."

Workers hired through temp agencies don't undergo the same kind of safety training, are subject to sexual violence and racial harassment, and don't get the same kinds of benefits, Ammons said.

"This bill is designed to close the enforcement gap that many workers experience as they go through this process," she said.

Provisions in the legislation include requirements that staffing firms give 48 hours' notice of schedule changes, do not charge employees for the cost of drug testing and provide transportation to and from job sites.

They'd also be mandated to give temporary workers the same pay and benefits as direct-hire workers at the same location for the same work.

Ammons said her son, Jelani, had a sour experience with a temporary-staffing agency in Mississippi two summers ago.

"At the beginning of that experience, he thought that the place he was going to work was going to pay him an entry-level salary of $12 an hour," she said. "But at the end of that two weeks, he realized he only received $8.25 (an hour). He was expecting to be able to pay for his books, but he had to call home and say that he needed help.

"He also received the pay in a debit card that charged him fees to just get access to the money he had worked for. The transaction fee in some instances was more than he had made that day."

Ammons said she advised her son to quit the job.

"He did, but many people don't have that option," she said. "Many people don't have the option to just get out of there with someone there to help them."

Columnist

Tom Kacich is a columnist and the author of Tom's Mailbag at The News-Gazette. His column appears Sundays. His email is tkacich@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@tkacich).