Houston

Temp workers call on Houston, Harris County to crack down on staffing agencies’ practices

The group said they want the local government, who often contracts with staffing agencies, to regulate workforce treatment in its staff.

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Sharon Bamberg said she is still waiting on the American dream as she deals with unfair work practices.

Dozens of temporary workers gathered outside Houston City Hall to protest what they called exploitative practices within local staffing agencies that are contracted through the city and county.

The group said they want the local government, who often contracts with staffing agencies, to regulate workforce treatment in its staff.

"Even if I was promised employment, it never came to pass," Sharon Bamberg, one of the protesters, said. "I want to be able to screen potential employers, just like they screen us."

Bamberg is a mother and a grandmother who says she's in search of the American dream.

"I work often work two jobs just to cover my expenses," she said. "What I'm asking for is equal pay. It's criminal to rob people who are only trying to pursue the pursuit of happiness."

The city of Houston and Harris County officials have active contracts with staffing agencies, but they don't regulate them.

Thurman Reese, 48, is in the same boat as Bamberg.

"I've been working as a temp since 1992. I was a janitor, a construction worker and I did some clinical work," said Reese. "I was guaranteed a job after 90 days and I would be hired by the company, and it didn't work out."

Hany Khalil, Executive Director of the Texas Gulf Federation of Labor, oversees 90 unions with 60,000 temporary workers. For decades he said he's seen billion-dollar corporations try to mistreat temporary workers.

"They have been converting jobs, good jobs, to temporary jobs, (that) has been the main strategy that they've used," Khalil said. "That is why we have seen and watched the growth in the temporary staffing agency in Houston with great concern."

Khalil said the current partnership between the agencies and local government means agencies have hardly any transparency or accountability.

"As we prepare for the federal funding from the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the Inflation Reduction Act to come down to the area, it's incumbent upon our elected officials to do all they can within their power to ensure that these jobs are good jobs. Not that they are just temporary jobs, but they lead to full-time jobs and that they don't hurt the workers that are working in full time jobs as well."