“Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts.” If you remember that quote, you’re as old as I am – no spring chicken. Anyway, that is what I will attempt to do in this post, just report the facts.
Several weeks ago, as I hugged my friend Kenneth in the Monday breakfast line, I said, “Hey, man! Where’ve you been? I haven’t seen you in a long time!” My buddy responded, “Yeah, good to see you. Me? I’m working. I don’t get up here much.” I said, “Great, awesome that you have a job! Where are you working? “ Kenneth said, matter-of-factly, “Oh, I’m still with the City. Been there four years, but they don’t pay but $7.25 an hour and you can’t live on that.”
I had just read in the newspaper twice in the preceding weeks that City Council had voted to pay all temporaries $10 an hour, and all permanent employees $12 an hour.
So I said, and I’m sure he could hear the outrage in my voice, “What did you say? You’re working for the City at minimum wage?” And Kenneth said, “Yeah. Through Patriot Staffing. The City contracts with them.”
I told Kenneth about the newspaper articles and he got all excited. He said, “Me and a whole lot of other people are working for that pay too. Can you get us more???” I asked what kinds of work they’re doing. Kenneth said, “Cleaning the streets, working at the landfill, the water department, you know, lots of stuff. Some of them have been working for Patriot for more years than I have. I know Jerry’s been there, at the landfill, for about ten years.”
My blood boiled. And yes, I am still reporting facts. Well, I guess your blood can’t boil. So not quite the facts, but you get the picture.
So I started investigating. Called Patriot Staffing. They gave the politically correct run-around answers, as I expected. So I called a high-ranking City employee that I know well. She said contact the City Manager. I wanted things in writing so I emailed him a whole bunch of questions, like how many people as temps, how long are they temps, etc. Took more than a month to get any response – and I kept calling and emailing. Finally, I got an emailed formal response. This is copied directly from it, my question is first in black, and the City’s response is in blue:
- What is the compensation rate per hour paid to the employee by the employer, for example, Patriot?
The records responsive to this request would be in the custody of the staffing agency. You may wish to contact them to obtain this information.
So… I had already called the staffing agency, and of course they’re not going to tell me what they’re paying these folks. I thought about it for a couple of days, and contacted our local paper, the News and Record, who has been reporting the “great news” that City Council had voted to increase pay for temps . So, the News and Record looked into it and reported on it. I gave them all the info I had. I drove out to the landfill and talked to many more of the guys myself. Yep, $7.25.
And then, well, the “what happened next” part is in the email I’ve pasted below. On June 6, I sent this e-mail to all City Council members and several people at the News and Record:
——— Forwarded message ———-
From: Amy Murphy <email@example.com>
Date: Mon, Jun 6, 2016 at 6:42 PM
Subject: The opportunity to make it right
To: “Vaughan, Nancy (Mayor)” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, “Fox, Jamal” <Jamal.Fox@greensboro-nc.gov>, Sharon Hightower <Sharon.email@example.com>, Justin Outling <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Nancy Hoffman <email@example.com>, Mike Barber <firstname.lastname@example.org>, MariKay Abuzuaiter <email@example.com>, firstname.lastname@example.org, Yvonne Johnson <email@example.com>
Cc: Susan Ladd <firstname.lastname@example.org>, email@example.com, “Johnson, Allen” <Allen.Johnson@greensboro.com
Mayor Vaughan and Council Members,
We have the opportunity to make it right.
I think we could all agree that it is not right to employ anyone for ten years as a temporary at minimum wage, as in the case of Jerry Long in Margaret Moffett’s article, http://www.greensboro.com/news/chicken-lady-don-t-blame-hb-for-city-s-wage/article_4a72be00-a2ad-5077-8056-45f71335401c.html, on April 30.
From the article: “Those contracts and others like them are binding. Even without the new provision in HB2, the city couldn’t change those contracts to require higher minimum wages, said City Councilman Jamal Fox. Temporary workers should earn as much as city employees for doing the same job, he said, but ‘Our hands are tied.’ ‘There’s only so much we can do,’ he said.”
And now that has changed. We no longer have a contract with Patriot Staffing, as I learned this morning.
Mr. Kenneth Vaughan, who has been working for Patriot as a temp in various positions, such as cleaning the streets and working at the landfill, came to breakfast this morning when we served downtown. Here is what he said: “Amy, Patriot lost the contract! Now, there’s like 100 people out of work. They told us this morning. I just came from there. This includes people cleaning the streets, working at the landfill, working at the Coliseum. What are we going to do now?”
Excellent question and a golden opportunity for the employer – you and me, the governing body and every taxpayer – to make it right. HB2 does not affect what we as a city pay temps or permanent employees. We can do what we should have done years ago: the city should hire the people directly who have been faithful employees for years and pay them fair wages. It is time for us to step up to the plate.
We all know the money paid to temp agencies is far more than the employees ever see. We should employ them and raise their standard of living. Now is the time.
I didn’t expect to get a response – and I didn’t – but I’m not giving up. We have the opportunity to make it right. Every one of us is the employer. And why would we be okay with the people we employ waiting in a bread line?