A national temporary worker staffing agency and some of its clients have been sued for discriminating against Black workers. It’s a class action suit, filed in federal court by the Workers Law Office, a small but dedicated team of people’s lawyers in Chicago.
The offending agency, MVP Staffing, has 60 offices in 38 states and connects hundreds of businesses with tens of thousands of people seeking temporary employment. But, according to Workers Center lawyer Christopher Williams, 98 percent of the jobs in the Chicago area go to Hispanics, most of them undocumented.
Cheap illegal labor
That’s what most of MVP Staffing’s clients want: undocumented Mexicans who are in no position to argue about working conditions or pay. Temporary work agencies and their business clients conspire to extract super-profits at the expense of both the undocumented workers, who are locked in a twilight zone of low pay and fearful silence, and Black applicants who line up for work every day, but are seldom hired.
The temporary work agencies and their clients play a cynical game, blaming each other for excluding Blacks from the workplace. The agencies say they are simply complying with their clients’ wishes. The clients say they’re not responsible, because the agencies do the hiring.
Some of MVP Staffings employees have told on their bosses. A former dispatcher said the company used a system of code words to deny Black people jobs. African-Americans were sarcastically referred to as “guapos” – which means “the handsome ones” – while Hispanics were code-named “feos,” or “the ugly ones.” It’s a nasty way of saying that Blacks don’t want to get their hands dirty or work as hard as the Mexicans.
Of course, Blacks showed up at the agency every morning, willing to get down and dirty on just about any job. But most often, the Black applicants would wind up sitting in the office beginning at dawn, watching Hispanics get assigned to work all day long, until nobody was left in the room but broke and bitter Black folks.
It was said to be common for managers to ask MVP to only send them workers that listened to 107.9 FM, a Spanish language radio station in Chicago.
If Black applicants somehow got placed on jobs, their paperwork would often be marked “D.N.R.,” meaning “do not return” this person to that job again.
Of course, if Black people didn’t want to work or get their hands dirty, companies like MVP wouldn’t have to deploy such elaborate – and illegal – codes, lies and dirty tricks to keep them unemployed. And if the Mexican workers were not in dread of deportation, they would be just as willing to stand up for decent pay and conditions as Black workers are.
But businessmen control the state and the two political parties that take turns running the state. It’s in these businessmen’s interests for people to believe that Black unemployment in Illinois is three times that of White people and twice the rate of Hispanics because of some flaw in Black culture.
The flaw is in the system of capitalism as it exists in a thoroughly racist United States.
Glen Ford is executive editor of BlackAgendaReport.com. E-mail him at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.