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Staffing agencies provide chances for immigrants

Staffing agencies provide chances for immigrants

By: AP

MEMPHIS (AP) — University researchers and immigrant workers say staffing agencies provide job opportunities in a growing number of distribution companies that use day laborers. Memphis’ distribution facilities depend on seasonal workers to make up for production demands and staffing agencies can provide thousands of workers on a temporary basis.
Social scientists at the University of Memphis found that many local staffing agencies accepted low-quality fake identification, according to articles published between 2003 and 2006. Many agencies recruit workers by advertising in Spanish-language media and have bilingual recruiters.
Christina Arce, 36, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, said staffing agencies know that applicants use fake identification to get jobs.
“But even knowing that, they hire us. For that reason I also think that it’s a very low salary,” Arce said.
Researchers also said using temporary workers lets the companies avoid responsibility for hiring illegal immigrants. According to a 2005 article: “Lacking fringe benefits such as health insurance and pensions, as well as … sick leave and paid vacations, Latino immigrants may be hired briefly, cheaply and flexibly.”
Williams-Sonoma, Inc., a San Francisco-based high-end retailer, has several distribution facilities in the Memphis area that supply retail stores and fulfill catalog orders for brands like Pottery Barn. The company needs temporary workers for tasks like monograms and packaging.
Arce said ASAP Staffing Services hired her to work at Williams-Sonoma, but she quit after she was demoted this summer. She said most of the workers in the monogram department were Hispanic workers like her that were sent from a staffing agency.
The company declined repeated interview requests from The Commercial Appeal newspaper, but released a short statement.
“We value our work force and, to maintain our success and reputation, we take every measure possible to ensure our compliance with laws and regulations regarding hiring and all other aspects of our business,” the company said. The company said it uses audits to ensure the legality and fairness of its hiring practices.
Bob Phillips, vice president and general manager of ASAP Staffing Services, denied that the company knowingly hires illegal immigrants and uses background checks and a new E-Verify system to confirm Social Security numbers.
He would not confirm whether any individual employees worked for his company or whether the company has a contract with Williams-Sonoma.
Cesar Yzaguirre, 46, a naturalized citizen from Peru who said he works for ASAP, said the firm’s labor force is overwhelmingly Hispanic.
“Williams-Sonoma, they have like 20 percent people from here,” he said. “Eighty percent, immigrants.”
Another large area distributor is Technicolor Home Entertainment Services, whose Memphis operations distribute millions of CDs and DVDs. Mary H. Collier, vice president of human resources for the company, said some immigrant workers probably get past background checks by staffing agencies.
“I believe that’s probably possible,” Collier said. “I think most people understand that in today’s world that obtaining false documentation that looks very valid oftentimes happens. It’s beyond our control.”
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Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com
Published in The Messenger 10.22.07

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