Antonia Bannister, Temp Worker Advocate and Former Temp Worker

Antonia Bannister fears for her younger brother’s safety every day he works as a “temp” at a Jacksonville, Florida, warehouse picking and packaging high-priced clothing and accessories for the global multi-billion-dollar luxury fashion brand Coach.

Coach, like many major corporations operating warehouses and factories in Jacksonville, contracts with a company called Remedy Intelligent Staffing to supply a sizable portion of the labor at its distribution hub in the city.

Antonia’s younger brother is a Remedy “temp” just like two of his older siblings had been.

Back in 2012, Remedy placed their older brother, Lawrence “Day” Davis, at a Bacardi bottling plant in Jacksonville. It was his first job ever, and 90 minutes into his first day, he was killed in a machine accident. He was just 21 years old—the same age Antonia’s younger brother is now.

The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration identified Day’s death as part of a pattern of temp workers dying on their first days on the job.

His death was part of what prompted the agency to launch its Temp Worker Initiative to improve safety for temp workers and lay out the joint responsibility of both “host employers” like Bacardi and staffing agencies like Remedy in ensuring it.

The initiative was an important step. And more needs to be done. Antonia knows firsthand.

After Day’s death, Antonia became the eldest sibling, felt a new sense of responsibility to her family, and vowed that she would never take a job that put her safety at risk.

But “times get hard, and a lot of time it’s only the warehouses and factories, only hiring through temp agencies, that have work readily available when you need it most.”

Desperate for work, she had to go to the same staffing agency that employed Day. “It never felt right, but it was my only option.”

Antonia worked in warehouses for Remedy for a total of 5 years, 4 of which were at Coach’s old warehouse location in Jacksonville.

While there, she once injured her ankle when she was not provided with the proper equipment to safely do her job, and once fainted because of extreme heat in the warehouse. After neither incident did Coach nor Remedy ask Antonia whether she needed to see a doctor. Each time, she was sent to an onsite medical room, given ice or water, then expected to return to work.

She was forced to seek out and pay for medical treatment on her own for her ankle injury, and doubts that the injury was even logged by her employers.

Antonia explains that temp workers in Jacksonville’s industrial parks are often placed in more dangerous jobs than permanent workers at their worksites, safety training is lacking, and host employers fail to show concern, treating temps as disposable.

As a temp, they don’t care about your safety, or us as people.

Everybody is expendable because the staffing agency can always get another person to work that position.

As a “permatemp” at Coach for four long years, she worked with stagnant wages, no benefits, no paid time off, no sick time, “no freedom” to balance her life with her work.

She earned less in wages and benefits than permanent workers, and unlike them, her seniority provided her no say in selecting a floor assignment.

When she was finally offered a permanent position for a meager 25-cent raise, she quit.
After her 4 long years, she says the offer “made me feel like I had no value.”

Antonia found a job in daycare, and she does hair for extra money—she hopes to open her own salon one day.

Although Antonia is no longer a temp worker, her years of experience as one, the trauma of losing Day to a temp job, and her younger brother’s current temp employment, have made her a fierce advocate for temp worker rights.

She joined the National Temp Worker Council of a national temp worker advocacy group called Temp Worker Justice (TWJ) in 2020.

Through her work with TWJ, she’s speaking out and raising awareness about the dangers and insecurity of temp work, the inequity it creates in workplaces, and she’s fighting to make work better and safer for temp workers like her younger brother.

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