Joliet zoning board wants review of staffing agencies

Questions raised about temp warehouse jobs

The Zoning Board of Appeals wants city staff to review the numbers of staffing agencies coming to Joliet.

Chairman Ed Hennessy and board members are questioning whether the numbers of employment agencies coming into the city contribute to low-paying, temporary employment.

The board last week approved special use permits for two staffing agencies in divided votes.

Voting in favor of one agency, Hennessy said he did so “reluctantly” and called on city staff to look into the numbers of staffing agencies in Joliet.

He said the board gets zoning requests for staffing offices every time it meets.

“They just keep showing up,” Hennessy said Monday. “You ask the same questions. Are you going to be providing full-time jobs? They say yeah, yeah, yeah. But when you ask who they represent, it’s all these warehouses.”

Hennessy noted that warehouses have developed a reputation for hiring workers for three months and then discharging them before they qualify for benefits.

Warehouse operators and other employers, meanwhile, in recent years have said there is a worker shortage in the Joliet area. The Joliet Region Chamber of Commerce & Industry incorporated a job fair into its annual business expo the last two years.

The issue of quality jobs was raised by zoning board member Leonard Thompson Jr. when two staffing agencies appeared before the board Thursday for permits.

“We have a lot of temporary workers here in town,” Thompson told a representative from HR Metrics, which wants to move into vacant space at 232 S. Larkin Ave.

Thompson and Jim Riggs voted against the permit, which was approved 3-2 and goes to the city council for a final vote.

Thompson later joined a 3-2 majority supporting a special use permit for Innovative Staffing at 423 Collins St. after hearing comments from an attorney representing the company.

“Absolutely, there’s a strong demand for this business,” said attorney John D’Attomo. “That’s the reason we’re standing here today.”

Riggs and Charles McCauley voted against the Innovative Staffing permit.

The City Council also will have the final vote on the Innovative Staffing permit.