Temp Work Looking More Permanent

Wednesday, 10 July 2013 | A Public Affair

Job creation has long been a hot-button item for Americans and lawmakers. As the number of temporary workers continues to hike, however, maybe the discussion we need to have is one on the kinds of jobs that are being created. Learn more about the rise of temporary workers.

On the Wednesday, July 10th A Public Affair, host Tim Hansel was joined by Erin Hatton, author of “The Temp Economy: From Kelly Girls to Permatemps in Postwar America” and Leone Jose Bicchieri of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative to discuss the history, the rising numbers of and the issues with temporary work and workers in the United States today.

Kelly GirlErin Hatton’s book “The Temp Economy” outlines the rise of temporary staffing agencies as a legitimate source of labor. She argues that in post-WWII America, staffing agencies such as Kelly Girls and Manpower were able to avoid union scrutiny and objection by marketing their workers as white-collar housewives who were bored and looking for some extra cash. In actuality, of course, they employed both male and female employees and many of the female employees were very much working out of financial necessity.

Since the days of the “Kelly Girls”, the company has changed their name to “Kelly Services” and is now one of the largest employers in the U.S. Temporary workers, meanwhile, are growing faster than any other business sector, with around 3 million in the U.S. currently. More and more employers are seeing temporary workers as an efficient and cheap labor option.

Leone Bicchieri of the Chicago Workers’ Collaborative also joined the show to discuss his on-the-ground experience with temporary work. As an advocate for low-wage and temporary workers in Chicago, he explained first-hand the working conditions and abuses that many of these employees face. Moreover, he explained how the rising numbers of temporary workers divides employees so they can’t organize, collaborate, or form unions. If the permanent workers can be kept angry at the lower-paid temporary work, while temporary staffing agencies themselves often discriminate by race, then all the workers end up with lower wages and the companies end up with higher profits. He also discussed the creation of the National Staffing Workers Alliance to help organize temporary workers.

Copyright: Chicago Worker’s Collaborative


Finally, Hatton touched on the idea of the “permatemp” worker, someone who is hired on (sometimes even in high-skill jobs) as a temp but whom the company then holds on to work indefinitely. Since companies pay lower wages and no benefits for temporary workers, it is clear that without regulation or action this kind of exploitation will only continue to grow.

Listen to the entire show:

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John Quinlan, Carousel Bayrd, Tim Hansel, Karma Chavez, Allen Ruff, & Esty Dinur
A Public Affair is WORT's daily hour-long talk program. It aims to engage listeners in a conversation on social, cultural, and political issues of importance. The guests range from local activists and scholars to notable national and international figures.

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