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The Dangers Of The New Temporary Workforce

Earlier this month the U.S. Labor Department revealed some surprising news, that the number of temporary workers in the U.S. has hit the highest level ever: 2.7 million. Even more surprising is that one fifth of the total job growth that has occurred since the recession ended in 2009 has been in the temporary workforce sector. Data from the American Staffing Association says that each year 10 percent of all American workers find a job with a staffing agency, meaning the temporary workforce is even bigger than almost anyone imagined.

Though the larger temp workforce includes secretaries and office assistants, the overwhelming majority of the growth that has occurred in the temp market has come in the blue-collar segment, specifically among those working in factories and warehouses. Several temp agencies, such as Adecco and Manpower, are now among the largest employers in the United States. One list placed Kelly Services as second largest only to Wal-Mart.

A recent lengthy profile in Time Magazine revealed some of the deplorable conditions that much of the country’s blue-collar temporary workforce endures. The author pointed out that many blue collar temp workers get by on minimum wage, renting rooms in rundown houses, eating basic dinners consisting of staples, and relying on taxpayer-funded health care. Almost none of these workers receives benefits and few, if any, have any possibility of career advancement.

Beyond these miserable living conditions, the temp system also harms workers because it protects the host companies from workers’ compensation claims, unemployment taxes, union mobilization efforts and the duty to ensure that their workers are citizens or legal immigrants. Because of all these advantages, the temp workers frequently suffer high rates of injury and many of them are forced to endure hours of unpaid waiting and face fees that can lower their actual take-home pay below minimum wage.

Studies have shown that temp agencies frequently rank among the worst large industries for the rate of wage and hour violations, according a ProPublica analysis of federal data. A 2005 Labor Department survey, the most recent data on file, discovered that only four percent of temporary workers have pensions or retirement plans from their employers. The study showed that only eight percent receive health insurance from their employers, compared with 56 percent of permanent workers.

Many economists predict the growth of temp work will continue beyond the recession, in part because of the recent healthcare reform law. Unfortunately the effort to provide insurance coverage will likely result in many large employers shifting segments of their workforce to temporary hires and thus avoid having to pay the costs of insuring full-time workers.

Source: “The 4 A.M. Army,” by Michael Grabell, published at Time.com.

Source: “Temp Work Growth Has Spawned New Dangers For Workers, Study Finds,” by Dave Jamieson, published at HuffingtonPost.com.

See Our Related Blog Posts:
Increasing Number of Workers File Wage and Hour Complaints
Ongoing Lawsuit Against Creekstone Farms

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