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(DV) Sandronsky: Temp Workers Are U.S.







Temp Workers Are U.S.
New Frontiers in Labor Flexibility
by Seth Sandronsky
July 18, 2005

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The U.S. employment services sector is projected to have a 4.4 percent average annual rate of growth through 2012, states the Bureau of Labor Statistics. People who toil in that sector are usually called temporary workers.

Against that backdrop, economic recovery means many things. One thing can be more hiring opportunities for temporary employees in the U.S.

In the current phase of the business cycle, American employers are increasing their hiring of temporary workers, slowly. The demand for such employment had dropped in the recession of 2001 that followed the stock market slide.

For employers, the basic virtue of temporary employees is their flexibility. What makes them this way is the shaky nature of their employment.

Are we talking labor union representation here? Forget about it!

You see temporary workers stay on a payroll for a limited time -- three weeks or three months -- then they are gone like a fist when you open your palm. This is a wet dream come true for employers whose hiring is subject to the ebbs and flows of their short-term needs.

And the modern business enterprise is all about the short term, thanks to the dog-eat-dog competition of the market. Long-term business planning is for social malcontents; they put people’s daily needs before business profits.

Such a perspective is positively anti-American. We know how patriotic employers are by the sizes of the flags that some of them have at their establishments.

Crucially, permanent employees are less flexible to employers. These workers’ places on payrolls are more stable than their temporary counterparts in the U.S. labor force.

Yet permanent work at regular wages can promote individual and social stability. That is as plain as night and day, and one reason why employers hire temporary workers: they labor in a position of heightened subordination.

You might think that cheerleaders for so-called family values would protest such shabby treatment of working people in the U.S. But they don’t and that silence is most deafening.

Against that backdrop, U.S. hiring of temporary workers is done increasingly by staffing companies such as Manpower Inc., and not the employing firm for which the temporary employee labors. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also uses the term “temporary help agency” . . . “engaged in supplying workers to client businesses for limited periods of time.”

This cheery set-up facilitates the labor flexibility of temporary employees. Work force flexibility also means less money spent on employees by employers, a nice deal for investors, too.

Here, then, is a daily situation of increased workplace exploitation that occurs place day and night across the U.S., limiting hours and pay to workers, who also lack health care, retirement pensions and vacations.

Supposedly, this approach improves so-called business efficiencies by eliminating fringe benefits. And what could be more wonderful than that for the forces pummeling the U.S. working class now?

Seth Sandronsky is a member of Peace Action and co-editor with Because People Matter, Sacramento’s progressive paper. He can be reached at:

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