Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Idea of the Expendable Employee

As lawmakers in Washington debate job creation, and unemployment rates remain high, the temporary labor workforce continues to grow.

The temp industry has added more jobs than any other over the past three years, according to the American Staffing Association. Nearly 13 million people head to work as temporary and contract employees each year. In an opinion piece for The New York Times, sociologist Erin Hatton traces the evolution of the temp industry and argues that the model has given birth to an anti-worker ideology that must be eliminated.

"Many people have great experiences as temps," she tells NPR's Neal Conan. "What I'm talking about here is this model of employment, the way we think about workers. ... There's this new model of employment where we think that every penny that we spend on a worker is a penny taken away from the bottom line."

Hatton traces the origins of the temporary help industry back to World War II, when temp agencies like Kelly Girls and Manpower were created mainly for secretarial labor. The industry really picked up in the 1970s when agencies started advertising campaigns that pushed the advantages of the temporary employee. A Kelly Girl ad from 1971 showcases "The Never-Never Girl" — a worker who never takes a vacation, asks for a raise or "costs you for fringe benefits." Read more here: NPR

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