Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

This Week in the War on Workers: Temp Work Isn't Safe and it Often Isn't Temporary

January 11th, 2014 | Laura Clawson

Temp workers face higher risk of injury and even death on the job than workers directly employed by the companies they work for, a December ProPublica report showed:

A ProPublica analysis of millions of workers’ compensation claims shows that in five states, representing more than a fifth of the U.S. population, temps face a significantly greater risk of getting injured on the job than permanent employees.In California and Florida, two of the largest states, temps had about 50 percent greater risk of being injured on the job than non-temps. That risk was 36 percent higher in Massachusetts, 66 percent in Oregon and 72 percent in Minnesota.

Laura ClawsonCompanies fail to provide basic training or safety equipment for temps, even when they’re working around dangerous equipment; injured temps don’t receive care or are fired. And, as Sarah Jaffe reports this week, temp doesn’t really mean temporary anymore, even in what used to be considered good manufacturing jobs:

As an “associate” (the firm’s preferred term for temp), [Betty McCray] works alongside permanent Nissan employees, but she is treated differently. She says she is paid less, gets no personal days and has to bring a doctor’s note if she is sick. Her job feels precarious, like she could be let go at any time.The path to becoming an “employee,” that elusive goal, is far from clear. Tracy Logan, 34, worked through Yates on Nissan’s assembly line for a year before winning a promotion to a position as a robot tender, overseeing the robots that spray paint on the car parts. To his surprise, he remained a temp. “When I first arrived at Nissan, that position was considered Class A—only Nissan personnel can hold that position,” he says. “I put in for it, thinking that would be a way of getting on with Nissan. Somewhere in there, they changed the classification of the job, but didn’t let us know.”

Manufacturers increasingly use temps even for skilled labor, and often pay low wages. Skilled manufacturing jobs done by temps at $10 an hour? That’s what you call clear evidence of the race to the bottom.

This article was originally printed on Daily Kos on January 11, 2014.  Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Laura Clawson is the labor editor for the Daily Kos.

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