Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Temp Industry: Enablers of precarious employment

In a previous post an excerpt from Guy Standing's book, The Precariat, was provided to show that the growth and reliance on part time work was here to stay. As this segment of society grows it begs the question of where the 'effective demand' and consumption, a cornerstone of market based economies, will come from as more individuals live an existence of precarious employment.

Below is an excerpt from Rob Bryan's article in Jacobin Magazine, titled "Disposable Goods" aimed at overcoming the temp industry.


...Nowadays everyone from underpaid Production Assistants to overpaid bankers brag about their 60, even 70-hour weeks, as if shunning one of labor’s most important victories in the name of professional fealty and at the expense of a personal life were something to be proud of. Reducing these absurd workloads by sharing hours with the unemployed members of their respective industries never comes into consideration. And the idea of rejecting temporary employment as insufficient would today be seen as ungrateful, even  “entitled.”
We no longer live in a world where workers demand what they think they deserve. The dominant ethos of the modern American labor market is as simple as it is defeatist: Take what you can get.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the world of temp jobs. Underpaid, deathly boring, without benefits, and too short to build a life on, most temp jobs are the stuff of socialist nightmares. One wonders what Eugene Debs might make of the modern office temp: atomized, powerless, totally replaceable, hunched in a cubicle for an hourly pittance that might barely be described as a “living wage” if not for the fact that it could all be over at the end of the week, rent and loan payments be damned.

I have temped on and off for about six years, utilizing the services of three different agencies. From two-day gigs moving office furniture to six-month trudges through thousands of digitized invoices, I have known intimately the feeling of temp-hood and have even emitted that sigh of resignation I now warn against: “A temp job is better than no job, right?” That’s how you know you’re hooked.


References:
Ryan, Rob. "Disposable Goods." Jacobin, October 02, 2013. http://jacobinmag.com/2013/10/disposable-goods/ (accessed October 2, 2013).