Temp Nonagency 2
National Public Radio is running a story about temping by Linton Weeks that’s long on bizarre analogies to hair dye and divorce (vows:divorce::contracts:job security) and anecdotal positivity (temping is “performance art”) but short on perspective.
When I was working temp jobs in 2005, I wrote about the same trend in response to this report from the Iowa Policy Project. The report made the following points—I’ve seen nothing to discredit or alter them in the intervening years:
- The number of temporary workers in the United States is undercounted.
- The number of temporary workers in the United States is increasing, and has been since the 1990s.
- The trend is driven by corporations unloading the number of commitments they make to their employees.
- The trend is obscured by advocates claiming that workers prefer
getting screwedless security, lower pay, and no benefits.
Weeks’s story pretty clearly falls under the last bullet.
If Weeks were serious about investigating temping further, he would be wise to leave Facebook behind and research a specific sector of the economy that has oriented itself toward temporary labor. I lean on education a lot because it’s what I’m most familiar, but it’s also true that the face of education’s labor force has mirrored the trend in the last decade. By the same token, if Weeks were serious about investigating temp workers further, he would be wise to ask temps fewer questions about what they think about how they live and instead find out how they actually live. How much debt this temp owns, how that temp scrapes up the cash to pay her rent, how a trip to the emergency room changes this temp’s prospects, whether that temp has time enough to do anything but work: Such are the kinds of details that make for better labor reporting than is on display in the NPR story.