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  • Janell L.

I am a Temp

What it's like to always be "temporary."

I am a temp. I’m sitting in someone else’s desk, doing someone else’s job; we were probably not introduced. You see me for a few days, few weeks, or maybe even a few months and then I’m gone. After a few weeks, no one there probably remembers my name. I’m off to my next job and then my next one. I’ll be a few days here, a few days there, possibly a few weeks somewhere else and even maybe get really lucky and get a job for a few months after that. If I’m really lucky, I may get two jobs that are back-to-back; so, I’ll know where I am for the next few months. I carry my basic office supplies in the rear seat of my car and in my purse; because I don’t know what my options will be at the office and there are certain things I like; such as a particular wrist rest and pens I like to use. And it’s a high priority to get that organized, after I get my badge and my computer account, after all I’ll only be given a few minutes of training and I’ve learned to keep notes. I’ve worked in just about every industry; I’ve been a medical file clerk, a receptionist (in all sorts of places), a sales secretary at a convention hotel, verified employment for mortgages, supported SBA lending and even worked for the local county government.

And that, is if I’m in an office. You might also see me in your local factory as well. And again, we probably have not been introduced. I’m there for one of a few reasons. The first is that they just need me for a day or two to help out, and then I’ll be gone. The second is that I’m there to do a support position that needs to be done, but one for which the company does not want to hire a regular employee. The third is that they are trying me out before offering me a regular job; in which case at one point we may meet.

In all these cases, I’m probably getting paid less than you are. Out of that I have to buy clothes, food, have a car, and get an apartment. If I’m a single mother, there are expenses for my child as well. If I’m very fortunate, I’ll get paid for holidays; but generally, I won’t be. I have no paid sick leave, nor paid vacation (not that I can afford to take one). I also have no health insurance. If I’m sick, I just have to deal with it and come to work, if I’m able.

You ask what we want. Basically, we want the same things you do. We want to be able to raise our kids, buy what we want and go do Disneyland. We want to know that we’re not in danger on the job. We want to be able to go to the doctor and the dentist. We would really like the same holiday pay that you get. Yes, we realize that our jobs will not be as stable as yours, but we want the basics. Are we asking for too much?

Now, you are probably wondering why I’ve told you everything above.I want you to understand what I’ve written because there was a bill introduced in Congress in 2020 that would have given us some legal rights. Among the major issues this bill address is pay, safety training and mandatory reporting to the state departments of labor.The last one is the most important part of this bill, in my opinion. It will probably surprise you to learn that temporaries are not part of regular state labor statistics. No one really knows how many people are doing temp work, how much they are paid, nor how often they are hurt or killed on the job. And while some states now have laws that require this type of reporting, they are not as comprehensive as in this bill.If we want to do anything to help the workers in this industry; we need the data that this bill will provide; data that is reported to the state departments of Labor and available for everyone.

Before you move on, and probably forget my name, please just remember what it’s like for us temps, and keep an eye out for us; you might see us where you least expect.

About the Author

Janell L. is a member of the National Temp Worker Council, supported by Temp Worker Justice. A long-time temp worker, she lives with her husband in Florida, and hopes her hard work will finally lead to a more stable life.

Contact us if you're interested in sharing your experience as a temporary worker - we can answer your questions and help with writing or editing.


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