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  • Writer's pictureDave DeSario

Temp Workers Demand Good Jobs

Updated: May 16, 2022

Widespread industry abuses revealed by more than 1,300 “temp” workers who spoke out in Temp Worker Justice’s national survey

You did this, fellow temp workers! Over the last two years, temp workers from 47 states and through 5 workers’ centers shared their experiences in a first-of-its-kind large scale survey turned national report “Temp Workers Demand Good Jobs.”

“Temporary” workers have helped keep the country running throughout the pandemic. Their work for the largest corporations, in the most essential industries, has made it possible for others to safely stay at home. Yet, most people have little sense of what it’s like to work in the temp industry, with many believing the big lie of “temp to perm” - until now.

Key findings that workers brought to light in the new report:

  • Deception: 72% were misled about basic terms and conditions of their temp jobs, with falsehoods about conversion to permanent jobs the most common issue

  • Permatemping”: 35% reported that their current “temp” assignment had lasted over one year, and 18% had been at their current temp assignment over two years.

  • Wage Theft: 24% reported that, while working as a temp, their employers have stolen wages from them in at least one of three ways—paid less than the minimum wage, failed to pay the overtime rate, or failed to pay for all hours worked.

  • Workplace Injury: 17% reported experiencing a work-related injury or illness while employed through a staffing agency. Of those workers, 36% didn’t receive any medical care, and 41% had to pay for care on their own.

  • Employer Retaliation: when they spoke out, 71% said that they experienced retaliation for raising workplace issues with a supervisor or management.

  • Worker Power: 80% are interested in joining a worker organization like a union that works to improve conditions for temp workers.

New data on temp work helps to the story, but the experiences that workers themselves share are even more powerful.

“As a temp, they don’t care about your safety, or us as people,” said Antonia Bannister, a member of the National Temp Worker Council at Temp Worker Justice, whose brother was killed on the first day at work for temp agency Remedy Intelligent Staffing. “Everybody is expendable because the staffing agency can always get another person to work that position.

“Since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, I’ve temped in warehouses with no safety protocols, no masks, no social distancing,” said temp worker Alfred White, who is a member of Warehouse Workers for Justice and the National Temp Worker Council at Temp Worker Justice. “But even before the pandemic I was put in unsafe situations—any time you put me in front of a machine that I’m not properly trained to operate, me and my coworkers are at risk. That happens too often. Most of us are scared to speak up because we’re afraid of retaliation and we’re barely scraping by, just trying to put food on the table. That’s why we need to organize and educate each other about our rights on the job and fight for better laws to protect us.”

Worker surveys and personal stories like these have already helped reach the highest levels, showing us that temp workers have the power to force change: even getting the attention of Congress.

“This eye-opening report helps to highlight the fact that, in America, temporary employees work just as hard as permanent workers, yet they receive smaller paychecks, less job stability/certainty, and fewer workplace protections,” said Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO). “To level the playing field for American workers and ensure that working class families receive their fair share of the pie from a growing economy—something Fortune 500 companies have clearly demonstrated they are unwilling to do—it is critical that Congress take action to protect temp workers now. That’s why I’m working diligently to reintroduce a strengthened Restoring Worker Power Act, which will guarantee temp workers receive equal pay for equal work.”

What can you do?

Temp Workers: Take TWJ’s new 2022 Temp Work Survey to get help, join the movement, and have your voice heard!

Download PDF • 2.16MB


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