U.S. Failing to Protect Temp Workers

Sarah Berlin

Temporary workers in the United States are some of the least protected in the developed world, according to a study from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In the wake of the recession, American companies have increasingly relied on workers from temp agencies. These workers often labor for years without ever being hired on full time and are frequently assigned to dangerous jobs with little training. The OECD data shows that other developed countries provide extensive legal protection for temporary workers. Pro Publica reports: In contrast, countries around the globe have responded to similar abuses by adopting laws to protect the growing number of temps in their workforces. These include limiting the length of temp assignments, guaranteeing equal pay for equal work and restricting companies from hiring temps for hazardous tasks.   “The lack of basic protections for temporary workers in this country is shameful,” Rep. George Miller, the ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee, said in a statement. “It is important that the U.S. examine some of these provisions and consider whether they can serve as models for statutes to help protect American workers.”…   Almost half of the 43 countries that the OECD collects data on restrict the duration of temp assignments. In Brazil, assignments are limited to three months unless the ministry of labor grants an extension. In Japan and Italy, the limit is three years. In the Czech Republic, it’s 12 months. In the United States, temp workers often hold such jobs without recourse for years. Several states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Illinois, have passed laws that place some restrictions on temp agencies. But it seems reform on the national level is unlikely to gain much traction: It has been 43 years since legislation proposed to protect temp workers has even been granted a hearing in Congress.  

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Sarah Berlin is an intern at In These Times.
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