NEW YORK -- Michael Grabell wins the July Sidney Award for “The Expendables: How the Temps Who Power Corporate Giants are Getting Crushed.” Grabell documents how corporate America eliminated countless full-time jobs and replaced them with a shifting cast of exploitable “permatemps.”

In his ProPublica article, Grabell describes the conditions of temporary workers who spend the early hours of the day in temporary labor agency offices hoping to be called for a day of minimum wage work. Those who are fortunate enough to get work are piled into overcrowded vans to be transported to jobs at major companies like Walmart, Macy’s, Nike, and Frito-Lay.

“With each passing recession, more and more companies have turned to temp agencies to ride out what has become unending uncertainty and to avoid workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance costs/headaches to gain an advantage over their competitors,” Grabell said.

Grabell reports that a record 2.7 million people are temporary workers in the United States. These jobs account for nearly one-fifth of all job growth since the end of the Great Recession. One out of ten U.S. workers will take a temp job in any given year -- with blue collar jobs especially hard-hit by the temp trend.

Temps reportedly are paid 25 percent less than permanent workers doing the same job. They also do not receive health or retirement benefits.
 
“The implication for the economy is a growing sector of the workforce with low pay and no health insurance or retirement savings,” Grabell explained. “In reality, the taxpayers pick up the costs in the form of food stamps, Medicaid and emergency-room care and Social Security later in life.”

Companies also hire temps to avoid workers’ compensation costs. José Miguel Rojo packed frozen pizzas for the same Walmart supplier for 8 years--as a temp--before being injured on the job last summer. Big companies can shrug off poor working conditions or immigration violations in their own factories because the workers officially work for the temp agency.

Temp workers have little recourse when they encounter low pay, poor working conditions and little stability. “Since the host company is not the legal employer, the worker has no direct outlet to the person controlling the wage or work environment. In some temp contracts, even though they are regular employees for weeks, months or years, they are legally hired and let go every day,” Grabell said.

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