Unlike the Kelly Girls of years past, today’s temp workers are just as likely to be hired to fill blue collar jobs as office positions, with one major caveat: the new “temporary” hires who pick crops, pack vegetables or clean hotel rooms can work at those jobs for years at the same company — and with little or no advancement. And, according to recent research, that’s exactly the way some of America’s largest companies like it.
The practice has become so pervasive that California Assemblymember Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) is pushing forward a bill, modeled on similar laws passed in Illinois and Massachusetts, intended to hold companies accountable for serious violations of workers’ rights committed by their own labor suppliers.
“As new jobs are added to the economy, employers are utilizing the subcontracted model known as ‘perma-temps’ to avoid accountability in the workplace,” Hernandez said last week.
This week we continue our series about the shaping of California’s laws and policies by Corporate Democrats. In his second article, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Gary Cohn examines how a bill does not become a law when powerful business interests lobby against it.
Jim Araby was dead asleep when his cell phone rang at 6 a.m. last June. Until then the labor activist had been enjoying an idyllic family vacation in Guerneville, on Sonoma County’s Russian River. But the number appearing on his phone told him the call was from Sacramento, suggesting bad news. The voice he now heard confirmed it.
“Can you get here?” a union colleague asked. “We need you.”
Araby, a regional director of the United Food and Commercial Workers, listened in dismay as he learned that Assembly Bill 880, which more than half a dozen community groups and unions had supported,
A bag of oranges
to be heavy
but hold one
yourself and count
cars driving by.
As she stands between
the stack of salty
peanuts and dusty
grapes, the bag
gets heavier and it
retains that heaviness
when it’s passed through
the window; and the driver,
hoisting it onto
the passenger’s seat,
thinks, this is a lot of
fruit for two dollars.
Source: “Complexities” first appeared in CQ: California State Poetry Quarterly, Winter 1986-1987; Volume 13, Number 4. It was subsequently selected as one of the poems for the 1988 SMARTS (Santa Monica Arts) Poetry on the Bus project. It also appeared as a spoken word track on Vehemence (New Alliance Records, 1993).
Bill Mohr is an associate professor in the Department of English at California State University,
“Truthfully, I’m burned out,” Wendy Kaufmyn sighs over the phone. “And frankly we’re all just really tired. We’re having a meeting next week to try and revitalize ourselves.”
Kaufmyn, a tenured engineering instructor at the embattled City College of San Francisco (CCSF) and a cofounder of the Save CCSF Coalition, is speaking about the 21-month fight for survival of California’s largest community college. The strain and weariness are evident in her quivering voice.
“I’ve been here 31 years,” she tells Capital & Main. “I love City College and I’m just heartsick at what’s going on. I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Kaufmyn is not alone. Since January, when San Francisco Superior Court Judge Curtis Karnow issued a preliminary injunction that temporarily barred the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) from pulling CCSF’s academic accreditation, a cloud of uncertainty has hung over the 79-year-old institution and the future of its 80,000 students.
Vocation of the Chair
It longs to be the one
who holds you, keeps you
from falling, its curved legs
shapely as a bride.
The chair that would be saint.
martyr, acolyte. Your little
sins of omission and false pride
cannot sway it — the chair believes
in you. It grows taller in the dark.
Soon it will fill the room,
its cushion of praise all you need
in the crude and faithless light.
Laurel Ann Bogen is the author of 10 books of poetry and short fiction. In 2016, Red Hen Press will publish All of the Above: New and Selected Poems 1975-2015. From 1996 until 2002 she was literary curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.