Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education are shining a light on troubling conditions they uncovered in the state’s property services industry. Their new report, Race to the Bottom: How Low‐Road Subcontracting Affects Working Conditions in California’s Property Services Industry, was released last week.
Women janitors and security guards in the industry— a rapidly growing sector of the state’s economy– are at increased risk of violence and sexual harassment, due to a combination of factors that allow the problems, as the study claims, “to occur and to remain unchecked.”
According to program coordinator for the Labor Occupational Health Program at U.C. Berkeley, Helen Chen, “Janitors and security officers at risk tend to work alone at night in empty buildings…isolated from almost everyone except their immediate supervisors.” Chen, who contributed to the report, announced the study’s findings at a press conference on March 8,
The nature of employment is changing. Employees are increasingly seen as liabilities rather than assets, and so workers are kept at arm’s length from the companies they ultimately serve. Middle-class long-term jobs are shifting to precarious, low-wage work. These contingent relationships include temporary and subcontracted workers, whose ranks have been growing over the past two decades.
In California, almost one-quarter of a million people worked in the temporary help services industry in 2010; another 37,000 people worked for employee leasing firms totaling 282,000 workers in these two industries. This accounted for approximately 2.0 percent of all non-farm employment in California in 2010, approximately the same ratio as for the U.S. as whole. Employment services workers span a wide range of occupations, from professional white collar occupations like nursing, accounting, and computer programming, to blue collar work in transportation and material moving, housekeeping and landscaping,