Saturday, November 12

a brief digression on manpower, inc.

As of this weekend, I have actually lost track of the number of weeks my current employers, Manpower, have failed to pay me on time. What that means for me this weekend is that I can't read A Feast for Crows, go see State Radio, or hit the bars. What it means for a lot of my co-workers is that checks will bounce and groceries are going to have to wait.

Manpower is a large, widespread, and apparently reputable temporary employment agency. Temp agencies are built on what I imagine is a lucrative form of exploitation: In exchange for finding you quick employment, they skim 5 or 6 bucks off the top of your wage. Once the costs of matching a particular job to an individual are met (background checks and drug tests, for example), all an agency really has to do is take care of payroll and cover its own ass in legal terms. Temporary employees, meanwhile, are attractive to businesses because they are disposable at a moment's notice and are paid at a flat rate. There's little need to worry about benefits, wage increases, paid vacation, or much of anything else.

This business model is insidious and probably contributes to the inequities of the labor market. It's also self-sustaining. A large pool of temporary workers does much to ensure that jobs for the unskilled and inexperienced are only open through temp agencies. That said, if you enter the situation with your eyes open, temping can make sense. After months of searching for something reliable, I walked into a Manpower office and had full-time work the next day. This is not a substitute for the sorts of connections that will find you most decent jobs, but it's one of the few reliable mechanisms in their absence.

It may well be that Manpower, given that they are fundamentally a rent-seeking entity, are generally conscientious enough to ensure that their employees - a great many of whom must be living from paycheck to paycheck like my fellow $9 an hour peons - are paid in a timely fashion. This is certainly not true of the Louisville, Colorado office.