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    • wx

      Bloomberg has a story which describes a permanent underclass at Google and in the tech industry — temp workers. It’s a set-up that mirrors the economy at large — a clear division between the haves and the have-nots. The haves wear white badges and have full company privileges. The have-nots wear red badges and do not.

      The have-nots make less, have no job security, sometimes have poor or no health benefits and 20% of their pay is pocketed by the agency which placed them. They have a two-year life span. Yet they manage people and are compelled to act, in every way, as full-time company employees.

      It’s not a small workforce. Bloomberg asserts that at one point this year — maybe even now — Google’s permanent under-class outnumbered its full employees.

      Let that sink in. The red badges, the underclass, outnumbers the privileged class.

      They also work without protection from abuse, apparently, as all complaints are referred to their agency, which seemingly doesn’t care much about stuff like that.

      When I was in the television industry, we used young interns for some tedious tasks. The Department of Labor and the IRS were very clear about what and wasn’t permitted. We also used freelance labor, typically photographers, editors and producers. Again, there was a clear understanding of the legal limitations on hours worked, equipment used, place of work.

      Apparently the dodge with temp agencies is that these freelancers are technically their employees, although they don’t get paid until they’re placed with a tech company. As such, all of their benefits, such as they are, are also handled by the temp agency.

      It’s a sweet deal for Google and the tech industry. Cheap labor.

      I’m trying to think of a parallel in world history. When cheap — or free — labor underpinned the economy. Possibly they came from another city or region. Possibly they were adorned with chains. Possibly it was a practice that endured for millennia.

      No word on whether they wore red badges, though.

    • Us

      we do the same at my sillycone vapid company, but blue badges are the “alternative” work force.

      Profit profit profit

    • yaypie

      For what it’s worth, I started my career as a contractor at Intel and later at McAfee.com when I was in high school. They couldn’t have hired me as a full time employee, but as a contractor I got valuable experience and a decent (for a kid in high school) hourly wage. I didn’t get benefits and I sometimes had to do work nobody else wanted to do, but I think it was worth it. Those jobs gave my career a huge head start and I learned a ton.

      Obviously not every contractor is in that situation, and there’s plenty of exploitation going on, but it’s not all bad. I certainly wouldn’t compare it with slavery. I think that comparison is a bit offensive. Slavery was an absolute horror and a crime against humanity, not a case of a voluntary work force being exploited for low wages.

    • Chris

      The workers I worry about are the contract moderation workers. It isn't the working conditions that get them, but the things they have to see. Apparently it's truly soul-destroying.

    • wx

      Yeah, those Amazon warehouses make me sad. Some weren't air conditioned either, iirc. Hard to believe that Amazon hasn't figured out a way to make their workers more mobile, like using Segways.

    • wx

      Yes, I indulged in a wee bit of hyperbole, no question.

      I do take issue with your reference to "voluntary workforce", as though that's exculpatory. I think that for a lot of people, choices in employment are pretty limited and because of that they're highly vulnerable to exploitation.

      In college I worked my summers in an ice factory. Decently hard job, physcially demanding. We got minimum wage. My second summer, I thought we deserved to earn a little more than that and politely agitated for it. Had my life taken a different path, I might have become involved in union activities. :-)

    • Dracula
    • Chris

      That was crazy. Automation bug marks someone as fired and everyone follows along not knowing it was a bug or who fired her.

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