Unions are still important.

If welfare was only for people who were too lazy to work, even though they were fully capable, it wouldn't exist.  Even though there is abuse of this system, it still serves it's original purpose for some people, and that's why you can still apply for welfare if you need it. 

Same goes for unions.  Yes, there are many people who are buying their benefits, promotions, and job security with union dues.  Yes, unions have fought for and achieved many laws that protect workers from unfair treatment, that you no longer need to be in a union to have.   I have lost many jobs to unions.  I can name at least 3 companies in my area that have been pushed out of business, or were forced to move production out of the country, because of the actions that the unions made to represent their members.  Many companies cannot afford to employ unionized workers because of their wage expectations, and everything else.   So, not everyone should be unionized, and nobody should abuse this system.... no matter how much they pay in union dues.

With that being said, I still believe that unions need to exist.   Workers do need to be protected... maybe they shouldn't provide as much as they do, especially to people who have not earned it, but we still need protection from the corporations we work for.   I know this, because I myself could have used a union on many occasions.

I have spent the last 4 years, being the lowest you can get on the corporate ladder.  I could write a whole blog about the horror that is a temp agency.  I'll just list some shit.

-No job security at all.  I wouldn't know if, where, or when I was working on a day to day basis.  When I did find out, it was usually right before my shift was supposed to start, or after it already had.  I worked whatever I could get, which included working days one day, and midnights the next.
Sometimes, they would ask me to work more hours (consecutive shifts) than they were legally allowed to (because they aren't organized enough to keep track of who's working where or when)... I knew this, and I knew how hard it would be... but I took it regardless of the law, because for every day I did work, there was a week I didn't.  Because I was a temp, and not hired on to the company, if that company needed to lay people off, I and the other temps, were the first to go.

- No benefits.... It would be easier to say what we do have than what we don't.   If they weren't legally obligated to give it to us (and sometimes even if they were) we didn't get it.   Because there were days that they couldn't find work for us, our vacation pay was added onto every check, opposed to accumulated so you could book some paid vacation time off.  No such thing... I was always on call.  If I wasn't available at any time they called, I was deemed unreliable and didn't hear from them for a long time.

- No overtime.  Why would a company pay someone time and half, if they can just call the temp agency and get another person in, at a moment's notice?  Well they wouldn't, and they don't.

- No ethics what so ever.   Don't ever take the fact that your employer knows your name, for granted.  Mine didn't... even after 4 years of being with them, not a single one of their office staff knows who I am, let alone what my qualifications are.  Although they do have that information on file, they don't check it before they assign you to a job.  Every time I call, even if it's every single day at the same exact time, I have to remind them that I have welding certification, a forklift ticket, and have worked at such and such factories before.  They need to know all of this, in the case a fork lift or welding job comes up, or their customer requests someone who's worked there before (so they don't have to train).   In a real job, if you get laid off, they remember you, and if they like your work, you're likely to be called back if they need you. Not as a temp.  Unless the company spent a lot of money training you, or providing job-specific safety equipment (not likely... not too many places willing to train temps), they don't care who the agency sends over... nor do they know until the temp shows up.  So, say you work for a company for say 3 months (this has happened to me many times), on going, and they have scheduled shut down.  You get laid off.  When shut down is over, they call the agency and ask for so many temps... if they don't ask for specific people, and if those specific people are not currently working some other shit assignment, the temp agency will not put any effort into making sure the people who were there before, go back, and will instead start going down the "hot list" of employees who called most recently looking for work.   They simply do not keep track of who's who... whether or not you get a job is completely random, even if you call every single day at the moment they open their doors, and specifically ask for certain assignments. It's simply not safe to assume that they will think of you, or choose your name off the list... it's random.

- Extra obstacles.  The temp agency makes their employees commit to a contract that prevents us from finding work by our own means.   You have to work 400 hours, without a significant break between them, at a certain place before that place can hire you, without being penalized.  Even after you quit the agency, you have to wait a full year before you can apply to any of their customers.
Although the companies are not obligated to hire you after those 400 hours, it costs them more through the agency, so what they do is let you work almost 400 hours, and then tell the temp agency "it's not working out" or some reason and then request a new temp that they can lie to for 3 months.  Temp agency doesn't care enough to look into it, and even if they did, the company isn't giving an honest reason for your layoff. Since the temp agency has no way of knowing how good or bad of a worker you are, or any have intent to look into it, they can only take their customer's word for it.  They call the employee and say that "they don't need you anymore"... it happens authentically often (that's what temporary means), so who's the employee to question it?  This has been put in place in order to squeeze whatever they can out of their employees.  They make money on every hour we work....   and it's a significant amount.   I didn't know how significant, until I talked to a rather laid back general manager.  
"So what's the temp agency paying you?"
"Min wage....."
"What's that?"
"It's the lowest legal amount you can pay someone...."
"No smart ass, I mean how much?"
"$8.75 an hour"
"Get out! What a bunch of  fucking thieves eh?"
"Why's that?"
"We pay just under $23/hr per temp... don't say anything... I guess I wasn't supposed to say"
"Holy fuck that's bad... Wait, you guys don't know how much the temps are being paid?"
"No, we have nothing to do with that... we're just charged the hourly fee by the temp agency...  I thought you guys were making near the same as what we pay our new people."
"Nope... they gotta make their money some how. It's bullshit, all they do over there is make phone calls."
"And they're not even good at that.  You don't even know how many problems we've run into with them"
"Oh yeah?"
"They'll send us 5 temps and we'll only get 1 or 2 worth keeping longer than a day"
"I know what you mean... they sent me to stack hay at the Zoo once."
"I don't believe they would send a little thing like you to do a job like that... I did hay once and I found it hard! I can only imagine how you did."
"I wasn't even the worst. They sent some 60 year old diabetic lady who almost had a seizure before lunch, and had to go home.   The agency didn't tell any of us what we were doing that day, even though the Zoo asked the agency to tell us to bring lot's of water, wear long sleeves and pants for the tics, and to bring gloves so the rope didn't cut into our hands.. they didn't have any of that for us for most of the shift.  We all had to share 3 pairs of gloves between us because they couldn't find enough for all of us.   I think I was one of the 5 out of 10 temps that lasted the whole day without filling out an incident report. "

In addition to the overall obstacles of dealing with the middle man, when work slowed to a halt after I moved out of the area the agency usually covers. I wanted to apply for unemployment, AND maintain my "registration" with them, just in case they could find me some work in the future.  My contract states that I am not employed with them, unless I work for them on an assignment.  Despite calling everyday, they couldn't find anything for me, especially where I could get to in a moment's notice.  I was unemployed.  When I called for my Record of Employment, they put up a fight.  Tried to tell me that if I quit, I don't qualify... Which is true... I know this.  I planned to continue to use them as a job finding tool (even if it was temporary and shitty), I had no intentions of quitting.
They refused to acknowledge the lack of work I was experiencing through them.  Did they remember me calling everyday? No.  Do they remember me telling them time and time again, that I don't live in the area, and can't possibly get somewhere more than 30 mins away in "now"? No.  Do they bother to check my file to see if I've worked recently? Of course not. But somehow they were confident that I was just trying to get them to lie to the government for me. 

Temp agencies are as low as it gets for legitimized employment in the modernized world (obviously better than sweat shops, slavery... or say nothing).  They take advantage of the desperate demand for work we have, and use it against us, in order to make as much money as they possibly can.  They do the very least that the law requires they do, and will explore every legal avenue they can to get every last penny they can out of you.  It wouldn't be very realistic to unionize temp jobs... that's not what I'm getting at.  Without ANY unions it will not get any better.  It will get worse, and the government and employers would try and get away with more than they already do.  

I know what some of you are thinking.  "If you don't like it, get a better job/education/attitude".   I know... I am... Thanks for your advice!  You might think this is a whiny pms blog about my shitty life... I'm just trying to explain what being a temp is like.  Sorry but there will be people in this society that fill manufacturing and labor jobs, who are not going to gain a trade or career, or have yet to do so due to many factors, and not only stupid mistakes. They are the people that make, package, sell, and transport what you buy... they have a significant place in society.  We deserve fair wage, safe conditions, and opportunity to earn and achieve more.  

If unions can be abolished, who's to say what can't?   What's next? Workman's comp.? Paid holidays? Maternity leave?   I mean... why should corporations have to pay someone because they got pregnant?  The employer didn't knock her up .... it's like paying child support for a kid that's not yours.  And what about holidays? With the growth in multicultural societies, eventually we'll either have to take all of the holidays off, or make everyone work on Christmas... I doubt the CEO's are going to let their puppets vote an all-holiday bill in without a fight.   And nobody makes you choose to do a dangerous job.  Sure your boss should provide safety equipment and training. But if you choose a dangerous job that comes with a chance of injury or death over a desk job, it's not the company's  fault if you're one of the few casualties that were predicted based on the statistics. It's you own for not heeding the warning that the statistics and safety training explained.
Just like they're doing with unions, the corporations that are losing money due to unionization, or anything for that matter, will use the media to tell you that they are bad because they cost you money and reward lazy blood suckers. Which they do... just not as much as they'd like you to think.  It happens every other time they try and push their motives. 

Uploaded 05/17/2011
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