The Good Temp
Publication Year: 2008
Temporary agencies place approximately two and a half million people in jobs each day in the United States. Every year, about twelve million people use these placement agencies to find temporary work. Many Americans, even those who desire permanent jobs, decide to enter the labor market through the portal of temporary agencies. Compared with the post-World War II era, when it was a marginal labor practice, temporary employment is today an entrenched feature of jobs and labor markets. How have temporary employment relationships become so widespread and normalized?
In The Good Temp, Vicki Smith and Esther B. Neuwirth provide some novel answers to this question. Their provocative analysis is based on an insider's view of the interior dynamics of a temporary help agency in Silicon Valley. It incorporates a historical perspective on the rise of the temporary help service industry. Smith and Neuwirth document how this powerful industry not only created a new market for temporary labor but also played a fundamental role in the erosion of the permanent employment model. They analyze how agencies themselves came to manufacture and market this reinvented product-the good temp, an employee who is effective and efficient, committed, and sometimes preferable to a permanent staff member.
Joining extensive participant observation data with historical analysis, The Good Temp contains some surprising findings about temporary employment today and fills a significant gap in our understanding of this important labor relationship.
Published by: Cornell University Press
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Title Page, Copyright
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...5. Shaping and Stabilizing the Personnel Policy Environment 122...
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We are grateful to the individuals at the organizations we studied and hope that we did justice to them in our effort to analyze the com-Many thanks to our colleagues for contributing important insights on various versions of this work: Chris Benner, Fred Block, Sean O’Riain, Eileen Otis, Jennifer Reich, Preston Rudy, Ellen Scott, Bindi ...
1. The Temporary Advantage: Introduction
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The story of the explosion of temporary employment and the chal-lenge to the permanent employment contract in the last half of the twentieth century has been told many times. Researchers from a va-riety of academic disciplines have written about it, as have activists who organize to help American workers maintain a decent standard ...
2. The Social Construction of New Markets and Products
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...try succeeded in recasting temporary employment from a marginal to a normative practice. But, as argued in chapter 1 institutional and legal market-making activities can’t fully explain this success. Rather, industry writers disseminated novel views of temporary and permanent employment as part of an effort to promote the new mar-...
3. “We’re Not Body Pushers”: Constructing a Pool of Good Temps
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For a temporary help service agency, attracting, developing, keep-ing, and controlling good temps is by no means automatic or straight-forward. Nor is convincing people who really want permanent jobs that a temporary job is acceptable. Just as the THS industry has had to work over decades to achieve legitimacy for a new type of employ-...
4. Softening “Rough and Tough Managers”: Creating “Good Enough” Jobs for Temps
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Select Labor and have been qualifi ed to join our staff. . . . We in producing a pool of workers who will accept the terms of tempo-rary employment and work in a reliable, effective fashion. Precarious as their acceptance may be, it is the foundation for participation in a system of contingent employment. Chapter 3 showed how one agency’s ...
5. Shaping and Stabilizing the Personnel Policy Environment
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The elephant in the room thus far is the human resources manager. In the previous chapter, HR managers appeared on stage as important actors in the construction of new employment relations: adversaries of some shop fl oor managers, novitiates who enlisted Select Labor’s help on occasion, and begrudging recipients of agency staff’s broker-...
6. Do Good Enough Temporary Jobs Make Good Enough Temporary Employment? The Case for Transitional Mobility
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Select Labor shaped and sustained the labor market for temporary workers in a variety of ways. Its staff extended many genuine forms of assistance and guidance to people seeking temporary jobs. They tried to select people who showed promise of being good, quality temporary workers and, once hiring them, tried to further construct ...
Appendix I: Analyzing the Management Media
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Appendix II: Frequently Asked Questions about the Economic and Legal Dimensions of Temporary Employment
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2008