AcknowledgementsThis report was produced with the help of thefollowing people: Sarah Thomason; Eliza Bates; DaveDeSario and Tyler Cunning at Temp Worker Justice;Jaribu Hill, Matilda Davis, and Fannie Lou HamerEmerging Leaders Program Interns (Cianna Hooker,Kayla Gary, Zipporah Bass Quinn, Keith Geter andJamessa Morris) at the Mississippi Workers’ Centerfor Human Rights; Clermont Ripley at the NorthCarolina Justice Center; Roberto Clack at WarehouseWorkers for Justice; Tim Bell, Jannelle White (now atWarehouse Workers for Justice) and EduardoHernandez (intern) at Chicago Workers Collaborative;Lou Kimmel, Reynalda Cruz, Germania Hernandez,and Samia Bouzid (volunteer) at New Labor; RossanaCoto-Batres at Northeast New York Coalition forOccupational Safety and Health; Laura Padin, LolaPadin (volunteer), Kim Diehl, Eleanor Cooney, andMaya Pinto at the National Employment Law Project.Thank you to the Kellogg Foundation and the FordFoundation for their generous support of this work.About Temp Worker JusticeTemp Worker Justice (TWJ) is the nationalorganization for temporary workers, founded in 2019.It empowers workers and workers’ organizationsseeking justice and fairness in the workplace. TWJprovides research and education, and connectsworkers to on-the-ground organizing and legalsupport. It builds the capacity for action throughpartner organizations and workplace leaders,advancing workers’ rights. Learn more Chicago Workers CollaborativeChicago Workers' Collaborative is a worker centerfounded in 2000 to promote the creation of stable,living wage jobs with racial and gender equity for thelowest wage-earners, primarily temp staffing workers,in the Chicago region, through leadership and skillstraining, critical assistance and services, advocacy andcollaborative action. CWC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofitorganization. Learn more Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human RightsThe Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights(MWCHR) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizationfounded in 1996 to provide legal advocacy andtraining for low-wage Black workers. Through directaction/public awareness campaigns, legal advocacy,and popular education, MWCHR collaborates withworkers to create better workplace conditions andensure that all workers are treated with dignity andrespect and have equal access to good jobs andhumane living conditions, regardless of their race,creed, gender or religion. Learn more the National Employment Law ProjectFounded in 1969, the National Employment LawProject (NELP) is a leading nonprofit advocacyTEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 20221

organization dedicated to building a just and inclusiveeconomy where all workers have expansive rights andthrive in good jobs. Together with local, state, andnational partners, NELP advances its mission throughtransformative legal and policy solutions, research,capacity-building, and communications. Learn moreat New LaborFounded in 2000, New Labor is an organization thateducates, organizes, and fights for better workconditions and social justice in the workplace. With abase of around 4,000 members, and centers in NewBrunswick, Lakewood, and Newark, New Jersey, NewLabor organizes to empower members and amplifytheir voices in the community, workplace, andpolitical realm. New Labor is a 501(c)(3) organization.Learn more at North Carolina Justice CenterFounded in 1996, the North Carolina Justice Center isa 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, working on issuesof concern to North Carolinians with low incomes. Asa leading progressive research and advocacyorganization, our mission is to eliminate poverty inNorth Carolina by ensuring that every household inthe state has access to the resources, services, andfair treatment it needs to achieve economic security.Learn more at Warehouse Workers for JusticeWarehouse Workers for Justice (WWJ) is a workercenter founded in 2008 to win stable, living wage jobswith dignity for the hundreds of thousands of workersin Illinois’ logistics and distribution industry. WWJprovides workshops about workplace rights, uniteswarehouse workers to defend their rights on the job,builds community support for the struggles ofwarehouse workers and fights for public and privatepolicies that promote full-time work at decent wagesin the warehouse industry. WWJ is a 501(c)(3)nonprofit organization. Learn more photo by flicksbylucy 2022 National Employment Law Project. This report is covered by theCreative Commons “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs” license fee (see For further inquiries, please contactNELP ([email protected]).TEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 20222

ContentsIntroduction . 4Temp Worker Job Quality Issues . 8Poverty Wages, Pay Inequity, and Wage Theft . 8Underemployment . 10Poor and Inequitable Access to Employee Benefits . 11“Permatemping,” Job Mobility, and Career Advancement Issues . 12Health and Safety Issues . 14Discrimination and Workplace Segregation . 16Staffing Agencies’ Deceptive Recruitment Practices. 18Employer Retaliation . 19Worker Voice. 20Spotlight on TWJ Survey Series Partners . 22Recommendations . 26Appendix: TWJ Survey Series Methodology . 31TEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 20223

IntroductionAntonia Bannister fears for her younger brother’s safety everyday he works as a “temp” at a Jacksonville, Florida, warehousepicking and packaging high-priced clothing and accessories forthe global multi-billion-dollar luxury fashion brand Coach.Coach, like many major corporations operating warehousesand factories in Jacksonville, contracts with a company calledRemedy Intelligent Staffing to supply a sizable portion of thelabor at its distribution hub in the city. 1Antonia’s younger brother is a Remedy “temp” just like two of his older siblings hadbeen.Back in 2012, Remedy placed their older brother, Lawrence “Day” Davis, at a Bacardibottling plant in Jacksonville. It was his first job ever, and 90 minutes into his first day,he was killed in a machine accident. He was just 21 years old—the same age Antonia’syounger brother is now. 2The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration identified Day’s death as part ofa pattern of temp workers dying on their first days on the job. His death was part ofwhat prompted the agency to launch its Temp Worker Initiative to improve safety fortemp workers and lay out the joint responsibility of both “host employers” like Bacardiand staffing agencies like Remedy in ensuring it. 3The initiative was an important step. And more needs to be done. Antonia knows firsthand. After Day’s death, Antonia became the eldest sibling, felt a new sense ofresponsibility to her family, and vowed that she would never take a job that put hersafety at risk. But “times get hard, and a lot of time it’s only the warehouses andfactories, only hiring through temp agencies, that have work readily available when youneed it most.” Desperate for work, she had to go to the same staffing agency thatemployed Day. “It never felt right, but it was my only option.” 4Antonia worked in warehouses for Remedy for a total of 5 years, 4 of which were atCoach’s old warehouse location in Jacksonville. While there, she once injured her anklewhen she was not provided with the proper equipment to safely do her job, and oncefainted because of extreme heat in the warehouse. After neither incident did Coach norRemedy ask Antonia whether she needed to see a doctor. Each time, she was sent to anonsite medical room, given ice or water, then expected to return to work. She wasforced to seek out and pay for medical treatment on her own for her ankle injury, anddoubts that the injury was even logged by her employers.Antonia explains that temp workers in Jacksonville’s industrial parks are often placed inmore dangerous jobs than permanent workers at their worksites, safety training islacking, and host employers fail to show concern, treating temps as disposable. “As atemp, they don’t care about your safety, or us as people,” she says. “Everybody isTEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 20224

expendable because the staffing agency can always get another person to work thatposition.” 5As a “permatemp” at Coach for four long years, she worked with stagnant wages, nobenefits, no paid time off, no sick time, “no freedom” to balance her life with her work.She earned less in wages and benefits than permanent workers, and unlike them, herseniority provided her no say in selecting a floor assignment. 6When she was finally offered a permanent position for a meager 25-cent raise, she quit.After her 4 long years, she says the offer “made me feel like I had no value.” 7Antonia found a job in daycare, and she does hair for extra money—she hopes to openher own salon one day.Although Antonia is no longer a temp worker, her years of experience as one, thetrauma of losing Day to a temp job, and her younger brother’s current tempemployment, have made her a fierce advocate for temp worker rights. She joined theNational Temp Worker Council of a national temp worker advocacy group called TempWorker Justice (TWJ) in 2020. Through her work with TWJ, she’s speaking out andraising awareness about the dangers and insecurity of temp work, the inequity it createsin workplaces, and she’s fighting to make work better and safer for temp workers likeher younger brother.**Antonia’s family’s experience working for companies that employ workers throughstaffing agencies—the grave health and safety issues they have had to deal with, thepermatemping, the wage and benefit penalties relative to permanent and directly hiredworkers—is indicative of the experience of millions of temp workers in the UnitedStates. Remedy Intelligent Staffing is part of a large, globalized temporary help andstaffing industry that supplies labor to companies that have decided to temp out theirworkforces in nearly every U.S. industry. 8 And Coach is just one of many corporationsthat contract work throughout their supply chains to staffing agencies rather than hiringworkers directly. 9 See the diagram below for more information on “temp” work playersand relationships.TEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 20225

In December 2021, nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, employment via U.S.temporary help and staffing agencies was 2.8 million. 10 According to temp industryestimates, between 13 and 16 million U.S. workers find work via staffing agencies eachyear. 11During the COVID-19 pandemic, a surge in e-commerce has spurred growth inindustries such as warehousing, where companies use temporary help and staffingagencies at a relatively high rate. 12 In March 2020, days after the pandemic wasdeclared, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, whose members including Walmartand Kroger, partnered with the staffing industry’s largest trade group, the AmericanStaffing Association, to launch a staffing agency database where retailers could findlabor to supply their warehousing, retail store, and other operations. 13After a drop during the first month of the pandemic, growth in the volume of temp workhas outstripped that of all private sector work by a factor of 2.5. 14 U.S. staffing industryrevenue was projected to grow 16 percent to a record 157.4 billion in 2021. 15The prevalence and projected growth of companies employing workers via staffingagencies is a concern. Evidence shows that, under current law and employer practice, ahost employer contracting out work to a staffing agency reduces job quality for workers,TEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 20226

and breeds inequality and racial segregation within workplaces and in the broaderlabor market. 16To better understand the job quality issues that temp workers face, Temp WorkerJustice (TWJ) partnered with several worker and advocacy groups—the ChicagoWorkers Collaborative, Mississippi Workers’ Center for HumanRights, New Labor (New Jersey), Warehouse Workers for Justice(Illinois), the North Carolina Justice Center, and the NationalEmployment Law Project—on a national survey project between2019 and 2021. In total, 1,337 workers from 47 U.S. statesparticipated in the TWJ Survey Series. Temp workers employedby staffing agencies including Aerotek, Adecco, Manpower Group,Kelly Services, Robert Half, and Randstad, and working for hostemployers including Amazon, Walmart, Google, and Tyson Foods,answered questions about issues like pay, benefits, health andsafety, discrimination, and employer retaliation. See the Appendixfor more on the TWJ Survey Series methodology and sample.Key findings from the TWJ Survey Series: Wage theft: Nearly 1 in 4 (24% of) temp workers reported that, while workingas a temp, their employers have stolen wages from them in at least one of threeways—paid less than the minimum wage, failed to pay the overtime rate, orfailed to pay for all hours worked.“Permatemping”: More than 1 in 3 (35% of) temp workers reported that theircurrent temp assignment had lasted over 1 year, and 18 percent reported thattheir current temp assignment had lasted over 2 years.Workplace injury: More than 1 in 6 (17% of) temp workers reportedexperiencing a work-related injury or illness while employed through a staffingagency. Of those workers who reported experiencing a work-related injury orillness, 41 percent said that they covered healthcare costs themselves, out ofpocket or through their own health insurance.Employer retaliation: Nearly 3 in 4 (71% of) temp workers said that theyexperienced some form of retaliation for raising workplace issues with asupervisor or management.Interest in joining a worker organization: Fully 4 in 5 (80% of) temp workersreported interest in joining a worker organization like a union that works toimprove conditions for temp workers.Temp workers are organizing in their workplaces and advancing public policycampaigns to address the issues listed above, as well as others.This report provides an overview of key temp worker job quality issues, drawing ongovernment data and the TWJ Survey Series. The stories of temp worker leaders andgroups leading efforts to improve conditions for temp and all workers are featuredthroughout the report. The final section of the report provides a roadmap for workergroups, advocates, and policymakers looking to raise standards for temp workers andall workers in the U.S.TEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 20227

Temp Worker Job Quality IssuesThe hiring and labor practices of host employers and of staffing agencies create avariety of job quality issues for temp workers. Findings from the Temp Worker JusticeSurvey Series, along with government data, reveal issues related to pay, hours, benefitsaccess, job mobility, workplace health and safety, and dignity and voice in theworkplace.POVERTY WAGES, PAY INEQUITY, and WAGE THEFTHost employers and staffing agencies collaborate to establish worker pay practices thatleave temp workers prone to poverty wages, two-tiered pay structures, and wage theft.When host employers subcontract work to temporary help and staffing agencies,lowest-bidder dynamics in the contracting process may create a “race to the bottom”that pushes down wages for temp workers.Temp workers are more likely to live in poverty than their direct-hire counterparts.According to government data, temp workers are more than twice as likely as workersin all industries to live in poverty: 7.6 percent of full-time temp workers earn povertywages, compared to 3.6 percent of workers in all industries. 17 In a selection ofwarehousing and manufacturing occupations, the poverty rate for temp workers, at 19.7percent, is nearly three times that of workers in all industries, at 6.7 percent. 18TWJ Survey Series on temp worker reliance on public assistance to meet basic needs: More than 1in 3 (36% of) temp workers reported that they or their dependents have received some form ofpublic assistance while they worked via a staffing agency. 19 Temp workers reported receivingbenefits from government assistance programs for people at or near the federal poverty line,including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Temporary Assistance for NeedyFamilies, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.A large share of staffing agency profits come from their “take” of the hourly fee thatclient firms pay for the services temp workers provide. Temp workers receive anhourly wage that is a fraction of the total hourly fee host employers pay. The “markup”rate—the difference between the temp worker’s hourly wage rate and the rate billed tothe client company for the worker’s labor—can range from 30 percent to 150 percent. 20High markup rates can leave temp worker wages at very low levels.A participant in a July 2020 focus group of temp workers in New Jersey conducted byNew Labor described an 82 percent markup rate on her pay rate for warehouse work;she’s left with a wage that is difficult to get by on. “How is it possible that a companypays an agency 20 an hour for each worker and the agency pays you 11? It's legal, Iknow, to pay 11 an hour, but it's not fair.” 21A food processing temp worker in Mississippi who participated in the TWJ Survey Seriesexplained that directly hired workers, many of whom have shorter tenures than theirTEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 20228

“temp” counterparts, earn more than temps at her workplace. “I feel that I should bepaid as much as other[s] [who] operate in the same position,” she said.Without wage parity standards that require equal pay for equal work, temp workersoften receive lower wages than their direct-hire counterparts, for doing the samework. 22 The table below shows the difference in median hourly wages betweentemporary help and staffing agency employees and employees in all industries in fivelow-paid occupational groups.Median Hourly Wage: U.S. Temp Workers vs. Workers Overall, by Occupational Group,2020Major Occupational GroupOverall MedianHourly WageTemp MedianHourly WageTempDifferenceTransportation & Material Moving 16.38 13.68-16.5%Production 18.00 14.16-21.3%Building/Grounds Cleaning & Maintenance 14.39 13.14-8.7%Educational Instruction & Library 25.18 13.96-44.6%Personal Care & Service 13.52 12.88-4.7%Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics, May 2020, “Temp” is NAICS 56132 TemporaryHelp Services.A participant in the TWJ Survey Series doing clerical and information technology tempwork in Georgia wrote that her host employer “raised the minimum wage for all [directhire] employees by 3. Everyone who was currently making the minimum wage got theraise except for the temp employees.” She wants to know whether any wage parityprotections exist for temp workers: “I'm wondering if I have any rights as a appeal this significant gap in wages.” While at least 30 countries aroundthe world do have wage and benefit parity standards for temp workers and direct-hireworkers, the U.S. does not. 23 A proposed bill in New jersey would establish wage parityfor temped out and direct-hire workers doing similar work (see the Recommendationssection below for more on the bill).Temp workers are particularly prone to wage theft. The temporary help and staffingindustry is among the fifteen industries on the Wage and Hour Division’s list of “LowWage High Violation Industries,” designated as such because of relatively low pay, lowrates of worker complaints, and high rates of violation of federal wage and hour law. 24TWJ Survey Series on temp worker wage theft: Almost 1 in 4 (24% of) temp workers reportedthat, while working as a temp, their employers have stolen wages from them in at least one ofthree ways—paid less than the minimum wage, failed to pay the overtime rate, or failed to pay forTEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 20229

all hours worked. Employer failure to pay for all hours worked was the most reported form ofwage theft, with 17 percent of temp workers reporting such a violation.UNDEREMPLOYMENTSome host employers and staffing agencies provide temp workers with fewer workhours than they need to make ends meet.TWJ Survey Series on temp worker underemployment: While most (80% of) temp workersreported working full-time hours, nearly 1 in 7 (14% of) temp workers reported that they areworking part-time involuntarily.That temp worker underemployment rate is substantially higher than the rate for theoverall U.S. workforce. According to government data, during the COVID-19 pandemic,the overall involuntary part-time rate in the U.S. fluctuated between 2.8 and 8.2percent. 25A participant in the TWJ Survey Series who works as a temp worker in the healthcareindustry in New York wrote that weeks go by without her receiving a job assignment. AtTEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 202210

the time she was surveyed, she had been out of work for three weeks, and wrote thatshe had “barely been able to pay bills.”POOR AND INEQUITABLE ACCESS TO EMPLOYEE BENEFITSHost employers and staffing agencies establish compensation practices that limit tempworker access to employee benefits like health insurance, paid sick leave, paid vacation,and retirement benefits.Staffing agency workers, even those with years-long tenures, are often denied thebenefits direct-hire workers receive.“I just want the same benefits that all the permanent employees get,” explained a TWJSurvey Series participant starting her fourth year as a “temp” at a biotechnologycompany. She was doing the same administrative and clerical work as, and for a longertimespan than, many permanent direct-hire workers, but was denied the sameemployment benefits, including paid sick leave and paid vacation days.Temp workers are less likely to be covered by health insurance than employees who arepermanent and directly hired by employers. According to government data, 63.0percent of full-time temp workers receive employer-provided health insurance,compared to 77.7 percent of all full-time workers. Just 33.0 percent of temp workers inwarehousing and manufacturing occupations receive employer-provided healthinsurance, less than half the share of all workers in warehousing and manufacturingoccupations (69.9%). 26Paid sick leave is critical for protecting worker health and public health. 27 During theCOVID-19 pandemic, access to paid sick leave has helped to reduce the spread ofcoronavirus. 28 According to government data, 79 percent of U.S. workers have access topaid sick leave. 29TWJ Survey Series on temp worker access to paid sick leave: Just 13 percent of temp workers and24 percent of temp workers who had been working at their current assignment for over a yearreported having access to paid sick leave.Several states and localities have passed paid sick leave laws in recent years. And duringthe COVID-19 pandemic, federal law granted paid sick leave to millions of more workersacross the country to protect worker and public health. However, due to corporatelobbying, employers with more than 500 employees were exempted from the 2020 and2021 federal laws that provided workers paid sick leave. According to the latestgovernment data available, 80 percent of U.S. temp workers are employed at largestaffing agencies that employ more than 500 workers. 30 Most temp workers have notbeen covered by the federal paid sick leave laws.A participant in the TWJ Survey Series working as a temp worker doing clerical work inTexas wrote, “Our staffing agency let us know they cannot pay us for having COVID.TEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 202211

They stated their company has over 500 employees therefore we do not qualify to getpaid for the days we missed due to being sick.”The U.S. remains the only industrialized nation without a federal policy mandating paidvacation. 31 A large share of U.S. employers do offer employees paid vacation. Accordingto government data, approximately 77 percent of U.S. workers receive the benefit,although the median number of paid vacation days, at just 10, 32 is lower than theminimum in most industrialized nations. 33TWJ Survey Series on temp worker access to paid vacation days: Just 6 percent of temp workersand 14 percent of temp workers who had been working at their current assignment for over ayear reported having access to paid vacation days.According to government data, 72 percent of U.S. workers have access to an employer-providedretirement benefit. 34TWJ Survey Series on temp worker access to an employer-provided retirement benefit: Just 4percent of temp workers reported that their staffing agency makes contributions to a retirementaccount. For temp workers reporting that they have worked in their current assignment for overa year, the share with an employer-provided retirement benefit is just 8 percent.Decisions about the duration of a temp workers’ assignment may be tied to employer policiesabout benefits eligibility. Employers may rapidly cycle through temp workers to avoid payingemployee benefits.TWJ Survey Series on temp worker termination prior to benefits eligibility: More than 1 in 10(12% of) temp workers reported being laid off from a temporary position just prior to becomingeligible for employment benefits.“PERMATEMPING,” JOB MOBILITY, and CAREER ADVANCEMENTISSUESHost employers and staffing agencies limit job mobility and career advancementopportunities for temp workers in various ways.Host employers and staffing agencies may employ “permatemps”—temp workerswhose job assignment lasts for a year or longer—who languish for years in dead-endjobs characterized by lower pay and fewer benefits than directly hired permanentworkers.Contracts between host employers and staffing agencies can perpetuate“permatemping” and block temp workers from transitioning into permanent, direct-hirepositions. Some contracts contain “no-poach” clauses, which prohibit host employersfrom hiring temp workers as permanent employees during the length of the assignmentand for some time afterwards. Others contain “conversion fee” or “bondage fee” clauses,which require a host employer to pay an often substantial fee if it hires a temp workerTEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 202212

as a permanent employee. No-poach and conversion/bondage fee clauses deter hostemployers from hiring temp workers into permanent positions and lock workers intosecond-tier, temporary work.A participant in the TWJ Survey Series wrote that she had struggled to earn a living foryears as a temp worker in food services in California. She was thrilled when a businesswhere she was placed as a temp banquet server “expressed interest in hiring me as afull-time employee.” But then the staffing agency swooped in and demanded aprohibitive conversion/bondage fee. “The agency's 'Placement Specialist' told [thebusiness] that it would cost 5000.00 to buy out my contract with the agency, which, ofcourse, was outrageous and the offer was retracted,” she wrote.TWJ Survey Series on temp worker “permatemping” experience: More than 1 in 3 (35% of) tempworkers reported that their current temp assignment had lasted over 1 year, and almost 1 in 5(18%) reported that their current temp assignment had lasted over 2 years.Close to half (44%) of Latinx temp workers reported that their current temp assignment hadlasted over 1 year.Nearly 3 in 4 (72% of) temp workers reported that they have never been hired into a permanentposition when they started as a temp worker.About 1 in 7 (14% of) temp workers reported that they knew their staffing agency preventedthem from taking a permanent job with their worksite employer.A temp worker in the information technology industry in Colorado who participated inthe TWJ Survey Series reflected on the impact of her dead-end temp job on her life. “Ihave been at the same level for 20 years,” she wrote. “Working as a temp has ruined mylife.”Should they seek to find work via other staffing agencies, temp workers may facepushback from staffing agency employers. Employment contracts may contain “noncompetition” agreements that prevent workers from taking jobs with competing staffingagencies.TWJ Survey Series on staffing agencies preventing temp workers from taking jobs at competingstaffing agencies: Approximately 7 percent of temp workers reported that they knew theirstaffing agency employer prevented them from working for other staffing agencies.TEMP WORKERS DEMAND GOOD JOBS FEBRUARY 202213

HEALTH AND SAFETY ISSUESLack of safety training, ambiguous and inappropriate liability structures, and frequentjob-switching make temp workers particularly vulnerable to workplace injury andillness, including COVID-19.TWJ Survey Series on safety training: Nearly 1 in 5 (19% of) temp workers reported

Chicago Workers' Collaborative is a worker center founded in 2000 to promote the creation of stable, living wage jobs with racial and gender equity for the lowest wage-earners, primarily temp staffing workers, in the Chicago region, through leadership and skills training, critical as