Saturday, May 18, 2013

The more things change, the more they remain the same

From Hedrick Smith’s ‘Who Stole the American Dream’ (2012), page 75: “Permatemps” they were called, the wage serfs of the New Ecomomy. As the corporate poster child of ‘permatemping’, Microsoft used thousands of long-term temps for the sophisticated designing, editing and testing of software, among other jobs. Regular employees wore blue badges, permatemps wore orange.
The two groups worked side by side. But Microsoft denied permatemps its employees health benefits, 401(k) plans, and company stock options. Hundreds of companies copied Microsoft. Eventually, the IRS charged Microsoft with violating tax laws by failing to deduct taxes from permatemp pay. In 1992, permatemps filed suit against Microsoft to obtain benefits due employees under labor laws. After a long battle, Microsoft agreed to pay $97 million in damages to twelve thousand permatemps. A federal district judge, upheld by the Supreme Court, outlawed hiring temp for longer than six months. To get around the ruling, Microsoft and other companies fire temp workers after six months, lay them off for one hundred days, and then rehire them. People are so desperate for work that they bow to those terms.

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