The blue-collar temp industry is booming, which doesn’t bode well for people searching for long-term, full-time jobs. A look at Labor Ready, which wants to be “the McDonalds of the temp industry”:
In the two weeks that I spend working out of Oakland’s Labor Ready branch, my ‘honest pay’ tops out at $8.75 an hour. I’ll clean a yard for a trucking firm, scrape industrial glue from cement floors for a construction company, and screw on the caps of bottles at an massage oil company whose “Making Love” line is a bestseller. I’ll also move heavy tools for a multinational corporation that repairs boilers on ships and be asked to serve food at Oakland A’s games for Aramark, a $13 billion powerhouse. I wasn’t able to take that one, but if I had, I would have been earning $8 an hour next to unionized workers making $14.30.
Labor Ready’s Oakland workforce is nearly entirely black, excepting the branch manager, who is white. Most of the workers I talk to are searching for stability but finding it elusive. They include homeowners in foreclosure, apartment-dwellers who are being evicted, and residents of motels negotiating for a few more days. And many express hope they can parlay a temp gig into something permanent. ‘I’ve been with Labor Ready for over a year now and still haven’t had any luck,’ says Stanley, who resembles a young Eddie Murphy. We’re standing in a dusty lot in Hayward, 15 miles south of Oakland, surrounded by 300 cars that have seen better days. ‘Most jobs are like this one, not looking to hire anyone full time.’