Temporary Agencies Provide Low Wages

Nani Acasio and Pat Clifford

     Many of the homeless are working, but are stuck in temporary jobs which fail to get them out of shelters. These were the findings of a survey taken in a Cincinnati homeless shelter. Thirty homeless people who worked for temporary labor pools were interviewed in an attempt to find out how homeless people are treated by these agencies. While some had adequate experiences, many expressed problems.
"Overworked, Underpaid" was the general consensus of those interviewed. Minute Men, Inc. in Cincinnati had employed 25 of the 30 people interviewed--the vast majority. They also received the majority of the complaints including: long delays in being sent to a job (if sent at all) as well as "deducts" taken from their checks. One very common complaint expressed was the rude and belittling treatment given to the temporary. workers.
     Dave, a dispatcher at Minute Men, admitted that sometimes people are asked to wait for possible jobs. "We often do not have enough jobs for all people." "In order to have a chance, you have to be present...We open at 4 a.m," Dave commented.
There were specific complaints about "Ron," branch manager at Minute Men, and his disrespectful, belittling and rude behaviors toward the temp workers. According to one participant, "You are called by what you are wearing, not your name, even though he knows your name."
     One survey participant explained that he was assigned to work at a place which required him to carry 80 pounds of salt although he had a crippled hand. After requesting to be placed elsewhere; doing work he was capable of performing, he stated that "Ron" told him that he would not be sent out on any more jobs. This participant expressed his willingness and ability to do other available jobs, but these were denied to him.
     Minute Men employs an average of 150 people per day. Their average wage is $4.25 per hour, $1 is deducted for transportation each way. The workers are charged $10 for gloves or safety glasses if they lose them.
     Minute Men charges employers $8 per hour for their service.
It is common for people to get injured on the job and compensation is hard to acquire. The survey noted injuries received by temp workers ranged from minor cuts and bruises to nerve damage.
     One Minute Men worker complained of wrist pain due to repetitive movement at a packing plant. He requested a different job but was ignored.
Another person received permanent tendon and nerve damage when his right pointer finger was cut to the bone. His immediate medical bills were paid, but he was given no further help. His finger remains numb.
     One agency was the exception to the rule. Four workers had been employed by Belcan, Inc. on Fountain Square. Statements regarding Belcan included higher wages, personal treatment and no deductions taken for transportation. Another characteristic was the agency's attempt to find a job for the temp. worker which could later turn into a permanent job. One participant summed it up, " You were treated like a person."
     Cecilia Horne, the Acting Branch Manager, said that they do outreach to places like the Job Corps and Talbert House to find employees. Belcan's average pay was $5.25 per hour and employees are eligible to pay health benefits after working 180 hours.
The fee they charge employees varies depending on the job.
Thirty people currently residing in a Cincinnati homeless shelter were asked about their experiences with temp labor pools. Here are some of the results:

Which agencies have you worked at?
25 Minute Men, Inc.
10 Cincinnati Temporary Labor
5 Labor World
4 Belcan
3 CM
3 Action Labor
11 Other
What type of job did they send you on?
16 Packing
4 Factory
3 Assembly Line
2 Stocking
2 Construction
26 Other
Transportation Deducts?
19 $1 each way
2 $2 each way
1 $3 each way

Note: Many of the people currently residing in Cincinnati homeless shelters have worked at more than one temp. agency; some did not answer all the questions so totals vary.

Copyright NEOCH and the Homeless Grapevine published January – February 1996 Issue 13