Temp Agencies Provide Low Wages

by Nani Acasio and Pat Clifford
Published in the Cincinnati Homeless Grapevine, the precursor to Streetvibes

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 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 was the rude and belittling treatment given 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,” a branch manager at Minute men, and his disrespectful, belittling, and rude behavior 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 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 of safety glasses if they lose them.

Minute Men charges employers $8 per hour for their service.

It is possible 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 never 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 an 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 for health benefits after working 180 hours.

The fee they charge employees varies depending on the job.