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Temp
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Temp
The Real Story of What Happened to Your Salary, Benefits, and Job Security
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Winner of the William G. Bowen Prize Named a "Triumph" of 2018 by New York Times Book CriticsShortlisted for the 800-CEO-READ Business Book AwardThe untold history of the surprising origins of the "gig...
Winner of the William G. Bowen Prize Named a "Triumph" of 2018 by New York Times Book CriticsShortlisted for the 800-CEO-READ Business Book AwardThe untold history of the surprising origins of the "gig...
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  • Winner of the William G. Bowen Prize
    Named a "Triumph" of 2018 by New York Times Book Critics
    Shortlisted for the 800-CEO-READ Business Book Award
    The untold history of the surprising origins of the "gig economy"—how deliberate decisions made by consultants and CEOs in the 50s and 60s upended the stability of the workplace and the lives of millions of working men and women in postwar America.

    Over the last fifty years, job security has cratered as the institutions that insulated us from volatility have been swept aside by a fervent belief in the market. Now every working person in America today asks the same question: how secure is my job? In Temp, Louis Hyman explains how we got to this precarious position and traces the real origins of the gig economy: it was created not by accident, but by choice through a series of deliberate decisions by consultants and CEOs—long before the digital revolution.
    Uber is not the cause of insecurity and inequality in our country, and neither is the rest of the gig economy. The answer to our growing problems goes deeper than apps, further back than outsourcing and downsizing, and contests the most essential assumptions we have about how our businesses should work. As we make choices about the future, we need to understand our past.

Excerpts-

  • From the book

    How We All Became Temps

    During the worst recession since the Great Depression, Elmer Winter gave a speech condemning the complacency of American businessmen. Winter was the president of Manpower Inc, a temporary labor agency, but also one of America's largest employers. He delivered his speech as a call to arms—a plea for nothing less than to save the country itself.

    Winter fixed on "deadly fears of the future" as a theme—developments Americans believed would undermine their economic safety. Some of these fears came from abroad, like Chinese twenty-five-cents‑an hour labor, or Russia's ever subtle global diplomacy. Most of Winter's fears, however, were about America itself, about the disconnect between our hopes and our realities." Foremost in the thinking of every man and woman who works is the basic question," Winter said, "'How secure is my job?'" The hope of the man on the street today in America, he told the shareholders, is "a good job—good health and security—for himself and for his family."

    Ever the realist, Winter told the businessmen that this dream of economic security, in the form of a steady, well-paid job, would no longer possible. He told them that the "old days are gone. . . and plans must be the order of the day." Winter's vision was to bring down costs, especially labor costs, by providing a flexible workforce without job guarantees, buttressed by new automation technology. American business would need to work smarter and harder to overcome the hue and cry that "we can't compete with foreign products where our labor rates are three or four times higher than theirs." Manpower, and other temporary agencies like them, would provide that labor.

    Winter's speech—youmight be surprised to learn—was delivered not in 2008, but in 1958. He gave it in the first brief downturn of the postwar economy. The end of American job security was not in the past, but still in the future.

    His prognostications came true, partially because he—and others like him—believed them so zealously and worked so hard to bring them about. The rise of our flexible economy—how we all, to some degree, have had to come to terms with the withering of the postwar job—is not just the story of Elmer Winter. His company, Manpower Inc.—the first major temporary agency, which in 2017 still employed over three million people or 50 percent more than Wal-Mart—would play an important role in transforming the world of work from one of security to insecurity, but it would not bealone. This transformation was not a conspiracy, but was carried out in public to much acclaim. Presidents, CEOs, and stock markets the world over celebrated the dismantling of the postwar prosperity.

    Most people kept their jobs, but you don't need to replace everybody to make the rest insecure. Temps define the limits of what is possible in labor, casting a long shadow over the rest of the workforce. Beginning in the midst of the postwar boom in the 1950s, American jobs were slowly remade from top to bottom: consultants supplanted executives at the top, temps replaced office workers in the middle, and day laborers pushed out union workers at the bottom. On every step in the ladder, work would become more insecure as it became more flexible.

    For some at the top, this new economic arrangement produced great opportunities and wealth, but for most people, flexibility produced economic uncertainty. For some of the new temps, like consultants, the work is glamorous and lucrative. For others, like office workers, it is a dead end. For those day laborers waiting outside Home Depot, it is work with little pay andmuch...

Reviews-

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2018

    Author of the award-winning and multi-best-booked memoir Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness, and Becoming a Man, McBee is the first transgender man to box in Madison Square Garden. Here he recounts training for that event while pondering the complicated relationship between masculinity and violence.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    March 15, 2018

    Cornell professor Hyman shows that aggressive decisions made by top businessmen a half century ago in the name of the market killed the concept of business as a provider of goods and services, built around a shop, factory, or corporation. With profit the top motive, job security crashed and the gig economy came into being.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 14, 2018
    This disquieting history of worker dispensability from Hyman (American Capitalism: A Reader), a Cornell economic history professor, tries to find cause for optimism in the emergence of the “gig economy,” but will still leave salaried employees looking nervously over their shoulders. He carefully traces the growth of the temporary labor movement, from the temp secretaries of the post-WWII firms Manpower Inc. and Kelly Girl to today’s freelancers hired through online services like Craigslist and Upwork. Hyman notes that, by the late 1960s, Manpower’s CEO, Elmer Winter, was already envisaging a wholly temporary workforce. However, it took the corporate trimming, restructuring, and downsizing of the 1980s to make “leanness” a business ideal, in which companies shed workers like unwanted pounds. Hyman’s examination of the evolution of work is thorough, thoughtful, and sympathetic, importantly not excluding the people—immigrants, minorities, women, and youth—largely ignored in the “American Dream” model for employment once all but guaranteed to white men. In the last chapter, Hyman lays out ambitious suggestions for how society can make “the flexible workforce and the flexible firm... work for us,” such as through increased incentives for small business ownership, yet leaves it very uncertain whether this brave new world will usher in greater worker freedom or even greater instability. Agent: Eric Lupfer, Fletcher & Co.

  • Kirkus

    June 1, 2018
    A revealing study of the "gig economy," which, though it seems new, has long antecedents.Speaking in the middle of a major recession, an entrepreneur named Elmer Winter told an audience of business executives that the complacent world of lifetime employment and job security would soon come to a screeching halt, the victim of rising labor costs and the need to compete globally. Winter's speech, Hyman (Economic History/Cornell Univ.; Borrow: The American Way of Debt, 2012, etc.) slyly notes, came not in 2018 but in 1958, at the beginning of an era in which corporations began to transform into cash conduits meant to funnel quarterly dividends into the hands of shareholders rather than building carefully with an eye to the long term. In that scenario, the old values of workforce stability and risk minimization gave way to a different way of doing business, one in which layers of temporary workers were as important in commerce as adjunct faculty would become in academia. A principal driver in the transformation was the electronics business, which, as it morphed into the high-tech world of Silicon Valley, needed to be able to hire on the spot, let people go when demand slacked, and otherwise be nimble enough to change product lines quickly. Hyman, who writes engagingly, observes that this is not necessarily good nor bad; it's just as it is. However, he does foresee trends that may improve conditions for consultants, freelancers, and temporary workers: Disintermediating technology will allow workers to position themselves in the marketplace. "Right now we are too fixated on upskilling coal miners into data miners," writes the author. "We should instead be showing people how to get work via platforms like Upwork and Etsy with their existing skills." Provided, one assumes, that Etsy is recruiting coal miners....A quietly hopeful spin on an economic process that has proved tremendously dislocating for a generation and more of workers.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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