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Sun Jan 27, 2013, 09:04 PM

The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy (Kelly Girls, etc.)

I had a hard time picking where to post this, but felt it would be best highlighted in here. It's a good look on how structural misogyny plays into class issues with employment.

This one hits home to me, I've never had an offer for full-time work. Even applied to a temp agency once in desperation years back, but "fortunately" found a 35 hour a week job that paid the rent and didn't require pantyhose...(no bennies though, of course.)



The story begins in the years after World War II, when a handful of temp agencies were started, largely in the Midwest. In 1947, William Russell Kelly founded Russell Kelly Office Service (later known as Kelly Girl Services) in Detroit, with three employees, 12 customers and $848 in sales. A year later, two lawyers, Aaron Scheinfeld and Elmer Winter, founded a similarly small outfit, Manpower Inc., in Milwaukee. At the time, the future of these fledgling agencies was no foregone conclusion. Unions were at the peak of their power, and the protections that they had fought so hard to achieve — workers’ compensation, pensions, health benefits and more — had been adopted by union and nonunion employers alike.

But temp leaders were creating a new category of work (and workers) that would be exempt from such protections.

To avoid union opposition, they developed a clever strategy, casting temp work as “women’s work,” and advertising thousands of images of young, white, middle-class women doing a variety of short-term office jobs. The Kelly Girls, Manpower’s White Glove Girls, Western Girl’s Cowgirls, the American Girls of American Girl Services and numerous other such “girls” appeared in the pages of Newsweek, Business Week, U.S. News & World Report, Good Housekeeping, Fortune, The New York Times and The Chicago Daily Tribune. In 1961 alone, Manpower spent $1 million to put its White Glove Girls in the Sunday issue of big city newspapers across the country.


Protected by the era’s gender biases, early temp leaders thus established a new sector of low-wage, unreliable work right under the noses of powerful labor unions. While greater numbers of employers in the postwar era offered family-supporting wages and health insurance, the rapidly expanding temp agencies established a different precedent by explicitly refusing to do so. That precedent held for more than half a century: even today “temp” jobs are beyond the reach of many workplace protections, not only health benefits but also unemployment insurance, anti-discrimination laws and union-organizing rights.


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Reply The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy (Kelly Girls, etc.) (Original post)
Starry Messenger Jan 2013 OP
bettyellen Jan 2013 #1
Starry Messenger Jan 2013 #2

Response to Starry Messenger (Original post)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 09:41 PM

1. Like the HB1 visas today, they'll exploit any segment of the population they can

Workers let it happen back then because it was just women.
Kind of short sighted.

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Response to bettyellen (Reply #1)

Sun Jan 27, 2013, 09:54 PM

2. If they will do it to us, they'll do it to anyone.

I found this on an adjunct list-serv I'm on, we are all mostly women, and suffer from the perception from others that we're just in it for a few extras around the house. People can't wrap their minds around the fact that we live on this tiny amount of money, and have zero job security.

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