President Barack Obama has termed his efforts to combat unemployment and slow economic growth a success. However, Princeton and Harvard economists found that the majority of new jobs were in contract or part-time positions.
Jobs that come with access to healthcare, vacation time, the occasional sick day and Social Security and Medicare taxes paid through employers have declined under Obama’s presidency. One-million fewer people are working steady jobs than they were at the beginning of the recession, according to a study authored by Lawrence Katz at Harvard University and Alan Krueger at Princeton University.
While the Obama administration is prone to citing the 10 million jobs added to the economy over the past eight years, 95 percent of those are temporary, contractual jobs or part-time employment. Part-time employers are not obligated to provide any benefits for their employees, so when an employee gets sick they can either go to work or lose that day’s wages.
In addition, contractual employment has grown. The study found that young workers represented the largest growth of contractors who frequently do not receive any kind of benefits, even when they are working full-time. The issue is particularly frustrating to employees in the entertainment industry where media conglomerates like Viacom rely on freelancers for long periods of time without offering benefits, an arrangement frequently referred to as “permalance.”
Caitlin Pearce, Director of Member Engagement of the Freelancers Union, told RT that one of the biggest problems that permeates freelance employment is that they are often treated as disposable.
Pearce explained that the Freelancers Union often hears complaints from freelancers who have issues with non-payment, particularly in the entertainment industry where a single TV show can compound matters with a gamut of intermediaries to go through to file a complaint. Employers often “move on to someone who is not a squeaky wheel,” she explained.
“It’s hard for all workers to speak out,” she said in a phone interview, “but freelancers have to think about what will come up when you Google them.”
This issue is not limited to the entertainment industry.
“We certainly heard about it from all members,” Pearce said, adding that young freelancers face the most difficulty. Abuse or non-payment from employers “tend to happened to people who are newer because they don’t know how to find the red flags.”
The tech industry has also come to lean on independent contractors. Uber’s entire model is based on their drives being independent contractors who receive no overtime or contributions to their Social Security, regardless of how much they work.
In May, Uber acquiesced to their independent contractors in New York City demanding they be allowed to organize as puppet unions, funded by Uber but lacking the most powerful aspects of other unions: the right to collectively bargain, instigate strikes or get the government to treat drivers like employees that have the right to form a real union. Known as the Independent Drivers Guild, it now includes 45,000 Uber drivers.