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View Diary: Call centers: The sweatshop of the modern era (132 comments)

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  •  Sweatshop work: I grade ACT tests for 25 cents ea. (5+ / 0-)

    This sounds familiar. I work(ed) for a company that grades standardized tests like the ACT, SAT, etc. It started out as fairly abusive work terms, everyone was hired as independent contractors on short term (4 to 8 weeks) so they wouldn't have to pay benefits. But despite the horribly low pay, it had some actual benefits, like if you worked a certain number of hours per year you were eligible for health insurance that was partly paid for by the company. You got 25 cent per hour raises after you worked 1000 hours.

    THEN the company switched to piecework. You got paid like 25 cents per piece. You have to score 40 papers an hour to make your minimum expected "metric" and make the minimum $10/hour. So that gives you 90 seconds to read a paper that's up to 5 pages long, that a student probably put an hour into writing. Workers are encouraged (expected) to work faster, which means that someone might only spend 30 seconds reading the paper. Faster work means more money for you.

    Think about that: your kids' ACT exams, the tests that determine whether he gets into a good school or not, are being graded by pissed off, stressed out employees that have little incentive to even read the paper.

    But it gets worse. Now the work is being outsourced to home workers. You get piecework rates but you have to provide your own computer. The main office has now become a call center, where employees that used to make decent wages are now phone drones, supervising hundreds of employees across the country who are working in their homes. The remote workers are constantly monitored by computers, and the phone center workers' duty is to read the reports and fire employees that are underperforming. Then they phone up some other employee desperate for more work. There are always more employees desperate for the job. Most of the call center work has been moved to other states where workers get about $1 less than the site I worked at.

    I suppose there is some justice in this scenario. Most of the full-time employees were fired and told they could reapply for their jobs as perma-temps. Now they have learned what it's like to have no benefits. But as the money has been pulled out of the national testing program of No Child Left Behind, the competition for the few remaining jobs has become fierce, even hostile. Some employees feel entitled to the few remaining jobs, and will harass people who compete with them. It should not surprise you that I no longer work for them because I filed an EEOC grievance.

    •  I did this one summer (0+ / 0-)

      While I was out of work I did it for a few months grading these tests.  At the end of my career there I was able to grade a full page essay in about 5-10 seconds.  I was hitting all metrics and scoring above 98% accuracy.

      Of course I never "read" anything at that point except to find the key elements the test-makers wanted graded.  It is the whole point of the standardized test.  Hence why they are awful measures of specific performance except as just a check box.

      At the end of my "career" there before going back to my real life, I was splitting all of the spiffs with another girl who had figured out the system as well.  In an old closed-down Sears store full of hundreds of people, we were consistently the top two.  

      I sat near mostly teachers and educators who never graded more than 40 tests an hour while I was cruising along at over 4 times that.

      This isn't a good nor a bad thing, it is just a fact.  My actions conformed to the design of what the folks at the top of the organization wanted.  I was exactly the model employee they desired.  A drone.  Bleah.

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