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[At The New York Times Erin] Hatton writes that the temp industry sprung up near the height of unions’ power with the ability to skirt labor protections by “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.” This strategy “exploited the era’s cultural ambivalence about white, middle-class women working outside the home. Instead of seeking to replace ‘breadwinning’ union jobs with low-wage temp work, temp agencies went the culturally safer route: selling temp work for housewives who were (allegedly) only working for pin money.” They were thus able to create an entire industry of low-pay, unstable work without running into battles with unions or having to offer the employees workplace protections like health benefits, organizing rights and anti-discrimination laws.
But the “Kelly Girl” model of women working for fun eventually became a broader argument about the nature of wage work. The industry “began to argue that all employees, not just secretaries, should be replaced by temps,” Hatton writes. “And rather than simply selling temps, they sold a bigger product: a lean and mean approach to business that considered workers to be burdensome costs that should be minimized.” Workers were depicted as a burden to be dropped in the name of being lean and agile. This new model became more attractive during the recessions of the 1970s, and temps went from 185,000 a day to over 400,000 in 1980. That last number was the total number of temps employed per year in 1963. But then this became a way to structure the workforce even when times were good: as the economy boomed in the ’90s, the number of workers grew to nearly 3 million by 2000.
Even full-time employment looks increasingly like the service sector jobs that were once thought to provide women “pin money,” not the sole source of income for a family. A report from the National Employment Law Project found that mid-wage jobs have been all but replaced by low-wage jobs in the recovery period. Retail has led the pack in creating jobs—about a third of the people who got a job in November, for example, got it in retail. The sector added over 140,000 jobs between September and November. Food service and other service sector jobs also lead the pack. These have traditionally been dominated by women, but now if you want a job, both genders have to take a look at working jobs that offer little pay, few benefits and barely any stability.
None of this is the fault of women who decided to enter the labor force. As they made their way into a booming, middle-class workforce in the 1970s, companies could have responded by offering them the same stable, well-paid jobs that men had enjoyed. Instead, they lowered the bar. And now the bar is being lowered for everyone. The economy has been feminized as the floor keeps dropping beneath all workers’ feet.
Campaign Finance Reform. It was the ultimate political paradox. While Republicans held a 3x fundraising lead from hard-dollar donations, Democrats had parity in unregulated soft-dollar donations.
Yet Democrats voted for it, trapped between their support for good government and their addiction to soft dollars. Meanwhile, the GOP, who apparently had the most to gain, fought it tooth and nail.
Now, the big Ds (DNC, DCCC, and DSCC) face huge money disparities vis a vis their cash-flush GOP counterparts. Bush will have two to three times as much money as our Democratic nominee. So by winning, and by pushing good government, Democrats lost, right?