THE FISSURED WORKPLACE PDF

As stated by an article in The American Prospect , the workplace is undergoing a change, and fissure is what is happening to the U. Back in the day, an employee worked for a company, received benefits, stayed with the company long-term and received a pension for retirement. The average worker often spent a lifetime working for the same company. In an effort to reduce labor costs and also lasting ties to workers, companies have implemented a variety of employment strategies. Strategies include hiring through apps, employing temp workers and freelancers along with contracting out and in some cases, misclassifying employees. Today, many people have two or three part-time jobs because main jobs are not available.

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Every day, many of us eat at restaurants, stay at hotels, receive packages, and use our digital devices with the assumption that the branded company we pay for these services—Hilton, Amazon, Apple, etc. This assumption is increasingly incorrect: Our deliveries are often made by contractors and our hotel rooms are cleaned by temporary employees from staffing agencies.

Over the past few decades, major companies throughout the economy have faced intense pressure to improve financial performance for private and public investors.

They responded by focusing their businesses on core competencies — that is, activities that provide the greatest value to their consumers and investors—and by shedding less essential activities. Firms typically started outsourcing activities like payroll, publications, accounting, and human resources. But over time, this spread to activities like janitorial and facilities maintenance and security. Still in many cases it went deeper, spreading into employment activities that could be regarded as core to the company: housekeeping in hotels; cooking in restaurants; loading and unloading in retail distribution centers; even basic legal research in law firms.

Like a fissure in a once solid rock that deepens and spreads, once an activity like janitorial services or housekeeping is shed, the secondary businesses doing that work is affected, often shifting those activities to still other businesses. A common practice in janitorial work, for instance, is for companies in the hotel or grocery industries to outsource that work to cleaning companies.

Those companies, in turn, often hire smaller businesses to provide workers for specific facilities or shifts. Impacts of the Fissured Workplace Because each level of a fissured workplace structure requires a financial return for their work, the further down one goes, the slimmer are the remaining profit margins. At the same time, as you move downward, labor typically represents a larger share of overall costs—and one of the only costs in direct control for satellite players further from the mothership, so to speak.

That means the incentives to cut corners rise leading to violations of our fundamental labor standards. For a family struggling to get by, that translates to more than five weeks of groceries, a month of rent, or five weeks of child care.

It can lower wages and access to benefits. When you work as an employee for a major business, decades of research shows your wages and benefits tend to get a bounce, regardless of whether that large employer is a union shop or not. Earnings fall significantly when a job is contracted out —even for identical kinds of work and workers. That not only means lower wage growth and reduced access to benefits, but also diminished opportunities for on-the-job training, protections from social safety nets like unemployment insurance and workers compensation, access to valuable social networks, and other pathways to upward advancement.

It also may subject workers to greater health and safety risk as lines of responsibility become murkier. Taken together, the fissured workplace makes the workplace for many workers a more challenging and risk place to earn a living.

Workers have faced decades of flat real earnings and deteriorating labor conditions and a widening of income inequality for the economy as a whole. Changes in how wages are set in the economy means that the fissured workplace also contributes to this trend towards growing earnings inequality.

The reasons for understanding and then addressing it could not be more serious. Responding to the Fissured Workplace There is a critical paradox for the companies that shed so many activities to other organizations.

They make presumptions about responsibility and liability similar to those we make as customers, presumptions that ignore the transformation that has occurred under the hood of many business enterprises. Traditional approaches to enforcing those laws similarly ignore the myriad new relationships that lie below the surface of the workplace. As a result, the laws crafted to safeguard basic standards, to reduce health and safety risks, and to cushion displacement from injury or economic downturn often fail to do so.

Responding to the fissured workplace does not mean attempting to roll back economic history. That is neither an achievable nor desirable objective. We can seek ways to balance the benefits of new working arrangements with the interests of millions of workers who create enormous value each day for major businesses, their investors, and their customers.

The materials available on this site provide descriptions, explorations, and evaluations of the strategies and approaches we followed during the Obama administration as well as new and creative policy options for the future. And we will examine actions that might be taken by worker advocacy organizations and employers to address the many challenges created in the modern workplace.

We hope you will be a part of this ongoing exploration and return to this site often.

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The Fissured Workplace

The nature of work is changing, with workers enduring increasingly precarious working conditions without any safety net. They treat workers like employees specifying behaviors and closely monitoring outcomes but they classify workers as independent contractors engaging them at an arms-length and cutting them off from rights and benefits tied to employment. At the core, we maintain that certain rights and protections should not be tethered to an employment relationship, but to work itself. Thus, the right to be compensated for work and paid a minimum wage; freedom from discrimination and retaliation; access to a safe working environment, and the right to associate and engage in concerted activity should belong to all workers, not just employees. Second, as a middle circle, we argue for a rebuttable presumption of employment to address those rights that remain exclusive to employees and not independent contractors , and we propose an updated legal test of employment. Other scholarship has focused exclusively on either independent contractors or employees, or it has proposed a new category of worker altogether.

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THE PROBLEM

Despite a great deal of hand-wringing by pundits and policymakers, these trends show little sign of reversing: inequality continues to grow, as economic recovery is slow to translate into real wage growth. There is broad agreement that these are problems in want of a solution, but analyses of their causes vary. His term captures changes in the organisation of employment, whereby large firms with recognised brands devolve responsibility for their workers to increasingly complex networks of suppliers and franchisees. These trends not only affect the lower-skilled or easily standardised jobs readily associated with outsourcing — cleaning, hotel housekeeping and manufacturing assembly — but have spread to higher skilled work and sectors such as law and the media. Drawing on statistical sources, industry examples and company case studies, Weil describes a common trajectory of progressive fissuring in US workplaces — with remarkably similar employment effects. Technological advances lowered the expense and risks of coordinating complex networks of suppliers. Turning over responsibility for large areas of work to third parties became a proven formula for generating increased profits, and higher returns for investors.

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Every day, many of us eat at restaurants, stay at hotels, receive packages, and use our digital devices with the assumption that the branded company we pay for these services—Hilton, Amazon, Apple, etc. This assumption is increasingly incorrect: Our deliveries are often made by contractors and our hotel rooms are cleaned by temporary employees from staffing agencies. Over the past few decades, major companies throughout the economy have faced intense pressure to improve financial performance for private and public investors. They responded by focusing their businesses on core competencies — that is, activities that provide the greatest value to their consumers and investors—and by shedding less essential activities. Firms typically started outsourcing activities like payroll, publications, accounting, and human resources. But over time, this spread to activities like janitorial and facilities maintenance and security. Still in many cases it went deeper, spreading into employment activities that could be regarded as core to the company: housekeeping in hotels; cooking in restaurants; loading and unloading in retail distribution centers; even basic legal research in law firms.

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