Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

As `Good' Jobs Become `Bad' Jobs, Congress Takes a Closer Look Senator Sees `Alarming Implications' in Rise of `Contingent' Workers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

As `Good' Jobs Become `Bad' Jobs, Congress Takes a Closer Look Senator Sees `Alarming Implications' in Rise of `Contingent' Workers

Article excerpt

THERE are good jobs and there are bad jobs. Lately, millions of Americans are ending up with the bad jobs - no benefits, no security, low pay.

One of them was Wendy Perkins, who lost her position as a stockbroker in Beverly Hills, Calif., in the late 1980s, and suddenly found herself on a rapidly-declining financial escalator.

Desperate for income, Ms. Perkins worked as a part-time receptionist ($6-an-hour), clerked in a retail store, sold her car to raise cash, and began house-sitting to keep a roof over her head. Most of her personal belongings were lost when she could not pay the storage fees.

Congress now is taking an interest in people like Perkins. Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D) of Ohio says the number of "contingent workers" like her without full-time, steady jobs has grown to 25 percent of the labor force, and could rise to 50 percent by 2000.

Senator Metzenbaum warns: "This trend has alarming implications for working men and women in this country, for our standard of living, and for our economy as a whole."

The rise of a contingent work force is not well documented or understood, even by labor experts. The government's Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks part-time, temporary, and self-employed workers. But BLS economists admit there are no good data on a new class of workers who scramble frantically from job to job, often without any benefits, and with a growing sense of insecurity.

Richard Delaney, a representative of the Office and Professional Employees International Union (AFL-CIO) says such workers are multiplying rapidly. He points to employees at Bank of America, the nation's second largest bank.

In testimony this week before a Senate Labor and Human Resources subcommittee, Mr. Delaney said a work force overhaul at the bank has taken a heavy human toll. Thousands of bank employees were transferred into "part-time and temporary jobs with no job security and little or no benefits," he told the senators.

Delaney cited examples, including a 14-year bank employee whose hours were cut from 30 per week to 19. He said: "This woman had worked a second job at a convenience mart to supplement her low wages. …

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