The Temp Economy: From Kelly Girls to Permatemps in Postwar America

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9781439900819: The Temp Economy: From Kelly Girls to Permatemps in Postwar America
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Everyone knows that work in America is not what it used to be. Layoffs, outsourcing, contingent work, disappearing career ladders-these are the new workplace realities for an increasing number of people. But why? In The Temp Economy, Erin Hatton takes one of the best-known icons of the new economy-the temp industry-and finds that it is more than just a symbol of this degradation of work. The temp industry itself played an active role in this decline-and not just for temps. Industry leaders started by inventing the "Kelly Girl," exploiting 1950s gender stereotypes to justify low wages, minimal benefits, and chronic job insecurity. But they did not stop with Kelly Girls. From selling human "business machines" in the 1970s to "permatemps" in the 1990s, the temp industry relentlessly portrayed workers as profit-busting liabilities that hurt companies' bottom lines even in boom times. These campaigns not only legitimized the widespread use of temps, they also laid the cultural groundwork for a new corporate ethos of ruthless cost cutting and mass layoffs.

Succinct, highly readable, and drawn from a vast historical record of industry documents, The Temp Economy is a one-stop resource for anyone interested in the temp industry or the degradation of work in postwar America.

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"This engrossing study paints a vivid picture of how the temporary-services industry strategically sold temp work from the 1940s to the present day, transforming the face of twenty-first-century labor relations. Hatton tells a thoroughly researched and fascinating tale of an aggressive marketing campaign to establish the legitimacy of a 'workers-as-liability' employment model and the organized struggles against it. This landmark study is essential for experts and laypersons seeking to understand the twentieth century's wide-scale transformation of work."
--Irene Padavic, Florida State University

"Erin Hatton has written a compelling social history of how the temporary help industry evolved and popularized a new employment model of the contingent worker, and thereby contributed to the degradation and transformation of work in the late twentieth century. Her analysis highlights the dynamics underlying the development of the industry and suggests strategies for building on its strengths while alleviating its negative consequences for workers."
--Arne L. Kalleberg, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

About the Author:

Erin Hatton is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York, Buffalo.

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