Homeless Workers Make Big Profits for Labor Ready

TACOMA, Wash. – Labor Ready made more than $850 million
last year linking unskilled workers, often homeless men in
desperate straits, with small businesses desperate for no-hassle
part-time help. But what exactly are they profiting from?

TACOMA, Wash. – Labor Ready made more than $850 million
last year linking unskilled workers, often homeless men in
desperate straits, with small businesses desperate for no-hassle
part-time help. But what exactly are they profiting from?

The Tacoma-based company, which operates 839 "stores" in 50
states, Canada and the United Kingdom, takes heat from unions and
homeless advocates for exploiting those with no skills, no
prospects, and nowhere else to turn.

The company takes at least 30 percent of incoming wages to cover
workers-comp insurance costs, payroll taxes and other deductions,
and overhead, says its general counsel, Ron Junck.

Founded in 1991, Labor Ready went public in 1996, becoming the
day-labor equivalent of a fast-food chain. Business boomed, and its
stock hit a high of $23 last summer.

The company
has opened more than 150 new stores since January.

For client companies, Labor Ready takes the risk, and the
paperwork, out of hiring from a high-risk labor pool.

But advocates for the homeless worry Labor Ready is part of a
contingency-worker trend that could create a permanent underclass
with no job security, no health insurance and few rights.

Labor Ready "is an interim kind of measure that grows and
becomes the answer, and then people don’t look at the longterm
answer," said Barbara Duffield at the National Coalition for the Homeless.

Labor Ready is being sued over the cash-dispensing machines
at the heart of its "work today, paid " slogan.

Workers pay a $1-and-change fee to use the machines, a worker
who earns $38.57 takes away $37. They can also be paid by check,
but that’s problematic for those without addresses or bank
accounts.

The Atlanta lawsuit over the machines is one of several salvos
fired by the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department.

As the employer of record, Labor Ready handles government
paperwork and even safety training _ through videotapes _ when
warranted. The company tracks offices and workers by computer.
No-shows and substance abusers are blackballed systemwide.

Labor Ready represents "in some sense the privatization of
employment offices" without the accountability required of public
agencies, says Cathy Ruckelshaus at the National Employment Law
Project in New York.

Author: Peggy Andersen

News Service: Associated Press

URL: http://newsfinder.arinet.com/fpweb/fp.dll/$stargeneral/htm/x_dv.htm/_ibyx/cg03026/_itox/starnet/_svc/news/_Id/671976122/_k/4UDGh2fCSSBZfitT

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