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Dave DeSario heads The Alliance for the American Temporary Workforce. He is also the executive producer of A Day’s Work, a 2015 documentary film about temporary workers. DeSario lives in New York City.
Seth Sandronsky: What got you started as an advocate for temporary workers?
Dave DeSario: I’m just one of the millions of pissed-off temp workers. Perhaps I became an advocate because it took me longer than most to realize how the temporary staffing industry is a scam, so I got to know it very well. Whether it was working in a warehouse or an office, it didn’t matter. That carrot on a stick commonly known as the “temp to perm” promise keeps us working harder for less. It keeps us and our families living on the brink of collapse. But, this goes so far beyond temp workers.
SS: Talk about the tactics and scope of the temporary work business model.
DD: The temporary staffing industry divides workforces in a way that intentionally drives down the wages and working conditions for all working people. It’s an industry skimming the wages of three million Americans today and crushing millions more, pulling in for itself more than $120 billion a year in the US in the process, with a huge federal lobbying effort backed up by 25 regional lobbying groups that have written labor law to our detriment in all 50 states.
The deeper question here is, “Why isn’t someone else advocating for temp workers?” You know, someone that you’ve heard of, like one of the big labor unions, or, a political party, major or minor, concerned about the increasing precarious labor conditions for all working people. Or, anyone else?
There are others. Many other temp workers and organizations are making an enormous difference organizing and improving conditions. But, by and large, successes have been at the local level, by groups you haven’t heard of yet. So, in the absence of a national movement, or one of those big names, all of us needs to do whatever we can to advocate for workers like us. No one is going to show up and fix it for us.
SS: How did you become executive producer of A Day’s Work, and where is it available for viewing?
DD: A Day’s Work is the culmination of nearly 10 years of experience, research, and hearing from temp workers across the country. Producing the film was a necessary step in our communications strategy. Almost every other nation on earth has common sense regulations in place for the temp industry, but in the US we still don’t understand how the system works, and toll it takes on working families and taxpayers. I hope the film is the first step toward a greater understanding that will lead to better informed workers and real policy change. The film has screened at nearly 100 events with organizations across the country, with an upcoming schedule at www.TempFilm.com.
SS: What do you see as a major issue for the temporary worker movement in 2017?
DD: In 2017 we need to worry about our most basic right – the right of every person to be safe at work. Temp workers already face dramatically higher rates of injury and death on the job, and there’s gas being thrown on the fire in the form of cuts to the Department of Labor, cuts in grant funding to OSHA training used by temp workers, and a rollback of federal policies that protect workers’ lives and limbs. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a bad year. The question is, how many families will suffer, and how many more bad years will there be, before we can build the support to turn this around.