Thursday, May 5, 2016

Back in the saddle, but on a shitty horse

As many people have noticed -- particularly the contract attorneys in the audience -- I don't write much any more about life in Temp Town. There are reasons for this. First, of course, is that Temp Town -- life as a contract attorney, working on a temporary basis -- really isn't very interesting most of the time. Sometimes, though, we stumble upon a project that just overflows with good blog copy, such as the project that launched this blog. Those projects, though, are rare.

We do, however, often come across projects that remind us why it sucks to be a temp. I started just such a project on Tuesday. Did I mention that I was unemployed for three weeks before starting this project? It is the only explanation for why I am on this project. The market is dead.

It is worth noting that I have never worked for this agency before because it always lowballs on the pay  rate, hitting about 20 percent below the going rate. Had I not been unemployed, with the market quiet, I doubt I would have applied for this project. I usually don't even apply for this agency's projects because of the low pay. On top of that, they rarely offer overtime. Even at a good rate, it is hard to make a living in Temp Town without working overtime, at least in D.C. So this is my first experience with this agency.

And it sucks. I know, I say that a lot about temp projects. That's because it's true. But in this case, even relative to other suck-ass Temp Town projects, working for this agency sucks. Just start with the terms of employment. If working for dramatically less than at other projects isn't bad enough for you, add in that the terms of employment with this agency state that if you don't work for at least five days on a project (in other words, if you jump to a better project in the first week), all hours worked will be paid not at the shitty rate you signed up for, but at a rate less than half that. Suck on that for a minute.

So they put us in a room that holds 40 temps, and they call it a "pod." There are other pods, of course, that hold fewer. Nothing unusual here, and really nothing unusual about the terminology, either. Temp agencies in recent years have taken a liking to calling work groups "pods." No one at these agencies, apparently, has ever seen "Invasion of the Body Snatchers." Trust me, "pod" is not an endearing term.

To ensure that things suck, though, the agency inserts at random intervals throughout the room what the agency calls "assistant team leaders." We call them "stool pigeons." The first result of this, of course, is that the room sounds like a funeral home. No one talks to anyone.

Worse, though, there are 9,347 rules you are supposed to follow during a project that are utterly unrelated to the quality of your work, including, for instance, eating food that results in crumbs while at your desk.d I suppose that paying for daily vacuuming would cut too deeply into the profits generated by the shit-ass pay they're giving us. Anyway, violations of these rules can, and will, get you fired. The stool pigeons are there to ensure that no one gets away with violating these rules. We already have a number of empty seats. I don't know if they are empty because people got fired, or because people moved to greener pastures and decided it was worth taking the pay hit. Both explanations are plausible.

Fortunately, my next employment prospect doesn't start until after I will have worked five days for this agency. I consider that the bright spot of this project at this point.

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