NOW has an interesting article up about freelancers/temporary workers/contractors and the role they (eh-hem, we) play in our current economy. I have long believed that the rise of the service economy has been used by Corporate America to break down the relationship between workers and the benefits that unions have worked so long and so hard to give us.
Things like holidays and weekends become “floating holidays” and a couple of arbitrarily arranged days off during a week in the face of the “24/7 Help Desk.” Benefits become something you get at “good jobs” and don’t expect to be able to pay for at your current job. And those “floating holidays” always seem to float away before you’ve used them, over the “use them or lose them” horizon for another year.
Many of us who work as non-staff employees like or even love our jobs. For those in IT or other “knowledge industry” professions, working contract jobs is a matter of course, anyway. Like the woman in the NOW piece, we have nothing personal against our employers. But we are perfectly capable of becoming sick somewhere during our time at our jobs, and when that happens, who will pay for the health care we need? How can we maintain our health if we cannot get days off like normal people? I only barely was able to get a mortgage because of my status as a contractor, even though my status is no less stable than your average manufacturing worker and perhaps more so.
This is of course one more argument for universal coverage. In other countries, such as Holland, most people work in as informal arrangements as us temps here in the states. The difference is that their government provides the benefits instead of the employer. With this one rather imperative duty lifted from both workers and employers, the system works much better and allows both parties more freedom.
Such an arrangement here would do incredible things for all of us, but especially small businesses and start ups. Imagine not having to worry about providing benefits for your family, only concentrating on working at the best gig you can find and doing your best work.