Economics of Staffing Agencies, i.e. Economic Vampirism: Analyzing a Case Study from QPS and Saputo

I was earning QPS Employment Group a lot of money — about $7 out of every $20 Saputo paid them for my services as a cheese packer — but someone at Saputo drank sour eggnog and decided I would be a suitable target for their wrath.

After all, Saputo had paid an hourly premium, just for the luxury of having the option to terminate me at any time and without due process. Contrast this with the lot of those fortunate to receive a permanent contract immediately, without -any- temping: The need to document the worker’s mistakes before dismissal; the need to allow a certain number of absences before punishment; and other ameliorations of the otherwise one-mistake-and-you’re-done, unless-we-really-like-you world of at-will employment.

These are protections that direct hires have from Day One — which begs the question as to why Saputo doesn’t force -all- their packaging workers to be permatemps before a job offer, as they had specifically required from me as a condition of my work there.

Anyway, this disruption has unlocked my creative powers: I’ve been writing prolifically offline, but have yet to edit the material into the perfect rendition for sharing online — such as this very blog article about the economics of staffing agencies. (And yes, I’ve much more to say about Saputo — but am busy filing for unemployment benefits; continuing my crusade for higher-education reform; and otherwise planning what’s next.)

Now, I’m not here to badmouth QPS: After all, everyone at QPS wanted Saputo to continue my assignment, so that I could keep earning QPS the equivalent of one-third of my paycheck, i.e. $7 out of every $20 Saputo paid QPS hourly.
Cue QPS and its oft-claimed defense, “Oh, but we don’t take from anyone’s paycheck!”

While that might be legally true, it is practically false: The only difference between taking a share of one’s paycheck — such as through a surcharge or special tax — and reducing their up-front wage is how the under-cutting of take-home pay is structured.

“Job clients,” such as Saputo, pays the same (or higher) hourly rate to the staffing agency. The worker is the one who ends-up with a small piece of the piece, because his or her wage is reduced by the difference between what Saputo pays a new hire and what QPS pays me — a temp, not a hire — after QPS skims its portion of whatever Saputo pays it.

(As will be shown mathematically, this loss of wages — from being denied a direct hire and needing to permatemp — is about 5 dollars per hour, or $10,400 annually. Unfortunately for Saputo, few of their recent direct hires have shown greater performance or punctuality than the “disposable temps,” whom they nickel-and-dime in various ways and hold to double-standards on nearly every dimension.)
The fact is that when an employer pays a staffing agency for any “contingency worker,” that is money that would have instead been paid to that worker if s/he had instead been a direct hire. Staffing agencies make their livelihood through this economic vampirism.

Yes, the “job client” — in this case, Saputo — decides whether to pay the full wage to a worker (by allowing that employee to be a direct hire) or to pay some of that wage to the staffing agency (thereby removing a portion of the worker’s take-home pay).

However, the fact that Saputo pays such a large portion (more than one-third) of the hourly wage to the agency account representative — instead of 100-percent directly to the worker — means the agency worker -is effectively robbed- of that portion of the wage.

Mathematically, this is the difference between the direct hire’s higher-than-agency-worker starting pay and the agency worker’s lower-than-direct-hire starting pay. In my case, Saputo paid $20 hourly to my agency overlords at QPS; QPS kept $7 of that hourly pay; and this left me with only $13 hourly, which is $5.49 lower than the $18.49 hourly starting wage for Saputo’s Reedsburg packaging employees.

“Yeah, but we don’t take it from your paycheck! (We just take it through a service-level agreement -before- formulating your paycheck.)”

QPS can deny this discrepancy all it wants, but that wage difference -did- come-out of what would have been my paycheck as a direct hire. Intercepting that money -before- it becomes a payroll item is mere slight-of-hand, the same kind of accounting trick that got Enron, Mitsubishi, and other large firm into huge scandals that diminished their reputations for decades thereafter.

Add this-up over the course of a year, and that means QPS is “earning” (skimming) $13,867 annually -just- for providing the option for anytime, due-process-free termination. It’s basically the same thing as a wage garnish, except applied before any money changes hands: The garnisher simply agrees with the garnishee’s employer (Saputo, without whom QPS would not have a job assignment to offer) that the garnishee will be underpaid, such that the skimmed-off portion of the wage will be paid directly to QPS instead of to me.

Indeed, QPS Employment Group was paid -only- for providing a walk-away option to Saputo: QPS itself never did any “work coordination” because scheduling was -always- between me and the supervisor. (And I never saw any benefit from permatemping, as QPS wages and benefits pale in comparison to a direct job offer from any of the so-called “job clients” where job assignments can take place indefinitely, without any on-boarding timeline.)

Furthermore, I had negotiated my transition from part-time “fresh line” worker into full-time “packaging” worker! QPS was riding my coattails, and more-or-less conceded as much when my “work coordinator” authorized me, in writing, to negotiate whatever type of job placement I could with Saputo Cheese (at the Reedsburg plant or elsewhere).

Also underscoring QPS’ trivial justification for its perpetual wage-skimming (or whatever QPS calls it in the legalese of its Saputo-side labor contract) was that by the time my contractual hours had approached exhaustion, QPS proved powerless to make Saputo correct its hostile work environment or to make Susan Felson follow-up with the uniform she “had ordered” a month before my termination.

Meanwhile, Saputo would have paid -the same- amount in total if they had hired me directly; whereas, I would have grossed $41,600 instead of only $27,733. It really seems that Saputo “had it out” for me from the start, due to allowing me to work there -only- if I were to be exempt from union protections by artifice of having the staffing agency as the middleman employer-of-record.

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Terminated from Cheese Packing Job and Laid-off from Further Agency Assignments

November 19, 2014 – December 2, 2017: My third-of-a-decade-long courting of Saputo has come to an end. It’s because within the managerial echo chamber, it was decided (by a handful of people within Saputo) to end their contract with QPS Employment Group for my job assignment.

It even ended like a messy divorce, with Saputo ordering QPS to tell me, “You are not to contact Saputo in any way.” And based upon the email read to me by a supervisor (who I won’t name here, lest he be punished for the favor), Saputo had decided as early as November 29, but (cowardly, inconveniently, and unprofessionally) did not tell me — despite many opportunities to do so face-to-face — or even the staffing agency, which was not alerted until about half an hour after my shift had ended that Saturday.

The funny thing is that due to not checking my email or voice-mail messages over the weekend, I did not find-out about this termination until showing-up the morning of Sunday, November 3. (I was actually on the film-sealing machine for about 20 minutes; and none of my coworkers thought anything was amiss.)

The supervisor that day discreetly notified me of the termination; he put someone else (a permanent employee) on the machine; and allowed me to gather my belongings and depart with dignity. He was tasked with the dirty duties of serving as Archangel Michael with the Flaming Sword; whereas, the serpentine Satans (Susan Felson and possibly Karl Dischler) responsible for ordering the termination were safely away from any possible confrontation.

However, Saputo is no Garden of Eden. Furthermore, the individuals responsible for my dastardly dismissal cannot escape public scrutiny on this blog. To this end, I will describe their modus operandi of permatemp exploitation and thereby frustrate their future endeavors in that miserable business.

Despite being treated like a criminal for no actual wrongdoing, I’m going-out here to present my side of the story. Furthermore, history — and a local court of torte law — will vindicate me.

Full-Time Work Precludes Further Posting; Not Sure When Next Article Will Be

After persuading QPS to let me negotiate directly with Saputo for a full-time position, the hiring manager finally capitulated: I’ve been working full-time in packaging, as of August 11.

Unfortunately, there’s no timeline to on-board me as a permanent employee — and neither is there time for me to post here regularly, at least in the foreseeable future.

This blog will arise again someday! (Sooner than later, knowing how fickle work arrangements can be.)

Consumer Reports Shills Unproven Folk Medicine as Opioid Alternative

As part of a series of June 2017 articles vilifying prescription pain pills, popular magazine Consumer Reports is cashing-in on the so-called “opioid crisis” by recommending 8 “alternative pain treatments” are clinically questionable, but “at least not (quite as) addicting” as those dreaded opioids.

The big problem, however, is that -none- of these magazine-endorsed practices actually works as well or consistently as does prescription pain pills. They are -not- evidence-based medicine.

The predominant reason these folk remedies are seeing serious consideration is because the American College of Physicians — in its quiet desperation for a non-opioid pain panacea — has reluctantly affixed its stamp of approval upon formerly-fringe pain therapies.

In roughly the same order in which Consumer Reports presented them (except for a separation of distinct treatments CR had aggregated under a shared heading), I hereby present the eight non-drug pain therapies espoused by Consumer Reports writer Teresa Carr:

1) Yoga

2) Tai Chi

3) Massage

4) Spinal manipulation (inclusive of chiropractice)

5) Physical therapy (inclusive of occupational therapy)

6) Acupuncture

7) Biofeedback (originally lumped-together as an “additional therapy”)

8) Low-level laser therapy (originally lumped-together as an “additional therapy”)

Despite Carr’s claim, “Many of the 3,562 back pain sufferers we surveyed support that strategy [of using non-drug treatment for back pain],” her bias as a “freelance” CR writer is achingly obvious: The footer of her article admits, “This article and related materials [such as the back-pain study of Consumer Reports readers] are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multistate settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin (gabapentin).”

In other words, a government propaganda program -paid- Consumer Reports to write its hit piece on opioids!

Suspiciously enough, one -cannot- navigate to the website for that “educational” propaganda program — because it doesn’t have a web presence!

Anyone can assiduously search for the name of that program, “Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program,” but /she will -not- find a federal agency page describing it. (If you somehow -do- find one, then post it in the comment section!)

Higher-education-hawking Oregon State University gladly blabs about the program’s insidious dynamic, however:
“The Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program (CPGP) was created to educate [or “indoctrinate”] health care professionals about pharmaceutical industry marketing practices and to provide tools for accessing unbiased [According to -whose- standard?] sources of information about prescription drugs. The program is funded through the 2004 Attorneys General settlement resolving allegations that Warner Lambert violated state consumer protection laws when promoting Neurontin, an epilepsy drug, for off-label uses.”

Furthermore, the official “request for applications” by the Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program (AGCPEGP) reveals, “Eligible applicants include educators at[,] or affiliated with: academic institutions; non-profit organizations; [or] government agencies” (p. 6).

Here’s the corollary to that paragraph: Only individuals promoting institutional interests are eligible for the money-grab. Regular citizens, such as you and I, are unable to receive any of this propaganda-money to further our own views as to the merits or detriments of particular prescription drugs. Only those employed by special-interest groups need apply!

The cash-grant-for-articles bias of the Consumer Reports propaganda piece cannot be more manifest. Besides downplaying the proven utility of opioids, the CR writers admit they are being paid by a government program -designed- to vilify pharmaceutical drug-treatments.

By contrast, I’m writing -without- the benefit of any financial backing. I’m “just a guy” who utilizes his spare time to write about issues he cares deeply about: higher-education reform (easier job acquisition for graduates); access to necessary pain management (opioids and similar); and a few other topics (of less day-to-day significance than my Big Two).

The takeaway from this blog post is thus: If non-drug pain-management therapies -were- somehow comparable to prescription pain pills, then why have insurers refused to cover these treatments?

I’ve already stated the answer: Because non-drug pain therapies are not evidence-based medicine. They’re folk remedies at best, and little-better than “faith healing” at worst.

P.S.

Long-time pharmacist / blogger Steve Ariens has shared my Capital Times op-ed detailing why the so-called “opioid crisis” is over-blown by the “lame-stream” — err, mainstream — media. Check him out!

Permatemp Cheese Packer Hand-Packs 20 Tons of Cheese in 12 Hours

Friday, May 19, 2017 was a personal and professional milestone: 20 tons of cheese* were tallied; and my hands were the ones to pack it all.

(*For those unfamiliar with that measurement: 1 U.S. ton = 2,000 lbs., which means the 20 tons I packed are equivalent to 4,000 pounds.*)

“Oh, but is this -so- unusual?”

Yes, because:

1) The normal amount that anyone packs at that plant is only a -few- tons. Workers normally rotate stations, such that no one is hand-packing cheese for more than 3 hours per shift. (Palletizing, brine-gatekeeping, and guiding the cheese into film are the other workstations in the packaging department.)

2) My fellow temps had other obligations for the week, such that our 10-person crew from Monday had winnowed down to me and fellow temp Daniel Murphy by Friday.

3) D.M. unloaded the cheese for automatic labeling; and I packed it, while various regular employees took turns palletizing during their spare time. (Because we worked the fresh line, we did not need anyone to oversee the brine-soaking room; hence, we achieved our cheese-packing with only 3 people instead of a 4-person crew.)

I say this not so much to brag — albeit, that -is- a minor motivation, to dispel notions about my “work ethic” — but to underscore that when you’re an under-employed college graduate, you’re more likely-than-not to overcome larger obstacles that others will -never- face. If the white-collar world doesn’t want you after you had -spent years- preparing for it, then the blue-collar world sure won’t make it any easier on you, as if by betting your future on a college education, you agree to pay a much greater price for failure to get hired into a professional job.

It boils-down to this melodramatic prose: You say you’re king of the college grads?

Ergo, ecce cassius-laborus! (“Therefore, behold the cheese packer!”)

“You’re parodying the Pontius Pilate statement about Jesus, ‘Ecco homo’ / ‘Behold, the man’ — why?”

Because a bookworm-turned-laborer / under-employed college grad will -tend to feel- crucified for a while; and then he acclimates to the work that his less-formally-educated counterparts have endured since their first summer out of high school.

Also, because that biblical reference is well-known among intellectuals and commoners alike, thereby making it an ideal bridge between the vulgar labor of a packaging department and the more abstruse machinations of upper management. #FuturePromotion to #CorporateRanks, #BasedUpon #CommonInterests!

As of yet, I’ve still not an offer for full-time work, despite having worked a 60-hour week of increasingly-long shifts.

[08-11-2017 Update, necessitating the strike-through of the immediately preceding passage:]
Promoting this feat seems to have helped me persuade management into offering me a full-time work schedule! #Hurrah, #It’sAboutTime

The next step will be to negotiate a transition from being “an agency guy” (temporary employee of the staffing agency) into becoming a “real employee” (on the payroll of the client company, -not- paid by the agency). This is, of course, part-and-parcel of the college-wage PENALTY (as opposed to the “college-wage premium” of modern myth).
[/08-11-2017 Update]

JoeOhlerJr Blog Revises Posting Schedule: Now Monthly, Instead of Semi-Weekly

Some say the hurricanes, tornadoes, and assorted windstorms are “coming earlier” than usual. While there’s no scientific consensus about -that-, I can affirmatively attest: The first 12-hour workday of my permatemp-jobsite dairy plant’s year-2017 “fresh line” peak season occurred the first Tuesday of April, which is more than one month earlier than prior busy period, which had begun the week before Memorial Day 2016.

(This dairy plant’s “fresh line” commenced operations in late summer 2014, a few months before I joined. I’m now the longest-running “fresher,” by a two-year gap over the next-senior worker — although with -all- of us being temps, “There is no seniority.” #OccupationalIrony)

I also finished filing my federal and state income taxes. Because eFile is too delicate and glitch-prone — Anyone else have to fish-around for their last year’s adjusted-gross income to unlock this year’s “Free File” account? — I snail-mailed my tax returns with days to spare.

Long-time readers will realize: What a fortuitous change from my original tax-filing situation!

The grand irony is that what elevated my income was -not- my ultimately banal college degree (in public administration), but the fact I ended-up in a cheese-packing gig and stayed long enough to negotiate myself a 30-percent raise. The lesson here is that persistence with earning progressively more education does not necessarily pay-off; but persistence with working at the same employer for many years often -does- pay a better reward than any college degree you could possibly earn. (And yes, I’m working on the book Higher Education Hucksters: When More Education Is Worse… one sentence at a time!)

The bottom line is that I’ve been consistently busy offline; and have therefore come-to-grips with the reality that I won’t be able to write as often as I’d like. I hereby announce a reduced revised posting schedule: JoeOhlerJr.WordPress.com will now post monthly, instead of semi-weekly. See you in May!

“Higher Education Hucksters” Book Announced

Dissatisfied college graduate Joe Ohler was a cheese packer with a master’s degree. Being under-employed -wasn’t- his choice — instead, it was the cumulative decisions of many hiring managers, who collectively deemed him to be nothing more than an unskilled peon with a piece of paper. (Or few, in Mr. Ohler’s case.)

However, Ohler is fighting back against his market-destined fate: By becoming a thought leader!

And not just a social media star with more “hidden” followers than openly admitted, but a published presence whose insights send chills of uncertainty into the higher-education establishment.

“I wasn’t about to let the opinions of clueless human resources people determine my future,” Ohler said.

“I decided that given how few books there are warning about the dangers of higher education, my main idea makes me a thought leader. And that premise is: More higher education is often worse!”

The lack of constructive feedback from hiring managers has meant there are no guideposts to becoming best-qualified for any role he pursues. Some assume the panacea is to “get more experience,” while no one will hire you to get that first experience.

The dictum, “Get more experience,” seems unevenly applied, when less-experienced peers have been offered jobs better than the one Ohler has and comparable to the ones for which he interviews. So, only people similar to Mr. Ohler must overcome the additional odds of lacking experience, while others different from him are given a “free pass.”

Such differential outcomes motivated Mr. Ohler to write a book about his experiences as an unwanted, under-valued baccalaureate college grad.

He believes that by sharing his insights, he can help the untallied others who earned their credentials but remain cast-off from those opportunities towards which their formal education had been advertised as “advancing one’s career.” (As opposed to being an expensive detour without a so-called “college wage premium” to show for it all.)

Mr. Ohler also aspires to discourage strong-headed “preppies” from their tentative goals of a liberal-arts university.

“Just because you might self-identify as college-bound, doesn’t mean you’re obligated to enroll. Don’t let parents, peers, or teachers pressure you into the toxic investment of a college education! A bachelor’s degree can be the worst waste of your time and money, even if you choose a major that’s allegedly in-demand.”

Mr. Ohler will entitle his book, “Higher Education Hucksters: When More Education Is Worse.”

Some say, “Why not call it, ‘University scam exposed?'”

Joe Ohler says, “Because that title would be more generic, and therefore less memorable, than my title, ‘Higher Education Hucksters.'”