I don’t often blog about myself, I don’t want to drive away the few readers I have, but a recent experience of mine deserves some attention.
At the beginning of June I was hired by a small company as a senior copywriter. The latest trend in hiring, at least here in California, is to bring someone on under a contract lasting usually three or six months. During the contract period, you receive no benefits or regular employee privileges. You’re essentially a freelancer. I was hired on a three-month contract basis and was paid a straight hourly salary with the carrot that I could be hired as an employee once my contract was up.
From a company perspective, the line is that hiring a person under contract allows them to see if the employee is a good fit before investing money in that person through benefits. That sounds logical, but there’s a darker side to contract work.
The opportunity for companies to abuse this process is great and works only in the organization’s favor. When I was hired in June, the company was in the middle of redoing their website. For two-and-a-half months I worked daily on copy for their website then, when the majority of the site was finished, I was told there wasn’t enough work to keep me on. Ironically, my boss told me she had gone through a similar experience of being hired on contract by a company, did a buttload of work for them, and was then let go before her contract was up.
Like my boss, I was brought on to do a particular task, then let go before any benefits were issued. So I was essentially a fee-lancer, although under stricter control than I would be with that title. The problem is that the pretense was that I would probably be hired full-time at the end of the contract. Of course, I wasn’t.
The bottom line is that companies are exploiting talent at all levels of experience using the contract process to get work done without having to pay for benefits. In my opinion, this is one result of the weakening of unions over the past thirty years. Companies can and do get away with exploiting employees because we are powerless to do anything about it. It’s become an environment where the Koch Brothers and Walton’s have the upper hand, and workers are left holding the bag.