Employment agencies get a bad rap.  When some people talk about staffing companies they call them swindlers or slave traders but you and I know that is simply not the case.  Yes, let’s get it out there, some staffing agencies are downright atrocious, but many are dedicated and highly moral.

In any industry, you run the risk of bad business dependent upon the quality of the person(s) employed.  So how did it come to be that the words “employment agencies” would have such a negative connotation?

I know how even reading the words “rules” or “regulations” can make you drowsy but stay with me, this is an interesting tale of the origin of staffing agencies and the beginning of temporary employee rights.

(NYT) March 25, 1904. The title read, “Evil Help Agencies Scorned”.

There was an investigation that had been going on for the previous 2 years that revealed questionable, disease-laden, vermin infested places.  These places were employing honest workers into immoral lives.  Any man could pay $25 and start his help agency.   There were no rules or regulations prohibiting the mistreatment of temporary employees.

A Bill (The Finch Bill) had circulated and passed through the Assembly.  The Finch Bill proposed various solutions to a vast amount of pressing issues with the “help agencies”.  Some of these proposed changes were to improve working conditions, limit fees and dues that are charged, regulate unfair treatment and outsourcing.

The Bill sought to eliminate false representation by the “help agencies” to lure the potential employees in for work.  It set out to require inspections of facilities, but was waiting for religious objections to be heard before deciding to move forward in the Senate.

But let’s understand that this bill was being pushed because of indecent people preying on the weak and less fortunate for financial gain.  The Tenant House Commissioner and President of the Protective Association of Employment Agencies both endorsed this bill.

The hard working decent people within the employment agency industry were working with the government to help forge the path to clear out the “bottom feeders” and filth to create the right and responsibilities that are upheld today.

Many staffing companies are still “help agencies."  These help agencies nurture and develop the community in which they staff.  They feel gratification by the mere placement of a mother or father who will be able to buy food and clothes for their children.  They seek volunteer opportunities and are honest, hard working citizens.

Articles like this remind me that we have come a long way in the staffing industry.  We have long been business pioneers.  Although staffing companies have, at times, been cast in shadows and shamed for over 100 years, they continue to thrive and move forward.

Tags: New York Times, Industry, Temporary Agencies, 1904, Finch Bill