We got a comment the other day that articulated the turbulent feelings between unions and the staffing industry. In part, it said: “I’ve been to some union meetings… and they talk about temps like we’re a pile of s*** when all we’re doing is working.”
Yet Sheet Metal Workers International Association Local 40, a labor union based in Rocky Hill, CT, has seen fit to open Alloy Sheet Metal Staffing – its own temporary staffing firm.
In fact, in the online version of the Hartford Business Journal David Roche, business manager for Local 40, called the temp staffing model “the wave of the future for this business.”
Hypocrisy? Not really.
Jeremy Zeedyk, a representative of Local 40, says that the staffing agency is “a new idea, for sure” for the world of unions. But they’ve got the business goals right: to keep the labor pool working, and to provide clients a “sample” of their labor for when these companies begin hiring again.
Where a typical staffing firm might be the employer of record for a roster of regular clients, Sheet Metal Staffing has several signatory contractors. These companies have expressed in writing their interest in hiring temporary union sheet metal workers, according to Zeedyk.
Alloy Sheet Metal Staffing performs most of the functions you’d find from a staffing firm hiring non-union temps, including administration of HR, health care and insurance benefits, hiring and training.
And similar to any staffing firm, Alloy maintains a pool of qualified workers. In this case they’re sheet metal workers with a variety of skills including welding, architectural design and testing/adjusting/balancing (TAB) for HVAC. It sends these workers out on a temporary basis to help its contractors fill in during production peaks.
But is this a compliment to the temporary staffing industry in “right to work” states? Not at all.
“It’s not so much that there’s anything wrong with the (non-union) temp model,” said Zeedyk. “It’s more the quality of the work that you get. That’s pretty much the issue there.”
Yep, there’s the issue. I’m not an expert in sheet metal, but it seems to me there are plenty of non-union workers who are just as skilled as their union counterparts.
And the last time I checked, the unions exist to protect workers from unfair labor practices – not so much to set standards for quality.
Still, the union says that you can expect to pay slightly more for a union worker from Alloy than you would for a non-union temp from another temporary staffing provider. That might be because most of the funds for Alloy, which is not a profit-seeking entity, come from union dues. It could also be that Alloy doesn’t charge its clients at the same rates as a traditional firm.
Or, it could be that the union is trying to ride its “quality first” perception all the way to the bank.