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Temp Worker Nation: If You Do Get Hired, It Might Not Be for Long

Writers and warehouse workers, janitors and business consultants, truck drivers and graphic designers -- none have a social safety net.

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Workers should speak out about abuses, says Johansson. The bad publicity created by “shining a light on working conditions for large companies” such as Walmart and Amazon might help hold them accountable for how subcontractors and their workers are treated.

Legally, she says, “just enforcing the law” against misclassification would help. In June, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that the 350 taxi drivers at Baltimore-Washington International Airport had been wrongly classified as independent contractors. Their employer, which has an exclusive contract for taxi service at the airport, is appealing the decision.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) have introduced bills to tighten the definition of an independent contractor.

Still, trying to improve conditions for freelancers and contingent workers is difficult in an economic system that has been vampirizing workers’ rights and incomes for a generation.

“The social contract that was part of American society for many years is dead,” says Greenwald. “We need to have a serious conversation about who’s winning and who’s not winning.”

The cutthroats can survive in this new world, he says, but “the rest of society is suffering.”

Steven Wishnia is a New York-based journalist and musician. He is the author of the novel "When the Drumming Stops" (Manic D Press), "Exit 25 Utopia," and "The Cannabis Companion."