Despite performing a similar job function to other full-time employees at the company, as a TVC I was paid less than half of what my full-time counterparts would be making. I had little control over my schedule and wasn’t informed if I would be able to spend Christmas with my family until 24 hours before.
– Anonymous Contract Worker
We are launching the Contract Worker Disparity Project to shine light on the growing problem of inequality inside of tech workplaces, specifically with contract workers.
Our project takes a deeper look at these workers who are stuck a rung or two above low-wage service workers and are trying to establish and maintain middle-class stability, often for the first time.
TVC stands for temporary, vendor, or contractor. These tech workers serve as content moderators, provide customer service, act as receptionists, do event operations and logistics, and perform other key operational roles. They are a class of workers that often work side-by-side with full-time employees (FTEs), fulfilling similar roles to their FTE counterparts for 40+ hours per week, but they often forgo health insurance, paid time off, and other benefits that their FTE counterparts receive. Many workers accept this arrangement, despite the drawbacks, because it is seen as an “in” at a prestigious tech company and a pathway to a more lucrative career.
The practice of utilizing TVCs shifts the accountability of an employer to a third-party staffing or contracting agency. The agency hires the workers, sets the wage rates, determines the benefit package, and is responsible for day-to-day supervision. They also hold responsibility for things like preventing sexual harassment and discrimination, and for job safety, worker compensation, and paid sick leave—absolving the tech companies who contract with the staffing agencies of very little oversight. Contracting out is not a new idea, but in the tech industry it has become a heavily relied-upon strategy for keeping costs down and stock prices high.
In the coming months, we will shed light on the TVC ecosystem, highlighting the ways in which it perpetuates inequality within the tech workforce. Ultimately, we will develop a set of best practices for companies to implement to ensure their TVCs are protected and provided with real pathways to better careers. And we will articulate and advocate for a public policy agenda that will encode protections across the labor force for this growing set of workers. Centering the experiences of TVCs, our research will interrogate a series of questions around TVC employment, including:
As we move forward, we’ll release research highlights and develop a set of solutions to close the disparity gap amongst contract workers.
We will also work closely with our tech company partners to gain buy-in for and implement our best practices. We understand that many companies simply don’t understand the ramifications of their practices and we hope that through partnership and awareness-raising they will come to see the value of supporting all of their workers, whether they can list their company’s name on their resume or not.
Ultimately, as a community for tech workers, our goal is to create a more equitable tech workforce, remove artificial disparities between workers, and strive for structural changes to ensure that everyone can benefit from the economic growth that the tech industry is creating. With your help, the Contract Worker Disparity Project can be a critical step to achieving that goal.