Many Georgia factory workers on the dole

Nearly half of Georgia’s “frontline manufacturing production workers” — auto workers, machinists, metal workers — receive public assistance, according to an eye-opening report released this week by the University of California, Berkeley.

Nationwide, one-third of these workers get food stamps, Medicaid, the federal Earned Income Tax Credit or other government aid. The benefits cost state and local governments about $10 billion annually, the analysis found.

In Georgia, the public assistance costs $427 million.

Eight of the top 10 states whose production workers receive public assistance are in the South where low wages and anti-unionism are prevalent.

“Manufacturing has long been thought of as providing high-paying, middle-class work, but the reality is the production jobs are increasingly coming to resemble fast-food or Walmart jobs, especially for those workers employed through temporary staffing agencies,” said Ken Jacobs, who co-authored the report.

Jacobs and colleagues lay much of the blame on the rise in workers placed in factories by temp agencies.

Temp jobs account for 9 percent of all frontline manufacturing jobs; they accounted for only 1 percent of the jobs a generation ago. Temp-hired assemblers and fabricators, the study says, earn a median wage of $10.88 an hour. Those hired directly by the factory earned $15.03.

Read the report here.