Quality magazine recently experienced a phenomenon to which many can relate. During March we faced handling an extraordinary amount of editorial copy. Beside this large, 128-page issue, the editors were busy putting together material for the Quality Expo International 2001 (April 24-26, Rosemont, IL) show program. In addition, we were readying material for the May issue and planning for June. Our dilemma was how to handle the increased demand. The solution: use temporary workers skilled in handling magazine production. It proved successful.

Manufacturers often find themselves in need of temporary workers to meet short-term goals. Many such "temps" often find themselves offered full-time positions. However, some who are classified as "temps" closer resemble full-time staff because their hours and length of stay is extended beyond what is reasonable. Yet, the temp gets paid and the manufacturer meets his goals. So, what's the problem in such an arrangement?

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the General Accounting Office found many companies avoiding legal responsibility for "full-time temps" by claiming they are not the employer. Others misclassify these full-timers to avoid paying benefits. Federal lawmakers have introduced legislation to "protect the rights of temps who work for the same company for an extended period of time." The article goes on to say that labor unions support such legislation, to organize and add members to their ranks.

Union wages and forced benefits will add to the cost of manufacturers, many of whom are struggling to remain competitive. However, it will force those who abuse the temp system to be accountable. Is there a middle ground? Yes. Responsible use of temporary workers.

Temps are temporary. If that person is needed beyond a reasonable amount of time, which differs from assignment to assignment, then he should be offered a full-time position with benefits. It may be more expensive, but it's the right thing to do. While many manufacturers do the right thing, those who don't will make it necessary for the government to legislate the right thing. I'm not sure anyone wins when that happens.

On a personal note, this is my last column as editor in chief of Quality magazine. I am leaving the publication to pursue personal interests. I will stay involved in the manufacturing press to some extent. I thank those who supported me, as well as those who challenged me. I wish all of you the best and hope to see you as I continue on this new path.