Above is one of the less iconic photos from the Great Depression. Of course, while the style -- from the fashions people wore to the method by which employment agencies marketed themselves -- has changed, a lot remains the same. I remember first getting work through an employment agency, located around the corner from my shared house on Callandar Street, when I was spending my first years in Toronto. It was a small storefront that managed to exude a hopeless quality far out of proportion to its size.
One goes to an emploment agency for obvious reasons, but one also goes out of a sense of desperation -- the uneasy feeling that while others have it all figured out and know how to land the really plum jobs, one is missing something, is a bit clued out, is de-looped. The rationalizing thought that occurs is this: at least one is doing something. But this something is being performed in a feckless, inefficient manner.
The agency is the one making the real money. The man or woman who works for it for a few days -- or weeks, or months -- is the vehicle that supplies profit; a profit that goes primarily to the organizers of the agency, not the one who does the daily labour ... not the worker.