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The Uncertain Hour

Government • News

Each season, we explain the weird, complicated and often unequal American economy — and why some people get ahead and some get left behind. Host Krissy Clark dives into obscure policies and forgotten histories to explain why America is like it is. The latest season examines this thing we used toRead more

Popular episodes

25 years after welfare reform, let’s revisit “the magic bureaucrat”

Aug 20 • 41:07

It’s been 25 years since our country upended its welfare system – and so we’re looking back at our very first episode.

We spent that first season of “The Uncertain Hour” reflecting deeply on what welfare had become. Each of those episodes can still help us understand what’s happened to one of our nation’s oldest safety net programs, on this anniversary of its so-called “ref...

My boss is an app

Mar 24 • 48:13

Inside baseball

Mar 17 • 46:00
In minor league baseball, professional athletes train, suit up and play for wages that would be illegal in most sectors. Players live in crowded apartments, sleep on air mattresses, work side jobs and scrape by. This week, a story about life in the minor leagues and how the baseball industry convinced Congress to rewrite federal law — and carve an entire workforce out of m...

Big Boss, Little Boss

Mar 10 • 35:28
After Jimmy Nicks’ job was subcontracted, he took both companies to court — the subcontractor he worked for and its client, Koch Foods. Thelittle boss and thebig boss. His case hinged in part on those familiar six words,“to suffer or permit to work,” and this week we’ll revisit their origins. The story begins at the scene of a deadly fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Fac...

To catch a chicken

Mar 3 • 38:56
When chicken catcher Jimmy Nicks’ job was subcontracted, virtually overnight, he started doing the same job for a new boss — only without the pay, protections and benefits he’d come to rely on. This episode looks at the subcontracting system that makes worker pay and safety someone else’s responsibility.
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The liquid workforce

Feb 24 • 40:26

“To suffer or permit to work”

Feb 17 • 48:59
This week we’re finally going to tell you what happened to Jerry Vazquez — and how his story relates to the 1930s case of a hotel chambermaid. Jerry and some of his fellow Jan-Pro franchisees decided to sue the company, saying they’d been misclassified as independent contractors when they should have been employees(and entitled to minimum wage, over time,and other protecti...

Who’s the boss?

Feb 10 • 45:52

Jerry Vazquez was in the cleaning business now, and his clients liked him. They’d leave him notes, some with smiley faces drawn in. But, he says, he was barely getting by on the rates negotiated by Jan-Pro. He started feeling like had little control over a business that he owned. As Jerry would soon find out, some of Jan-Pro’s other franchisees felt similarly — they were s...

Congratulations! You’re an entrepreneur now

Feb 3 • 43:05

Jerry Vazquez always dreamed of working for himself. So when he saw a notice in the PennySaver advertising janitorial franchises, he decided to go all in. Pretty soon after, he was in debt to the company and earning less than minimum wage doing a really dirty job. He’d wanted his own business — and on paper, he did — but it felt like something entirely different....

‘The Uncertain Hour’ is back!

Jan 27 • 04:15
Employment as we know it is changing. The kinds of jobs where one person works for one employer for yearswith health insurance, sick days, paid vacation and a retirement fund — are getting harder to find. Throughout the economy, companies have pivoted to outsourced, subcontracted, freelance, temporary or gig workers. Many of those jobs don’t have benefits; some of them ...

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