(Bloomberg News) -- Hidden beneath the ecosystem of twentysomething programmers making six figures at big tech companies is a class of workers who don’t get paid vacation or maternity leave, discounted stock, 401(k) matches, or tuition assistance. For more than two decades, the industry has outsourced an expanding range of jobs to contractors, including coders, chip designers, customer service reps, custodial staff, security guards, and cafeteria workers. “A lot of temps are really used as a permanent tier of second-class workers,” says Erin Hatton, author of The Temp Economy, a history of U.S. contingent labor.

In September, 38 bug testers who review Microsoft apps voted to create a union, the Temporary Workers of America. They work full time in Microsoft’s offices but are employed by cloud services contractor Lionbridge. Before and after unionizing, the group’s efforts to get benefits comparable with those at Microsoft proved fruitless, says union head Philippe Boucher, who’s worked at Microsoft under Lionbridge full time for more than three years. “I think Lionbridge does not want to do anything,” he says. “The only thing that’s going to work is if Microsoft makes them do it.” Lionbridge didn’t respond to requests for comment.

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