Tuesday, April 20, 2004
I found out a lot more stuff about the place I worked at for a day, the PIRG place. I knew something was wrong with the place, but thought maybe it was just a personal thing of mine, the worry about the money and the hours and all that.
So I go into chat and mention the PIRG and Zaphod tells me all about how horrible they really are, what these places really do.
Then I start some research of my own, and realize PIRGs were started by Ralph fucking Nader and are specially designed to line Saint Ralph's pockets.
I worked for Ralph Nader for a whole day.
I am ashamed.
Anyway, from what I can see, these places just work like glorified pyramid schemes. The 'funds' we raise from canvassing pretty much just go to finance the hiring of more canvassers to raise funds to hire more canvassers to raise funds to hire more canvassers....you get the idea.
PIRGs are basically just scamming stupid college kids all across the country. PIRG offices zone in on campuses, and cluster around them, luring the kids into a trap like a snake charmer. These kids go in under the impression that they are going to be doing something 'good' for society and the environment. They don't realize they are being suckered into working a lot of hours off the clock, for less than minimum wage, in a shitty work atmosphere. PIRGs are exploiting people while they wave a big fat banner about being the voice for people who 'have no voice.'
I realize being that 'voice' appeals to a lot of people, and that may be why most are blind to what's being done to them when they work with the PIRG. All during my first training day, I was a bit appalled at the level of naivete amongst my co-workers. There was another boy training with me that day, and he asked me what I thought of the job towards the end of the day.
I said that I liked it fine, but was concerned about a few things, mainly the pay and the long hours without MORE pay, and the wandering around alone in the dark in strange neighborhoods.
I thought these were pretty valid concerns and that he would probably agree with me, since he seemed like a pretty level-headed kid before. But no. He said, and I quote, "Well, none of that stuff matters, since we're working for a good cause."
Hmmm. It does matter. A lot. I have a family to support, shelter, and feed.
I can't be wandering around, putting myself in potential danger, killing my feet, asking for money, and not get paid properly for it.
I don't care if it's a 'good cause' or not. None of this money we're raising ends up with the 'good cause,' anyway.
Furthermore, they even scam college kids that DON'T work for them. Any of you right now in college or university here in the States right now, check your tuition bill. There may very well be a fee on your bill for a PIRG that you aren't aware of. That's right, you may be donating to a 'cause' without knowing about it, or even agreeing with the 'cause.' See, what the PIRGs do is collaborate with school administrations on attaching a mandatory donation to the tuition bill. The fee is usually from 3 to 8 dollars, and it gets slapped onto the tuition bill. If the school won't agree to a mandatory fee, the PIRG will negotiate to make it 'voluntary.' Apparently, 'voluntary' in PIRGspeak means 'We'll make you pay it first, then leave open a one day window a year, where you have to travel far and wide to find a tiny basement office and get your money back.' Or they define it as, 'You can opt out of this fee, but only if you know where to find the tiny box on your school paperwork to uncheck. That's right, we check it first, and if you don't want to pay the money, YOU have to uncheck it. That is, if you can find it. Hahahaha.' So hundreds of thousands of kids all over the country are donating to this unethical, slimy, shady organisation invented by Ralph fucking Nader, without even realizing it. From the articles I read, the PIRGs raise anywhere from 10 to 20 MILLION dollars a year this way.
And the money these kids donate doesn't even stay on the campus, with the local PIRG. It goes right to the national PIRG, called USPIRG, and eventually lines Saint Ralph's pockets.
So, way to go, Mr. Nader, champion of anti-capitalism, human rights, and the forests!
I don't know why I should be so amazed that an organization that claims to be a human rights advocate would be exploiting their workers in such a fashion. These kids might as well be sewing shoes together in a sweatshop in China somewhere for 15 cents a day.
All I can say is that I'm glad I found all this out before I got too embroiled in the PIRG.
I'm going to be writing a nice little article on PIRGs, focussing, of course, on the Ann Arbor office which is part of PIRGIM, and sending it to various papers around here. Hopefully, some of the kids will read it before they go down there to apply.
As the giant saying on the wipe off board at the Ann Arbor office so proudly proclaims, 'KEEP ON FIGHTING THE GOOD FIGHT!'
I will indeed.
Saturday, April 17, 2004
Lots of stuff to blog.
So I did move to the new place, and it's better, though loads of things are broken in it. The toilet doesn't flush properly, tiles are coming off the bathroom floor, the drapes don't work, there's ants in the bathroom, and the neighbors are the most obnoxious assholes I've ever met.
But at least there's no mold.
While we were moving out of the old place, we moved the bed away from the wall to bring it over here, and lo and behold, more mold! So the bedroom wall was leaking as well. I informed the office of this, that I've lost all my major furniture now due to their screw-up, and they tried to write me off, saying 'Well, you took the new place, so we're not going to do anything else.' We'll just see about that.
In other news, I started a job at Tim Horton's, which is a coffee place. I hated it my first day, but figured I would stick it out anyway because I needed the money. They gave NO breaks in anything under a 7 hour shift, and the only break you get in an 8 hour shift is 15 minute paid, or 30 minute unpaid. Needless to say, that sucked.
Anyway, I figured I'd stick it out, that is, until I saw my schedule for the next two weeks. See, when I was hired, I was told I'd be a 10 AM person. This worked well with my ride situation, so I could get to work. I'd be a 10 AM person with the OCCASIONAL 6 AM. I said I could do the OCCASIONAL 6 AM, with proper notice. The manager said fine.
But what to my wondering eyes doth appear when I look at my schedule? A full week of 6 AMs. I point out to the manager that I am supposed to be a 10 AM person, with the OCCASIONAL 6 AM. He says if I can't work the hours he schedules me for, I'll have to leave. Since I can't work all those 6 AMs, I put down my little hat and leave.
So much for that.
Things started looking up the other day when I landed an interview with what I thought was the Sierra Club. Here's the ad:
Activism JOBS With the SIERRA CLUB & other groups $300-500/week Protect our National Forests! Work with great people! Reduce Air Pollution! Defend Democracy! Work with the Sierra Club on campaigns to protect our forests, and defend the Clean Air Act. Career opportunities and benefits available. Career opportunities and benefits available. Call Alex 734-332-4464 Ann Arbor, MI
Cool, right? I thought so.
I go to the interview and find out it's not actually the Sierra Club, but am led to believe it's something called PIRGIM, which is the Michigan Public Interest Research Group. That's cool, I figure. The guy hires me to be a Field Manager in Training. I am stoked, thinking I've finally landed a good job, working for the environment, and manager to boot! I'm told I'll make between 300 and 500 dollars a week. I'm told the hours are 1 in the afternoon to 10 PM.
So I go for my first day, my training day, which I find out is UNPAID. I work from 12:30 in the afternoon til about 10 PM. I don't get home til 11:30 because I have to take the bus. And I had to leave at 11:30 AM to get there in time. So it was a long day.
In my interview, I was told we'd be doing all sorts of things: press conferences, canvassing, media relations, fundraising drives, blah blah. On my first UNPAID day, I find out that we only do canvassing. Lots and lots of canvassing. Oh, and the pay isn't really 300-500 a week. It's 250 a week, base pay, and the rest comes from commissions. Oh wait, I mean that's 250 a week base pay, IF YOU MEET THE QUOTA every day, which is raising 110 bucks a night. If you don't make the 110, you get half of what you raise, which could very well work out to about a 5 dollar paycheck in the end.
So figuring I always make quota, working 9 hours for 250 a week works out to about....5.55/hour. Hmmm.
So I do the job that day anyway. We walk and walk and walk and walk some more. Then I'm sent out on my own to collect money. I raise something like 100 bucks on my own. The girl I am training with ends up with that commission. I kill my feet. I end up wandering around in the dark in a strange neighborhood by myself, since we canvass til 9 PM every night. When I ask the girl I am training with if we go in pairs in the dark, she says no. Does that sound safe to you? Wandering around, alone and female, in a neighborhood you've never been to, knocking on strangers' doors and asking for money? No, I think not.
So, after asking a few more questions about the job, I find out I'm not even working for PIRGIM. I'm working for the FUND for PIRGIM. Oh. Hm.
Oh yeah, and we don't actually get out of the office at 10. Sometimes it's 10:30. Sometimes it's 11. Sometimes it's later than that. So, I could be killing myself for over 12 hours a day for somewhere around 4 dollars an hour.
And as Field Manager, I'll only be making an extra 25 bucks a week, which I won't get, if my crew doesn't all make quota.
So what sounded like a really great job turned into horrible shit in the span of a day, and I won't be going back. I'll also be asking the Sierra Club if they realize how their fundraisers are treated.