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My Brilliant Career at ACORN
by Philip Shropshire Thursday, Apr. 28, 2005 at 5:43 AM
pshropshire@yahoo.com (email address validated) 4122719162 2100 S. Braddock Ave.

If you're thinking about working for ACORN, don't. Try other public interest groups like the Clean Water Action Project or even Direct Advantage Marketing before working for ACORN.

(For working links go to http://www.threeriversonline.com)

"Speaking as a former employee of ACORN, I can tell you that there are many reasons ACORN doesnt work. ACORN has set itself up as the savior of the inner-city. They claim that they can organize the vote and get it out better than anyone else in America. They have virtually declared themselves to be the ghetto messiah. However, is this true?

Let us examine the facts. ACORN is headed by white leftists and until only a few years ago there where hardly any blacks at the helm, to take care of this PR problem ACORN put Maude Herd in as president. However, the presence of a black face at the top means very little. The driving agenda of ACORN comes from these white liberals and the formulation of their solutions to the problems of American cities comes from books and the classrooms, not personal experience.

Now, the white left certainly has its place in these matters, however what we see with ACORN are people, despite being with the organization for a long time, having very little familiarity with the culture and happenings of the ghetto. Therefore, if you don't know the community ( knowledge doesn't mean you have read a lot of studies), how can you possibly claim to have the solutions.

Furthermore, ACORN pays its workers a very low age. In some states it is right at the minimum wage, despite ACORN being the big campaigners for Living Wage ordinances. With low wages like these ACORN can only attract a select group of individuals. Those who really don't need the money, because they come from affluent backgrounds and those who don't have children. If ACORN truly wants to represent the communities it works in then it must employ people from those communities.

ACORN has also, because of its unfamiliarity with the ghetto, been continuously duped by slick ghetto politicians who everyone, except ACORN , have known to be corrupt. ACORN has made very little effort to reach out to many leaders in the black community, namely the 2.5 million member Muslim community. A fundamental change if ACORN is to succeed in the future."

...More at "Why ACORN Doesn't Work"

So, for you young people out there, you probably don't know the dos and don'ts of the good and/or bad interview. I've had my share of both during my plus two score span.

Here's a hint when the interview for the canvass director position turns bad: You end up telling Pittsburgh ACORN head Maryellen Hayden to, and I quote: "Get the fuck out of my face". I had worked several months before for ACORN back in 1997 and I was sort of disappointed by the experience--getting paid late and not seeing actual benefits for working poor people kind of does that to you.

This is after she told me, and this is from memory, that I was doing it just to get a "job", as if Maryellen's skills of making fun of my pronunciation were in high demand. That simply hasn't been the way that I've lived. I have spent a total of five years of my life knocking on doors for political causes, and I'm not counting the last six months that I worked for ACT. I worked my way through college canvassing. I worked for Citizen Action (pretty much like the army for progressives) (and note the racial diversity of management from that picture) which had a brutal $120 a night quota, for about a year in a half. And my field manager was intentionally trying to get me fired. (I was good.) I then ran a field canvass for three years in Evansville, Indiana, where we canvassed against NAFTA and high cable bills. I don't think I ever did it for the "Big Money", although the 15,000 a year I sniffed at is more than what the average, highly exploited ACORN worker makes.

ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, if you didn't know, kids, is kind of a fucked up place to work. Oh, they have wonderful goals and aspirations, just not for their workers. Let's put it this way: they were paying my rent in Washington DC and I was still starving from my $150 a week salary--which they would pay me late. Thanks fellas. But that's just personal negative experience.

Overall, ACORN makes a claim to be fighting the fight for poor people. But in the past, ACORN has refused to negotiate with unions, hired scabs to replace their striking workers, opposed a minimum wage hike for their own workers (used by right wing publications all the time to show the hypocrisy of the left...thanks fellas, again), will never give you a full weekend--gawd I used to hate that, and has earned its own Page of Contempt over at the IWW Website.

Curiously enough, Ms. Hayden inquired, in her particular parlance: "Whydja come down here if you thought it was a bad place to work?" probably scratching her noggin cartoon like and yearning to catch a fuckin' clue. Honestly, if I could run the canvass my way and pay the workers a decent wage, then why not give it a shot? Perhaps ACORN had gotten better. I was wrong.

(Aside: Funny story. Maryellen was telling me the story of how the last canvass failed and she asserted that the last canvass manager was kind of a heroin addict and that's why it failed, as opposed to the 54 hour weeks, the shortened lunch breaks and late paychecks. Yeah, heroin. Hokay. Of course, she still has her job because when you manage like that you keep your job at ACORN. Laffs were had by all. Still in the jesting mood hours later, I did ask what that guy's name was.

She wrote back:
Date: Tue, 26 Apr 2005 19:04:25 -0400
From: "Maryellen Hayden" <paacornpiho@acorn.org> Add to Address BookAdd to Address Book
Subject: Re: Who was that heroin addict
To: "Philip Shropshire" <pshropshire@yahoo.com>

I have no idea what you are talking about.
I guess you have some kind of problem.
sorry

Now, Maryellen, you public figure you, I remember the details. Just happened a day ago. Remember when you told me he was a great guy and then he didn't come in and then he didn't answer his cell anymore...you don't remember that? Because if you don't you're either a blatant liar or a deeply stupid woman. Alex, I'm going to go with "What is both?")

Actually, her plan sounds familiar. Sounds like the same very bad ACORN plan that I've seen before. Here's how one disgruntled former ACORN staffer described it:

"A main difference between Marx's argument and the relations of ACORN is that bourgeois society exploits workers in order to increase the capital profit of the ruling class. But ACORN organizers are laboring to increase a profit which supposedly does not come in the form of capital in the hands of the rich, but social change in the hands of the poor. Does this mean that we are not being exploited?

The fact is that we are exploited for a different reason. We are being exploited in the name of the movement, and most likely for the accumulation of capital. [Note: I was paid up to $8 an hour which amounted to $32 per night to knock on doors. I was expected to collect $120 per night. If I didn't I was considered to be doing poorly at my job. Few workers seldom ever raised $120 per night yet that was ACORN's unrealistic expectation of us as their workers.] A contradiction occurs in the organization in that it is fighting the wage and class gap by using the same motives and manipulations that corporations have been using for well over a hundred years. ACORN is an organization trying to change the plight of the poor in a capitalist society at the same time it contributes to the problem. The organization is tripping over itself as it perpetuates the injustices of the capitalist system."

By the way, Citizen Action, no angels them, pays about 52 percent up to quota, which I think is up to $130 night. Maryellen wanted to pay the workers a very not generous 40 percent. That's a wage that's guaranteed to keep you poor and probably lower than what the other two summer canvasses will pay (Sierra Club and Clean Water Action Project). How would you compete with those canvasses? You wouldn't. In fact, you would get the worst workers. In other words, if you don't know anything about canvassing then you would probably canvass for ACORN and take one of the worst deals ever...

Just for the record, and I tried to explain this to Maryellen, slowly, despite her bouts of traumatic memory loss regarding her former heroin addict employees, is that the field canvass simply sets the plate for a much more lucrative phone canvass. The Clean Water Action Project doesn't need the hassle of a field canvass anymore because the phone canvass is much more lucrative. But you have to pay the field canvassers a decent wage (at least 50 percent) and not work them six days a week. You might even consider giving them a four day week. Heroin...right.

So, in summation, if you're a plucky young progressive who wants to change the world one knock at a time, I would strongly recommend working for Clean Water, the Sierra Club or even the DAM phone canvass before you worked for ACORN--unless you want your disenchantment with the American Left to start early...and no I didn't get the position. Darn the luck. Or give me an email and I'll tell how to start your own canvass. It'll be tough, grueling work. But you'll give yourself a better deal than ACORN.

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great stuff on ACORN, and a little word on Clean Water
by ...... Saturday, Apr. 30, 2005 at 1:16 PM

I greatly enjoyed the article on ACORN, as i had nearly went to working with them and am quite thankful that i did not. I agree on the lack of consistency regarding workers' rights and their own practices, not to mention the group is totally unrealistic in its goals, mostly due to what you said here. And the comment regarding privileged white liberals is priceless and true! I grew up here in an inner-city neighborhood of Pittsburgh that is better than some, but not well off at all. And i can tell you that i could never afford to try even working for ACORN cuz i'm not so privileged in terms of money. Now, to Clean Water Action...i worked for this group and HATED IT. Worst job of my life and most i talk to in the progressive community of Pgh all agree that it sucks to work there. We basically harassed people in my opinion and i thought it was shitty the way they did things. I would avoid them as well. Great piece on ACORN though, their hypocrisies make all us lefties look bad

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CWA isnt any different
by Poor Schmuck Tuesday, May. 10, 2005 at 2:10 PM

As a CWA employee, this makes my skin crawl to hear my fears about my organization confirmed by others. These organizations have sadly become pawns of poor managers desperate to keep their jobs. The "issues" are secondary to keeping management in paychecks, pure and simple. They hire and exploit hard working idealists and damn near ruin their enthusiasm for civic action before they are done with them- all while preaching virtues they refuse to live up to (like the living wage). They give progressive politics a bad name. I gotta get outta here.....

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........
by Al Pacino/Keanu Reeves Tuesday, May. 10, 2005 at 9:58 PM

I share in your concerns about ACORN and other canvasing opperations. There are, however, not a mass variety of paid "progressive" organizations which do act as an outlet for "leftists". I would assume that the people who do work there, although seeing the organizational and tactical problems, see the organization as an opportunity to work first-hand on issues which they care about.
I would also assume that the folks that work there have not tied all of the issues together yet as the author has. For the young people who do choose to work there, it may be there first experience with many issues all together. I had a friend who worked with acorn during the last election- i wasn't going to stop them from doing it because voting is bullshit. If working at acorn is what it takes to get a few more people thinking about justice, so be it. Through experiencing the societal issues which become evident in the work at acorn, a few more people will become radicalized. Yes, when they think about their work, they will probably quit and move on, but it is a step along the way.
Although acorn might be to organizing as starbucks is to coffee, it is a viable option for individuals to get involved with. Not everyone will immediately search out the great organizations in our area. If acorn gets people onto the track of becoming more involved and looking for better options, then it is fulfilling a greater good.

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on the contrary
by screw acorn and cwa Wednesday, May. 11, 2005 at 7:46 PM

on the contrary, i think these groups dishearten and sour people on the political activist experience. I think they discourage people through their lack of motivation, poor pay, and overall lousy ability to really put some successful work together. The above criticisms are dead on and just so ya all know, i worked once for CWA too and their reputation is lousy at best with most progressives i know. Therefore i think these groups hurt not help

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Canvassing...sucks
by phill Monday, May. 16, 2005 at 11:49 PM
philliplegge@gmail.com

Yeah.... I canvassed for 4 days with U.S. PIRG last summer, and it was pretty shitty. First I had to commute into D.C. for an hour, then get trained on the wrap, then we walked around for 5 hours in upper-scale suburban neighborhoods in D.C.....the pay was 60 bucks a day if you made the 90 dollar quota, and then 30 percent of whatever you make on top of that...I didn't make quota the first day, made quota the second day, then the third day I was canvassing by myself it started thunderstorming and we were still supposed to be canvassing....it sucked ass, and I decided I'd had enough of that bs. I think the problem with canvassing is that it totally reinforces money controlling politics...we were canvassing on Mercury pollution, and I can't tell you how many young mothers wanted to do something about it, but were on a tight budget so couldn't give any money. We had postcards, but they were supposed to be a last resort option since it let people think they could do something without giving money. I don't know...I think we need more community outreach, but the way we did it really bothered me, and I think it might have been doing more harm than good....

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PIRGs Abuse Workers
by Used to Work in Southern California Tuesday, May. 31, 2005 at 6:58 PM

Back in 2003, I spent six months working for CalPIRG and Environment California (the environmental offshoot of CalPIRG). My first four months there went pretty well. I worked in the grants department and edited grant proposals. When May rolled around, however, I was required to be a canvass director. That's when my life became a nightmare. I canvassed door-to-door to raise money for the Sierra Club and Environment California. As canvass director, I also had to recruit, interview, and train new employees. Additionally, I was responsible for all the financial paperwork and payroll.

On weekdays, I worked from 8:15am to 11:30pm. After returning home, I would often continue work (the financial reporting and other administrative matters) on my computer until 1:00am. On weekends, I worked 8:00am to 6:00pm. In total, I worked 96.5 hours a week. I made $18,500/year, or $3.69/hour for a 96.5-hour work week.

I felt sorrier for our summer canvassers, however. Their pay was based on making quota, which meant fundraising $90-$120 per night (depending on which organization you were canvassing for). Turnover was ridiculously high. We had 20-40 new employees a day. Maybe 2-3 would last more than a week. Maybe one (if we were lucky) would last more than a month.

The one thing I found most painful about working the PIRG canvass was how many broken spirits we created. The people who came to us looking for a job fit in one of two categories: 1) idealistic white college students who truly wanted to work hard and effect positive change and 2) disadvantaged inner-city young adults (Hispanic and African-American) who just wanted to have a steady job and escape the poverty in which they had grown up. These young people would come in “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” and leave completely discouraged. The college students would leave feeling sour about non-profits, and the inner-city youth would leave hopeless that they could ever hold down a job.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for me was the Fourth of July weekend. I wanted Thursday, July 3 as a day off because I had a friend who was visiting from more than 2,000 miles away. Until this point, I had never missed a day of work for any reason. I had been working seven-day weeks for almost two months. I was told that asking for a day off was “disrespectful.” I was also told that we had a state-wide staff retreat July 4-6 (part of which I had to pay for with my own money).

When another canvasser explained that she couldn’t attend the July 4th staff retreat because of a family reunion, one of the canvass directors had the nerve to telephone the canvasser’s mother and tell her than her own daughter couldn’t attend the family reunion!

By this point, my parents were worried about me. They said they felt like I had joined a cult. PIRG wanted to isolate me and other employees from our family and friends so that we could be brainwashed. My parents helped me realize that PIRG was treating me and the canvassers in an abusive and disrespectful way. I could no longer work there and feel like an ethical person.

July 1, 2003, I phoned in and resigned. I felt like I was leaving an abusive boyfriend. I also felt liberated. It took me four months to find a new job at a reputable non-profit (in between I got by on a few random short-term jobs). The new job had me working 35 hours/week and making $27,000/year. I was treated with warmth and dignity by my colleagues.

I could list many other horror stories about the PIRG canvass (having to pay $200 parking tickets that I did not incur, canvassing in 14-degree weather, etc.), but I think most people should get the idea by now.

The PIRG canvass contradicts all the progressive values that the PIRGs supposedly espouse. Having worked in and studied the non-profit sector over the past two years, I can tell you that the PIRGs are unlike any others. No reputable non-profit treats its workers in such abusive ways.

My advice to anyone reading this: don’t be tempted by PIRG’s advertisements (which might sometimes use the “Fund for Public Interest Research” alias). If you can’t find any other non-profit job, just get a regular job (even if you feel like you’re selling out) and do community organizing on the side as a volunteer activity. You’ll end up making a lot more positive change in the world than working 96.5 hours/week for the PIRGs.

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clean water action
by limpet Sunday, Jun. 19, 2005 at 7:33 PM
limpet55@yahoo.com

Don't be too quick to recommend Clean Water Action...I'm going in to quit tomorrow after 1 day. Firstly, it's set up like a left-wing version of AMWAY, ie, a pyramid....after meeting quota, (if you do) you get 30% of what you raise, your "trainer" gets another 30% and the person above him/her gets whatever. I don't care if it's legal, it stinks. What they do is hire about 30 people hoping maybe 1 will work out long enough to squeeze some cash out of them. If you don't make quota by your fourth day, you're out. They take you out in vans like Moonies and have you chant and cheer and punch the ceiling...it's fucking creepy. They've got this zombie marketing thing going on to the point where they won't answer direct questions about the way they do business. When I asked my trainer someone had asked how much of their donation goes directly to supporting the program vs. administrative costs, I was told I wasn't doing the rap right...if I had been doing it right, the poor slob at the door wouldn't have been distracted enough to ask silly quesitons. CWA claims that 75% goes to the program, (I was also told they don't like to talk about that) but according to charity reviews, it's much less than that; so much less that they fail the acceptable standard for our state (Minnesota). They also failed 8 of 16 standards by which charities are reviewed, mostly in re finances. Basically, they're fucks...they treat canvassers like shit, worse even than ACORN, another superficially progressive shithole of an organization that eats its young. In a way Clean Water is worse, if only because it's bigger, shinier and I'm sure rakes in much more cash than ACORN, which at least had the decency to have a crummy office. But then again, ACORN is ripping off poorer people, so it's kind of a toss-up. These people suck! BEWARE!!

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Clean Water Action
by Rambo Monday, Jul. 04, 2005 at 10:51 AM

CWA is fucked up. Your entire day revolves around making quota. In fact, it seems the organization's program is entirely based upon canvassers making quota. And as far as the program goes, supposedly 75% of donations go toward "community programs", but most of that activity consists of canvassers giving sales raps. Its amazing that they get away with this. And what does this organization do? In the year I worked there, I never gotn a straight answer about that. Does anybody even know?

Canvassing sucks, of course stating that simple truth at CWA might get you into meetings about motivation with your CV. Its all a big mindfuck. And its all about the bottom dollar.

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Canvassing Jobs
by Rolando Pintos Wednesday, Aug. 03, 2005 at 7:32 AM
rolandopintos@yahoo.com

I recently worked for a campaign organization called Grassroots Campaigns in New York City. The same exact abuses seem to occur from non-profit to non profit. I asked my bosses about the double standards that seem to exist between directors and canvassers. ie, why canvassers get fired at an alarming rate for not maing quota, yet directors, who don't mak quotas themselves are not let go. My ex boss got back to me and bitched about how directors have to pay rent. Surely that justifies him keeping his job, yet not be able to make quota. He claims that directors in fact have a higher quota than canvassers, and that if they don't meet it, they are fired. However, he has only been able to name one director who was fired so far this summer, while I can name atleast 40 canvassers who were fired. I asked him to explain why the ratios aren't even close, considering directors have a higher quota, and he igored me and told me to stop bitching, that "sometimes things don't work out." but he assured me that the campiang was not about money, but about making change. Obviously all these canvassing jobs are about money, if all canvassers are being asked is "how much money did you make?" and are fired if that number is less than $120 a day. It's all a sham, and I hope to one day bring down all these non-profits which claim to work towards some form of social progress.

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SO true
by trixie Monday, Oct. 10, 2005 at 12:13 PM
mibis73@gmail.com

Hey. I want to remain as anonymous as possible, but I, too, have just left ACORN political staff for just the reasons cited. I even know the Canvass Director "on heroin" that you speak of. I can't say one way or another if he was really an addict, although I certainly dod not see any behavior indicative of an addict when I worked with him (briefly) in Ohio.

Paychecks are famously late. I think it is criminal that an organization can be so flippant about late paychecks for their employees, when they pay so little. I've had to rearrange many things in my life due to late pay.

Their goals are noble and good. They need to take those noble and god goals and develop staff they can pay, give time off to, and make sure that they are able to back up what they claim they are doing.

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Hear, Hear
by Secret Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2006 at 11:05 PM

I totally agree with you. It really makes me wonder if all the idealist are killed there and that's why we don't find very many older idealists. Find any job (Starbucks hires and doesn't hold your job over your head every night) and volunteer to a direct-services organization. You will be so much more fulfilled and make a much bigger difference in the lives of people. Let's face it, canvassing is really a glorified pyramid scheme for managing canvassers. Duh.

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Canvassers Need a Union
by Pittsburgh IWW Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006 at 10:05 AM
pittsburghiww@yahoo.com

Don’t agonize, organize!

No one doubts that the canvass industry is notorious for underpaying and undervaluing its workers. The high turnover rate and low morale are clear indications that canvass workers struggle each and everyday. As frontline workers in the most high profile, successful and lucrative political, environmental and social justice movements of our day, we deserve better. We recruit and build membership and fill the coffers of some of the biggest and most respected non-profits in the world. Without professional canvassers, these organizations would collapse.

The Pittsburgh Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) want you to know that canvass workers have a right to demand better working conditions, pay, and hours—but we can only stand up for ourselves and our families if we organize across the industry. By the remarkable similarity of unacceptable working experiences for most canvassers, it is clear that the bosses have conspired to prey upon us as expendable, transient, and voiceless workers.

But let us remember the famous words of IWW founder, Mother Jones: “My friends, it is solidarity of labor we want. We do not want to find fault with each other, but to solidify our forces and say to each other: ‘We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing.’”

DON’T AGONIZE, ORGANIZE with the Pittsburgh IWW Canvassers Union. For more information, contact: PghIWWCanvassersUnion@yahoo.com

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Canvassers Need a Union!
by Pittsburgh IWW Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006 at 10:10 AM
pittsburghiww@yahoo.com

Don’t agonize, organize!

No one doubts that the canvass industry is notorious for underpaying and undervaluing its workers. The high turnover rate and low morale are clear indications that canvass workers struggle each and everyday. As frontline workers in the most high profile, successful and lucrative political, environmental and social justice movements of our day, we deserve better. We recruit and build membership and fill the coffers of some of the biggest and most respected non-profits in the world. Without professional canvassers, these organizations would collapse.

The Pittsburgh Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) want you to know that canvass workers have a right to demand better working conditions, pay, and hours—but we can only stand up for ourselves and our families if we organize across the industry. By the remarkable similarity of unacceptable working experiences for most canvassers, it is clear that the bosses have conspired to prey upon us as expendable, transient, and voiceless workers.

But let us remember the famous words of IWW founder, Mother Jones: “My friends, it is solidarity of labor we want. We do not want to find fault with each other, but to solidify our forces and say to each other: ‘We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing.’”

DON’T AGONIZE, ORGANIZE with the Pittsburgh IWW Canvassers Union. For more information, contact: PghIWWCanvassersUnion@yahoo.com

add your comments


Canvassers Need a Union
by Pittsburgh IWW Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006 at 10:28 AM
pittsburghiww@yahoo.com

Don’t agonize, organize!

No one doubts that the canvass industry is notorious for underpaying and undervaluing its workers. The high turnover rate and low morale are clear indications that canvass workers struggle each and everyday. As frontline workers in the most high profile, successful and lucrative political, environmental and social justice movements of our day, we deserve better. We recruit and build membership and fill the coffers of some of the biggest and most respected non-profits in the world. Without professional canvassers, these organizations would collapse.

The Pittsburgh Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) want you to know that canvass workers have a right to demand better working conditions, pay, and hours—but we can only stand up for ourselves and our families if we organize across the industry. By the remarkable similarity of unacceptable working experiences for most canvassers, it is clear that the bosses have conspired to prey upon us as expendable, transient, and voiceless workers.

But let us remember the famous words of IWW founder, Mother Jones: “My friends, it is solidarity of labor we want. We do not want to find fault with each other, but to solidify our forces and say to each other: ‘We must be together; our masters are joined together and we must do the same thing.’”

DON’T AGONIZE, ORGANIZE--with the Pittsburgh IWW Canvassers Union. For more information, contact: PghIWWCanvassersUnion@yahoo.com


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non-profit canvasses
by Doug Funk Thursday, Jan. 18, 2007 at 4:37 AM

I have been reading a lot of online complaints about field canvass positions recently. I have personally worked in orgs w/ canvasses for over 15 years (not anymore). I have lots of experience as both a manager and canvasser.

The issues brought up on all of these message boards are complicated and hard to respond to because they are often a combination of many misunderstandings as to how these groups operate along with a lot of valid complaints. So, just to get some sort of info out I thought I'd make a little list of factoids and suggestions for what needs to be done to make a canvass a good workplace...

1) Canvass managers are almost always well-meaning, usually very overworked and make very little money. Because of youth and lack of experience, they often make major mistakes and treat their workers badly out of ignorance rather than ill-will. These orgs (esp PIRGs) in my opinion should pay the managers more and hire only quality people.
2) The orgs that pay only commission are flat wrong in my opinion. My hunch is that once you are one of the higher-ups in those groups it is so discouraged to even suggest changing the model to pay min wage, that you risk losing your job. To me this is the single biggest problem with the "industry".
3) Although it may seem that the canvass jobs revolve entirely around money, these groups DO NOT make a huge amount of money off of the field canvasses. They usually break even at best. This is why they are terrified of paying even min wage. All notions of people at the top getting rich are flat out wrong. (Although some may have bucks from other endeavors)
4) The relationship between the field and phone canvass is that the field canvass breaks even and the phone canvass raises the lions share of the money to support the org. Thats just how the model is set up. The purpose of the field canvass, membership-wise is to get new members, so that the phone canvass can renew them. There is nothing wrong with this necessarily. Other orgs may have a mass mailer that breaks even, while their telemarketers bring in the big bucks. Raising money is never easy and I've often heard people with no experience in the field suggest many other options without realizing that these groups most likely have tested those options without good results.
5) Turnover is relative -- there are hardly any phone or door-to-door sales positions in any field that dont involve quite a bit of turnover. It is largely because people try the job while looking around for other employment and decide it is not for them. While some of the turnover is due to mistreatment, more of it has to do ith a door-to-door position not being an ideal one for most people. I was just sick enough to enjoy it at one time. Obviously the aim should be to keep the morale level and level of respect high enough that the turnover is low relative to other places.
6) I believe that a canvass manager should make it a top priority to explain how their model works. That way the canvassers can make an honest decision up front whether they respect that model or not. The ones that do will likely stay for a long time.

I can go on and on. I should write this stuff in article form in a more coherent form once I have some sleep and maybe it'll help someone. : )

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acorn blows
by nonya Friday, Jan. 26, 2007 at 3:37 PM

Yeah, I just washed out of training with ACORN. There were three of us, two with masters degrees, and two fluent spanish speakers. All three of us were gone within three days.

We read an article by Cesar Chavez about his work organizing. Two things that stood out to me were 1) the UFW offered tangible rewards for dues paying members, such as subsidized gasoline, auto repair, credit union, cheap groceries, and other benefits. 2) The issues were decided primarily by the workers themselves.

At ACORN, there are no benefits. They take your money, and they make you protests, and the only benefit is that a law might be passed after years of struggle. No one joins a union, and pays $120 dues, just to win political victories. They do it for very specific, personal benefits, like keeping their electricity on, getting discounts.

But the issues that they are fighting for may or may not be in everyone's self interest. For example, the head leadership decided to have paid sick days as the primary goal. But really, each individual has their own personal reasons for joining a group, like getting the crack heads out of their ally, having their street snow plowed, or stopping people from doing doughnuts on the street. I am not sure that the ACORN organizers are really listening to their constituents. Rather, it seems like they are trying to get money and warm bodies to support their pre-determined leftist causes, (like stopping Wal-Mart, for example).

Because the ACORN workers, especially the managers, are paid so little, you end up with this children's army of workers. At the typical ACORN office, everyone is stressed, no one is smiling, the office is in disarray. Their database is out of date, so you call the same deceased person five times without anyone taking him off the list. They don't give a damn about their workers; I never got fifteen minute breaks, nor did I get lunch breaks. You work 55 hour weeks, no overtime.

Truly, the only people who work work for ACORN are too inexperienced, too unprofessional, or too sketchy, or too radical to get a job anywhere else. Instead of expanding their organization, they should shrink it, pay their workers more, offer their members tangible benefits, and otherwise get their act together.

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ACORN
by former ACORN canvasser Saturday, Jan. 27, 2007 at 9:26 AM

I don't see a problem with an organization putting forth a progressive agenda so long as they are clear about that with members, as well as the constraints on membership. But if an organization is truly democratic, there should be a mechanism for members to alter those constraints.

I think most community members are progressive, and that you just have to probe a little deeper. Of course they want crackheads off "their" streets, but they also want something for kids to do so they don't become crackheads, and support a more rehabilitative justice system.

When I spoke with community members in one Pittsburgh neighborhood about their desire for more police, and fleshed-out their comments, it amounted to more community control over the police, where they admitted being victims of profiling and brutality.

As to the staff, it sounds like the IWW has a lot of experience with organizing at ACORN and other non-profits, and that the organizing raised wages significantly.

The staff tunover is clearly a problem, both for working conditions as an organizer, and for ACORN members. With that kind of turnover, there is no opportunity to maintain momentum with a campaign, or build on personal relatioships with members.

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THANK YOU!
by NonviolentFem Friday, Jun. 22, 2007 at 8:40 PM
akbattag@purdue.edu

Thank You so much for this very informative article. I was in the process for being hired for an organizer position in ACORN. I was very excited about the prospect of being part of working for fair labor rights, but after I learned about the hypocricy and expliotation that comes along with working for ACORN, I withdrew my application. Thank you for the advice. Just for fun... here is the email Im sending to their Director of Recruiting hopefully it will strike a chord:
Ms. Mansour,

I regret to inform you that I am no longer interested in the
activist/organizer position. After doing further research into your
organization I was educated on the hypocricy and mismanagement that is rampant
in ACORN. I refuse to work 55 hours a week and not be paid overtime. I refuse
to be denied lunch breaks and 15 minute breaks that are required by law in
several states. I refuse to work for an organization that insists on putting
young unexperienced workers into possibly dangerous neighborhoods without at
least a buddy system for security. Most importantly, I refuse to work for an
organization that tauts the necessity of fair labor practices and then
blatantly DENIES THEM TO THEIR OWN WORKERS. I am very passionate about the
fighting oppression that ACORN works against, but I will not become a victim
of it myself. Thank you for your time, and I hope these problems can be
rectified within the ACORN community.

Thank You,

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load of crap
by disgruntled Wednesday, Nov. 07, 2007 at 4:15 PM
not telling

Your comment is a total load of crap, if people with good intentions work for or join an orgnization and then get screwed you think it will actually make them think about the greater good etc... no they are going to be thinking about why their paycheck is late and tell the white lefties taking advantage of them to get lost.

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Burned Out by the PIRG
by Anna Saturday, Feb. 07, 2009 at 1:36 PM

For more on why the PIRG is f-ed up, and to read about my experience in more specifics:

http://burnedoutbypirg.wordpress.com

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