Get off the grassroots, Grassroots Campaigns Inc! DCCC drops GCI?

Let's speak frankly. It was only a matter of time before the right-wing blogs caught wind of Grassroots Campaigns Incorporated's workplace improprieties, its labor abuses in the name of the Democratic Party, and used them as ammo against the Left.

Yes, what Kate described in her post yesterday is awful; sadly, experiences of this type are not the exception, but the rule, as all of us vets well know. However, my curiosity was aroused not so much by the mistreatment she catalogued, but the fact that it seems some of the GCIers are actually standing up to this corrupt system.  It left me wanting to know more about what's going on up there in Madison, Wisconsin.

Outsourced Democratic canvassers--protesting their employer?
Because they're not getting paid minimum wage?

This is gonna get ugly.

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Still strip-mining the grassroots

I've been following Greg Bloom's "Strip-Mining the Grassroots" series very closely, and for a while I'd been meaning to post my own experience with Grassroots Campaigns Incorporated. I've finally been motivated to do so by a very unpleasant irony: I found this Powerline blog post on Labor Day:

the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has hired Boston's Grassroots Campaigns to solicit money for the DCCC by promoting, among other things, the need to raise the minimum wage. One problem: Grassroots doesn't pay the canvassers who campaign for minimum wage increases the current minimum wage.

Powerline is referring to this article in the Isthmus, which describes a few GCI canvassers (who are working for the DCCC) who are protesting their awful pay rates.

How very familiar... if anything, I'm surprised it took this long for GCI's dealings to blow up in the Democrats' faces.

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MINUTES: MoveOn Operation Democracy Comics Volume 2

[Read more Minutes at the MoveOn Minute Taker blog!]

Let the record show that the civic fields of XXX still lay sallow, with no sign of Democracy Operations. MoveOn PAC's CALL FOR CHANGE has not called the MINUTE TAKER to enlist another faithful soldier in the cause! The MINUTE TAKER can only conclude that the MoveOn commanders have fully withdrawn from XXX, leaving us conscripts without orders or equipment or, indeed, the ability to communicate. The MINUTE TAKER has resigned to sit idly, passively, in front of the television, cursing the insanity of the modern American condition, watching the moment in which we can TAKE BACK CONGRESS grow ever closer.

And yet--the record must show--so far away.

The MINUTE TAKER wonders.
The MINUTE TAKER dreams.
And, fortunately for the sake of the record, the MINUTE TAKER is not alone in this universe!
As if plucked straight from the MINUTE TAKER's fever-dreams of the heyday of Operation Democracy, and day-dreams of the fantastic possibilities of Call for Change, the mailman has delivered the long-anticipated MoveOn Minutes Illustrated: Volume II!

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The Canvassers' Union (pt3): The Long Road to Union

This series is an expansion of my reporting inIn These Times magazine (August 18th, "Do You Have a Minute For...?") about two offices of the Fund for Public Interest Research that voted to unionize and were subsequently shut down. As I noted in the first post, the Fund is perhaps the single largest employer of progressive activists in the country - in the entire PIRG/Fund world, thousands of would-be progressive leaders pass through every year. There is a new book that argues that this mode of activism is "strangling progressive politics in America." Think of it this way: if the blogosphere is the nascent progressive movement's intelligentsia, these canvassers are its toiling, near-invisible laborers - this might not be as glamorous as the ouster of a wayward Democratic Party leader, but it is just as central to our cause...

The Fund for Public Interest Research launched its first nationwide street canvass in the summer of 2001. It was a campaign for Greenpeace.

"The Los Angeles Greenpeace fundraising office was among the highest grossing and most efficient ... offices in the country. [Its directors] had received high-ranking reviews and praise by both superiors and staff." But in January of 2002, that office was closed down.

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The Canvasser's Union (part 1)

My article inIn These Times magazine is published online today- it's about two Los Angeles offices of the Fund for Public Interest Research that voted to unionize over a year ago. You can read their stories directly at their web site. I'm thrilled with how the ITT piece has turned out; I also want to expand upon many of the issues in there. So I'm going to blog for a while about this issue of activist unionization, a subject that has come up a few times in the comments of my last two series, "Strip-Mining the Grassroots" and "Grassroots Campaigns Inc's Great War of 2004."

From "Do You Have a Minute for ... ?," August 18th, In These Times
:

There's a word that gets tossed around in canvassing offices to describe people like Christian Miller: "scrappy." That's not because of his skinny frame and sparse, wiry chin-scrabble. Rather, in an industry where the average career lasts two weeks, Miller, 28, canvassed door-to-door throughout Los Angeles for four years.

In the last 30 years, canvassers like Miller have become the most common--if unsung--figures in political activism, going door-to-door or standing on busy street corners to talk to people about various public interest issues. It took Miller a minute to tick through the long list of campaigns for which he'd raised money: solar energy bills, forest protection, Sierra Club, Human Rights Campaign. All were operated by the same company: the Fund for Public Interest Research (commonly known as "the Fund"), a national nonprofit founded by the Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) in 1982. Since then, canvassers for the now-ubiquitous state PIRGs have raised over $350 million and gathered more than 20 million signatures for causes ranging from environmental protection to gay rights. The Fund holds a near-monopoly on the canvass industry, running 30 to 60 offices each summer, with thousands of canvassers working on dozens of campaigns.


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Diaries

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