Fund for Public Interest Research class action lawsuit

My name is Christian Miller. I was a canvasser in the Los Angeles Fund for Public Interest Research office from 2002 through 2006.  I raised money for Sierra Club, Human Rights Campaign, Greenpeace, Save the Children, and numerous PIRG groups.  More than two years ago, our office voted to unionize; one year ago this week, the Fund finally shut us down.  This sequence of events was profiled in In These Times magazine, and in Greg Bloom's "Canvassers Union" series here on DailyKos and MyDD.

I'm writing today because I, along with several former LA canvassers, and ex-employees of the Fund from across the country, have filed a class action lawsuit against the Fund.

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Is Canvassing a Waste of Time?

I did a bit of election-day GOTV canvassing for Craig Johnson's successful NY state senate campaign. While I have a strong aversion to being yelled at by strangers and long ago gave up on phone banking, I was asked to canvass targeted Democratic-registered voters a neighborhood and decided to give it a try. While the experience was not without interesting moments, it was, on the whole, extremely unpleasant. It also got me wondering whether the traditional, intrusive GOTV tactics of canvassing and phone banking in a media-saturated world may be ineffective at best and strategically detrimental at worst.

I'm curious whether anyone in the MyDD community has hard, empirical evidence about the effectiveness of canvassing and phone banking. While there are a wide variety of anecdotes of individuals who seem to have responded positively to calls or visits, I wonder whether there is any data that can isolate the contribution of canvassing/phone-banking to actual votes within the context of a larger campaign effort and larger social and political forces. It's something we just seem to accept as part of politics without ever asking whether it makes a positive contribution toward the larger goal.

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The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the Reform of the Fund/PIRG

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 - through the entire PIRG/Fund world, thousands of would-be progressive leaders pass every year.

Part Two of the series introduced the Los Angeles door canvassers who "broke the Fund/PIRG model" by staying with their jobs for the long-term.

Part Three traced the path that led them to petition and vote for a union.

Part Four introduced the Los Angeles Telephone Outreach Project employees, who raise the "real money" in the Fund/PIRG model, and who followed the callers' lead toward a union.

Part Five is about how each of these unions was busted by the Fund management.

Part Six is about a series of questions raised by the callers and canvassers about the viability of the PIRG/Fund corporate complex.

Lockse, an 8 year PIRG/Fund veteran, wrote a compelling "tough love" response to these incidences here.

This post reports on the conclusion of the LA callers and canvassers' saga. It reflects upon the broader possibility for change that is revealed and made urgent by the stories of the LA Fund offices.

I realize that this issue is not quite at the top of MyDD readers' must-read lists, perhaps because it is about a group of people who are not in the media, not in office or fighting for office, and not online. But think of it this way: if the blogosphere is the intelligentsia of the nascent progressive movement, these fundraisers are its toiling proletariat. Vital, but nearly invisible; in dire need of empowerment. This issue might not be as glamorous as setting the progressive agenda for the next two years, but it shapes the generation of our activists and affects the health of our grassroots for the decades to come...

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The Canvassers Union (p6): the Questions

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 - through the entire PIRG/Fund world, thousands of would-be progressive leaders pass every year.

Part Two of the series introduced the Los Angeles door canvassers who "broke the Fund/PIRG model" by staying with their jobs for the long-term.

Part Three traced the path that led them to petition and vote for a union.

Part Four introduced the Los Angeles Telephone Outreach Project employees, who raise the "real money" in the Fund/PIRG model, and who followed the callers' lead toward a union.

Part Five is about how each of these unions was busted by the Fund management.

Lockse, an 8 year PIRG/Fund veteran, wrote a compelling "tough love" response to these incidences here.

This post is about the questions that the callers and canvassers are asking about the PIRG/Fund network. It is a long list of questions, some of which are answered -- many of which are not.

I realize that this issue is not quite at the top of MyDD readers' must-read lists, perhaps because it is about a group of people who are not in the media, not in office or fighting for office, and not online. But think of it this way: if the blogosphere is the intelligentsia of the nascent progressive movement, these fundraisers are its toiling proletariat. Vital, but nearly invisible; in dire need of empowerment. This issue might not be as glamorous as setting the progressive agenda for the next two years, but it shapes the generation of our activists and affects the health of our grassroots for the decades to come...

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In Response to the Canvassers' Union

One of these days I'm going to write a post that's all my own, and not a "Response," but right now, I need to respond to the Canvassers' Union series, about the Fund for Public Interest Research and its offices in Los Angeles.

Almost every year in the last five or six years, a group of new recruits somewhere in PIRG/Fund/GCI has tried to organize in demand of better working conditions. We recruit an awful lot of bright kids, and many of them can sense right off the bat: this is not a system in which I can have a say at determining how things run. They think they know how things should be run; management, of course, knows better. So when management hears about the unionizing (and we almost always do) we have our ways of isolating these agitators, dispersing the group, even humiliating their leaders.

It's happened throughout PIRG history. It seems to be happening a lot more these days.
This is different.

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