Political McJobs and the State of Young Democratic Professionals

Let me set the stage for you all. I'm a recent graduate of an applied politics master's program, a program designed to train future political orginizers, campaign managers, fundraisers, etc.

Following graduation, I became distressed with the real absense of decent paying work for entry to mid-level political professionals. Far too mant of these jobs are the political "McJobs" (poltiical equivilent of working at McDonald's) that have beed decried by a few prominant bloggers as being truly against the principles that we as progressives are advocating. Even if they pay canvassers 10 to 12 bucks an hour, that's still a far cry from the $30,000 a year a family really needs to make ends meet, especially for these young workers who'll soon be paying off student loans.

I think this is a very urgest crisis in our movement. The absense of well paying jobs with decent benefits with progressive groups. This is what will lead well-education individuals who want to go into campaigning and orginizing to instead move to the private sector and get stuck at desk jobs when they could be out with us, changing the coutry.

What is worse, is many of the perpetrators are groups that we love and respect: Working America (AFL-CIO), Clean Water Action, organizing groups like Grassroots Campaigns and Grassroots Solutions. These groups are exploiting young progressives in my opinion with wages that are decent at 24,000 a year, but insufficient if these young progressives have children or student loans to pay.

I'd love to hear input from the community on this. It is an omportant issue for the progressive movement, we need these kind of jobs to provide a farm team of sorts. To get rid of the Mark Penn's of the world and replace them witha  more optimistic and progressive alternative.

Anyway, thatnks for your thoughts, whoever reads this.

Tags: campaigns (all tags)

Comments

10 Comments

Look at DC staff jobs

Most of those young people that take them are from weathy families and are still getting monthly allowances sent from mom or dad.

by dpANDREWS 2008-01-15 09:45AM | 0 recs
you lost me with
your dumbass comment in David Brock's diary.  You have a lot to learn and when you do you will be worth more money.  
I am reminded that recent Poly Sci grads are always my least favorite people on any political campaign.
This is a skill that you learn by doing. But young people with degrees always think the world should be their oyster. Life is a struggle for all recent grads.  When they prove that they have something going for them besides a degree they will get paid more.  
by MollieBradford 2008-01-15 10:03AM | 0 recs
That was a dumbass comment.

But there's no doubt that young people looking for meaningful employment in the political/advocacy/nonprofit fields have a much tougher challenge today than their parents faced. Stern lectures on the need to "struggle" to "prove" yourself are inevitable and miss the point that our economy is being surreptitiously engineered to diminish employment in anything else but corporate enterprises.

by jeffbinnc 2008-01-15 10:53AM | 0 recs
Such compassion and thoughtfulness

what a complete ass.

by dataguy 2008-01-16 09:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Political McJobs and the State of Young Democr
boshea,
You need to read this book:
http://www.amazon.com/Trap-Selling-Afloa t-Winner-Take-All-America/dp/0805080651/ ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid =1200426452&sr=1-2
I'm afraid it paints a somewhat bleak picture of your situation but it will give you some general context and historical perspective. More important, it should convince you that the "perpetrators" who you perceive as "exploiting young progressives" are not really who is to blame. Instead, it is Wall Street and corporate behemoths--and their ability to manipulate policy to favor their employment interests--that are the culprits. For instance, to support his argument, Brook points out that as recently as the early 1960's, a teacher in New York City public schools made about the same income as a stockbroker on Wall Street. But due to tax and financial policies, investment companies have been able to dramatically increase the amount of money they pay their workers--and therefore monopolize more qualified workers--while municipalities and state governments have essentially frozen worker incomes. Believe me, you'll get a lot from reading this book.
by jeffbinnc 2008-01-15 10:05AM | 0 recs
Re: Political McJobs and the State of Young Democr

As I am in a similar situation I definitely understand where the diarist is coming from. I also agree with the statement (although not the sentiment from Mollie.) It certainly takes more than a degree in our current environment to earn a decent wage. That being said, most young professionals have student loans and other expenses (my student loan payments are over 600 a month and that is far from my only expense.)

Because of this, while I love campaigning and would much rather be doing that than what I am doing it does not make financial sense for me to take the risk. I know that other people feel the same way I do; quite frankly it is said that I am going to wind up leaving my preferred profession (probably permanently) but there are bills to pay and my own future to think about.

by JDF 2008-01-15 10:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Political McJobs and the State of Young Democr

There's not a lot of money in progressive politics.  That's the world we live in.  What do you expect Clean Water Action to do about it?  They're not 'exploiting' young people if they simply don't have the resources to pay people better.

If you want to make a living in progressive politics, I'd suggest either looking for employment as a union organizer, which tends to pay decent wages, or get a job at a union shop, become a shop steward and make a run at the local's executive board.

by Woodhouse 2008-01-15 01:45PM | 0 recs
Re: Political McJobs and the State of Young Democr

I would agree that CWA and the like are not exploiting the people who work for them. I think this diary points to the larger problem which is the relative lack of funds in Progressive politics. I know that I am not alone in this thinking because it has been talked about here and on other blogs numerous times- progressive campaigns are losing talented and qualified workers who actively want to be there but simply can not afford to be. This is something that has to change, one way or the other, in the long run for us to build a sustainable progressive majority.

by JDF 2008-01-15 02:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Political McJobs and the State of Young Democr

I agree with that 100 percent.  I just take issue with the notion (in this diary, not your comment) that broke progressive groups that hire campaign workers for low wages are being "exploitive."  Seems an awful lot like blaming the victim to me.  Nobody's making a profit off of these canvassers.

by Woodhouse 2008-01-15 04:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Political McJobs and Young Dems Professionals

I think that these types of entry level jobs have always been low-paying journeyman jobs, such as advertising, public relations, etc.  It is your experience that makes you valuable.

That being said, it is also your family's personal wealth, to a certain degree, that allows people to accept subsistence jobs in the political arena.  Worse, in some fields, you work for nothing as an intern to get the low-paying subsistence job (fashion, music industry, theater, etc.).  The biggest problem that we face is the amount of debt that students are borrowing or need to borrow to get a college degree.

It is bad for several reasons.  First, you start your new career heavily in debt ($104 per month over 10 years for every $10k you borrow @ 4.5%) and that excludes credit cards or car notes.  Second, the need to make more money to account for your debt reduces the number of job options you have.  A great, but lower paying job has to be overlooked for a better paying but less fulfulling job to make ends meet.  Third, it makes it harder for us to enter into non-profit and Democratic supporting entreprenuerial enterprises because we apply all of our disposable income to debt instead of saving start up capital.

We need to develop financial literacy to give our country a fighting chance.  We have to resist the consumerism that transfers our wealth to the very McCorporations that rob our government blind and then have them contribute their profits to politicians and organizations that act against our interests.  We need to be able to support Democratic candidates that we want to represent us.  We can not leave the task solely to the unions and other liberal organizations.  

We have to personally contribute to candidates if we want them to represent us.  We have to volunteer if we want them to represent us.  We have to help elect better leaders and not the ones who raise the most money or make the most promises for endorsements.  After electing those kind of leaders, we then need to demand that they provide more funding for grant financial aid and SCHIP, as well as less funding for the boondoggle corporate agribusiness farm bill and the protracted development of obsolete or dysfunctional weapon systems.

As long as our Democratic leaders feel that they need the corporate dollar and organizational manpower to win, such as Al Wynn, then we should not be surprised that they do not serve our interests.  You can not have two masters and we know that they are not serving us.

Our Democratic supporting organizations are not to blame for the low-paying political jobs - we are.  Too many of us who can afford to don't personally put our money where our mouths are and we get what we pay for.  If each Democrat who cared and could afford it, gave $20 to their five top candidates each year, it would have a tremendous impact, especially at the county and local levels.

by jen18612 2008-01-24 07:25AM | 0 recs

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