In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWorks .org

So, a book just came out that trashes the organization for which I worked for eight years. Dana Fisher's Activism Inc argues that the Fund for Public Interest Research--along with the Public Interest Research Groups and Grassroots Campaigns Incorporated--is engaged in a rootless mode of activism that is "strangling progressive politics."

I have some problems with this.

My first problem is that Fisher has made some pretty bold, broad claims--and backed them up with really bad writing. This review by Jim B in Counterpunch is probably the most insightful and generally on-the-mark piece you'll find on the matter, and he says:

"It is an analytically incoherent book... a shallow, muddled, unrewarding account."

But that's just my first problem.  Jim B continues:

For all its weaknesses, Activism, Inc. provides a useful stimulus to debate and reflection... [If] her characterization of the Fund for Public Interest Research's canvass operation is accurate, then the Fund...represents a truly counterproductive force sucking energy out of the progressive movement it purports to strengthen.

This is my second problem. Even though Fisher's arguments are sloppily made, at times vague and at other times shallow, her characterization of the Fund is in fact largely accurate. If anything, it doesn't even fully expose the true problem.

The Fund recently put up a page in its defense: CanvassingWorks.org. The website makes a couple of specific responses to Fisher's argument -- for instance: their point that 75% of the Fund's canvassing is for the PIRGs would seem to break her frame that "outsourcing" is the problem. (It wasn't a very useful frame anyway.) But the rest of this website was written years ago, and is repeated in every campaign - it's a rap, just like the raps that the canvassers take to the door to direct people as quickly as possible to donations. Raps are designed to answer any question about the "model" as quickly and broadly as possible. Part of this rap is simply the standard recruitment line into Fund/PIRG jobs--but other parts are used to ask employees to "volunteer" until 9pm every night, to shame them when they ask for a day off, to force them to pay office expenses out of pocket. But this rap hides a real vulnerability - and you can see that most clearly when the site actually tries to grapple with the implications of Fisher's conclusion, which is not that this work is "just not for everyone," but that it is actively causing harm even to those who want to stick with it. Observe how they react to this: Woody Holton writes that "Fisher's contention...is so redolent of just what the oil and chemical companies, the gay bashers, and the right-wing religious zealous want us lefties to believe." That's such an absurd insinuation! Rather than just respond to Fisher, they had to turn her into "Them." It's rhetoric designed to kill dialogue. But this dialogue needs to happen.

The Fund's vulnerability reveals itself in the very name of the website: "Canvassing Works." Of course canvassing "works"--not even Fisher is saying "canvassing doesn't work." And of course a number of people working in the progressive movement have come from the Fund. But what many are questioning is whether FFPIR and GCI are failing in the responsibilities that come with being the largest employer of progressive activists, whether they are actually making the best possible contributions to the progressive movement, and whether those people who've made it out of the Fund have done so in spite of the problem. In response to those questions, the rap can only make assertions.

And in that way, Activism Inc has actually let The Fund off the hook. Fisher gives us somewhat useful data (showing that attrition rates of Fund staff are nearly 90%, and virtually none of the Fund's clients has hired any staff from the canvass pool), but rather than asking hard questions, she made this an intellectual exercise, clinging to the "outsourcing" issue and making broad inactionable observations about the problems with the Left. The real problem here is that this system is simply not accountable to any of its thousands of staff and hundreds of thousands or even millions of "members." Fisher pitters around this fact, and when it comes to the big question--Do the ends justify the means?--she simply asserts that they do not. This allows the Fund to assert right back with the rap.

Enough raps. In my last post, about GCI's 2004 DNC campaign, I wrote about how hard we pushed our canvass- forgoing things like voter registration, volunteer recruitment, party advocacy, and even basic human decency with regards to the way we treated our staff. Were we helping to beat George Bush? Not really. Was what we were doing still a good thing for the Democratic party? Yes--in the narrow sense of an expanded donor file. Was it helping to build a better movement? Three months ago, I didn't know. Now, the more I look at it with a critical eye, without deference to the rap, the closer my answer is to "no."

That is not an assertion. I've seen ruthless union-busting of canvassers who had proven their commitment to this work. I've found myself rooting for the DCCC canvassers who protested in demand of minimum wages. I've been shocked by the stories of employees managed with abject disregard and even abandoned when in need of protection. I've realized that almost every one of the dozens of people who I personally hired for two different GCI/MoveOn campaigns walked away feeling like they'd been used--even "violated." I worked with these people, trained many of them, and I know they didn't quit those campaigns because they weren't committed enough, or "didn't get it"--they 'got it' pretty hard in fact. They saw it wasn't working, and they found that they were not allowed to help make it better--because no one, not even MoveOn, was accountable to their commitment. Altogether, I've become ashamed that one of the central lessons of my years of training--recruit, recruit, recruit--has allowed PIRG/Fund/GCI leaders to fall into the attitude that since there are always more people to fill the ranks, there's no need to form relationships based on respect and trust.

Respect and trust. This is the point where the rap dismisses these critics as "complainers," inexperienced and naïve. Point to the near-total attrition rates, and the rap's response is: "Social change is hard work - just read the writing of Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Susan B. Anthony." (Not everyone can make it as a martyr.) But point to the narrow ends of our campaigns--not educating, not building infrastructure, not investing in the canvassers, just signing people up--and the rap's response is "this is just a business, and we just provide this one service." This triangulation is an effective way for PIRG/Fund/GCI to absolve itself from any concrete responsibility (outside of getting more names on the list)-and it allows the leaders to shirk both the professional standards of business and the true challenges of social change.

Recently, I've been going through all my materials from eight years of work with the PIRGs and PIRG groups, and I came across this quote in Ralph Nader and Donald Ross's seminal book, Action For A Change, which is the book that basically started the PIRG movement:

The emergence of capabilities and outlets for citizenship expression has profound application to ... activity-on-the-job citizenship. Consider the immense knowledge of waste, fraud, negligence, and other misdeeds which employees of corporations, governmental agencies, and other bureaucracies possess. Most of this country's abuses are secrets known to thousands of insiders, at times right down to the lowest paid worker. ... The complicity of silence, of getting along by going along, of just taking orders, of "mum's the word" has been a prime target of student activism and a prime factor leading students to exercise their moral concern.

This was central to the original idea of PIRG: student activists could work together with "citizen activists" in a structured environment to expose the corruption and failures of government and industry. Now, three decades after Nader wrote that book, a new set of "capabilities and outlets for citizenship expression" has arisen in the blogosphere. It was only a matter of time before PIRG itself became a "prime target" of activists "exercising their moral concern"; I never expected to be on this side. But at this point I see it as my responsibility--as an activist and as a believer in PIRG's mission--to break the "complicity of silence" and ask questions (something that never happens any more inside a PIRG/Fund/GCI campaign).

Questions like: does Fund/PIRG/GCI have the resources to run better campaigns? Does Fund/PIRG/GCI have the money to not just give its employees the cafeteria option of health care--but to actually pay for it? Does it have the money to create a well-staffed and technologically-adept administration, so that its employees aren't plagued regularly with mistakes? Does it have the money to reimburse its employees fairly for gas, to pay up-front for the expenses of running an office, to equip them with the proper resources that they need?

I think that the answer is yes, they can. This is supposedly a healthy, even thriving network--its clients are the best funded on the Left--yet, all visible appearances and policies suggest an organization that is still scraping by without the ability to take care of its employees' basic needs. But I simply don't know the truth. In eight years, in positions of executive management, I was never aware of what happens to the money; I only know of two, maybe three people who know what happens to the money--and that itself is close to the root of the problem. I would love to be shown hard evidence that my belief is wrong, that the Fund is "stretching its dollars" as responsibly and effectively as it can--but don't expect that evidence to be forthcoming on canvassingworks.org .

I believe it's the responsibility of other PIRG/Fund veterans to push these questions forward, as well as these: How do the incentives of database-building for Telefund shape the priorities of GCI and Fund campaigns? Does the ownership of Telefund and GCI profit from their contracts? What are the formal channels through which the Fund/PIRG/GCI can receive, evaluate, and act upon feedback? Could the leaders keep more and better staff, and get better work done, by making the job more sustainable ( i.e. less than 12 hours a day, 7 days a week)? Can we build a progressive movement without respecting the commitments and intelligence of the people working within it? And what will it take to get Fund/PIRG/GCI to uphold their own responsibility over the progressive movement's most important natural resource?

(Peter Levine, in his balanced assessment of Fisher's book, asked one more vitally important question:
"Could canvassing actually be made more effective if it became more democratic?" We have seen compelling arguments on these blogs that the answer is "yes." Yesterday in the American Prospect, Heather Booth once again defended canvassing itself against Fisher's argument--but she also subtly distanced the Fund from other canvassing operations, and concluded with this note: "So is every canvass perfect? Of course not. Is there room for improvement? Of course there is. ... As with all our tactics, we need to take a hard look at canvassing, fix what is wrong with it, and build on what is best about it." Agreed. But that's not happening internally. We need to push for more accountability--externally and internally--so that the hard work of improving the canvass can begin.)

Tags: Activism Inc, canvassing, field, Fund, Fundraising, GCI, grassroots, MoveOn, PIRG (all tags)

Comments

53 Comments

Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

Ohhh, you're so cute when you're angry.  

Seriously, time to let go.  I mean I see your profile and it's all this stuff - so you're just somebody who spends all their free time is trashing their former employer.  Really think that's a profile anyone of merit would take advice from?

by ahisma 2006-10-19 12:11PM | 0 recs
Grassroot heroes

A Day in the Life of a Field Organizer
Project: MoveOn.org Political Action's Election 2006

8:30am: Arrive in the office. Review your date book. Confirm tomorrow's lunch meeting with local MoveOn volunteer team leader. Check your emails.

9:00am:  Call through MoveOn members to recruit them for tomorrow night's phone bank.  Your goal is to contact 20 members and sign up 14.

11:00am: Send email reminders to volunteers who are signed up to make calls from home.  Make welcome/ orientation calls to 10 volunteers who've signed up online to do get-out-the-vote calling.

Noon: Make calls to confirm the 15 volunteers signed up for the phone bank tonight.

12:45pm: Grab lunch.

1:00pm: Have a check in call with Dan, your Lead Organizer. Analyze your phone calling and volunteer recruitment for the week. Go over your plans for your Saturday phone bank at which you are recruiting 100 volunteers to make 5,000 calls to voters in the hotly contested Congressional race in Connecticut (note -you're based in Washington, DC).

2:00pm: Send emails to the top five phone volunteers from last night, asking them to host phone parties at their homes.  Take calls from volunteers who have technical assistance questions about the online phone calling tool.  Respond to email.

3:00pm: Get on a conference call with twenty-five other field organizers and MoveOn.org Political Action Field Director. On the call you review new developments in key races and go over the field product in the fifteen districts we are targetting across the country.

4:00pm: Prep your calling list for the night. You need to turn out 100 people for the phone bank this Saturday.  Check your voice mail and receive eight messages from folks you called last night, calling back to volunteer! Put them back on phone bank list for tonight.  Start calling.

5:30pm:  Grab a sandwich, and get ready for your evening phone bank volunteers to arrive.  Goal for your volunteers is to contact 35 voters each and get commitments from 15 to support the Democratic challenger in a competitive Connecticut congressional race.

6:00pm: Welcome your volunteers and do a brief training for them. You do a couple of calls with them listening; they start calling and you do some initial monitoring and then get back on the phone.

9:30pm: Finish calling. Tally and record all of yours and the volunteer's calls and enter your results.  Prep for your day tomorrow. Check your email. Make copies of background info for two meetings tomorrow.
While every day is different, this is a composite of a typical day on the campaign.   A typical week at the height of the campaign season would be 80 hours, including time at night and on the weekends for phone banking, community meetings, events in the community, and activist training sessions.

http://www.grassrootscampaigns.com/FOFal l2006DayintheLife.php

by jasmine 2006-10-20 06:19PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

I don't know you... or the writer of this post... but I do know that your response was needlessly insulting.

by Joe Gabriel 2006-10-20 09:01PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

ahisma - are you management cause you sure talk like management.

by Our Gal in Brooklyn 2006-10-19 12:47PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

Nope.  Management would never bother with these postings anyway.  I mean I work at PIRG, have for a bunch years, love the work, love the folks here, etc.  But I'm just a regular schmoe - not a bigwig in the least.  

Point is - I don't know who these folks are, but I've worked in enough jobs and met enough people that I know anyone who spends months ranting about an organization they worked for is a few tacos short of a combination plate.  So I'm betting  they hit the "merit" ceiling in their workplace to begin with.

And I've gotten fed up going to mydd for all the real content and then end up seeing these guys keep promoting their little grudge, so I couldn't hold off teasing them any longer...

by ahisma 2006-10-19 01:16PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

I was the board chair of MASSPIRG, and I was one of the founding directors of Grassroots Campaigns Inc. I have eight years of PIRG experience. I hope current PIRGers will participate in the discussions but please read the post and think about what it is that I'm saying here before responding. Otherwise, it just continues to reflect poorly upon the organization that I still claim some allegiance to.

by Lockse 2006-10-19 01:50PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

It's Liese, right?  And if rumor mill serves you're dating Greg Bloom, so then this really is all just you two going off isn't it?

I've read some of your stuff and it comes off pretty low-level analysis and overblown rhetoric to me.  And the "PIRG is the whole progressive movement" tone vs. actually just a bunch of state legislative groups is pretty damn laughable.

by ahisma 2006-10-19 02:35PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

And if rumor mill serves you're dating Greg Bloom, so then this really is all just you two going off isn't it?

The rumor mill is not quite on target here. But I did always say that this would come up once the PIRGbots really started to get desperate.

by greg bloom 2006-10-19 02:54PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

PIRGbot, hmmm.  Now honestly - all those folks you hung out with at Aspen, worked with for years, knowing  them in person and all - is that how you think of  them?

This stuff is why I don't respect you.  I went back and read your and Greg's stuff and some of Greg's early work was interesting (especially in the context exporting a pressure canvass model to purely electoral fundraising work and tensions therein) but after a while it's just endless bitching and increasingly mean-spirited and just way too hystrionic in the importance it places on PIRG in the overall movement.  I've known my co-workers for a while and they're good people.  But I never met either of you, except for your writings and what I see I don't like.

But me, I'm a little less cuddly than most of my co-workers, so I'll call you on your bullshit.  You're a low level political staffer and boyfriend is a writer wannabe.  The nonprofit world can hire a thousand of you to consult on a model any day of the week but it tends to ask for a lot more in qualifications.  Maybe that's why you're just sitting on the blogs, recommending each other's posts, hoping to get noticed...

by ahisma 2006-10-19 03:21PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

Alright there, I got my snarking out of my system, and I can tell why folks do this - felt good I'll tell you.  Anyway, feel free to get a good shot in as a response, but I come to mydd to learn and input positively on the electoral stuff, so I'll be bowing out of this thread.

by ahisma 2006-10-19 03:24PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

Nice trolling, cappie. Fuck and run.

by Josh Koenig 2006-10-19 10:21PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

Ahisma, you just wrote the most mean spirited thing we've seen on here yet. All because someone who's given her adult life to an organization had the guts to come out and say "there needs to be some change."

by may1978 2006-10-19 06:25PM | 0 recs
You don't have to drink it forever.

I should clarify. I know plenty of good people working in these organizations, and I'm sorry if my use of the word "PIRGbot" came out sounding like a slur.

I think of it more like a mental condition. Like how a drunk isn't actually drunk every  minute of the day. A drunk's still gotta drink to get drunk. Likewise: someone might be a perfectly smart, competent, progressive person, but when they have to answer questions about their organization, they become beholden to a certain logic.  

And when a PIRGbot does't know how to answer the questions any more--when the PIRGbot has run out of the raps that give the logic that "answers" the questions, the PIRGbot pulls rank. Or, I guess, if that's not quite working out anymore either, the PIRGbot gets personal, and somewhat vicious.

And then, typically, the PIRGbot 'bows out.'

by greg bloom 2006-10-19 06:43PM | 0 recs
Re: You don't have to drink it forever.

that's exactly what it is... this isn't about good people or bad people.  Every single person I've met in working for GCI has had the best of intentions.  But many of them have decided that the best strategy is to get along by going along.  

And to some extent, setting aside one's personal objections in order to work with a larger, collective truth, is admirable.  But if you leave yourself and your best judgement behind, 'robot' isn't a bad approximation of what you've become.  You'll work with the half-truths you've been given until they don't work anymore, and then you'll have no choice but to discard truthfulness altogether.  And that is not ever, ever, a good thing.  And it only leads down a dark path.  The most dehumanizing experiences I've had working with the Fund / GCI have all -- every single one -- happened at the end of a chain of first, second, third responses.  Rank is pulled, misleading statements are sometimes made, or your loyalty is questioned.  These responses all have the firm, direct effect of stopping critical ideas from moving up the hierarchy towards the very few folks who have the access to make changes to the model.

Changes that can be made so that you no longer have to choose between lying and admitting doubt.

by Pogo 2006-11-24 06:50PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

The last time ahisma posted on a PIRG/GCI diary, it was a about a 5 page-long comment -- and he hadn't actually read that one, either!  So much for content, eh?

by greg bloom 2006-10-19 02:28PM | 0 recs
Link to GCI

http://www.grassrootscampaigns.com/jobs. php

http://www.grassrootscampaigns.com/index .php

http://www.pirg.org/

I posted links to GCI and PIRG--to provide balance to this post.

by jasmine 2006-10-19 12:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Link to GCI

Grassroots Campaigns, Inc. is a national firm specializing in building grassroots support for progressive causes, political candidates, public interest campaigns, and non-profit organizations.

Winning campaigns in America now means going out and finding new voters, new donors, new bases of support, and building long term movements for political power and political change.  Grassroots Campaigns brings together an experienced team of organizers and campaign professionals to provide the progressive community with grassroots fundraising and organizing strategies that can be at the center of building a powerful and winning progressive majority in America.

"The people of this country, not special interest big money, should be the source of all political power."

   * U.S.  Senator and grassroots organizer, Paul Wellstone

 from GCI site

by jasmine 2006-10-19 12:53PM | 0 recs
Re: Link to GCI
A politics that is not sensitive to the concerns and circumstances of people's lives, a politics that does not speak to and include people, is an intellectually arrogant politics that deserves to fail.
-- US Senator and grassroots organizer Paul Wellstone
by greg bloom 2006-10-19 02:31PM | 0 recs
Re: Link to GCI

I like the use of Paul Wellstone's quote. What is particularly interesting about this quote is that if anyone spent any time at all around Paul you knew he was extremely disappointed with the PIRGs and thought of their canvassing as simply a fundraising scheme and nothing else.

When I was a student of his in the late 80's he actively encouraged me NOT to work for the PIRGs because he didn't see the canvassing as real progressive movement building. But then he has a background in real grassroots organizing, building a constituency-based organization owned and run by its members.

He was excited about MPIRG's origins as an org that actually organized its members and was disappointed in their devolution into a simple money raising operation that funded a very small and impotent lobbying shop in St. Paul.

And now here are his words being used to support a PIRG derivitive. I love me some irony.

by nathanhj 2006-10-20 08:18AM | 0 recs
sp.

sorry bout the spelling mistake.

by Our Gal in Brooklyn 2006-10-19 12:49PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc

I've been following this discussion for months now and there 800 pound elephant in the room everyone keeps ignoring.
Who owns Telefund?  Who owns GCI?  (answer: Doug Phelps)

Why were Phelp's two for-profit organizations allowed to be built off the back of the PIRG movement for the last 10 years?

Of the $22 million raised to "defeat Bush" in 2004, how much went to the DNC?  
AS SOLE OWNER, HOW MUCH PROFIT DID DOUG PHELPS REALIZE FROM GCI in 2004?  

And, why is the PIRG movement allowing itself to be used to make one individual a multi-millionaire?  Why is moveon doing the same thing?  

Follow the money.  Decisons about canvassing and organizing are being made on the basis of how to maximize profits for Telefund and GCI and therefore Phelps.

FOLLOW THE MONEY.

PS.  Lockse -- chin up.  Any criticism of the PIRG/FUND or Phelps for profit companies will generate deeply personal attack. There are hundreds of former PIRG staff who can personally and painfully attest to this fact.

If you weren't hitting a nerve, you wouldn't be attacked so personally and gratuitously.  It is sadly typical of the organizational culture.

by artfunk 2006-10-20 06:42AM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc

"Of the $22 million raised to "defeat Bush" in 2004, how much went to the DNC?"

Easy answer:

http://www.opensecrets.org/parties/expen d.asp?txtName=g&Cmte=DNC&cycle=2 004&sort=name

Scroll down to the listings for GCI.

by dansomone 2006-10-20 11:22AM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc

yeah, bash Phelps - I always love that one.  He did jail for Native American rights, started up earning a salary of what $10K or less and works something like 12 hours a day all his life to build his groups for little biddy student orgs to an organizing powerhouse.  Oh and he gives back his salary to PIRG because yes he has money now.  

Then he exports the knowledge to the groups that need that expertise and don't have it themselves - the DNC needed tons of new small donors b/c they barely had any while the RNC was loaded.  Phelps founds GCI, then deliver 750K new members, more members than the DNC had ever hoped for, at lower cost than the DNC had expected, and that makes Phelps a moneygrubber.

Canvassing is expensive.  That's just how it is.  But it delivers a larger more diverse swath of members than any other form of fundraising.  Membership building is a long-term game and the DNC found it to be money well spent.

I don't Phelps on a personal level, but I've seen his mind in action and he has earned my respect many times over.  He walks the walk.

Respect your elders young man - they have much they could teach you, but only if you have respect.

by ahisma 2006-10-20 02:59PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

by artfunk 2006-10-20 09:45AM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

All this talk.. just seems like one of those phone calls you have to restore the relationship with the person you lost your virginity to.

It's all a waste of time and energy.

Can't we focus our energy on moving on and finding something else to infactuate us?

by Proletariat Blues 2006-10-20 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

Wow. That's straight out of the manual. Well played!

by Future Senator D 2006-10-20 11:58AM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

There are other organizations that work just fine.  do we start blog discussions about the mismanagement of Chase bank?  or management at Target?

What I meant by my post... It just seems that greg and liese and others just have this relationship with these organizations that they feel they can change them... restore their relationship.

Is GCI going to be like, 'oh you're right, we're wrong let's fix this...'?  No.

Instead of blogging about past relationships gone sour we can talk about current races and such.

It's personal with these people.

by Proletariat Blues 2006-10-20 12:06PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

"Is GCI going to be like, 'oh you're right, we're wrong let's fix this...'?  No."

Thats a new one, we should add that to the manual!

by Future Senator D 2006-10-20 12:20PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

OK, I'm going to log back in a) to thank Proletariat Blues for his comment and b) because really there is more I want to say.  

Proletariat Blues is right - it is personal for me.  Not that I'm being attacked - so what, but that my co-workers busting their ass are.  And that everytime I log in to MyDD I have to see this shit - you can only hold out so long on something like this before you lose it.  

And what really infuriates me is what (I think it was psifighter) was calling them out on  a while back - that it's just them going back and forth recommending this string, hijacking the site because all they have is 3-4 person audience. So Liese, when you're the one promoting any and all of these stories, no matter how off-the-mark don't give me this faux "I still have loyalty" smokescreen stuff.  

These posts aren't about canvassing at all - there's no analysis of all the community groups that used to do canvassing and had to bow out in the 80s, they don't talk about Greenpeace having to close down their own canvass in the 90s because they still lost money after even the renewal gift (and I love you Greenpeace, please don't be offended it was long ago and I'm just mentioning it as a lesson learned progressives should know - keep on kicking ass!) and EVERY PIRGer knows that story (so why doesn't Liese context it?) as a way of working through the financials and possibilities of various canvass models .  In short they aren't doing any analysis of how to build various models.  It's all PIRG/GCI/Fund named directly, attacked directly, and done so from day 1 - it's a hit job and nothing more.  

And it's a half-assed hit job.  They don't analyze the advocacy roles PIRG plays (canvass is only 1/4 of it's operation you know), talk about the other organizers that focus on member activation and relationship-building after the initial canvass, that PIRG's field strategy is not that much direct member stuff but coalition-building so the community groups mobilize and PIRG pulls them all into the campaign, that then PIRG tends to be the muscle for those community groups in an overall coalition where the well funded groups with weight to throw around are at the table.  For all their community organizing focus, They don't at all mention the community organizing strategies are in the PIRG world but housed in their own groups (like the very well-respected Toxics Action Center) and then extrapolate what the limitations of a community organizing model when your groups is playing the role of a statewide legislative group.  Do they mention that in the entire national movement PIRG (focusing on broad outreach as it does) has the smallest portfolio of large donors, that it didn't even start getting grants until the early 90s, is there anything at all the acknowledges that PIRG is far from the big dog on the progressive movement but instead one of the lesser funded enviro groups, now just finally coming into it's own and gaining the financial ability to take things to the next step?  Hell they don't know the financials (it's called a form 990 folks - what every non-profit has to file and anyone can find).

Why - because they don't know this stuff and they aren't looking to find out.  Greg canvassed for three months - barely basic training.  Liese obviously never did anything else besides canvass (and I'm pretty sure 4 or her inflated "8" years is just being a student volunteer but I'm not entirely sure - I really don't remember ever meeting her) and obviously never walked in to the always open offices of her directors and asked questions on this (guess what - I did, and learned half this shit in Year 1 for chrissake), never really stood up in all staff NAOPI meetings (where any staffer can chime in) and talked through her stuff.  She could have still after leaving walked in and talked directly to PIRG VIPs and asked strategy questions - are they interviewing PIRG higher ups here?  Do they have any hard data at all?  Are they even looking for hard data beyond a couple blog comments?

No - this is Faux News  style journalism, write a tilted post but in a nice audience-pleasing reasonable sounding tone, hear only from a handful of short-time canvassers and other low-level people, don't follow up with anyone who doesn't support your worldview so you get deeper and deeper in your self-reinforcing world of just a small group of people, and then collude to inflate the rankings of your stories to give the appearance of popular interest.  And tacking on inflated credentials to bolster their creds (8 years of executive management my ass).  Shit - have you seen their stuff on Kos - now it's just threads about why can't they get it recommended.  

So I'm answering their hit job the only way you can.  I'm not going pretend it's a debate, I'm not going to pretend they are either allies, friends, or even interested in truth.  And I am going to do what the Left needs to do every day with every sorry fuck Right Wing pundit playing the same game - shine the spotlight directly on who's behind it,  In this case, just two disgruntled ex-employees with limited perspective.

BTW - don't diss Fuck and Run - I love that song!

by ahisma 2006-10-20 01:07PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

One thing that has been missing from these debates, somewhat understandable regarding the ones focused exclusively on The Fund/GCI but bafflingly from the ones spurred by Activism, Inc, is an analysis of canvassing itself as a tactic and/or strategy in a broader progressive movement.

And seriously missing from all the conversations is a discussion of canvassing vs. "member mobilization" vs. constituency-based organizing. Ahisma's listings  of the various PIRG oriented non-canvassing programs certainly adds to the disucssion by seeking to contextualize Fisher's attack on canvassing in general and the Fund's model in particular.

And they also serve to provide some examples of the policy-change work in which PIRGs are involved, hell even some advocacy.

But none of that shoule be construed as base-building organizing of a targeted constituency. The best way that I can think of to show this is to use the examples of labor unions, espeically those that activley promote leadership and participation by their members. These include some of the best locals in SEIU, CWA, CA. Nurses Assoc, UNITE HERE, and the UFW to name just a few.

Outside the house of labor there is also a rich tradition of this kind of base-building organizing from the Industrial Areas Foundation and a cluster of other faith-based organizing networks like PICO, DART, and Gamelial. ACORN is the biggest organization of low and moderate income families, joining as individuals rather than through instutituions like churches as in the faith-based model.

If you aggregated the personal contact work done by the labor movement and the networks, it would dwarf what the Fund does. For example, just in the field campaigning season for this election (Nov. 2006), ACORN will knock on 2.1 million doors in 13 states. And that's just for GOTV purposes. It doesn't include the routine daily contacts ACORN's 350 field organizers do 6 days a week.

The Fund and related orgs have a significant presence to be sure and occupy a space that needs to be understood and respected by progressives, but they are hardly the be-all end-all of the field aspect of the progressive movement.

Having said all that, the lack of connection that the canvassing field staff at PIRGs have to the other 3/4 of the organization is disturbing and indicates a lack of a program to develop those resources as a means of building the overall capacity of the organization.

This highlights at least one weakness in the canvass model, which is the failure to build a vision for advancement for entry-level staff.

But then that begs the question of where these folks would go and in the absence of a real organizing program the answer is: nowhere. The market for lobbyists, researchers, and campaign staff is much smaller than the market for field staff. Even the market for PIRG's campus organizers is small though I don't have an analysis as to why that is.

To contrast, in 2004 ACORN had over 10,000 paid crews in the field doing GOTV work and each person was hired and told that people who did well would be offered the chance to enter training for field organizer positions. Post election ACORN offered training academny positions to over 500 canvassers. At the end of the day over 150 canvassers accepted and completed the training, helping fuel an expansion of the organization which has opened about 25 or 30 offices since then.

I'm not interested in bashing PIRGs or The Fund just to bash. I'm interested in figuring out how to build a powerful progressive movement by building a mass base of people who can be mobilized to take action. Like all organizations they can improve and they can probably improve a great deal, but that's really not the biggest deal.

by nathanhj 2006-10-20 02:01PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

"But none of that shoule be construed as base-building organizing of a targeted constituency. The best way that I can think of to show this is to use the examples of labor unions, espeically those that activley promote leadership and participation by their members. These include some of the best locals in SEIU, CWA, CA. Nurses Assoc, UNITE HERE, and the UFW to name just a few."

Thank you - I love this post.  Do you work for ACORN BTW - thought maybe so from your post?  (If so gods bless and keep on rocking !)  Labor completely dwarfs PIRG and where the amped up tone on PIRG canvassing staff wigs me out (especially since lots of them are not looking to go into activism, just applying for summer jobs and in fact we convert some of those into the field).  

Now this ended up being really long and is not quite the overall discussion you are referencing above and which I'd like to have myself, but I'll go into some stuff from the PIRG side in regards to this:

From a PIRG perspective, the answer is that we are not and have typically not looked to be a constituency building organization.  Labor certainly comes from that tradition - they work in contained areas (workplaces) and build up a constituency.  PIRG comes from that in the student arena where we started (but since students are constantly revolving through a campus one that is more cyclical and shallow than labor in a workplace).  But from the get go, the canvass was not a conceived to be a constituency-building mechanism.  When the student PIRGs joined together to found a new group the role was to be a statewide watchdog group and the canvass was to be purely two things - 1) a pressure mechanism on legislators (interestingly it's part of a reason we aren't connected to some of the funder world because our distribution of legislative scorecards worries a set of connected donors) and 2) reaching the middle and beginning the conversion process.  Education is then handled later through newsletters, email alerts, phone trees - all the usual stuff but the design is to get a broad base that is aware and takes limited action.  PIRG has in fact traditionally and explicitly stated it's role is not citizen leadership development but the across-the-aisle broad base advocacy role.  And it has happily ceded leadership development to other community groups, viewed that as their turf not to infringe upon, while we play the broader statewide lobbyist role.  It's not that we don't see value in it, in fact as I mentioned before we've even layered in support for community groups - some help with funding connecting them to foundations and such (even direct gifts), some political help, etc - also Toxics Action Center whose job is  in the Northeast to help usually all-volunteer, unfunded groups working on NIMBY issues learn the political, media and funding world so they can get off the ground.

I see how in the context of the electoral realm, where a whole new farm of citizen leaders is really needed that model can wig progressive activists out and a quick-initial contact can interface poorly with those folks.  But for our issues and for the vast majority of citizens (and especially when the goal is to get people from soft-enviro to highly aware of money in politics and corporate control of government - a very long conversion) this low-key go-slow approach works quite well.

On the lack of connection stuff in staff:  Overall, I think that's not the case for a lot of folks, there are tons of meetings, lots of trainings (including the big Denver training which is for everyone from the bookkeeper to an executive director) way too many internal email updates honestly, and lots of socials (not even counting the week in Aspen) so beyond just going to your director, there's info everywhere and non-stop networking.  Now certainly there are folks who don't take advantage of all that.  But I think the two issues in play here, and ones worth exploring, are that since PIRG does have intense standards and eliminator-style staff development strategy and since we focus mostly on hiring young activists, we end up with a whole set of folks who leave after short-timing it; folks who've come out of the most structured initial roles and they have less perspective out of the gate.  And then and I think this is something we'll need to grow past, as each part of PIRG has taken off, it's gotten regimented enough that folks cannot be as connected and stay in only their realm (especially a problem with canvass directors and campus staff who are more remotely based - but  a problem inherent in going for presence in 50 states).  

However, promotion and ability to change roles in PIRG is huge.  We promote quickly and folks (if they have the skills required) can move from anywhere in the org to anywhere else that has an opening.  So not only have we had a lot of CDs and campus folks who are now in the top level of leadership or in advocacy roles all over, we even have leaders that have come from the administrative side because they had the chops to do it.  That's pretty broad in the opportunities realm but it does require sticking around longer than a year and wanting to try other roles.

Obviously of course the eliminator method in staff development has a decent amount of blowback, especially as PIRG has become larger as of lateTo me, it really comes out of the origin of the group - back in the 80s founding era organizers for environmental and corp. responsibility were in short supply and PIRG tried to fill the void. We focused on breeding top-tier organizers as much as possible.  Which means loading up the responsibility and the roles staff play building toward all around executive director types.  And that's why you're increasingly seeing ex-PIRGers assuming top roles in other groups (more recently as the second wave of folks from the 90s have gotten around since PIRG was smaller in the 80s - interestingly one of the things I've felt has been really left out in the "stagnant issue groups" discussion I've seen online is that the rest of the movement's increasing focus on organizing coincides with the ascension of organizers from groups like ACORN, US Action, PIRG, and others into other power centers of the movement.  Certainly though the ascension of blogs and their organizing focus is another huge part of it).  I don't think that the effects of such accelerated responsibility affects folks that much a few years into the org because lots of roles are comfortably available (although I've definitely seen folks ended up in the wrong role and have a hard time of it), but in the beginning there is definitely a hard pace.

Also, you're absolutely right that the job market for organizers is way too small.  I think it's the funders.  Way too much emphasis on policy, way too little understanding of organizing and it's importance (a bunch get it but they are a minority of all that's out there).  Maybe I'm wrong but all the groups who are really organizing-oriented out there are the ones who first focused on financial independence. So PIRG as an example we didn't get into the foundation side until early 90 - first we built up the student fee on campuses and then the broad membership base.  Same thing I see in  ACORN, Greenpeace (which also has Europe $), labor (which has dues), Sierra Club (which has the businesses and hiking club as well as the canvass), CWA and US Action with their canvasses, etc.  Again, maybe I'm leaping but it seems like all the groups embracing organizing had to build their financial independence on their own and many of the groups that don't do it are the ones with more foundation and large donor contributions as their financial base.  

Hopefully that will change more as blogs play up organizing and more folks from organizing groups ascend into the foundation world (I myself worry a lot about what will happen with the funders on this issue post 2008 if the Dems take it).

by ahisma 2006-10-20 08:04PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

So you're saying this is why Grassroots Campaigns Inc won't 'give me the add' for their MySpace page.

Why can't we be "friends"?

by greg bloom 2006-10-20 05:54PM | 0 recs
Apology to the Good-Hearted Regulars of MyDD

I do want to apologize to all the regulars of MyDD for my hard-tone in this thread.  I am a newbie but I've been excited to find MyDD for all the electoral insight (especially since I come out of the issue-group world) and I don't want to be a snarky little commentator attacking people all the time - that's why I wanted to bow out of this thread before.  As you can see on my accounts here and on Kos I'm out there commenting on other stories unlike greggish and Lockse who are hijacking this site to write on nothing but their personal grudge.  In fact, I'm starting work on my first diary post (nothing related to this) so I hope to get deeper in to blogging and really contribute.

But this is a slanted hit job on my friends and colleagues and I've got to stand up on this one.  If you don't stand up, you'll get put down - we all know that one.  I hope as I try to join the blogging community you'll understand my anger on this and forgive my harshness here.

by ahisma 2006-10-20 01:40PM | 0 recs
Re: Apology to the Good-Hearted Regulars of MyDD

If you are a newbie, perhaps you should try acting like one -- i.e., hang around for a while and learn the norms of the community. That way you might not end up coming off like a putz.

by Joe Gabriel 2006-10-20 09:25PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

To call this a 'personal grudge' ahisma is to be belittling and dismissive.  Your points are not well made, nor are they well informed.  If you knew anything about the PIRGS/FUND/GCI/GREENCORPS/TAC, then you would know the countless number of staff who are used up and thrown away by the higher ups in the 'organizations'.  You would also know about the number of union attempts and union busts that have been made throughout the PIRG et al history. Both Greg and Lockse have done an excellent job of not only informing us of the mistreatment and misuse of laborers, but have also provided us with ample facts and figures and accounts to back it up. What did you provide us with? A lot of PIRG rhetoric and some really nasty mudslinging aimed at Lockse personally.  

My girlfriend worked for both the PIRGs and the Fund. She and I know Lockse very well, and I can attest to the fact that indeed she served 8 long years within the PIRG/GCI family.  What she is saying is the truth. And frankly, she has people scared by it, and thats why people like you are coming out of the woodwork to make mean, nasty, immature, unhelpful comments on a blog that is well informed and challenging an organization that is rooted in a conservative corporate model.

The PIRGS/FUND/GCI thrive off of high organizer attrition, the entire model is built around recruitment instead of retaining the staff that is there.  Poor benefits, long hours, and a laughable salary are not things that a progressive organization gives to its workers. And the PIRG argument that "this is hard work we are doing!" is not a good enough reason to continue exploiting its organizers this way.  I have worked for other progressive organizations, my girlfriend has worked for other organizations, and I can tell you that there are other ways to run a non-profit corporation. You dont have to continue to operate under these outdated and outmoded methods. The GCI/PIRG/FUND model is broken and it can be fixed. And I think its important for the progressive movement that it is fixed.

What you bring to the table is not a discussion on how to help better the left and make us stronger, in fact you are only bringing more of the same attitude and small-mindedness that is contagious throughout the PIRG organizations.

by may1978 2006-10-20 02:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Taking on Lockse's experience

Actually ashima, Lockse has all of that experience and then some.  

I mean I work at PIRG, have for a bunch years, love the work, love the folks here, etc.  But I'm just a regular schmoe - not a bigwig in the least.

Looks like YOU my friend have hit the "merit" ceiling you refer to here:

So I'm betting they hit the "merit" ceiling in their workplace to begin with.

Lockse did work for the PIRGS for 8 years.  She is one of the founding directors for GCI and you ashima, quite frankly should probably keep your hands away from the keyboard before you go on a tirade again.  You even said yourself that you never met Lockse - so why would you make assumptions about her?  She didn't make any about you.  Now I have to tell you, I'm not so "cuddly" myself, so I am willing to make assumptions about you.

1.  You have been working for a "bunch" of years for the PIRGS means you have been there for about a year and a half, maybe 2 years tops.

  1.  You have been passed up for promotion because you are not good at your job.
  2.  You feel insecure about the effectiveness of PIRG and you feel threatened, which is why you have been following Greg's posts and why you posted personal attacks against people with more experience organizing than you.

I'm answering your ignorant rant the only way I can:

I'm not going to pretend you know what you're talking about.  

There are a lot more people out there like Lockse and Greg.  I am one of them.  I am not a disgruntled ex-employee.  I, like Lockse and Greg want PIRG and GCI to be better than it is right now.  Unfortunately, with people like you on staff, that will probably never happen anytime soon.

by private kicker 2006-10-20 02:55PM | 0 recs
Hey trolly trolly

As you can see on my accounts here and on Kos I'm out there commenting on other stories unlike greggish and Lockse who are hijacking this site

Many of us are consumers of the content generated by the progressive blogosphere--some of us are not, and yet we pay attention to this one issue. And when we comment or post diaries about this one issue, we are producers of the content. You can try to claim that this space "does not belong to us," and that we are `stealing it,' but I just don't think that argument gets you very far.

And the best part about this idea that you have failed to grasp: you've just produced the content on behalf of PIRG. It's not something anyone of us PIRGers (veteran or otherwise) should be proud of.

We never were actually that good at PR, were we? So much for all that "media training."

by campaign06 2006-10-20 03:11PM | 0 recs
Ahisma's tantrum

So - it seems quite clear that Lockse has hit a nerve as a previous poster noted - and Ahisma doesn't like it.  But what I find curious is just how much he/she doesn't like it.  I am no means as rhetorically adept as Ahisma, but it seems clear that to go on such a personal attack over legitimate and well-informed criticism of the PIRGS/GCI indicates a deep-seeded insecurity regarding the state of these organisations and their faults.  Any good student of public policy, business, or science realizes that no organization is perfect, and without an honest self-examination of their model and outcomes, you cannot grow and succeed.

But that honest self-examination is not what Ahisma wants, or can handle.  Rather it seems that he/she is so interested in defending PIRG, he/she would rather focus her attacks on people rather than ideas.  This is truly the last argumentative tactic of a desperate person - one who has no substance left to use in a debate.

The fact is, Lockse did help get GCI off the ground and was treated very poorly when the higher ups didn't find her useful anymore - and they were wrong.  In terms of an organisation model - it sounds much more like Ford Motor company than some Utopian Progressive organisation.  Be careful who you defend, because the tactics of PIRG and GCI are no more progressive than any of the GOP fund raising groups.  

Lastly - Ahisma - you seriously need to consider this - anyone who is willing to stand behind an anonymous online name and very publicly bash other people is very self-serving - and didn't you say:

"Maybe that's why you're just sitting on the blogs, recommending each other's posts, hoping to get noticed..."

It appears that you need as much attention as anyone else on this site.....if you had as much courage as you claim - you would reveal yourself instead of just outing people simply making an argument

by bigbrother 2006-10-20 04:15PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

What ahisma is doing here happens all the time in PIRG. I'd like to think I was never as venomous and wildly assertive as he has been, but I too silenced my share of dissent. Someone speaks out for one reason or another; they are dismissed, patronized, insulted and finally they are shoved aside. But there's something else that he's unintentiaonally revealed about the modern PIRG movement, I was planning to talk about this soon but now is a fine time.

Liese obviously never did anything else besides canvass (and I'm pretty sure 4 or her inflated "8" years is just being a student volunteer...)

Talk about historical perspective. I believed in student power when I was board chair. That's why I became a Campus Organizer for three years, that's why I represented PIRG to lobby with Greenpeace in London against BP. "The new kind of citizenship" that Ralph Nader wrote about in Action for a Change is what drove me--he was writing a manual for students to organize in order to facilitate:

the development of the mechanics of taking a serious abuse, laying it bear before the public, proposing solutions and generating the necessary coalitions to see these solutions through -- these steps metabolize the latent will of the people to contribute to their community and count as individuals rather than cogs in large organizational wheels.

For a decade or more now, the students have been just that, cogs.  Closer to props than participants. That was probably when the PIRG mission shift began - when the element of student activism was hollowed out and minimized. (I also just want to note in this discussion right now that when we talk about PIRG, we are not talking about all PIRGs. MPIRG, for instance, is still student-run and steered, to my knowledge. There are a handful of organizations that are a bit more independent in varying degrees...maybe it's too bad that their name get dragged into this.) After being trained in an environment that has gone so long without any sense of democratic participation, who can be surprised at ahisma's attitude? Once I leave, my stake in organization is nothing. Once I voice criticism, I'm no one.

Only, that's not actual truth...that's truthiness.

Nader is also writing here, see, about 'on-the-job citizens' who have intimate knowledge of the inner-workings of the major organizations. People like that can play pivotal roles in bringing serious institutional problems to light and calling for reform. Even the bottom level workers (like Greg, at one point) might have knowledge of major negligence and even fraud; for someone like myself, who was overseeing thousands of committed progressive people, there's an even greater responsibility to speak up. Sure, I know that former co-workers are going to insult me and patronize me - they're going to shout that we are wrong, and I figure the shouting will get louder yet. But that's because they have no other way to respond but shouting, except to ask the questions themselves. From the course of the conversations I've had with fellow alumni today, that's already beginning to happen in a major way.

In the meantime, one last note to the blogosphere: if your understanding of how progressive politics works is limited to elections and the media, then yes, you are going to think about this discussion as a waste of your time. Sorry if we are boring you. Maybe MyDD just isn't the right venue for these discussions (if that's true, it's really disappointing). But if you aren't in fact bored, if you find this discussion to be fascinating - necessary, even - please email me at lockse@gmail.com. Whether you're a PIRG vet or otherwise, even if you're anonymous, we hear from new people every week.

by Lockse 2006-10-20 06:25PM | 0 recs
not boring

depressing, maybe, but not boring.

by Joe Gabriel 2006-10-20 09:34PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

I've done my nasty on this and I think you know this was my personal reactions b/c obviously it's shit messaging on the org's behalf.  I don't want to get endless on this so hopefully I'll be able to cut off here.

From me to you, no audience in mind:

I don't care that when someone is outside the org what they say.  I care when they're in the org what they say.  And you said it yourself, "silenced my share of dissent."  I haven't - I disagree with things large and small all time - it's a big org and it's going to have stuff you don't end up thinking is working right.  But your job is to build it, so if you're here you speak up.  You could have anytime - all the meetings were public, all the doors were open, I know I walked into them.  You scared yourself out of it for some reason and I do not at all understand why  an activist of all people, would ever let that be the case.  I know and I would think you would too looking at all the top people in PIRG, that none of them are of the mold where they would ever not speak their mind.  I mean seriously - can you actually imagine that there would be a time in her life when say Janet didn't speak her mind fully and bluntly?  To me there are first and foremost 2 rules of activism: always speak truth and always listen before you talk (too bad for me I suck at the latter).

I do not understand at all how anyone who worked with the people I work with would inherently have a criticism that paints them as intellectually limited, careless, heartless, and uncommitted to democracy as human beings.  Now the objection to the top-down model or strategy or tactics, that I get.  But when it comes to PIRGbot, drink the Koolaid, is that out of the manual, etc, when those who say "I like working here and I believe x,y,z works" are immediately dismissed, there is no respect on a human level granted to any of us.

See, I didn't start my professional activism at PIRG.  I came to PIRG and was just blown away.  I have never before, with the exception of some family, met in my life people this caring, this kind, and this supportive, as I the ones I met here.  I literally didn't think some of the people I have met here actually could exist on earth before I walked in these doors.  Honest truth.  And I don't care about myself but to see those folks, who have done so much for me, not just in mentoring but genuine emotional support, inherently discounted and degraded - well the person who does that started a very personal war with me and I will give them no quarter and I cannot give them any respect.  That and that alone is what everything I've written addressed to you has been about.

Moving on - as I've said I don't know you.  Which honestly weirds me out to begin with because I've been here for many years and I've met almost everybody.  But put on your old PIRG cap right now and see what I see:

1) I see a criticism that is devoid of financial analysis (which again it's publicly filed), continuously underplays or ignores facts like the huge alumni network which inherently shows how much staff PIRG produces for the overall movement, does not factor in the reasons for the model in terms of political goals/roles PIRG conscientiously does and does not play and why, or anything that is so very basic and someone with your experience should know easily.  And that has led me to question very much whether you bothered to pay attention, to ask, and to learn outside of structured parts of your job.  Maybe that's totally wrong, but from what I see online I thought it quite likely.  Most importantly, you ignore what you absolutely know is true.  A lot of folks like PIRG and their work, a lot of alumni moved on at some point for some reason, but look back fondly, etc.  Lots don't too, I know it - some weren't worth hiring and some were greats and it broke my heart when they left - but that doesn't mean there aren't tons of us here from Year 30 throughout Year 1 who love what we do.  Maybe you think we're all holding back our criticism, scared into silence, and hey maybe some are, but lots aren't, you know it, and they are worthy of respect.

But most importantly it shows you don't want to do a balanced thing here - because a balanced piece would be here's argument x and here's argument y and since you should know both, you'd reference them (and prove or disprove them or whatever).  Now obviously there are a set of points on the canvass you wanted to make, and fine that those are the main arguments, but without context (especially to folks who know the context) they stand as nothing more than a hit job.

2) And that gets us here.  I question your abilities because this is the crappiest strategy I could imagine.   This is supposed to stimulate a discussion about the Fund, with the Fund weighing in?  Posts with "Strangling" in the title, endless diaries attacking the Fund again and again?  This was to reach people who've dealt with corporate Kill PIRG efforts on campuses for decades?  The people who wrote the rule that you can't organize everyone so move on when you have to?  And on blogs of all things?  They work 10 hours a day.  You actually think they read blogs??  So now what - they're now going to get on a hostile medium, populated by folks uninterested in anything but attack and go into the data side of it?  PIRGers who are going to do that?  I mean even after leaving you had direct inside access for personal contact and instead you turn to a medium they don't read, go into an attack stance (jesus that's breaking first day of canvassing training on how to engage), and sacrifice meaningful access for the worst medium possible?  Seriously what good organizer would even bother with this?

Finally, I get folks posting in that they didn't like their job.  I get some of the GCI analysis stuff.  But you and Greg have been going on this with a new thing every few weeks for what a year now?  Two years after at least he left the job?  I've worked truly shit jobs in my life and I never did anything but walk away at the end and get on with living.  I can't possibly imagine how a person could actually spend this much time on this stuff.  So when I wonder if you guys are a bit off, it's neither invective nor dismissive - I'm dead serious on that.

So again, me to you, no audience.  And I write this only because you have served and I wonder if really you don't get folks like me or if I'm just totally fucking wrong and out of my head in what I see when I read your and Greg's stuff.   I don't hold a candle to the folks working here all around me but I asked the questions, I spoke my mind, I never ever have or will blame anyone but myself for any lack of success.

Does that make me a PIRGbot?   What's an activist look like then?

by ahisma 2006-10-20 10:02PM | 0 recs
Fatuous

Give up your argument that Greg and Lockse's are just a pair of disgruntled and unbalanced former employees who can't get closure.  It's insulting to other MyDDers (who recommend these diaries), them and ultimately you and your fellow employees at PIRG (as it implies that the PIRGs, and the attempt to reform them, don't matter).    

by lojo 2006-10-21 03:44AM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

From me to you, ahimsa, you've made it awfully difficult to have a conversation, even though you're pretending to want one now. But you're still making major assumptions about me. I would never think to "go outside" if I had not already tried to go inside. And I would never think to write a post like this if I did not know that my experience - being ignored and dismissed after voicing criticism internally - had not shared widely, and by people with far more experience than I. Respect your elders, indeed. You don't realize yet who, exactly, "we" are here - but I'm in no need to rush to correct you, since every comment you make digs the hole a little deeper.

You see, to answer your bafflement at our strategy: no, we don't expect the Fund or GCI to weigh in here. But you're misunderstanding blogs, and I think you might also want to revisit your Alinsky.

When Greg started posting, I was defensive against him myself--I was so uncomfortable that this would become a public discussion, and I even tried halfheartedly to argue against him. But I soon saw that every time Greg posted, the response was anonymous, thuggish, and ultimately weak. And with every weak argument against "Strip-Mining the Grassroots," with every attempt to cover over GCI's MoveOn 2004 disaster, my own awareness of the problem came into clearer focus. Every time someone tried to change the subject, insult the people who were having the conversation, reduce the arguments to "complaints" about the job, even question our motives, the fragility of the power structure was revealed just a little bit more.  It became so very clear that this power is contingent upon questions that are not asked - and every time a question was asked and an anonymous PIRG defender came on to beat some chest, another layer of the armor that has been built up around this system chipped away.

So first your reaction was patronizing, then it's personally insulting, and now you're pleading with me: "Please stop talking about this in public. These people are good people, why are you doing this to them?" Some of them are very good people, and I'm sorry to know that they will inevitably take this personally. I loved my job. And I know more about the history than you do. I'm even using that "alumni network" as we speak, working with people with more experience than you or I, who believe in both the mission of the PIRG and in the values of the progressive movement. These are all reasons why I made this post. Respect your elders, ahisma - but we, too, are your elders. At a certain point, I hope you stop questioning my motives, and start thinking about the questions that I've asked in this post.

by Lockse 2006-10-21 06:06AM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

Hi Ahimsa.

Now the objection to the top-down model or strategy or tactics, that I get. But when it comes to PIRGbot, drink the Koolaid, is that out of the manual, etc, when those who say "I like working here and I believe x,y,z works" are immediately dismissed, there is no respect on a human level granted to any of us.

Just to be clear for the readers, the 'manual' that is being referred to is the recently-published "How to Suppress Discussions of Campaign Mismanagement." Now, I don't believe that the term 'PIRGbot' has been used in any of the proper posts--only to describe your reaction--but Ahimsa has, helpfully, provided us with a textbook run-through of the manual. Everyone, gather round! See here a skilled set of suppression tactics:

1. Control what your audience sees.
Successful suppression starts with the choices you make before you even begin to write. ... Make sure your response does not actually reference the discussion that you are trying to suppress. The last thing you want is for readers to judge your opponent's words for themselves. So: don't link or refer in detail to your opponent's argument. .... Remember: you're not responsible for backing up what you say--other people are.

These posts aren't about canvassing at all ... It's all PIRG/GCI/Fund named directly, attacked directly, and done so from day 1 - it's a hit job and nothing more.

Now obviously there are a set of points on the canvass you wanted to make, and fine that those are the main arguments, but without context (especially to folks who know the context) they stand as nothing more than a hit job.

2. Blanket dismissal.
Whatever the audience has just read, you can easily question its validity. Remember, this is an open forum. Your opinion cancels out your opponent's opinion, no matter what your opponent has said.

I've read some of your stuff and it comes off pretty low-level analysis and overblown rhetoric to me.

3. Attack the person, not the argument.

anyone who spends months ranting about an organization they worked for is a few tacos short of a combination plate.

You're a low level political staffer and boyfriend is a writer wannabe.  The nonprofit world can hire a thousand of you to consult on a model any day of the week but it tends to ask for a lot more in qualifications.

Liese obviously never did anything else besides canvass (and I'm pretty sure 4 or her inflated "8" years is just being a student volunteer...8 years of executive management my ass)

just two disgruntled ex-employees with limited perspective.

4. Argue against straw men
Remember: Responding to what your opponent says should always be a last resort. To do so requires the extra effort of reading someone else's words and considering the implications of unfamiliar or uncomfortable thoughts. The discussion will go much faster if you just assume your opponent has said what you want to argue about and respond to that instead.

I do not understand at all how anyone who worked with the people I work with would inherently have a criticism that paints them as intellectually limited, careless, heartless, and uncommitted to democracy as human beings.

Canvassing is expensive. That's just how it is.

5. Deflect attention away from the specific criticism.
Remember, your goal is to avoid having to focus on what your opponent has actually said.

there's no analysis of all the community groups that used to do canvassing and had to bow out in the 80s

is there anything at all the acknowledges that PIRG is far from the big dog on the progressive movement but instead one of the lesser funded enviro groups, now just finally coming into it's own and gaining the financial ability to take things to the next step?

They don't analyze the advocacy roles PIRG plays

A lot of folks like PIRG and their work, a lot of alumni moved on at some point for some reason, but look back fondly, etc.

6. The mismanaged campaign, however bad, is better than nothing.

There are other organizations that work just fine.  do we start blog discussions about the mismanagement of Chase bank?  or management at Target?

[Y]our opponent has probably never run a campaign before, so he/she needs to prove that the current campaign is being mismanaged. But simply showing a widespread pattern of mismanagement doesn't prove that the campaign is really being mismanaged. Demand that your opponent confirm how many votes got out/how many congressmen changed their votes/how many citizens were inspired to become politically active/how many careers were launched by the campaign.

are they interviewing PIRG higher ups here?  Do they have any hard data at all?  Are they even looking for hard data beyond a couple blog comments?

7. Prove your opponent has misunderstood how campaigns are really run.
Because people on the bottom level don't have experience running campaigns, or at least have never built a campaign organization, they have no qualifications to be assessing whether a campaign is working. Lower level campaign workers are too naive or even stupid to know what's working or what's not--and they probably don't have what it takes to win. Middle- or upper- level managers who have left the campaign are similarly disqualified from being able to make assessments--they simply don't get it any more, since relinquised their credibility when they quit like whiny quitting quitters. Campaigns are run to win, and that's what the people running campaigns do: they win. Without them, everyone else is a loser.

I don't Phelps on a personal level, but I've seen his mind in action and he has earned my respect many times over.  He walks the walk. Respect your elders young man - they have much they could teach you, but only if you have respect.

Hell they don't know the financials (it's called a form 990 folks - what every non-profit has to file and anyone can find). Why - because they don't know this stuff and they aren't looking to find out. Greg canvassed for three months - barely basic training.  Liese obviously never did anything else besides canvass (and I'm pretty sure 4 or her inflated "8" years is just being a student volunteer but I'm not entirely sure - I really don't remember ever meeting her) and obviously never walked in to the always open offices of her directors and asked questions on this (guess what - I did, and learned half this shit in Year 1 for chrissake), never really stood up in all staff NAOPI meetings (where any staffer can chime in) and talked through her stuff.

I see a criticism that is devoid of financial analysis (which again it's publicly filed), continuously underplays or ignores facts like the huge alumni network which inherently shows how much staff PIRG produces for the overall movement, does not factor in the reasons for the model in terms of political goals/roles PIRG conscientiously does and does not play and why, or anything that is so very basic and someone with your experience should know easily. And that has led me to question very much whether you bothered to pay attention, to ask, and to learn outside of structured parts of your job.

Well done, Ahimsa. Clap clap! You haven't taken step 8 yet--calling for the moderator to put the meanies in the corner. Should we expect that soon?

by maggiemead 2006-10-21 11:50AM | 0 recs
conversation needs to occur

Its not a hit job, ahisma.  And I read every one of these posts, and have commented perhaps once, maybe   recommended once.  I tend not to do either because I'm a poor typist, and am not usually an interactive guy in the electronic sense. Point being - this is no echo-chamber.

I was drawn to this conversation because I'm tired not only of beltway fatcats collecting ad revenue from losing elections, but also because I'm tired of working on field campaigns where people tell me "this is how its done.   This is how we do it. Just keep banging your head on that wall - it'll go through eventually."  Why?  Because those people are (sorry for the upcoming) fucking losers.

The fact is, the progressive movement needs to identify what models work, and change or eliminate those that don't. We can't afford to let people carry the torch if they can't get to the finish line.  Is it nice that Doug Phelps got arrested defending Native Americans?  Sure.  Is it impressive that you're tough enough to work 80 hours a week for 25 a year sending college kids to panhandle rich suburbanites? Sure.  Do  these sacrifices mean your model is a winner? From what I  have seen, the answer is no.  They mean you're a bit of a sucker.

In 2004 I worked with "seasoned pirg organizers" who didn't know their asshole from an election, but that wasn't the problem.  The problem was their ABSOLUTE hostility to learning from others, and their ABSOLUTE refusal to deal in reality. Ultimately, it was a type of arrogance that your comments totally personify.

Ultimately, my point here is that (pardon the cliche) hard work isn't always smart work.  I really don't know why, but the left is infested with this mind-set that says "I can dress like shit, not organize my office, not worry about staff retention, use crappy voter lists and not even put a plan on paper, but if I just work all night and ask my employees to spend their salary on making copies it will all work out"  That type of attitude is no longer acceptable, and it is eciting to see it put in the harsh light it should be in.  

by rallydemocrat 2006-10-20 08:52PM | 0 recs
Re: panhandling

I've read this whole thread and wondered what you all are talking about, and now it dawns on me from your "college kids panhandling rich suburbanites."

Would this be the pair of 20-year-olds who knocked on my suburban Philadelphia door in 1995, wanted to sign me up for some environmental organization I'd never heard of that would send me frequent updates on a topic of minimal interest to me, and asked me for $5 or $10?

If so, it's a monumental waste.

And I also dislike the disorganized "GOTV" enthusiasts who keep calling to remind me to vote, even though I haven't missed an election in decades.

by joyful alternative 2006-10-21 02:27PM | 0 recs
just wow

First, since Ahimsa likes to attack people for not having enough experience:

I worked for GCI for almost 2 years, left to go to law school.  In that time, I directed a fundraising office, worked national recruitment, and did various tasks in the central finance office.  So I have a pretty good overview, I think.

Second, Lockse was a very competant organizer and staff director.  Compared to the other RDs, her region was generally good at getting stuff done right and on time.  Her offices also were also good from a fundraising perspective.

Third, Ahimsa is distracting from the point.  The point is this:

We all understand the good work that GCI, the PIRGs, the Fund, Toxic Action, Greencorps, etc, etc all do.  At least, I do.  The member lists, the lobbying, the training, and so on, all help the progressive movement.  But the question is, are we eating our seed corn?  The progressive movement has not been particularly successful over the past 15 years, even with Clinton in office, we got NAFTA and welfare deform.  Does that have anything to do with the thousands of young progressives that the PIRGs burned out?  I honestly have no idea.  I think the book in question (activism inc) provides the start of an answer.  But I really never saw any recognition that burning people out is harmful.  Instead, burnt out people couldn't cut it, weren't "scrappy" enough, and so were no big loss.  After all, the model accounts for that attrition, and, well, there will always be more college kids.

So the question becomes, how can the PIRGs become BETTER?  I think one way would be to stop "happily ced[ing] leadership development to other community groups."  Or, if that is too big a first step, to stop ignoring human develpment all together, to consider paying a living wage, to make sure people are not paying significant out of pocket expenses, to allow for some bottom up communication.  

I think that doing those things will make the PIRGs/GCI/Fund/etc. stronger, and help the progressive movement as a whole.

by dansomone 2006-10-21 08:55PM | 0 recs
Can we be constructive?

I have been trying to keep up with all the postings in this thread, to better understand Lockse's points and also to understand why Ahisma reacted so strongly to the original posting.

This debate, any debate, on how to make a progressive organization stronger, better, more successful, is a debate worth having. Why did Ahisma react so strongly to the posting if Lockse' own-stated intention is to make these progressive organizations, well, more progressive?

I think that Anhisma was reacting to reading the dedicated, intelligent, passionate people they work with criticized, and criticized harshly. But I think that is what is at the root of Lockse's critique, that these people are dedicated and intelligent and passionate and progressive, but the organizations they run and make run are not treating the employees, the cogs of the machine, in this case canvassers, well, progressively. And Anhisma's reaction seems to be well, reactive... also offended and frustrated with the regular flow of criticism about the PIRGs and related organizations that apparently comes their way.

But Anhsima's comments are not constructive, because they attack the individual, they are personal, they are generalized, and because they do not seek to at the very least understand where Lockse is coming from. What is the biggest problem that the Democratic party, and many progressives, have at this moment, in my mind - they are unwilling to at least try to understand where other people's opinions and beliefs come from even if they strongly disagree with them, and instead just write off the opinions and beliefs of those people as well as the people themselves.

I would challenge Anhisma to look for where Lockse's opinions come from, to understand her experiences and the opinions and beliefs that those expriences brought about... and in that understanding might come actual understanding, maybe even some common ground, such as, let's make progressive organizations more progressive and more successful at being progressive.

I would also challenge Lockse to understand where Anhisma's reactions are coming from, and maybe refine her message to avoid people feeling like they are attacked by it. I'm not saying that the posting is attacking anyone, but any argument can be refined to make the argument stronger and the subjectivity less apparent.

In the end, I agree with Lockse's basic pretense, that progessive organizations such as GCI and the PIRGs employ a canvassing model that is not progressive in how it treats the individual canvassers (nice screen name Lockse). The hours, the lack of empathy for stress and people having their own lives, the lack of supply and/or reimbursement for necessary supplies, the unwillingness to listen to feedback and change. These are all faults in the organizations that are problematic means to good progressive ends. A well known theory in political science is that organizations become inherently bureaucratic once they are formed because they have to become as much about self-preservence as about the organizational goals.

I think that is what has happened in GCI, and it sounds like the PIRGs. I worked with Lockse in the new york office for GCI on the DNC 2004 campaign as an assistant director and lead director, and after my experience I would say that I have not met as many dedicated, smart, passionate, progressive people as in that organization, and all those qualities are personafied in Lockse and for that working with her was a truly educational experience for me... but I will never, ever canvass again, because of my experience I think the model is not progressive, unhealthy for the canvasssers (including myself), and generally not the best way to reach the progressive ends that I probably share with the senior management of GCI.

Asking organizations, especially progressive organizations, to be open to feeback, critism, change, is not a bad thing, and I think that it is great that Lockse is doing just that, through this blog for one. And I think this kind of conversation, and debate, could be extremely productive, and constructive, if the reactions were not hostile, and instead thoughtful and insightful.

Progressive organizations should be progressive, and maybe the canvasser model could be progressive, but what I experienced was not progressive. That is an experience that I share with many others, and in order for the progressive movement to grow and be successful, the leaders of the movement must listen to the cogs of the movement to make sure that there is empathy for their lives and experiences, that the leadership is progressive enough to be open to change, and that the individuals that make up the movement are treated and respected as individuals and their productive progressive potential is not hampered because of a problematic model, but actually maximized by the organization and the movement... (think locke).

by Progressive Mike 2006-10-22 09:27AM | 0 recs
MY GCI experience

I worked for GCI during the 2004 campaign here in New York. The following is an email I sent to Lockse after she alerted me to this post:

Now, the interesting thing about your post, from where I'm coming, is that it mirrors a lot of complaints that were made, in part by me, when I was at GCI. It was by no means a secret that the working conditions sucked, that people were treated badly, that essentially the operation had many aspects of a sweatshop. A lot of people, probably including yourself, put up with it because they were true believers. As it was, I'm still surprised that I wasn't fired; probably was close enough several times. Me, I wouldn't have worked for GCI after 11/03 if they had paid me twenty times as much.

This not merely because of the nature of the work, grinding though it was, but because of the way in which people, often enough, were treated - reduced to numbers on a tally sheet. I remember being yapped at for carrying voter registration cards, for crying out loud, and summarily demoted for being behind on numbers for a week. Does that send a message of respect? Not really. Nor did the lies management told us about the ultimate destination of the money we raised - earmarked for the grassroots versus the general fund.

As far as the detrimental effects of this canvassing are concerned, is there any doubt in anyone's mind - with what we know from consumer research about client/rep interactions - that some at least of the canvassers sent out were astonishingly ill-suited to that task? Was any effort put into making these kids into suitable ambassadors for brand Democrat? When, as I recall [a director] saying, we were likely to be the only real live Democratic Party person most people ever spoke to? How many votes or potential donors did that short guy lose us by walking with people for twenty blocks at a time? How many people came away from interactions with some of us wanting to do more, advocate, volunteer, and so on? How many with a strong feeling of distaste?

As you know, I've stayed in politics, and I'm often enough one of the people sitting around the table discussing strategy at reasonably high levels. In the last two years, I haven't recommended a working relationship with GCI to a single campaign (I've been involved with at least ten), or any organization, committee, and so on. GCI is a sweatshop, and I don't intend to further their agenda in any way, shape or form.

Good post - all of that needed to be said.

As far as I'm concerned, the GCI model is beyond redemption. Lots of good, decent people work there, but the way they treat their employees borders on the barbaric, and their effectiveness is very much in question as long as the continue their business model. Train your people, invest in them, make them happy - like any normal business. You'd be surprised at the results; until then, you'll have a bunch of miserable, disgusted drones irritating passers-by on the street.

Sorry, but it's true. We deserve so much better than what GCI dishes out, it isn't even funny.

by MBNYC 2006-10-25 10:36AM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

Well, reading the tyrades of this Ahisma character is nothing short of a sad experience.  This person has been so programmed for so long. The human has gone and all that remains is a glazed-over kool-ader vomitting up what's been shoved in.

If you really want to read a first-hand account of what Doug Phelps really stands for, visit www.ffpir.us. There you will see the story of the L.A. canvassers and calling room.  The union-busting tactics of Phelps are stranger than fiction.  Doug Phelps is the ceo of a ruthless corporation (that goes by many names, to get away with more) with marketing tactics and labor violations that put the worst of George Bush's corrupted corporate bed-buddies to shame.

The non-profit status of his many groups that are constantly funnelling money to each other could easily be challenged.

Why has no one reported Doug Phelps to the IRS and the Better Bussiness Bureau?  All that one would need is the list of the 50 or more Phelps' groups that are taking the public's money (in the name of the public interest!)and investing it for personal gain for Phelps, Faye Park, Janet Domenitz (Boston  think-tank), Wendy Wendy Wendlandt (L.A. union-buster and much more), Gene Karpinski (so-called lobbyist-what a joke).    

The money that they shake down from trusting people is also used for high-powered lawyers to keep third parties (like unions) out of their groups and their books.  See, Dougie is petrified of any outside party connecting the dots of his empire.  Thus, all the many names for many fake groups pretending to do the same thing. What a mockery of the 'public interest.'

Can you even imagine the yearly Aspen trip for the Pirgbots?  It's got to be like Guyana, with Phelps rousing up all of the Ahismas, on high, with programmed tyrades of defensive rap!  

Again, who will be the first of many to call the IRS and the BBB?  The money that 'members' give for the fucking environment and consumer advocacy is being hugely misappropriated.

by Witness for the Prosecution 2006-11-04 06:33PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

Well, reading the tirades of this Ahisma character is nothing short of a sad experience.  This is just thie kind of brainwashed person that Doug Phelps loves to have in his camp, regurgitating up all of the defensive rap that has been stuffed in.

Doug Phelps is the C.E.O. of a huge empire. The groups go by several different names.  This is so   that state and federal agencies won't realize that it is all ONE BIG SCHEME!  His telemarketing practices and labor violations are nothing short of tremendously deviant.

For more on how Doug Phelps, Faye Park, Janet Dominitz, Gene Karpinski, Wendy Wendlandt, and all of the other Pirg/Fund/GCI/Green Corps people operate and scam their own employees out of their own hard earned money, you can visit www.ffpir.us.

by Witness for the Prosecution 2006-11-07 09:54PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

When will someone call the I.R.S. on Doug Phelps? He is running a huge marketing scheme that feigns to be a series of 'nonprofit groups'.  The truth is, for a group to get the nonprofit status, with all of the tax breaks that go along with it, there are certain things that the group cannot do.

One of these things is the 'buying and selling and sharing' of lists out on the open market.  Doug Phelps' groups steal names from the postcards that they get signed on the streets for Sierra Club and Human Rights Campaign, the DNC, and others.  They then have their calling rooms around the country call and hound that nonmember and ask for 'renewals' from them. The caller has to behave as if the contactee has given before.  This is but one of many hundreds of sleazy marketing tactics that define the strategy of the Fund, and the nature of it being very much for-profit. There are hundreds, if not thousands of us who would be glad to attest to these types of practices.

The worst part of all is that Doug Phelps spends hundreds of thousands of so-called nonprofit dollars (that come from trusting so-called members who donated cash to his many groups) on high-powered lawyers who advise him on how to steal from his own 'nonprofit workers'. His lawyers' expertise (membership money) more recently has been used on union-busting canvass and calling rooms(www.ffpir.us), and investing membership contributions for his own personal gain (close to $0 ever makes it from his group-to-group money funnell out to the environment).

If you 'follow the money' you will see that it all gets funnelled back and forth from Doug Phelps' many groups.

Many have spoken of calling the I.R.S. on Doug Phelps, it's interesting that no one has, yet.

The latest 'update' on the above-mentioned website   speaks of the California State Labor Commissioner's finding on Calpirg/Environment California.  They were ordered to pay $thousands of dollars to at least 1 x-employee for stealing their break $.  This employee is but 1 of about 10 or so more who have filed.  The Funds' lawyer Tracey Bolotnick in Boston, has been very busy spending the Funds' nonprofit membership dollars trying to finagle a way out of paying any of the other 10 x-employees.  

Stealing $ from employees, busting up a union... sure, these are things that a well-meaning, progressive, nonprofit group would do... never!!!  They're no better than Walmart.  They're worse, because they claim to be the good guys who fight the Walmarts.  Doug Phelps is nothing more than a   twisted actor.  How could so many people buy his trumped-up shit?   He's got to win the Oscar for the best Republican playing a Democrat that the Academy has ever seen.

by Witness for the Prosecution 2006-11-07 10:40PM | 0 recs
Re: In Response to Activism Inc and CanvassingWork

Interestingly enough, the 3rd  L.A. x-employee has won her case, in unpaid breaks and unoffered meal pds.  The defendant (Phelps' Pirg) was ordered on 12-6-06, by the Ca. St. Labor Commissioner, to pay the plaintiff $3596.00 in unpaid breaks and unoffered meals (Ca. labor codes violated by Phelps' Pirg).

Phelps' Pirg was given 21 days to appeal, and he didn't, because he knows that he's guilty, and doesn't have a leg to stand on.

The Ca. St. Labor Comm. ordered Phelps' Pirg to put up the entire amount of $3596 as bail, whether or not he appealed.  

Phelps' Pirg sent the state (for the plaintiff), a payroll check, $547.00 short, for $3049.00.  Why, you ask?  The check sent as the award for the plaintiff's labor code victory over Phelps, has taxable payroll deductions taken out, even though  a) the state awarded her in Dec. 06, and she has not worked for Pirg since the L.A. office closed down on 7/31/06, b) a labor law violation award is not taxable earnings, even if recipient had been a current employee.

Yes, Phelps' Pirg is committing tax fraud. His intention seems to be to defraud the plaintiff, the state, and the IRS.  Since he is a Harvard-schooled lawyer, he knew what he was doing, and will be held to a higher std.

We sould all thank him for opening the much awaited door to approach the IRS concerning many, many of his non-profit status violations.  No one in his right mind would take payroll deductions from a check that was not an employee's earnings, but that was an award by the state for penalties of employer violating labor code laws.  No one, but Douglas H. Phelps. Kind of pitiful, if you think about it. The update on the details is on ffpir.us, in the office updates portion of the discussion board.

Since the St. of Ca. has to waste even more precious resources trying to contact Dougie's lawyer, Tracy Bolotnick in Boston, regarding the inappropriate tax deductions taken out of the check... it further illustrates that Phelps' Pirg is not a policy maker, but a policy breaker.  This is the kind of employer who costs the state great pain and backlogging, trying... not to craft just policy... but to avoid justice.

It seems that squandering taxpayer resources and membership money on dirtbag lawyers who'll play along, just to appease little Dougie's ego, is priority #1.

by Witness for the Prosecution 2007-01-13 02:38PM | 0 recs

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