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

This series is an expansion of my reporting in In These Times magazine (August 18th, "Do You Have a Minute For...?") about two offices of the Fund for Public Interest Research that voted to unionize and were subsequently shut down.
As I noted in the first post, the Fund is perhaps the single largest employer of progressive activists in the country - through the entire PIRG/Fund world, thousands of would-be progressive leaders pass every year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Los Angeles Fund for Public Interest Research door canvass office was closed on April 28th, 2006, exactly one year after its employees had filed to petition. The two remaining canvassers, Christian and Mike, had been sticking it out together for months, pounding the pavement and hitting quota five days a week; their director, however, was transferred at the beginning of spring.

"He wanted out," said Christian, "and we didn't blame him. Union-busting was not the job he'd signed up for."

There was not another director in the Fund who was willing to work in Los Angeles door; the Fund shut it down.

Christian left town a couple of days later, on a cross-country road-trip to see family and friends.

Along the way, he made stops at any Fund office that was reasonably in range -- around fifteen in total (Christian has a big family, and lots of friends).

He would stand somewhere near the office's front door, either in the hour before the shift started or right around the time work let out. To anyone who passed by, he'd hand out sheets from a stack of photocopies of the L.A. Weekly articles, Congresswoman Solis's letter, the website. He wouldn't speak, unless he was spoken to.

"I figure the facts speak for themselves," he said.

At many of the offices he visited across the country, Christian got little if any reaction.

"People are walking down the street," he said with a shrug, "you hand them something and they barely look at it unless you get in their face about it, and I wasn't about that."

At a few offices, he was asked some polite questions. Nothing ever got confrontational, although the directors of one office did come out to ask Christian if there was anything they could do to dissuade him from canvassing their canvassers. Christian told them no, there was not.

"I spent the last four years of my life learning--from them--how to not get arrested while doing political action work in a public place," Christian told me with a wry grin. "I wasn't harassing anyone or trying to get in any confrontation." Christian wasn't encouraging any employees to quit the Fund, or to form a union themselves; he wasn't even collecting contact information.

"I just wanted them to know these things about the company they work for. Some thanked me real genuinely -- everyone knew something was up in LA, but they didn't know what, cause they couldn't get a straight answer from their administrators, and finally someone was here to hand them something that shed a little light on the situation."

"One of the directors came out to me and asked, in a real loaded but curious way, `why do you want a union?'" Christian recalled. "And I'm like, `because we liked our jobs and wanted to ensure that we could keep doing it.' You know, that's generally the reason people want a union. And then she's like, `and you guys want more pay.'"

Christian snorted at this recollection, and shook his head sadly.

"Is that what they told you?" he'd asked her.

Yes. That was what everyone in the Fund seemed to have been told about the Los Angeles union incident.

"I don't even know how many times I said this is not about pay, this is not because we don't like doing the work. We just didn't want to be treated like toilet paper and discarded once they realized that we didn't have total blind-faith-trust-obedience in what they're doing."

"Why don't you just get over it?" other directors would ask Christian. Christian had tried for a year to secure basic labor standards at the Fund, and in the process he had come face to face with the machinations of an entrenched power structure. At this point, changing PIRG/Fund - "which might involve them realizing that what they're doing is wrong, that they need to start treating people better, or it might involve them getting shut down by the labor board" - was for Christian as vital an objective as any in the pursuit of social change.

  - / -

If not higher pay, then what was it about the union that the Fund was so unwilling to accept?
The callers and canvassers' contractual requests mostly revolved around "consistency." They wanted the office policies to be clarified and fixed so that they wouldn't suddenly change to a canvassers' disadvantage. They wanted to make sure good canvassers wouldn't get fired for having one or two bad weeks. They wanted to ensure that no one was required to pay for gas or office expenses out of their own pocket. They wanted real sick days instead of "self-funded" ones. They wanted everyone to get a solid half-hour for lunch. The callers wanted to be able to go to the bathroom or smoke a cigarette without having to clock out. They wanted their pay structure to be transparent, to get full disclosure of their performance metrics, so that they knew exactly why their wages were set at the given level. They also wanted their calling room to be cleaned of mold and odors, and they wanted a water cooler (for which they offered to chip in).

These seem like minor adjustments. But even minor adjustments to an environment can cause drastic systemic changes, and such changes in Los Angeles offices could reverberate powerfully through the entire FFPIRG world. Indeed, if Joe's belief is correct--in that PIRG/Fund/GCI's erratic administration and dysfunctional operation  is "deliberate"--then Doug Phelps' management crew understand perfectly well the potential for such drastic changes.

In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the remarkable transformation of New York City from crime capital to one of the safest cities in the country. It started with comprehensive crackdowns--not on crack dens and crime lords, but on graffiti, on subway toll-skippers. The "broken window" hypothesis holds that the cues in an environment affect the patterns of social behavior: park a car with a broken window in a "bad" neighborhood, it will be stripped and destroyed within hours. Park a similar car in fine shape, its chances are remarkably better. In a subway with scarce graffiti, where everyone is following the most basic rules like paying for the subway toll, it is significantly less likely for behavior to "tip" into violence and crime. A drastic shift is brought by restoring and stabilizing the signifiers of order.

Likewise -- in a working environment in which every single paycheck is delivered on time, everyone is paid in full for every hour of work they've done and compensated for every work-incurred expense, everyone is granted the basic rights of breaks, weekends and holidays, the institutional worth of each worker would rise inordinately over the cost of providing those basic standards. Better work would be done by more people who are willing to keep with their jobs for longer -- conventional industry figured all this out a long time ago (even though labor had to force its hand, too). And once employees' basic rights are wholly upheld, they would once again be acknowledged as individuals worthy of respect; their questions might be considered worth answering; their voice might assume a certain volume; their ideas might be acknowledged, even considered; their knowledge might be absorbed; their interests might influence the direction of the group.

So I think that the Fund management does not want a union, but not because of greed. As I said in my last post, Doug Phelps might be getting rich off of his empire, but even those immediately below him have modest salaries, and they are the ones who have to do the hard work of union busting. As Lockse pointed out, their egos can simply not allow for a union. This is a matter not of greed, but of fear -- fear that the union would break the model, shift responsibility to the bottom, responsibility that the people at the top do not think the bottom deserves. The management don't believe that the bottom needs that responsibility -- they only need to trust in their leaders.

But trust is a privilege, and PIRG/Fund has forfeited it; GCI has forfeited it. They have failed in their responsibilities to their employees and their citizen base, and until they take responsibility for those failures, the failures will continue and compound.

   - / -

Here's the thing. I don't know if a FFPIRG union drive could be successful. Unions are traditionally structured to enhance and protect long-term employment; these jobs are inherently transient. Even under positive working conditions with less extreme attrition, Christian and his long-term co-canvassers would still be perpetually outnumbered by people for whom canvassing is a summer job -- canvass offices just won't have enough time to build and hold the interest and will for a successful union. (In my last post, I mentioned that MPIRG, a state PIRG that is wholly detached from the FFPIRG complex, was successfully unionized; a year after their contract was signed, all of the union-driving campus organizers had quit the job. The union remains to this day, probably just because people in Minnesota are really nice.)

Furthermore, the people who need a union most are the directors who work 80-100 hours a week with expensive cafeteria health care and near-zero benefits, and for whom the job is (in theory at least) long-term. But they are managers--not legally capable of unionizing (especially not in light of the recent NLRB ruling with regard to management classification).

There are other options. Innovations like Open Source Unionism can bring workers--canvassers and directors alike--under the aegis of organized labor without requiring the formality of a closed shop. They would lack the strength of formal collective bargaining power, but they would have guidance and a soft shield, and they could begin to build greater visibility and potentially leverage with the FFPIRG/GCI clients and funders. Open letters signed by staff, alumni and labor leaders can be sent to those clients and funders, like the Sierra Club, HRC, DNC, MoveOn, Pew. Youth advocacy organizations like Young People For and Center for American Progress are probably unwilling to single out a particular organization, but this is an issue that is very much within their mission; it's also problem spread widely throughout the progessive industry. Perhaps it would be possible for these organizations, along with alumni and staff of PIRG/Fund, ACORN, the National Organizers Alliance and union organizers to form a broad-based coalition in support of industry-wide best practices and constructive initiatives like an activist guild.
(So maybe that will only happen in my own little fantasy land.)

The point here is not about securing a better paycheck for young activists (although it is very much about securing them health care and even other benefits). The point is that a generation of progressives should not be shipped off into war to fend for themselves; they should be bound together, not by shallow ephemeral comradery, but by solidarity. The point is that even though "the cause is more important than me," it must not follow that "I am not important to the cause."

The formative principle of student activism, and of the glorified social movements of the 60s which provide the frame of PIRG/Fund's self-mythology, is that individuals have the right and responsibility to affect change over the institutions that shape their lives. It was students and youths who were, time and again, the catalysts; they asserted rights and claimed responsibility, demanding respect and pushing that respect through to broader institutional reform. What I am suggesting is that the worker-led reformation of PIRG/Fund -- accompanied by a call for similar reforms throughout the progressive activist industry -- would be a vital step toward the re-education of a generation of progressive leaders about the principles of political action. It would herald a flood of new ideas and new possibilities. And it would reaffirm the progressive movement's commitment to the ideals of liberalism and social justice.

  - / -

Soon after our meeting, Christian got a job with a solar panel installation company.

The TOP callers' charges remained pending all through the summer, and were reportedly making some progress through the NLRB - but it had almost been a year since the vote, and a re-vote (and possible de-certification) was approaching. The callers' union reps finally connected with the Fund, when they called to offer a settlement. Under the conditions of an agreement that the callers are not at liberty to discuss, the NLRB charges against the Fund were dismissed.

However, the callers' goal was still achieved in a small but significant way: the California State Labor Commission found the Fund to be in violation of the law [link to PDF of the decision] with regard to its practice of forcing employees to take unpaid breaks. Joe was awarded over $3k in fees--one hour's worth of wage for every day of employment in the last year. He has another charge pending, this one against the Fund's refusal to offer paid lunch breaks to its employees; the hearing for this charge is on January 3rd, 2007.

This brings Marcy and Joe and the rest of the LA employees no small amount of enjoyment: "At least it's on the books: what they were doing was wrong."

Marcy called me yesterday, thrilled to finally read about their story in a public forum, but concerned somewhat over the tone of the discussion: "I respect that everyone there in the discussion is intelligent and concerned about whether these lobbying groups are effective, but it was still a frustrating conversation. So many of those people didn't seem to care about the bottom line: they stole money from their workers. They claim to work to reform the law, but they broke the law. How can you take them at their word about anything else, anything else, if they're willing to break the law and defraud their employees to protect their precious model?"

Marcy's hearing is tomorrow. She expects it will go well. She has recently received her real estate license, and is setting off on a new practice; her prodigious talents for fundraising are a loss to the progressive movement.

The Fund has relocated the California TOP office out of Los Angeles, to Sacramento, where the climate is not quite as temperate, and where there's no canvass office anyway.


Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

There are other options. Innovations like Open Source Unionism can bring workers--canvassers and directors alike--under the aegis of organized labor without requiring the formality of a closed shop. They would lack the strength of formal collective bargaining power, but they would have guidance and a soft shield, and they could begin to build greater visibility and potentially leverage with the FFPIRG/GCI clients and funders. Open letters signed by staff, alumni and labor leaders can be sent to those clients and funders, like the Sierra Club, HRC, DNC, MoveOn, Pew. Youth advocacy organizations like Young People For and Center for American Progress are probably unwilling to single out a particular organization, but this is an issue that is very much within their mission; it's also problem spread widely throughout the progessive industry (quote Crashing the Gate). Perhaps it would be possible for these organizations, along with alumni and staff of PIRG/Fund, ACORN, the National Organizers Alliance and union organizers to form a broad-based coalition in support of industry-wide best practices and constructive initiatives like an activist guild.
(So maybe that will only happen in my own little fantasy land.)

So, I haven't done a search yet or anything, but doesn't it make sense for you to organize yourselves via FaceBook and MySpace?  That's where the new canvassing pool hangs out, and that's your best chance to create connections between and solidarity among the geographically disparate, and extremely transitory crowd of organizers and students.

Youth to Power
by Mike Connery on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:30:56 PM EST

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (3.00 / 1)

There have been a few instances of people organizing groups but nothing seems to have advanced farther than the first step. (I don't really like the Facebook groups feature, but I expect they'll be getting around to that soon enough, as they usually do...) You're right though -- Facebook would be a key front of an organized campaign.

"In it to win it!" -
by greg bloom on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:14:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I worked with a field organizer who (none / 0)

used to be with the fund. One time we were at a dinner thing, and she was talking to another organizer, and at some point they both said the same thing; they stopped; they looked at each other sideways; and they said "were you with the fund?"

creepy. She says it's like a cult -- unless you're in it, then it seems pretty normal.

but I guess that's how cults are.

Progress is Personal | Connie Brennan | My opinions are mine alone
by msnook on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 04:31:03 PM EST

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

This has been an amazing series.

by The Cunctator on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:25:45 PM EST

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

Ditto.  Greg has done a great job bringing light to this issue, and reporting on it very thoroughly.

Rudy Giuliani hates firefighters. And puppies.
by Fran for Dean on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 09:21:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

Thank you.
I'm glad I had the chance to finish it up -- I will be leaving tomorrow for a long-anticipated trip. I will have semi-regular email access, so please be in touch (greg[dot]bloom[at]gmail) if you have any comments or ideas, or if you'd like to be put in contact with others who are discussing the best ways to get organized.

Next year, we hope to consolidate this work, along with a set of concrete proposals for improvements to the model, into a web site.

"In it to win it!" -
by greg bloom on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 09:54:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

Could someone on the PIRG/FUND staff or a signficant funder or client, please call for full disclosure of the relationship between Doug Phelps as sole owner of Telefund and Grassroots Campaigns Inc (the largest combined canvass and telephone operation in the US) and the positions he holds with the family of PIRGs including Chair of the Board of USPIRG, The FUND, Green Century Funds, Greencorps, NAOPI, CALPIRG and CALEnvironment, etc. etc. etc?

There are certain myths about the situation with Phelps that are so patently false they raise deep alarm bells as to the level of denial and the lack of transparency occuring in the PIRG/FUND movement.

Myth #1: Phelps is wealthy because he inherited his wealth.  False. False. False.  Phelps had no money when he was hired by the PIRGs and has never received money from his family.  Quite the opposite:
His multi-millions and his lofts and houses are as a result of the profits from Telefund and GCI.  He doesn't take a salary because he takes the profits.  He is not an employee of Telefund and GCI who is on salary -- he is the owner of those businesses and therefore owner of the profits.

Look, let's get real here: These multi-million dollar companies could not have been created without appropriating the technology of canvassing and phoning from the FUND.  These companies could not have been created without key senior staff siphoned off from the PIRG and the FUND. And, at least in the case of GCI could not be sustained without use of the FUND canvasses today.  The PIRG/FUND movement was used to create these private businesses and the movement continues to be used to drive profits for Douglas Phelps --- to the tune of multi-millions.  This may not be illegal, but is it ethical? Is it transparent?  Does the staff and the public and the funders understand that this is the reality on the ground, ie that the same person who holds every significant position of authority in the PIRG/FUND movement is also the sole owner of Telefund and GCI?  Is it perfectly transparent that Phelps used and uses the PIRG/FUND movement to continue to build up his businesses?  Is it perfectly transparent how exactly this in the best interest of the PIRG movement?

Myth #2: Phelps works 20 hour weeks.  This is a joke.  Phelps can certainly focus intensely when he needs to, and is genius at creating the sense of working all the time, but if you look at, say, a typical day in the life of Phelps in Santa Barbara -- let's see -- he'd get in at 11am, drive to UCSB for one of the best bean burritos in the world with a young female personal assistant around 1pm, "oversee" 3-5 personal assistants at any one time to pick up laundry, organize personal schedule, to get his videos and busied himself with the purchase of property for himself and family members from the Telefund profits. He'd leave at 5 to take swing dancing lessons.  I suppose if you count his attending the numerous PIRG/FUND parties and gatherings of young people that happen consistently in the PIRG, of his hanging out cavorting with the new young Greencorps organzers, work, then you could add some serious hours to his work day.

Myth #3: Phelps is a real leader and the PIRG/FUND couldn't get along without.  Get real:  This is a man who consistently takes credit for other people's work, lies like a banshee, a guy who has stolen technology, names, who is despised by many many many but who surrounds himself with a bunch of loyal sycophants that in the words of Jerry Brown "all who have those particularly dead PIRG eyes."

we are talking about a man who will leave an entire senior staff waiting for hours and some times days while he sleeps in or gets his thoughts organized, who will make on a whim a several hundred person organization change travel plans (and force staff to personally cover the cost to do it who will, just to show who is boss, hold back already agreed upon salary increases for entire staff's for years at a time while enriching himself, who spends most of his time plotting against his internal enemies, a person very few like or feel any affection towards, a man who uses fear, humiliation, and bullying to get his way. We are talking about a man who truly creeps out more than a majority of the senior staff and alumni women.  Alot of women won't be alone in a room with him.  How's that for leadership?

Name one PIRG person who has challenged Phelps on one issue of import and I'll show you a staff person who regardless of how slow or overt the process, was ultimately villified and/or forced to leave the organization.

Myth #4. Because Phelps was a significant player in the 1960s, he is therefore entitled to make every significant decision within the PIRG/FUND movement, treat staff like like shit, use the organization as his personal playground, and become a multi-millionare in the process.  First of all, who ever heard of Phelps' impact on the 60's???  He was in the area when Wounded Knee occurred and along with a bunch of other college white boys tried to help.  What exactly does this entitle him to today?

The situation with Phelps and the PIRG movement is a disgrace to the progressive movement, and the top will be blown off one of these days if one of the key funders, clients, or staff members doesn't act first.  

by artfunk on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 06:43:58 PM EST

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

artfunk seems to have beaten me to the point, and gotten a whole lot more specific about it, too. But I was going to say...

I almost feel sorry for the model...this is not the model's fault, and it's getting a bad rap. It's the fault of the people at the top who are implementing it, who are so rigid and heartless and irresponsible about what it's really supposed to be about. And yes, I hold Phelps personally responsible for much of it; and I also think it's the responsibility of alumni like myself to call for it to be remedied.

So maybe this was a problem all the way back in the 80s, before I came on. It does seem to me that there was some kind of 'tipping point,' maybe in the late 90s, maybe just before we started street canvassing--that would explain how all these union drives have been breaking out everywhere. Maybe it was because by then, everyone who really cared and took their responsibilities seriously had just given up and left.  Then it was just Doug and his "team," who were only too willing to let Telefund and GCI tip everything way too far...

by Lockse on Mon Dec 04, 2006 at 10:33:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

Well, I worked for 7 weeks in the summer of 1988 as a MASSPIRG canvasser (college summer job), and the job sucked.  Miss quota 3 days and you're outta there.  And doing the same awful "Hi.  Give us money." every single day.  I knew a couple of guys who, in the car on their way out to canvass, started discussion how it would be a lot better if we sometimes got briefings from our lobbyists and others working on these issues instead of the same money-raising practice, and that evening they were called in to the director's room and thoroughly dressed down.  (One of them told the director to go f himself and quit on the spot.)

The pay sucked, there was no real respect, and it partially turned me off of activism for most of a decade. (And turned me off of the PIRGs permanently.)

So things were pretty lame back in the late 80s as well.

Get a Vegetarian Starter Kit and a Dem. Party Mastercard
by Go Vegetarian on Tue Dec 05, 2006 at 11:36:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

Eh, I would want to see far more evidence of actual malice before I would go this far.  I mean, Telefund has been around since 1988, GCI for only a few years.  Phelps has been doing this since the 60s.  That would mean over two decades of hard work before he became the wealthy head of all these groups.  That seems a bit much for someone who only cares about the cash.

I think a lot more of the problems are about a failure to adapt then malice.  That includes not planning ahead, not providing resources in advance, failing to move to a more bottom up structure over time, and so on.  Once you've done something for 30+ years, it's very easy to assume that what you have been doing is absolutely correct, and should not be changed at all.  Personally, I'm still hopeful that the mistakes can be fixed and the model improved significantly, especially if client groups are pressured significantly.

by dansomone on Tue Dec 05, 2006 at 09:59:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

They came to do good, they stayed to do well...

by esteban on Tue Dec 05, 2006 at 12:23:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Doug Phelps, GCI, Telefund and the PIRG/FUND (none / 0)

Consider the HISTORY of governance of the organizations that generate the majority of the PIRG movement's considerable income. These include the Fund For Public Interest Research (The FUND), USPIRG, MASSPIRG, CALPIRG, Green Century Funds and others.  Historically, Doug Phelps has held or does hold the Chair or President's position of each of these organizations.

At the same time, look at ownership of Telefund and GCI -- two privately held businesses that represent the largest canvass and phone operation in the country.  Phelps owns both.

While this may all be legal, the question of whether it is appropriate is of major concern to more than just a few. No one could disagree that on the face of it, this kind of set up is at least ripe for abuse by anyone in Phelps'position.

For some history -- In 1993, MASSPIRG, building on the success of its new kind of door to door canvass and a new PIRG campus organizing model,launched the Fund For Public Interest Research (the FUND).  Built with the resources MASSPIRG harnessed from its canvasses and campus organizing, The FUND was set up to provide the PIRG movement with technical assistance to build up the infrastructure and resources of the movement in states and nationwide.

Phelps came to MASSPIRG in 1979. He had attended HLS, done some student organizing at UMASS Amherst, and set up a public interest law program.  He, along with a team including Mindy Lubber, Ken Ward, Elise Jacques, and Susan Birmingham, built both MASSPIRG and then the FUND.

Just 11 years later Phelps started Telefund as his own private company.  To start Telefund, he used technology developed during the previous 5 years by the FUND and MASSPIRG, hired away top senior PIRG and FUND staff, and shifted business from the PIRGs to Telefund. At the time, he was Executive Director of MASSPIRG.  While he deliberately did not hold a formal position on the FUND at that time, there is no question, to anyone familiar with modern PIRG history 101, that he ran the show with respect to the FUND.  He ran every FUND meeting, he made every decision, and most importantly, he signed the paychecks.

Telefund could not have been started without taking clients, technology, and key staff from the FUND.  It is clear how Phelps benefited from this -- as sole owner of Telefund. How did the PIRG movement benefit?

In 2004, Grassroots Campaigns was launched using the same development model as Telefund: take the FUND/PIRG technology, key staff, and in this case the reputation of the PIRG/FUND and start a privately owned business to run canvasses and voter identification projects for the Democratic Party.

The GCI canvasses were started on the back of the PIRG/FUND canvasses. Not only that,the GCI canvasses could not be sustained today if not for the PIRG/FUND canvasses whereby office directors move from operation to operation depending on what works for GCI.

There are many to whom it seems quite obvious that many many key decisions made by Phelps in the interest of Telefund and GCI are DECIDEDLY NOT in the interest of the PIRG movement.

How is it in the interest of the PIRG movement to shut down and transfer its staff to do the work of the private company of Doug Phelps, GCI and GCI's various permutations?

How is the relationship between the PIRG/FUND organizations and GCI's electoral activity helpful to the PIRG?  It is highly illegal for non-profits to engage in electoral activity.  Secrecy and obfsucation are the tools necessary to maintaining the ability for GCI to use the PIRG to tap electoral clients.

No one begrudges PIRG directors and leadership from making top public interest salaries.
However, to many it does not seem healthy for one person in the movement to be making literally millions of dollars a year off the work of the movement while the majority of the staff struggle. Many are concerned that although he most certainly will not release or make transparent his income from Telefund and GCI, Douglas Phelps, the Chair of USPIRG, the FUND, does reap millions in personal profits every year.  In what way does this make sense for the progressive movement or the PIRGs?

Privately, many in the larger PIRG family think he should resign all of his positions with the PIRG movement so that there can be no appearance of conflict of interest between the interest of his business and the PIRG movement's interest.

Many think he should resign all positions within the PIRG movement in order to create the appropriate distance between the PIRG movement and GCI's increasingly visible electoral activity.

Many think he should resign because he has built something more akin to a cult rather than a healthy and dynamic organization which can tolerate dissent.

The question of how and why Phelps was able to amass such power and is able to personally profit so greatly off the PIRG is complex.  

One thing for sure is that Phelps has used the movement's resources to buttress himself legally.  He has had some of the best legal minds available work to cover him, although not necessarily cover the PIRG.  The PIRG/Fund organizations are at risk.

Big picture, responsible scruitinty would at least raise serious questions regarding:

  1. mangement practices that run towards the cultish;
  2. serious conflicts of interest with respect to millions of dollars raised from the public; and
  3. potential illegal electoral activity.

To the extent that professionalized door to door and street canvasses developed by the PIRG/FUND are increasingly being used to increase the small donor base of the Democratic Party, this situation should be of concern to the Party.

Will Phelps voluntarily resign even if the risks to the PIRG outweigh the benefits?  Quite the opposite.  With a vengence, he will go after any person or persons with the courage to raise this as a rational possibility.

by artfunk on Wed Dec 06, 2006 at 01:44:05 PM EST

excuse me (none / 0)

The FUND was launched in 1983, not 1993. My bad.

by artfunk on Wed Dec 06, 2006 at 01:46:41 PM EST

Correction to artfunk's post (none / 0)

Actually, it took Phelps only 9 years to launch Telefund, his private company, after coming to MASSPIRG in 1979.  He couldn't have done it sooner because it took the FUND, the non-profit technical assistance project launched in 1983, that long to create, develop and then perfect both its canvassing and telephone technology and its pool of experienced staff.  He had to wait to appropriate the PIRG/FUND clients, technology, and staff until there was viable technology, staff and clients to appropriate.

So, contrary to reports in the comment section to this series on canvassing, it didn't take decades at all for Phelps to seize the opportunity to profit personally from the PIRG. His idea of starting a private company had been planned since the inception of the FUND and the FUND was launched only 3.5 years after he was hired by MASSPIRG.    

He explicitly justified starting a private company to the senior staff, all of whom were at least 10 years younger and hadn't been "involved in the 60's", as a way to create a pool of hard money that could be used to influence electoral politics.

Almost all, if not all the senior staff involved in the original set-up have either been drummed out or have left in disgust once it became clear what was really happening.  In addition to increasing his cult like grip on the organization, Phelps was getting mega-rich. Not just well off, but mega-rich. There is nothing wrong with getting mega-rich per say, but off the back of the PIRGs? To do so required and continues to require a cult-like culture where it becomes appropriate internally to fire, harrass and vilify anyone who raises these issues as a problems.    
Not cool.
Howard Dean, are you listening?  
This situation is NOT cool.

by lovepirg on Wed Dec 06, 2006 at 04:05:01 PM EST

Follow the money... (none / 0)

The Phelps stuff seems to be the real story.  

by set on Wed Dec 06, 2006 at 05:29:14 PM EST

Canvassers Union (conclusion) (none / 0)

Up front - I'm a conservative UCLA theater major.  (There's only one, I'm it)

I always resented the automatic payment to CALPIRG that got tacked onto my quarterly fees.  Since I administer my grandfather's trust (none of which went to me) I knew something about development.  I'd get wined and dined by some significantly worthy causes.  I'd ALWAYS base my decisions on 1) the effeciency of their organization (how much money going in actually went to their purpose.  I wanted to see 70% or better, some were under 10%) and 2) the effectiveness of their cause.  My favorites, today, are the Heiffer Project and the Salvation Army.  Jewish World Watch is doing some really good work in Dafur, I just gave them a large check.  

Basically I wanted to know - were they actually helping people, or just themselves?  CALPIRG never even came up on the radar.  They wouldn't say where the money was going (even though they were legally obligated to do so).  So the fact that they got $5 from each student, 3 times a year, without lifting a finger, really pissed me off.

Now, in retrospect, I look at it differently.  PIRG was sucking all the oxygen out of the room.  As long as they were grabbing all the progressive dollars, they were keeping the rest of the progressive movement from doing any harm.  

by Svolich on Sun Dec 17, 2006 at 12:33:39 PM EST

Re: Canvassers Union (conclusion) (none / 0)

PIRG was sucking all the oxygen out of the room.  As long as they were grabbing all the progressive dollars, they were keeping the rest of the progressive movement from doing any harm.  

In the days after the 2004 election, a bunch of us MoveOn Leave No Voter Behind survivors joked about how Doug Phelps might have been a conservative operative all along, and Grassroots Campaigns Inc was his master plan--he´d built a machine that would just suck up and shit out all the grassroots political energy it could, squander MoveOn and tarnish the DNC, right when liberals needed it most. And he´d do it on the backs of a bunch of kids who believed he was a Great Man. Maybe Phelps had been working at this since Goldwater. Maybe even Nader was in on it from way back.

I mean, we were joking as we said this, because how could you take it seriously... well.

by esteban on Tue Dec 19, 2006 at 02:26:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

Hey, when you get the chance, take a look at the comments after Greg's post #6 (the post prior to this).  Also, there's been an update on Doug Phelps' Pirg violating labor code.  

The Cal. State Labor Commissioner has again found Phelps' Pirg guilty and ordered to pay, yet another  L.A. top caller (in a line of many more to come) upwards of $4000.00 in uppaid breaks and unoffered meals (as per st. law).

For the latest update on how Doug (with his antics)is trying to avoid paying this caller her award of $3596.00, please see 'office update' section of discussion board, and soon to be on 'updates' front page on that website.  The post was made on Sat. 1-14-07, by TruthbeKnown... which is fitting.

In short, Doug Phelps posted the bail(the plaintiff's award) for this labor code victory she had over him, with a payroll check with tax deductions on it. Yes, you read this correctly. The state is having to call Doug Phelps' atty., Tracy Bolotnick in Boston, regarding the fact that the check has innapropriate IRS deductions taken out of it. This is the kind of employer who purposely backlogs the state agencies, trying to avoid justice. Now this is definitely the open door to the IRS.

Again, Phelps is COSTING the state money, not helping uphold any law, just continually breaking laws, like a common thug (what a waste of a misused Harvard Law degree, that instead of professing profusely to be looking out for the public's interest, instead is simply pretending to, and taking money in the pretense).

This Phelps group, like all of his groups who falsely claim to craft policy (in the state of Cal. and elsewhere), are always, with Dougie's ego in the driver's seat, very busy breaking law... not making law !!!  Wake up.. believers, promoters, kooladers, c'mon.. he quacks like a duck, okay.

by Witness for the Prosecution on Sat Jan 13, 2007 at 04:40:21 PM EST

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

Truth Be Known

Joined: 29 May 2006
Posts: 5

PostPosted: Fri Jan 12, 2007 9:01 pm    Post subject: Pirg's (Phelps') desperation     Reply with quote
Well, Dougie Phelps must indeed be feeling desperate, as usual. Another L.A. t.o.p. caller (the 3rd of many more to come), has been awarded money by the State Labor Commissioner. We will e-scan the state's award for our viewers in the next few days, so that you all know that this, like all of the other info on our website, is legit... not heresay!

The amount of the award is $3596.00, the judgement was given on 12-6-06, and it is for penalties against Doug Phelps' Pirg for failing to give paid breaks and offered meals to this caller, as per Cali. state labor code (that any dingbat employer would be aware of)! Doug Phelps' Pirg was found guilty, and was ordered to post the entire amount of $3596.00 as bail, immediately, while Doug Phelps' Pirg had 21 days to appeal.

Doug Phelps' Pirg did not appeal, he knows that he's guilty, as charged, of violating the law. What is histerical, though, is Doug Phelps' perverted twisting of the law, regarding this, and everything he touches (what a wasted Harvard law degree... benefitting 'the bad guys'... namely Phelps).

He sent $3049.00 as bail to the state. He took out tax deductions from the payroll check (really supposed to be a money order), that he posted. This is a pitiful attempt to stall the paying of the plaintiff, who hasn't worked for Dougie sinced 7/31/06, when the L.A. office was closed (re: the award was decided upon on 12-6-06). Obviously, though, an award by the Cal. State Labor Commisioner is not eligible for tax deductions like a payroll check would be. Phelps probably thinks that since he wrote out the check in Dec. of 2006, he can try to slip this in on the x-caller's W-2 form as if it was payroll. Vengeance is thine... right Dougie.. you poor, little man!!! It should be noted that this caller was among the most outspoken in the union effort in L.A. Dougie's little ego just panicked when the state ordered him to pay this caller $3596.00. He had to pull something, you know.

So, the call has been placed, to Tracy Bolotnick in Boston, (Doug Phelps' Pirg's lawyer), by the Labor Commisioner, regarding the $547.00 that Pirg deducted as payroll income from the plaintiff's award. The plaintiff obviously will be quadruple checking her 2006 W-2 form, to make sure that Phelps has not fraudulently added the Labor Commisioner's $3596.00 award to plaintiff's W-2 as taxable income. The x-caller (awarded plaintiff) has plans to report to a Federal branch of the IRS: a) Phelps' fraudulent attempt to deduct payroll taxes from the State's award to plaintiff b) any excess 'so-called' income fraudulently included on her W-2 form from Dougie's Fund for Public Interest ... (or as many folks now realize...THE LOOT FOR DOUG PHELPS 'PRIVATE INTEREST') !! c) some other vital info that the callers had collected over the years, regarding the questionable 'non-profit' status of the group, and their many questionable marketing/info sharing practices, and more. All of the callers are going to the IRS on this one.

Today's date is Jan 13, 07, and it's been 38 days since the state awarded the caller her victory over Phelps. If Phelps does not supply the additional $547.00 that he is trying to scam off of this plaintiff (and scamming the state), it just goes on to COLLECTION. How PITIFUL is Phelps, risking collecions and further bad credit for Pirg for the sake of further scamming this or any x or current employee. Poor, small man!
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by Witness for the Prosecution on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 01:41:44 AM EST

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

Sorry, meant to write that the above post by Truth Be Known is from another website discussion board (

by Witness for the Prosecution on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 01:50:47 AM EST

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

The following is a portion of a post from another website discussion board (

Mr. Brightside

Joined: 26 Apr 2006
Posts: 7

PostPosted: Sat Jan 13, 2007 9:56 am    Post subject:     Reply with quote
Doug has proved that he can play games with the State of California's understaffed and overworked Labor Commissioner. Heck, he's even taken on the pitifully squandered federal government agency that is the NLRB (Dick Cheney's America has really served the likes of Phelps, who has always seen his employees as office supplies, like something that he can purchase in bulk from CostCo or Staples.)

But is Douglas H. Phelps equipped to take on the Internal Revenue Service for cheating on his taxes? I don't think so. They will topple him in a New York minute.

The fact is, Doug is trying to pass off this caller's reward check as a payroll check, and he is blatantly cheating the IRS.

by Witness for the Prosecution on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 01:56:01 AM EST

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

Come to think of it, it's not only the IRS who'd be very interested to know about Phelps violations.

The California State Bar Association and the Colorado State Bar Association would be very concerned about Phelps using his law degree to engage in so many wrongdoings.

His National Environmental Law Center (NELC) has been so very busy using those membership dollars finding ways to cheat the IRS, the State, employees, members of the public, on behalf of the Pirgs.

by Witness for the Prosecution on Mon Jan 15, 2007 at 02:39:15 AM EST

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): Toward the (none / 0)

Truth Be Known

This post is from another website discussion board (

PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 5:17 am    Post subject: Phelps' Pirg has previous tax violations on record.

For a good time, google Montpirg (for Montana Pirg). Phelps' Pirg has I.R.S. violations on record from 1996-1997. Among the many, their excuse for ommitting some large contributions from their form 990, was that their tax accountant had "run out of room on the form 990." Always the desperate, seemingly dingbat excuses! Greedy makes desparate.

I'm sure that if we all dig, we'll find many, many more. Many violations could be under several different groups' names (re: Phelps groups use many 'alias names' to shroud the fact that the monies that come in to any Phelps group are common monies). How do ya think that Phelps' possession called Green Century Balanced Funds ballooned into at least $$ 2.5 billion dollars? It's probably much, much more.

He far surpasses the old tactic that some of the groups (like Sierra Club) use. They have a very modest amount of stocks in large corporations, so that they may have some voice in the policies/tactics of the corporations.

The amount that Phelps' groups raise (of which about 85% gets invested and played in the stockmarket, namely, Green Century Balanced Funds), is money never spent solving the issues that he markets around for contributions. These stockholdings have become gigantic, and have far surpassed the innocent, 'public interest-oriented' reasons for playing the market with the loot. Now it's mostly for the obsene, private interest of Phelps. Interest and dividends off of that baby must allow one (or two) to live high HOG, huh?!

Again, it's one set of violations found, so far, Montpirg 1996-97. Enjoy.
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by Witness for the Prosecution on Wed Jan 17, 2007 at 12:26:49 AM EST

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion): (none / 0)

I worked for the PIRGs for well over a decade, and after reading various blogs and stories regarding how they treat their employees for several months, I thought I would add my comments. I had many good years at PIRG and think the staff has done and continues to do some great work, but I think it's important to give some insight to not just how unfairly PIRG treats its employees, but also the hypocrisy of Doug Phelps and his senior management team, who act like a 1970's Soviet politburo by enforcing numerous rules to control staff while not applying those same rules to themselves.

Here are some examples:

PIRG staff in major cities are expected to house (without compensation) out of town staff who come in for meetings to save the organization from having to put them up in hotels. If you live in a city like Boston, Denver, or Santa Barbara, you could end up having to house 2 or 3 people up to 2 months out of the year. In the 1990's, PIRG paid Susan Rakov, one of Doug Phelp's prized assistants at the time, $300 a month to compensate her for housing staff throughout the year. That's $3600 a year, and she only got it because she was Doug's primary loyalists and enforcers.

For many years, staff were expected to pay for their hotel rooms at PIRGs December meetings in December. But Doug Phelps never had to pay for HIS room. PIRG always paid for it.

PIRG paid for Phelps' cell phone throughout the 1990's when other staff had to foot their own cell phone bills.
When Phelps rented a house in Santa Barbara, PIRG paid for part of his rent because he sometimes worked from home. No other staff enjoyed that luxury even though many of us worked from home. And up until very recently PIRG staff had to pay for ALL their cell phone calls, and many still due because of PIRG's confusing and bureaucratic reimbursement rules.

PIRG staff have had to pay for their own gas when they drive to regional meetings and retreats for many years. Phelps always got reimbursed for his own gas.

Any PIRG staffer can tell you of the bureaucratic BS they had to wallow through to get approval to get a new fax machine or copier for the office. The battle for the $300 to buy the equipment could last for months, and more often than not, the request would be rejected. But when Phelps wanted $3 MILLION in 1996 to buy ads for his pet campaign finance reform initiative, he got the money instantly. And the initiative got creamed at the polls anyway.

Everyone both in and out of PIRG knows that PIRG pays much lower salaries than anyone in the nonprofit movement. A key cornerstone of PIRG philosophy that everyone is supposed to blindly follow is that PIRG pays lower salaries so it can hire more people to more work to bring about social change - you can do more with 2 people making $20,000 a year than 1 person making $40,000 a year. PIRG also prides itself on the fact that it has strict pay ranges that keep everyone within a particular range so people with the same level of experience will always make the relatively same amount of money. It also gives management a convenient excuse if someone wants more money. Anyone who has asked for more money in PIRG has heard the familiar line "we can't give you more money - that wouldn't be fair to all the other people who have the same level of experience". But PIRG conveniently overlooks this policy when it is to its advantage. When I worked there, I saw many examples of people who asked for more money paid much more money than others with the same level of experience because PIRG management didn't want them to leave staff. The best recent example of this occurred when Doug Phelps offered an advocate a $20,000 raise to match an offer that she got from another organization. The advocate ended up leaving anyway, but if she had stayed, she would have been paid WAY more than anyone other advocates with her experience. Phelps has also used payoffs from Grassroots Campaign Incorporated (GCI), the for profit canvassing group he started, to pay off PIRG staff to keep them from leaving while allowing him to keep salaries artificially low. A few years ago, when a talented regional canvass director was going to leave staff over more money, Phelps authorized GCI to pay him a $3000 "bonus" to compensate him for work he did to help train GCI's canvassers. PIRG didn't have to change its salary structure, and since GCI is a private company, no one would see the payment in its books. How convenient.

Another example of PIRG's hypocrisy is its annual subsidized staff retreat in Aspen. Every year, PIRG pays for virtually all the costs of a week long Aspen ski vacation for any staff who want to attend. When I worked at PIRG, people in the financial department told me that PIRG spent between $200,000 and $300,000 on the event, and that was decade ago when PIRG had about half the staff it does now. Since the Aspen vacation has been going on for over 20 years now, it is reasonable to say the PIRG has spent several million dollars paying for lots of staff to get drunk, ski, and have sex. If PIRG truly followed its salary policy, wouldn't you think it should be using those millions of dollars to hire more activists and bring about more social change? I'm not saying that saying for the Aspen vacation is wrong but it certainly not consistent with the PIRG mantra of spending money meagerly so that it can hire more activists. You can't be righteous about how little you pay staff and then spend millions on vacations.

Another PIRG irony - long known for being one of the stingiest organizations with regard to giving money to many local campaigns with other groups, PIRG is actually one of the richest nonprofits in the country. Many PIRGs, including those in California, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Washington, and Oregon has literally millions of dollars in the bank. Some of these PIRGs along have in excess of $5 million. But local PIRG staff directors have no control over this money. In fact, you will never see it in their bank accounts. That's because most of the money has been generated by years of canvassing, which most people know is done for the PIRGs by the Fund for Public Interest Research (started and controlled by Doug Phelps), and as the Fund collects the money from canvassing, it puts it in Fund banks accounts, not PIRG bank accounts. So if you look at MassPIRG's financial statement, you may see a few hundred thousand dollars, but you won't see the millions of dollars that is in the Fund canvassing account for MassPIRG. MassPIRG will never get any of this money without the approval of Doug and key senior staff. And if you work for a foundation, you will never know how many millions a PIRG has because it will not show up in its financial information.

I think the most disingenuous thing the Doug Phelps has done was to pimp PIRG member names for his two for profit organizations - Telefund Inc. and Grassroots Campaigns Incorporated. By using the names, as well as many of the fundraising techniques, of the PIRGs, Phelps has become extremely wealthy. He owns 2 multi-million dollar houses in Santa Barbara, CA as well as a very expensive loft in Denver. Meanwhile, while Phelps is making millions from his private fundraising operations, he is manically determined to keep staff salaries as low as possible and continues to make staff wait up to two years to wait for salary increases. Ironically, PIRG uses the fact that it doesn't sell its member list to other organizations as a selling point to potential donors, but I guess that rule didn't apply to Doug. The funny thing is, for years, Phelps has made it well known to PIRG staff that he doesn't take a salary from PIRG, but the only reason he quit taking a salary was to prevent any conflict of interest from him running GCI, a private companies that runs political campaigns, and PIRG, which is nonpartisan.  Of course, while he gallantly refused to take a salary from PIRG, the money from his 2 private companies kept pouring in.

I get the point of this essay is to give some more insight as to how hypocritical Doug Phelps and PIRG upper management actually are. And even though most of the examples that I have noted are about Phelps, his senior staff cabal are just as guilty as they know what goes on yet continue to ignore it. They righteously spout that one of the key things that makes PIRG different from other groups is that PIRG staff hold itself to rules and higher standards than other groups, but they don't hold themselves to the same standards that they expect staff to follow. This has to change. Clearly, there is a lot of impetus for change coming from outside PIRG, but nothing will change unless PIRG staff force it.

by doonesbury on Sat Feb 24, 2007 at 12:34:46 PM EST

Doug the Vampire (none / 0)

It is so very hard to understand that magnitude of The Fund's creepiness and their overall damage to the progressive movement unless you've worked for them under a union drive.  

Yes, they were shady before.  During briefings, many of their so-called lobbyists don't seem to know what they hell they're talking about.  They talk about the problem (they're awfully good at citing negative statistics that are meant to elicit visceral responses from potential donors), but do not offer solutions.  Should they offer a band-aid solution via a bill, they sometimes don't have the name of the bill number handy when asked (I'm sure this ignorance flies well with members of Congress, or whoever it is that they claim to be talking to).  When their solution is not riding on a bill, then they have absolutely ridiculous la-la land resolutions like cutting global warming pollution in New Jersey by "getting 70% of its residents to ride their bikes to work."  Is this some kind of joke out of a cut segment from the "Miss Universe" pageant?  You might as well try to "get" all the Oscar nominees to cut limousine gas emmisions by all arriving to the red carpet in a fleet of Greyhound busses.  Better yet, why not regain interest in federal funding for that ol' abandoned NASA project of Teletransportation, whose last days were visualized by that futuristic Bugs Bunny cartoon with the Martian character whose name we can barely remember?  Let's pass an initiative to get THAT governmental think-tank up-and-going again.  That way, we won't have to drill for oil at all!  

Ok, enough is known about the PIRGs to know that they're a joke.  The general, sweeping statements they use in their fundraising rhetoric, the absurd "let's pave all the streets with gold" aims that they allegedly stand for, and their absolute invisibility within the political infrastructure (considering how obscenely rich they are).  Save for the occasional 3-minute gig on the local news or some letter sent out to a local politician, nobody knows who the hell they are!  They are a ghost in the machine.  A phantom.  And as Nancie Koenigsberg alluded to in her anti-union speech to the L.A. TOP callers shortly before the vote to unionize with the Teamsters, lauding all the glory of The Fund, the PIRGs' goal is not to be well-known or recognized for the "work" they do, but only to choose the campaigns that are gauranteed to "win" and to "go out there" and "win" on the issues. (Translation: We don't care to have our name out there in print, because frankly, we've put no effort into any victory that would warrant such recognition; our role is to simply predict the outcome of likely campaign victories spearheaded by other groups, scare the shit out of people and psychologically browbeat them into giving money to the cause, and then, when said "campaign" is a success, take credit for it...and make even more money!)

Okay, so a farce of a non-profit they are.  But going further, they're a sham, and they are not only highly unethical, but they're creeps.  Doug Phelps and his management team are a bunch of creeps and thugs. (That must be said no less than twice).  

Nothing could illustrate this point more vividly than than the day-to-day hell that the L.A. workers had to endure after the vote to unionize with The Teamsters in July and September of 2005.  

As a caller, I was under the duress of their wrath as they tried to squeeze us out one by one.  Everyday, we were greeted and treated with smiles by the directors as they were killing our wages.  We spent hour after hour on the most miserable lists we had ever known, as our real lists were being outsourced to the Portland and Boston offices.  At the same time, an inordinate amount of pledges were suddenly not returned by members, causing our quotas and our salaries to sink like hot lead.  As we called on reminder lists, member after member declared to have already sent in their pledges, adding much substance to the theory that our directors were instructed to not credit us for our pledges.  On top of this, all of the pro-union staff were all fired in one night for that same singular unprecedented reason (misdispositioning calls, which in all of my three years have never seen), and five of us were left to rot in a cluttered, moldy room for another nine months.  

The Fund's approach was to demoralize us completely until we couldn't take anymore. So that they may never have to agree upon a contract with the union.  Furious and repeated attempts to contact the Fund's CEOs for a union contract bargaining session were ignored.  The Fund's approach was to simply roll over and play dead with the union and to kill the five of the callers still working at the Telephone Outreach Project (not to mention the canvassers on the other side of the office).

It is amazing how many "non-profit" dollars were used to bust the union effort.  The Fund was not only willing to lose a tremendous amount of revenue in instituting a hiring freeze in both unionized offices (they lost $200,000 in canvassing money in Winter 2005/06 alone), but they fought the union effort and the NLRB tooth-and-nail with the best lawyers that money could buy.  All to ensure that the workers didn't have a say in how they were treated.  All to ensure that their workers were put in their proper place, unafforded a decency like a paid sick day or a salary commesurate to how much money they were raking into their fake organization.  

Unconscionable union-busting tactics aside, the Fund has conducted itself as a common criminal in regards to upholding state and federal labor laws. For YEARS, they have been stealing money from their workers (by not paying them breaks or not reimbursing them for gas money on business-related trips).  In the courtroom, they have pleaded that this was an honest error in office policy.  Upon being damned with an official court ruling, they have tried to take payroll deductions out of a claimant's award check.  It wasn't enough that they boldly lied in the courtroom under oath (and were caught ONLY because all the claimants thus far have been smart enough to bring a copy of every pertinent document imaginable to represent their cases), but they are compelled to always take it one vile step further and try to scam a claimant the money that they are LEGALLY REQUIRED TO COLLECT.  

These people never run out of creep ammunition.  Everything from them is a trick, a montage of smoke and mirrors, an exercise in complete bullshit.  

Suffering the worst is not the employees (cause let's face it, people have the choice in this life to leave a bad work situation and do better for themselves), but the actual causes that the Fund claims to do work on behalf on.  The Environment and Consumer Protection are valuable causes, and the PIRGs are doing nothing to make sure that the legislature is prioritizing those 2 issues.  The best day the Fund ever had was the day that George W. Bush was inaugurated into office.  It certainly gave them a sweet, profitable "enemy" to monger fear amongst their donor base.  

Leave it to the Fund to take something as sacred as the environment and use it to sell membership to people who put their entire activist stake into the Fund.  There are alot of people in this country who care about the environment and their only form of activism is to contribute money to the Fund, which is just sad.  

Well-meaning people (who may not have the propensity to do activist work, but who sincerely care about the issues) are giving their money to the PIRGs, who have the transparent audacity to send their lobbyists to the houses of the rich and famous to ask for mega-endowments while the state legislature is in session!  

This is an insult.  And if it isn't illegal, it should be.  It's only fitting because the Fund has already been found guilty of so many illegal activities.  

They are a criminal outfit, through and through, and if I ever hear the sentence "The PIRGs do good work" ever again, I won't be able to stop myself from audibly releasing a gutteral growl of rage and disgust.  I don't care if I'm at a wedding, a funeral, an office meeting, a library, a swear-in ceremony of Great Britain's newest knight or dame, or in the midst of some other gathering where it is innappropriate to disturb with superfluous noise.  If I ever hear those words again, my shit will be flipped.

My dear readers, if you disagree with what I say and how I'm saying it, if you are untainted enough to believe the "PIRGs do good work," I dare you to sign on as a monthly member.  Go ahead.  Let them take out $10/month from your checking account.  Then try to cancel it.  

Call that 800 number and listen to the phone ring and ring and ring as you try to reach out to a live person for weeks and weeks and weeks.  

You'll start to see what I'm talking about.      

These people don't care about you.  They don't care to make the world a better place.  They don't care to play fair.  

All Douglass H. Phelps cares about is reaping the profits.  He wages a fake war against the Bush glitterati not because what they do is wrong and in the worst interest of society, but because he is jealous of them.  Doug is jealous of other millionaires.

This is what drives the man.

by Sideways Shake on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 05:25:18 PM EST

Re: The Canvassers Union (conclusion) (none / 0)

These people are in the business of selling tickets to heaven.

by Sideways Shake on Sun Mar 04, 2007 at 06:29:38 PM EST

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