Author Topic: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers  (Read 2538 times)

Offline Transmute Jun

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ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« on: May 19, 2016, 12:12:36 PM »
In short: ECCC uses unpaid volunteers to run their convention (just as SDCC does). But the group suing claims that this violates Washington State Labor Laws.

If this case wins, look for it to change the landscape for paying volunteers (or not) at other cons as well. And if volunteers must be paid, look for ticket prices to increase.

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Offline semigeekgirl

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2016, 01:06:31 PM »
Interesting. I wonder if labor law is the same in California, and if Comic-Con would fall under the same rules since they are a non-profit.

Also, childish, but the typo of ReedPop to ReedPOOP in the second paragraph made me chuckle.

Offline perc2100

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #2 on: May 19, 2016, 01:07:23 PM »
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In short: ECCC uses unpaid volunteers to run their convention (just as SDCC does). But the group suing claims that this violates Washington State Labor Laws.

If this case wins, look for it to change the landscape for paying volunteers (or not) at other cons as well. And if volunteers must be paid, look for ticket prices to increase.

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IDK, it all has to do with specific state's labor laws.  This might not effect CA/Comic-Con (or WonderCon) at all if the labor laws are different (note - I am not 100% familiar with labor law as it would pertain in this instance, though I am a union official with my job and do constantly deal with labor law, labor lawyers, etc - I'll maybe try to find out in the next couple of weeks when I see our labor lawyer again)

Offline perc2100

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #3 on: May 19, 2016, 01:12:10 PM »
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Interesting. I wonder if labor law is the same in California, and if Comic-Con would fall under the same rules since they are a non-profit.

Also, childish, but the typo of ReedPop to ReedPOOP in the second paragraph made me chuckle.
If I had to guess:

* maybe in CA non-profits/volunteers are different than WA
* is ECCC run as a non-profit by non-profit or is it like other conventions where it's run as a for-profit?  That would be a HUGE difference from CCI & Comic-Con; in CA for-profit businesses are prohibited from 'employing' volunteers, while non-profit are able to 'employ' volunteers legally.  This could be all the "argument" needed in this case
* it's possible CCI can claim that a Comic-Con badge = payment for volunteering and thus no $$ compensation is needed (and very part-time volunteer shifts would mean not enough financial compensation to even remotely mean tax paperwork is necessary)
* I suspect that CCI is pretty on top of things with labor law in CA; they've been at this for a long time, and at it at a high level of exposure for a long time - they almost certainly have everything legally copacetic with the amount of money at stake


**MODIFIED because I think the top two bullet points are the only pertinent ones in this specific instance
« Last Edit: May 19, 2016, 01:23:47 PM by perc2100 »

Offline perc2100

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2016, 01:22:17 PM »
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If I had to guess:

* maybe in CA non-profits/volunteers are different than WA
* is ECCC run as a non-profit by non-profit or is it like other conventions where it's run as a for-profit?  That would be a HUGE difference from CCI & Comic-Con; in CA for-profit businesses are prohibited from 'employing' volunteers, while non-profit are able to 'employ' volunteers legally.  This could be all the "argument" needed in this case
* it's possible CCI can claim that a Comic-Con badge = payment for volunteering and thus no $$ compensation is needed (and very part-time volunteer shifts would mean not enough financial compensation to even remotely mean tax paperwork is necessary)
* I suspect that CCI is pretty on top of things with labor law in CA; they've been at this for a long time, and at it at a high level of exposure for a long time - they almost certainly have everything legally copacetic with the amount of money at stake

OK, it seems as though ECCC is run by Reed-POP, a FOR PROFIT company (which also runs NYCCC).  If this is the case, it is very possible Washington state labor laws are similar to CA (and other state) labor laws which expressly prohibit for-profit companies from not paying workers.  IMO, if a company is running a convention for profit then they should indeed be paying all of their employees.  If a non-profit is running a convention, then it is well within their rights (and acceptable in my opinion) to utilize volunteers, as CCI does for their non-profit conventions.

So as far as CCI/Comic-Con/WonderCon, then NO they would not have to worry about this particular issue as CCI is a non-profit organization and thus legally allowed to utilize volunteers for their conventions.  IF they were a for-profit corporation then they would NOT be allowed to use volunteers and WOULD have to pay everyone who works for them, even on a part-time "seasonal" basis (note, though: CCI DOES pay part-time/seasonal employees to help run Comic-Con so yea CCI for doing the right thing all-around and making EVERYONE as happy as possible!!)

Note, as said before I work with a union in my job so I'm obviously pro-union and mostly pro-union laws and procedures (though I've gone to the mattresses arguing against some instances where I thought a union policy should NOT be in a contract, so I feel like I'm pretty even-keeled).

Offline perc2100

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #5 on: May 19, 2016, 01:25:45 PM »
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Also, childish, but the typo of ReedPop to ReedPOOP in the second paragraph made me chuckle.

Reading that article, and knowing absolutely nothing about ECCC, NYCCC, or whatever I took a second to think, "are they really calling themselves Reed-POOP?!?!"  Then reading on it was obviously a typo, and from some things I've read about the way some of their conventions are run I chuckled and thought, "meh, maybe that IS more appropriate?"  :P

Offline Transmute Jun

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #6 on: May 19, 2016, 03:46:45 PM »
Perc, thanks for your thorough analysis! You make a really good point about the difference between a for-profit and a not-for-profit organization. I have volunteered at many non-profit organizations in California (churches, girl scouts, schools, etc.) and that was considered a 'donation' of my time. But a company that is run for profit may easily be eld to a different legal standard.

Huh... I just realized that I have worked as an unpaid extra extra on a movie set in Washington State. The company making the movie was for-profit. So should I get paid for that?  ;)

Offline hikanteki

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #7 on: May 19, 2016, 05:25:46 PM »
From reading the article, the suit pertains to 2014-2015. 2014 it was not run by ReedPop and in 2015 ReedPop had just acquired it before the con. Apparently they were paid in 2016. The previous organization was also for-profit.
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Offline marcia29

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2016, 11:43:55 AM »
Ok.  This may sounds nuts but...What if this push to pay folk that were volunteers is being fostered by the major for-profit conventions to force out the smaller conventions that are loosely put together and run for the love of organizers? 

Many small cons that I have been to are neither officially non/not-for-profit, nor for-profit.  Many don't break even or just barely.  If the smaller conventions are forced to pay wages, then many will not survive. 

The behemoths that are for-profit can survive --AND they may become the only conventions in the area.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2016, 11:56:20 AM by marcia29 »

Offline semigeekgirl

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2016, 11:55:35 AM »
It might just force them to officially register as non-profits. It's a few extra steps but frankly they might as well just do it. They're already putting on a con and dealing with a ton of logistics, this is just one more thing. And it might even save them some money on insurance - some companies have special rates for non-profits.

Edit: And some already are - I just checked Gallifrey One, because I know they're relatively small and fan-run, and they are already a 501(c)(3) not-profit, according to their webpage.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2016, 11:58:28 AM by semigeekgirl »

Offline hikanteki

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2016, 01:18:04 PM »
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Ok.  This may sounds nuts but...What if this push to pay folk that were volunteers is being fostered by the major for-profit conventions to force out the smaller conventions that are loosely put together and run for the love of organizers? 

Many small cons that I have been to are neither officially non/not-for-profit, nor for-profit.  Many don't break even or just barely.  If the smaller conventions are forced to pay wages, then many will not survive. 

I agree that most conventions don’t make a big deal out of whether or not they are a non-profit or for-profit (certainly the for-profit ones don’t, but many non-profits don’t really either). But officially, it’s more black & white--either it’s a non-profit or it isn’t.

Quote
The behemoths that are for-profit can survive --AND they may become the only conventions in the area.

Not necessarily. Sac-Anime, a nearby anime convention, is not really a behemoth (their attendance is 20,000...but were smaller before) is a well-run, reasonably priced convention that has always paid its workers.
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Offline marcia29

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2016, 02:48:04 PM »
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I agree that most conventions don’t make a big deal out of whether or not they are a non-profit or for-profit (certainly the for-profit ones don’t, but many non-profits don’t really either). But officially, it’s more black & white--either it’s a non-profit or it isn’t.

Not necessarily. Sac-Anime, a nearby anime convention, is not really a behemoth (their attendance is 20,000...but were smaller before) is a well-run, reasonably priced convention that has always paid its workers.

I went to look at their website as I wanted to reference their model.  If I am looking at the correct convention website, what I see is that Sac-Anime does have unpaid volunteers, though they do get convention benefits.  I couldn't figure out how to insert a pic so here is the link: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login

Offline marcia29

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2016, 02:54:48 PM »
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It might just force them to officially register as non-profits. It's a few extra steps but frankly they might as well just do it. They're already putting on a con and dealing with a ton of logistics, this is just one more thing. And it might even save them some money on insurance - some companies have special rates for non-profits.

Edit: And some already are - I just checked Gallifrey One, because I know they're relatively small and fan-run, and they are already a 501(c)(3) not-profit, according to their webpage.

I like this!  I took a look at their site and they state it clearly. It looks like this may be the way to go. Here is what they say about volunteers:

"Do you take volunteers?

Gallifrey One no longer takes volunteers for the convention, with the exception of on-the-fly assistance from interested convention-goers for setup and teardown; we don’t have an active volunteers program, and do not provide compensation (or free admission).  Instead, Gallifrey One relies entirely upon our own staff.  If you are interested in becoming involved with our staff, and you are age 18 or over, email us through our website; please be sure to list your convention work experience.  (We do not accept any assistance from convention goers under 18 for liability reasons.)  We will contact you as needs arise."

Offline hikanteki

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2016, 04:19:34 PM »
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I went to look at their website as I wanted to reference their model.  If I am looking at the correct convention website, what I see is that Sac-Anime does have unpaid volunteers, though they do get convention benefits.  I couldn't figure out how to insert a pic so here is the link: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login

Thanks for looking that up! Hmm, it does indeed look like I was mistaken and the volunteers are unpaid but that contradicts what I heard from the staff I talked to there. I’ll try to talk to some people in charge to see what their exact model is.
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Offline dkd

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Re: ECCC Being Sued Over Unpaid Volunteers
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2016, 06:09:46 PM »
I must admit that I thought of Nerd HQ first when I read this.  They take on unpaid volunteers and the Nerdmachine is a "for profit" company even though elements of the event are charitable.  Not all the volunteers work at the parts that are for charity.

Their website says:

"Do you want to volunteer of Nerd HQ 2016? If so, click the link to apply for one of our volunteer positions to help in our fundraising for Operation Smile. - See more at: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login"

Their confidentiality agreement says:

"I am the person whose name appears above and understand I will be volunteering my services and/or furnishing materials for Operation Smile and for Nerd Machine, LLC (“Company”) in connection with Company’s NerdHQ event - See more at: You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login

Does stating the work is for Operation Smile AND the company give them a legal "out" for not paying the volunteers?  Not all the volunteers work at the parts of the event that are for charity.

I know my sister has done volunteer work for a non-profit company and gets statements from them to use for her tax returns that show the value of her time.

I've never heard that Nerdist or Geek and Sundry use volunteers.  Does anyone know?