The Working Families Organization is looking for a few good (and dedicated) progressives.
The catch? The “working” part sucks.
Founded in New York in 1998, the Working Families Party was established to unite a coalition of “union members, workfare recipients, immigrants, the working poor and other traditionally liberal constituencies” and push Democratic politics further to the left. According to The Atlantic, “The party has been instrumental in pushing issues such as government-mandated paid sick leave and a $15 minimum wage to the forefront of the national Democratic agenda.”
Having received a tip that the group doesn’t always practice what they preach, I discovered an advertisement on their own website for a full-time “community organizer” at “$12 / hour.”
At this point, I fully expected to write a tidy column arguing that progressives who advocate for a living wage should actually pay it.
After all, Bernie Sanders—who was endorsed by the Working Families Party—had publicly criticized Hillary Clinton for supporting a $12-an-hour minimum wage. What is more, some on the left are now suggesting that even $15 an hour doesn’t constitute a “living wage” in some areas. (According to a living-wage calculator created by MIT professor Amy Glasmeier, $12 an hour actually is below the living wage for Newark, where the job ad was based, let alone across the river in New York City.)
But when I reached out to the WFP for a comment, I was told the ad—while still up on their website—was at least a year out of date. “All of our staff make at least $15 an hour, and this has been the case for at least a year,” says Analilia Mejia, director of New Jersey Working Families. “Over the last few years, we’ve adjusted our pay scales to bring up our minimum to match the goal of the fight for $15. This is an out-of-date listing we unfortunately never took down, for a job we’re not currently hiring for.”
Good for them, taking them at their word; bad for my tidy column.
They weren’t out of the woods, yet. A quick glance at Glassdoor.com, a job site that promises job seekers “the inside scoop on companies with employee reviews,” suggests the changes WFP made in terms of compensation were desperately needed, if not sufficient.
“It is entirely hypocritical for WFP to be a ‘progressive’ organization that uses precarious labor like this,” a former New York City canvasser wrote in June of 2017.
“Not much growth opportunity beyond canvasser unless you actively push for it,” echoed a Brooklyn canvasser in December of 2017.
I asked Joe Dinkin, national communications director for the Working Families Party, about the negative feedback: “Canvassing and field organizing aren’t for everyone,” he said. “They’re demanding jobs, but they’re incredibly important to our work, as nothing is more powerful than a face-to-face conversation. It’s also a staff development pipeline. Much of our senior team got their start on our field canvass, including me.”
Rather than challenge the veracity of these Glassdoor.com postings, Dinkin chose to defend a workplace environment in which entry-level jobs with low pay and long hours are a sort of proving ground.
In fairness, the online gripe—“Not much growth opportunity beyond canvasser unless you actively push for it”—should only elicit the following response from any serious person: Welcome to the world, snowflakes! This is how every job works.
It occurs to me that Working Families is not running a sweatshop, nor are they creating a stand-alone socialist paradise. Instead, they are basically trying to do the same thing we all try to do: make a difference and survive in a world of limited resources.
Just like those monsters in corporate America, Working Families pushes their employees hard to maximize productivity and to see who has the mettle to merit promotion. Along the way, some people discover this isn’t the right fit for them, and others move up in the organization.
Maybe those on the professional left should take a hard look at themselves; if they see the value in adopting capitalist principles to run their operations, maybe they should be more sympathetic to the business executives of America who do the same.