Emerald City Comic Con faces a class action suit over non-payment of volumnteers

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Seattleish has a thorough report on a class-action lawsuit filed by volunteers, known as “minions” for the 2014 and 2015 Emerald City Comic Cons. Minions worked varius duties in exchange for access to the convention, an action that many joyfully accepted. However the use of unpaid labor to keep massive conventions running (ECC drew over 80,000 people last year) has come under scrutiny from many avenues.

ECCC was acquired by ReedPOOP in 2015, and volunteers for the 2016 show were paid, as are volunteers at NYCC, which is also owned by ReedPOP.

Minion applications are competitive and regarded highly desirable by attendees at the convention, who sign agreements before taking on the position. Minions are paid solely in access to the convention; those who travel to work for the convention as minions must cover all of their own costs. Still, many seem more than willing to do it under the agreements they sign.

That doesn’t necessarily mean ECCC is off the hook. Though the plaintiffs may have entered into this volunteer contract willingly, it’s possible that the courts could find that ECCC still knowingly violated labor laws, which could be trouble for them. 

“In Washington, the base is that if you are an employer, you have to pay the minimum wage,” said Hardeep Singh Rekhi, the attorney behind the case. “We don’t believe that someone should be able to profit off unpaid labor, even if it’s something people love to do.”

The use of volunteer labor, unpaid interns and the like is a fairly fraught subject and this could be a precedent setting case, at least where comic-cons are concerned.

Comments

  1. perc2100 says

    I’m not sure how much of a “precedent” will be set: in WA law (as well as CA, where I live) it is illegal for a for-profit corporation to utilize unpaid volunteers. That seems pretty black & white, and it seems plausible that even someone knowingly signing away their right to pay in order to be volunteer may still constitute an illegal labor practice by Reed-POP. While it may be unfortunate for ‘minions’ who were willingly giving up pay to volunteer in order to get free admission, the law is the law, and is in place to protect corporations from exploiting people (NOT that I’m saying in any way Reed-POP is willfully breaking any law, and/or trying to exploit its fans).

  2. joey says

    class action lawsuits like this are awesome, because if they win, the Lawyers will bill 99% of the award money to legal, paperwork and admin fees and give .25 to each actual “victim”

  3. Aaron Browne says

    This it the ‘USA’, the laws are here to protect ‘people’/companies. After working in Redmond, and Bellevue at multiple contracts in WA for several years, and considering the fact that there are condo complexes in Redmond, and Bellevue, and Seattle filled with out-sourced labor that is cycled in to under-bid ‘Americans’/consumers out of work (at one time in 2010 I was the only ‘American’ working at Microsoft’s Ops Center, and the rest were out-sourced from India -their technical knowledge and ‘customer service’ was not worth relocating people from the other side of this planet to work here), I can say this article is another sad example of how pathetic the ‘USA’ is =you all care about a bunch of consumers that are willing to work w/out pay for a weekend -yet no one cares about the ‘Americans’ that give salaries away for cheap labor un-employing hundreds of thousands, if not millions of ‘Americans’; salaries just given away.

    How is a job recruiter from India more qualified than an ‘American’ for placing work in ‘America’ for jobs that are for ‘Americans’ (90% of my tech resume responses are from Indian recruiters that read from scripts, and have no idea where the jobs are located, how to pronounce them, or care about my resume other than use it to satisfy their resume submission quota while they setup their own to under bid me -like IBM, and Eaton Corp were busted for enabling this among other foreign entities/companies/’countries’)???

    I hope they use Indians to replace the volunteers, as well as to underbid the artists, and writers, and editors out of work so that all you comic con visitors get to see what it is like to work at places like Microsoft, and Honeywell, and Ford, and everywhere else there are tech jobs open in this fake ‘country’. Seriously, my experiences working with Indians is totally anti-‘American’ in that they are all from different geographic locations, languages, and religions -and get this: They are able to cooperate, and train and learn from each other! Can you imagine! Totally anti-American, and completely able to exchange knowledge at work w/themselves. and there are no conversations w/Indians in Redmond, WA about how “people in Seattle are part of the populist vote, so we gotta ruin city life, cuz they are all a bunch of liberals…” -y’know that typical b.s. that is perpetuated all over this fake country -“cant help someone that is ‘different’ cuz even helping them is a ‘win’ for their side…”, there is that one, and then you always got the typical ‘American’ bigot conversation of when it is legal to shoot someone, and talk about when to use a gun -total ‘American’ crap, and then you gotta also have ‘Americans’ at work obsessing on who is ‘liberal’ or .conservative’ and just how to be a bigot -in Seattle’s case this would be mainly how to be a passive-aggressive bigot- towards anyone ‘different’.

    All you Seattle/Redmond/Bellevue consumers, did you all make enough effort today to avoid eye contact w/anyone that does not fit your comfort zone? Who cares about a bunch of passive aggressive alienating bigots from the North West? ‘Avoid eye contact, make sure to keep flicking your finger at your screen acting smug about whatever scene you are in while you live in an overrated hick town that looks really ‘modern’, and has grueling traffic, overpriced food and lazy landlords of overpriced apts, more passive aggressive bigots, a completely overrated night life that shuts down at 1:30 unless it is summer time and only on the weekend… Seattle is an overrated hick town that is just as bigoted as Phoenix, but instead of assertive and hot, Seattle is passive aggressive bigotry w/freezing cold rain and wind and both w/more and more grueling backwards traffic and more and more outsourcing…

    PLEASE:
    Replace the volunteers and all the creative staff w/out-sourced labor from Indian, please. If it is OK to use cheap labor from India and other places to lay people off that are trying to have careers, education, and families, then who cares about these volunteers that can afford to pay for stupid comic book prices -anything over $2.00 for this predictable, brand identity ridden crap is a crime. This article is a joke, and I hope half of comicsbeat.com staff gets constantly alienated by passive aggressive bigots at work no matter how hard they show up to work early, do extra work, and keep track of all those b.s. ‘metrics’, and then have their work out-sourced to India, so they can just begin to fully appreciate what is it like to try to live in Seattle. -Please do this. PLEASE send the ‘American’ love to the comicsbeat.com.

  4. Sewerlidsteve says

    Seems some in the comments section keep bringing up ReedPop who were NOT the owners of ECCC for the 2014/2015 shows. The first ReedPop owned/run for ECCC was the 2016 convention, whereas the minions were paid for 2016. The 2014/2015 year shows were ran by the original owners. Curious why they only name 2014/2015 show dates, why not the previous shows before that?

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