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I was in line at the co-op today and saw the cover of Mother Jones. It said, “Speeded up, more work for no pay.” So when i got home, I looked it up, and found this startling and sad article, and recognized myself. Read on. You may recognize yourself too.

Mother Jones Cover, More Work, No Pay

Mother Jones Cover, More Work, No Pay

“Increasingly, US workers are also falling prey to what we’ll call offloading: cutting jobs and dumping the work onto the remaining staff. Consider a recent Wall Street Journal story about “superjobs,” a nifty euphemism for employees doing more than one job’s worth of work—more than half of all workers surveyed said their jobs had expanded, usually without a raise or bonus.”

Does this sound familiar?
I used to say I was the volunteer coordinator, event director, marketing director, stewardship coordinator, grantwriter, and development officer at my last job. I thought that only ridiculous one-person development jobs were like this. Little did I know that much of America is starting to resemble this very scenario. Mother Jones did an impeccably researched article with graphs, charts, etc, that might make you fear for your future whether you’re in the public OR the private sector.

Corporate profits are up 22%.
“In all the chatter about our “jobless recovery,” how often does someone explain the simple feat by which this is actually accomplished? US productivity increased twice as fast in 2009 as it had in 2008, and twice as fast again in 2010: workforce down, output up, and voilá! No wonder corporate profits are up 22 percent since 2007, according to a new report by the Economic Policy Institute. To repeat: Up. Twenty-two. Percent.”

from mother jones graph on inequality

So wow, our economy recovered, right, and corporate profits are up 22% since the downturn began, yet TONS of people still can’t find work, TONS of people are not able to give to our nonprofits, and the vast majority of American people are no better off. It didn’t always used to be this way.

Been laid off while your boss was kept on?
“This is nothing short of a sea change. As University of California-Berkeley economist Brad DeLong notes, until not long ago, “businesses would hold on to workers in downturns even when there wasn’t enough for them to do—would put them to work painting the factory—because businesses did not want to see their skilled, experienced workers drift away and then have to go through the expense and loss of training new ones. That era is over. These days firms take advantage of downturns in demand to rationalize operations and increase labor productivity, pleading business necessity to their workers.”

If they pleaded necessity to you as they fired you or laid you off from your nonprofit, while your much more expensive boss was kept on, given a raise or decided they could play fast and loose with the nonprofit credit card without getting caught, this post is probably making you grit your teeth right now.

growth is back but jobs are not

Are you an Americorps Vista? A perma-temp? Are they using you as a replacement for a staff person that they will never hire?
“How does corporate America have the gall? You pretty much know the answer, but for official confirmation let’s turn to Erica Groshen, a vice president at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York: It’s easier here than in, say, the UK or Germany “for employers to avoid adding permanent jobs,” she told the AP recently. “They’re less constrained by traditional human-resources practices [translation: decency] or union contracts.” In plainer English, here’s Rutgers political scientist Carl Van Horn: “Everything is tilted in favor of the employers…The employee has no leverage. If your boss says, ‘I want you to come in the next two Saturdays,’ what are you going to say—no?”

I know nonprofits that depend on Americorps vistas, who are paid $1000 or less per month to go and work 40 hour work weeks. And they have no intention of hiring their vistas, and the vistas work for a year, and then they’re out of a job again, and can’t even collect unemployment.

Here’s a heartbreaking quote from a university professor, which reminded me of myself leaving full-time nonprofit employment:

“Don’t spend one minute “paying your dues” or “proving” yourself to an employer. This is a scam. You are either paid fairly—by your own standards, not theirs—from day one or you never will be. The moment you stop enjoying your job, quit—because they certainly won’t hesitate to fire you on a whim. There is no such thing as “loyalty.” Don’t waste your youth “building your resume.” Go have fun and let life develop as it may. Working for a living simply does not pay—and to exert any effort whatsoever above and beyond what you are being compensated for is to be complicit in your own exploitation.”
-Heather: Adjunct college professor, Illinois

All that extra work you’ve taken on—paid off. For them.

This will keep up as long as we buy into three fallacies: One, that to feel crushed by debilitating workloads is a personal failing. Two, that it’s just your company or industry struggling—when in fact what’s happening to hotel maids and sales clerks is also happening to project managers, engineers, and doctors. Three, that there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

You don’t have to feel inadequate because you can’t keep up with the work. No one could keep up with the work you are asked to do.

You are not alone. It’s not just fundraising professionals that are being asked to do too much. It’s doctors. It’s air traffic controllers. It’s sales clerks, delivery truck drivers, hotel maids.

We can do something about it. We can start nonprofit unions. We can agitate for better working conditions. We can say, “NO, I will not check email at home. NO, I will not answer calls after 6pm at night. NO, I won’t give up my life just so you can have greater profits.”

And this is why I started Wild Social Media, to help more people break free of this system, to make money by creating a personal brand, selling your knowledge of your field, so that you don’t have to participate in this system anymore.

If you want to get more information on how you can start to build your brand and break out of this system, sign up for my Wild Social Media e-newsletter.

If you want to learn how you can form a union at your nonprofit, go here.

Calling for a fundraising revolution, a guest post I did on Pamela Grow’s blog