For a little while I have been mulling over the rights of social change workers and our ability to demand not only a better world for ourselves and others, but a better political economic organization of social change work. By social change work, I mean primarily work for NGO’s and Schools, commonly facilitated by an array of student work opportunities, internships, and arrangements such as Americorps and Teach for America.
I have also, been attempting to find way to make a living doing such work, in preschools and NGO’s, that can feed me and not make me feel like a jerk. Out of these feelings and many conversations comes this manifesto.
An early, albeit tongue in cheek, analysis of the situation can be found here.
I want to invite input, please critique or add to this, or create your own. I would like to form a nationwide working group to solidify strategies. Let me know.
Against, exploitation by social change organizations, including non profits, schools, ngo’s.
Against, use of student or young labor to replace that of living wage paid workers, organizers, teachers, young or old.
Against, use of students, interns, volunteers, temporary workers as mere bodies.
For, more meaningful social change work.
For, democratic workplaces.
For, just compensation.
For, capacity to help determine the direction of organizations.
For, the establishment of unions, or associations of exploited workers.
For, open dialogue considering the status of non-permanent young workers.
For, a radical restructuring or reimagining of the nature of social change work.
In Solidarity With, our communities.
In Solidarity With, the communities in which we work.
In Solidarity With, our elders in the movement.
In Solidarity With, our teachers.
In Solidarity With, fellow workers.
For too long we have been promised meaning, healing, and the ability to do something good in the world, for our communities, in solidarity with other communities. For too long we have been taken advantage of, used as warm bodies for organizations that make these promises. We have been offered jobs with no permanence, that pay us less than a living wage, that give us no role in determining the future of our movements or organizations. We have walked the streets, and made the phone calls, and sat in class rooms while our higher ups negotiate for more power in the proclaimed interests of our communities, those of others, and our environment.
We must realize that our unpaid or underpaid labor is what makes these organizations run, that earn more clout for the board members or executive directors or bosses. We must realize that if we are working for a more democratic, healthy, and accessible world, that our jobs must reflect that.
We must begin to speak openly about our exploitation, most importantly with each other, then claim and defend these spaces and rights for ourselves. We must realize that our dedication does not mean that we give up our rights to make these claims.
Rise, we have nothing to lose but our stipends.