If we don’t stand up for our progressive values, who will?
Some blog posts are more difficult for me to write than others. This is one of them.
“One Fair Wage” is a coalition of pro-worker organizations who are working to ensure that all workers are paid a fair wage. Yesterday they announced they will introduce a ballot proposal to put raising the minimum wage to $12 in Michigan and that would ensure wage parity for tipped restaurant workers on the 2018 ballot:
Michigan’s minimum wage would rise to $12 per hour by 2022 and tipped workers would earn the same guarantee by 2024 under a potential ballot proposal announced Thursday.
One Fair Wage, a coalition that includes the labor-related Restaurant Opportunities Center of Michigan, is expected to seek petition approval from the Board of State Canvassers before beginning a “grassroots effort” to collect signatures. […]
The group is also seeking “wage parity” for tipped workers, whose current minimum hourly wage of $3.38 will rise to $3.52 next year. Under the proposed ballot measure, tipped workers would also earn $12 by 2024.
As you might expect, I am in full support of this ballot initiative. I do this as a progressive that believes everyone should be fairly compensated for their work.
That’s why I was disgusted to learn that One Fair Wage expects people who work for them to do so for FREE.
Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda, women with strong ties to Michigan are participating in a series of fundraisers around the state for the One Fair Wage initiative. These are pricey events intended to raise money for the petition drive. Tickets range from $200 to $1000. The minimum ticket price for the Ann Arbor event is $200. For the Farmington Hills event, it’s a whopping $500:
As readers of this site likely know, much of the visual content on Eclectablog is provided by my wife Anne Savage. Anne (that’s her on the right with Rachel Maddow and some bald guy) is a well-established professional photographer and the “go-to” photographer for progressive causes and candidates. She’s earned that distinction because (a) she’s a fierce warrior for progressive causes and (b) she’s a damn good photographer. So good that she was the regional photographer for the White House during the Obama administration. She has photographed events with President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Biden, and countless other major Democratic elected officials and candidates.
She’s that good.
So, it wasn’t a surprise to her when the organizers for the Tomlin/Fonda fundraising events reached out to her to photograph the events. She agreed to do so and then never heard back from them.
This morning she received a reply: “Through another connection we found a photographer who is willing to donate his time for these events and since we are trying to cut down on expenses for the fundraisers we are going to go with him.”
In other words, rather than paying for their photographer, they are expecting him to do it for free.
For the “One Fair Wage” initiative.
The hypocrisy of this is not just galling, it’s offensive. If they had hired Anne, one or two of those high-priced tickets would have covered it and then some. As you can see in the screenshot above, the $1,000 “VIP” tickets include a photo.
Here’s how Anne sees it:
I am asked to photograph for free or to give my photos away for free all of the time. I understand that these requests sometimes come from non-profit organizations or fundraisers, but the photography is also a service that is required to benefit the event. As a professional who makes a living doing photography I usually politely say no. But this time it was just too ironic to stay quiet. The organizers of these events found a photographer to do all of the events for free, and there are multiple events all over the southern part of the state, all week. It was disappointing that this happened for events that are aimed at raising money and awareness for fair pay.
I understand the urge to accept free work but, as progressives, it runs counter to what we stand for. I frequently get requests for people wanting to be regular contributors at Eclectablog who are willing to do it for free. In every instance I politely decline telling them that this is not how it works. If I can’t pay for your creative output, I simply cannot “hire” you in good conscience.
If One Fair Wage hires someone who wants to return the pay in full or in part as a donation, that’s up to the person they hire. There was once a regular contributor to Eclectablog who did just that. I discouraged it but it was their decision to make. However, a group working to ensure everyone is paid fairly for their work crosses a line when they don’t pay their workers fairly (or at all, in this case.)
The photographer they “hired” is also doing a profound disservice to those who are trying to make a living as a professional. Here’s Anne again:
To the photographers that offer to work for free, I ask you to please respect your work and the work of those of us who make a living at this, to and request pay. I do not begrudge you helping a charity of your choice from time to time, but for something where the smallest ticket is $200 or even $500 or $1,000, your work is likely needed for the success of the event. Donors expect their photo to be taken with the guest of honor. If you feel very strongly about doing the event without compensation then my suggestion would be to ask for pay and then make a donation. Continue to uphold the industry while doing your part to support the charities that are important to you.
Like I said, some blog posts are harder to write than others. I detest having to call out progressive groups but sometimes we need to. Anne did eventually receive an apology from the organizers (who, by the way, never asked her to do it for free and simply found someone who would.) But that’s not enough. This is a betrayal of the very principles they are fighting for. I hope it’s the last time.