Illegally low wages or high paying volunteer opportunity?

It sounds good in a headine: “Volunteers Can Earn $11,000 Stipend.” And the initiative behind it seems solid as well: the Los Angeles Community Preparedness Corps (LACPC) to, “engage community members and develop neighborhood plans to prepare for emergencies and natural disasters.”

But what they’re offering:

Mayor Villaraigosa called on 27 energetic individuals to sign up for the LACPC program and implement emergency preparedness measures throughout LA. Each member will volunteer 40 hours per week, complete 1,700 total hours over the course of one year and receive a stipend for $11,100. [emphasis mine]

This works out to $6.53 per hour, nearly a dollar less than California’s minimum wage of $7.50 per hour (raising to $8.00 on at the start of 2008). According to the “California State Government Volunteers Act” a volunteer is “any person who, of his own free will, provides goods or services, without any financial gain.” $6.53 an hour isn’t much – but even a stipend is still compensation.

Alas, for a recent high school grad looking to spice up his or her transcript before heading to college this may be a great avenue. Additionally, volunteers would be eligible “for the Segal Americorps Education Award of $4,725, which can pay for college tuition, additional training courses or repayment of student loans.”

more about the program at City Watch.

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4 Replies to “Illegally low wages or high paying volunteer opportunity?”

  1. Can we rewind a minute? Less than minimum wage in a city where minimum wage isn’t even close to a “living wage”? And calling it “volunteering” with a stipend makes it better somehow?

    What the hell kind of leadership is that “Idi Villaraigosa”? Will you at least let them have some pet food to feast upon during the holidays?

  2. Americorps was Bill Clinton’s idea. It’s a nice way to get work experience and make money for college…but obviously housing should be included. My son was an Americorps “volunteer” at a local health clinic, but my husband and I provided room and board. So the program got three “volunteers” for the low, low price of one.

    I wish this program could really help the young kid with no money and no parental support get a leg up. Sadly, it doesn’t.

  3. This reminds me of a recent article in Harper’s by David Graeber that posited an answer to two questions: why do poor/minority kids join the military, and why is the do-gooder’s universe of advocacy groups and NGOs so full of upper-middle-class (and above) white people? Graeber’s answer essentially was that poor kids want to be altruists, too, but they can’t afford it. To go to work for an NGO or a charity, you pretty much have to spend the first couple of years as an unpaid intern. Thus, altruism as a career is priced out of the market for the children of the poor, and is reserved instead for the children of the well-to-do. If you have parents who can afford to keep you afloat for those years (say, by making up the difference between your $11,000 “stipend” and the actual cost of living in Los Angeles), it’s feasible. If not…well, who else but the military is going to pay you and provide room and board while you go off and “make a difference”?

  4. ^
    You are right percival, I grew up poor and am still a working class college student. I cofounded and run a 501c3 that paints murals and does art lessons for free with kids in central LA and other working class areas. I basically support the org through my own pocket and volunteering, and have never once met anyone below blue blooded WASP or wealthy Jew that does the same. The worst part is when these folks run the org on volunteers and minimal overhead yet pay themselves and their family $70k to boss around the interns who do the work. An org called Hollywood Beautification Team basically funds several members of the founder’s family with $70-100k jobs a year, while they do projects which are grant funded at the cheapest cost possible. I built a 911 memorial with an illegal immigrant and several community service workers, while HBT got over 50k in grants from it. We would find out grants to fund murals and tree planting were arond $20k apiece, whereas the director was pushing us to complete thees projects in 2 full time weeks at $10 an hour. Then she went and hired professionally trained artists at 2-3 times our salary to basically follow our directions (they didnt know shite), did I also mention the difference between project quality in South LA and Granada Hills, it was disgusting.

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