July 29, 2007

Learn and Earn: A post-mortem on that adventure

Today is the one-year anniversary of my termination from Ohio Learn and Earn. I'm pretty sure that the non-disclosure period has expired. When I was terminated from the Learn and Earn campaign for this post I was required, along with the other 2 office managers, to sign a non-disclosure agreement and as I've said, I believe the non-disclosure period has lapsed.

With that said, it's time for news from the office, and I mean beyond how our toilets were usually brimming with feces and urine, how soap was never available, how I paid a worker $300 out of my pocket because the company wouldn't, and how many unscrupulous people we employed.

Working for Ohio Learn and Earn was one of the most stressful periods of my still young life. From the time I began office work until the point of my termination, I put in 100-hour work weeks, frequently not arriving home until 1-2 AM after having arrived there at 8AM, seven days a week. I find myself torn between hating it and not hating it: I surfed the internet freely for hours on end, fell asleep in the office on a couple occasions, read a lot, but at the cost of nearly losing my girlfriend and my best friend. We hired any schmuck off the street, registering them to vote, making sure they had a driver's license and a social security number. I filled out their I9s and W4s, made them sign on the dotted line, and passed the information along to campaign HQ in Columbus. Interviews were cursory: Could you walk up to people and make sure that they were registered to vote and make them sign a petition? Are you an American citizen? A resident of the state of Ohio? If you can answer yes to all three of these questions, you can work for Ohio Learn and Earn.

My employment began in May of 2006, around the time I should have graduated from BW, at the Cleveland office, located on St. Clair Ave. just outside of downtown. I help my boss, MVS, open up the office. My position was of a team leader, getting paid $15/hr to oversee people petitioning and petitioning myself. Every day for roughly 3 weeks I would drive from Munroe Falls to Cleveland to carry around my clipboard, ask for signatures, and coordinate our groups. Given how I wasn't terribly proficient at gathering signatures, my time with the Learn and Earn campaign nearly came to an early end and maybe that would have been for the best.

But I took a transfer to the Akron office, at that time located on Exchange Street. The first day in Akron took me to Youngstown - and I now gather that's where it should have ended. We sent people from the Akron office all over the Southeastern tier of the state, from Youngstown to Cadiz, in addition to local places like Fairlawn and Highland Square. My new boss, AC, seemed to take to me much more than MVS. A position in admin opened soon after I arrived - and the place was a wreck. The office holder prior to me had records everywhere and people weren't getting paid.

People, working for a campaign that was supposed to espouse "progressive" values, managed to not get paid. I went down to Columbus for one weekend to sift through all of the files from the office and compare them against records at headquarters. Slowly people managed to get paid, but some sores still laid open. After three weeks of one petitioner - who had quit - not being paid, after every angry phone call received and pleading phone call made to correct the error, after every "the check is in the mail" response I got on this woman's behalf, I took $300 of my own money and paid her for the hours she had worked in the pay cycle. An employee, who I will only ID as Steve, had similar issues. Entire days were missing out of his payroll when there was documented proof of his working. On my last day Steve told me not to worry about them and that he was hiring a lawyer. On multiple occasions, AC was forced to call the police and have them resolve issues with angry employees. These people were angry.

Rightfully so.

I was angry for them.

Following a comment I had left on Plunderbund, officials at Ohio Learn and Earn followed a link to this blog and found the previously mentioned post. I didn't try too hard to justify them keeping me, by that time I was too exhausted to have any fight. I accepted being terminated and on the last day, signed the non-disclosure agreement. I packed up all of my personal office supplies into the back of the car and I left Ohio Learn and Earn not wanting to deal with politics for a long time, at the very least.

I got a call immediately after the election from a coworker, JD. He had continued working in the Akron office after petitioning had been completed and did actual campaign work for Ohio Learn and Earn as an internship w/ U of A. He appeared on a Cleveland-area news channel to inform the burden of Learn and Earn: campaigners had not been paid after the election, the office was closed up, and a sign... that the check was in the mail.

Such was Learn and Earn.

The check's in the mail.



Jill said...

Ryan - thank you so, so much for writing this. I'm going to be reading it a few times. Also - I added you to my blogroll - thanks for having me on yours.

Dave Hickman said...

Why'd we have to get Todd Hoffman at the Ohio Democratic Party after his not-so-honorable stint with Ohio Lie and Earn ???

The entire Ohio Lie and Earn operation was a scam... but you never would have noticed if you judged it completely off of Hoffman's sickeningly sweet BS about how OLE was supposedly all about education.

Yeah right... now we Democrats have to endure this con artist named Todd Hoffman. Thanks a million Chris Redfern... great hire... not!

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