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I worked for as a manager for GCI in Portland, OR, and experienced all the awful conditions described and more. The truth is, Green is totally correct in saying that those of us who go to work for someplace like GCI (especially as managers) do drink the Kool Aid. I fully believed that I would be doing something good for the world, making some kind of measurable difference, and getting my foot in the door of a political universe that I badly wanted to work in. And I'm not a rich kid, making it that much harder for me to make it economically while working the insane hours and neglecting my own health and safety in service of some lauded "greater good."
So it wasn't until I was sexually assaulted while canvassing, in an environment that went directly against the rules set out by the home office (though such rules were never followed) that I realized I had been duped. Because I am strong, self-aware, and have self-defense training, I was able to fight and wasn't hurt, but when I reported this to my immediate supervisor, she told me I had brought it on myself and forbade me from telling our workers. That was my moment of disillusionment: I was canvassing for the ACLU and being silenced -- it was the worst kind of irony. I spent a week trying to decide what to do, weighing the reality of not being able to find other work (I ended up working retail after drawing unemployment for three months) with the knowledge that not only was I working unbelievable hours without overtime, meal times, or even bathroom breaks, not only was I being pressured to spend what (little) time I had off socializing with my coworkers (for group cohesion, they said, much like a drill sergeant or fraternity pledge master), and not only was I being told not to call my parents or try to spend time with my boyfriend (like a cult), but that, as manager, I was responsible for creating the same work environment for my employees. I was supervising mostly 18-yr old young women and was putting them in the same, harmful, dangerous positions that led to my assault. I was lying or misleading the people whom I interviewed, hired, and then fired, often in the span of a few days. And I was complicit in gross legal injustices, like denying paychecks to people who'd worked half-days and then left or hiring based on the dubious rubric of "gut instinct" (which, as it was explained to me, often boiled down to classism or, as its worst, racism, as I was told to only hire "people whom you'd want to approach on a street" and was scolded for hiring anyone who looked vaguely "non-traditional.")
So now when I see canvassers, I say I'm sorry. I stop and ask how they're doing, make sure they know that there are a lot of people who've been in their (uncomfortable) shoes before, and try to say that there are other jobs out there. The sad fact is, though, that there aren't many, and the only reason someplace like GCI can function is because a lot of us have had few other options.
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