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"The Fund for the Public Interest"


I was recently hired and fired by "The Fund for the Public Interest". I was a little annoyed until I found out that the unprofessionalism with which they treated me is actually routine for their organization.

My experience:

I found the canvassing job via craigslist. I thought, "Sure. I'm an activist. I have canvassing experience. That mind be a great summer job for me." I applied and within a few days, "based on my resume," I was asked in for an interview. When I got to the interview, I was greeted by a few young (and yes, hippie-looking) people as well as two giant 30-something warehouse employees who were also applying for the position. Now, I'm not saying these two people were less qualified than I, but I had the suspicion that the content of my resume had little to do with my being considered for the job.

I was interviewed and within a few days, I received an e-mail from "The Fund for the Public Interest" congratulating me on my employment with their agency as well as directions to their website. When I went on the website, I read that the hours would be 11AM-4PM, 5 days a week and that pay would be $350/week. SO far this was sounding pretty good and pretty straight forward.

When I called the Boston office, however, I was informed that my hours would be from 2PM-7PM. When I asked about this, they said they could switch me to the cambridge office where the hours were 11AM-4PM. An easy fix. Despite this minor setback, everything seemed to be going alright.

The first time I noticed something wrong was during the optional "Leadership Event" In inviting me to this event, they asked me to bring along all my friends and told me that it would be a causal, laid back atmosphere. Thankfully, I didn't think that sounded great and declined to ask anyone to tag along. There was nothing casual about the atmosphere. We were lectured for an hour and a half about what "The Fund for the Public Interest" does with out actually getting any solid information. In the middle of the event, we were all required to, with 5 minutes of training, go out on the street and canvass for a petition. I also learned that the hours would not be 11-4, but 8AM-5PM(or later, as late as 9). Despite this slightly unusual procedure and blatant dishonesty, I thought "Well, I could make it work for at least the summer."

When I got home, I started to read the employment papers we were required to sign. Apparently, in the event that the quota number of hours is not met, the pay drops to $8.00/hr, significantly less than before. I also learned that there are no sick days allowed and it is not possible to leave the job early on one day to see the doctor (even though many clinics, like mine, only remain open on weekdays from 8AM-6/8PM).

I arrived the next day at 8 AM and spent an hour waiting to get started. I was asked if I knew the "rap" and I did know some of it. Then the head of the office made the executive decision to skip all canvassing training and have us practice the "rap" for an hour straight. We then went off to our sites. By the way, the head director failed to mention to me that we needed Environment Massachusetts t-shirts, or to give me one at all. Canvassers and Managers alike were required to pay their own way to the sites.

At the site, my manager (who was actually very nice) gave me 2 minutes of training and a half hour of observation before having me start canvassing. The site was extremely low traffic and it was raining. The only person who gave me any money was some one who had worked for the Fund the previous summer.  I asked her if she wanted one of the job flyers and she said, "Oh no,  after last summer, I would never work for the fund again," and left.  After coming in just under my quota (which I was never told before hand), I was brought back to the office and was eventually dismissed in a very strange and wandering conversation.

At this point, I was a little pissed.  To have lied about my hours was bad enough, but to have wasted my time when I could have been seeking other employment? Not so cool. I think that the least they could do is be honest about their hours and tell prospective employees that their first day could be their last. (Esp. if they hire them as far as 3 weeks in advance.)

BTW, the "Fund for the Public Interest" is known by several names:
- The Fund for the Public Interest
- The Fund for the Public Interest Research
and in some (but not all) cases:
- Environment Massachusetts
- Environment California
- The Sierra Club
- HRC
- US PIRG (any state PIRG organization)
If you are canvassing with any of these organizations, you are probably working for The Fund.

When I looked around anyone who'd found "The Fund for the Public Interest" to be dishonest, I found articles and complaints dating back to 2002 of their unfair treatment to their employees.  Ultimately, I think I should blame myself for having not researched the job thoroughly before putting all my eggs in one basket.

Links:
The Fund is Lying to you
The Fund For the Public Interest Research SCAM
Should I take this Job?
Rip-off Report: The Fund for the Public Interest Research 
Overtime Class Action Lawsuit filed against The Fund for the Public Interest Research.
Why the Fund, Public Interest Research Groups, and Grassroots Campaign Inc have gone so wrong for so long.

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