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"unpaid help"/vol. servitude thread

updated mon 31 mar 97


Donna Nicholas on tue 18 mar 97

I read with interest Kevin Hluch's comments on the recent topic --
started by Lee Rexrode's ad for a Volunteer Technical Assistant at
Edinboro University.
A few clarifications to the topics he brought up:
The minimum wage law does not apply to volunteers for non-
profit organizations. Most non profits use barter of studio space,
materials, etc. to compensate the volunteer for his or her work.
At Edinboro the Technical assistant is covered by insurance
under the university's volunteer policy. Thus if he/she is injured
on the job, they are covered.
Volunteer workers are not subject to social security; since
most work between 15 and 20 hours a week, some choose to work a
paying job as well. They pay social security on the money earned
there, just like anyone else.

'Servitude' is a loaded word, since it implies a demeaned or
lesser status to whomever it applies. It also implies that those for whom
the tech works are at best using and at the worst abusing
the Volunteer. I have never met an applicant for a Volunteer Tech
position that seemed desperate enough to undertake 'voluntary servitude'.
The ones I have met see it as a way to give something they have (skills
and time) to get something that they want (free materials, studio space,
a friendly clay community to work in).

In my opinion a truly serious problem exists for all underpaid
entry level workers (including graduate students) when it comes to
medical insurance. I have never met a grad asst. or entry level worker
(as many of my former students are) who can afford proper medical
insurance. This means that routine health problems are not properly
taken care of and major ones can be real disasters. This came to my
mind as I was pondering Mr. Hluch's phrase, 'Voluntary Servitude', and
considering how it might apply to what I have experienced. I would be
interested in knowing of any universities or colleges have low cost
group medical insurance available for purchase by those students not
covered on their parents' policies.
Donna Nicholas