Changes are headed to Phoenix Comic con this year. The large volunteer community needed to help make the convention run smoothly will now have to join a non-profit social club before being considered for a volunteer position. According to Matthew Solberg, convention director of Phoenix comic con, the changes stem from problems with some volunteers not showing up for their positions and abusing their access to the convention. In a long-winded email about the changes being made to the volunteering process, he cited how many conventions are downsizing and losing money.
It also states that their current volunteer program was flawed, grossly disorganized, and not monitored. As I read Mr. Solberg’s email, I couldn’t help but think of the Emerald City Comic con class action suit claiming that the volunteers or “minions” were treated and expected to do functions that paid workers would do. So this brings us to a growing concern. Legally, convention volunteers may not qualify as volunteers at all. They may qualify as workers which entitles them to minimum wage and overtime among other things. So, here is where Phoenix comic con has entered into shady grounds. The one way you can easily call someone a volunteer is if they work for a non-profit.
Que the Blue Ribbon Army Social club! The Blue Ribbon Army started off as an unofficial fan page for Phoenix comic con and has now magically morphed into a 501(c)7 social club! The Blue Ribbon Army has different levels of membership dues, $20 a year being the minimum. This just also happens to be the institution that members will have to join in order to be a volunteer at the con and there are no guarantees that you will be chosen as a volunteer.
It gets worse… Mr. Solberg and Joe Boudrie, director of programming for Phoenix comic con along with the founders of the fan page are the board members with Solberg in charge of finance. It is also important to mention that the Phoenix Comic con parent company Square Egg Entertainment is a corporate member of the Blue Ribbon Army as well. So these board members can write off whatever they deem necessary, have volunteers instead of employees, and can decide if they need say, a bonus. It is important to note that San Diego Comic con is in fact a nonprofit educational organization that brings in big numbers as far as revenue. It has always been a nonprofit organization so its main mission to broaden the public’s awareness of the arts has always been the same.
Now it seems that for profit organizations are sticking their hands in the nonprofit charity bucket not to expose the arts but to line pockets with tax exempt monies.