Burned Out By the PIRG


We haven’t forgotten about this blog!
March 15, 2010, 5:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

Apologies for a delay in posts.  The life journey of this blog’s moderator post-PIRG has put me at a wonderful advocacy gig for a national nonprofit.  I am blessed to have found something in this economy and energized by a much healthier work experience.

I know the negativity is rampant here, because that’s what the experience kicked up – but I still vehemently stand by my position on PIRG.  This is only opinion, but my accounts are as honest as I can make them.  I think the things that PIRG states they fight for – affordable higher education, voter education, transportation reform – are MORE than worth fighting for, but their means of getting there are less than ideal.

A crop of reader submissions are coming shortly.



A thoughtful comment

The thing is that it actually is very efficient. Customization takes time, and the model works, so why customize? This blog criticizes the model so much, but why do you think they have been around for 30-something years? The model works, raps work, following the model will get you some degree of success.

That’s part of what is frightening, though–the fact that the model is so calculated and completely successful. The low-retention rate is expected and individuality is discouraged. The problem is that the PIRGs take advantage of natural human traits (e.g. guilt, compassion, loyalty) and twist them to help the organization grow without any consideration for the actual humans they are affecting.



n. another great quote

From the FFPIR.info website:

There is no sin in making a living changing the world. There is no sin in being able to eat, and pay your rent, and go to sleep at night without worrying if the power is going to be shut off tomorrow. Activists who eat, who get sleep, who have a place to live, and know that they can put gas in their car (for however long we have it) tend to do much better work than activists who are starving, hungry and poor. It’s the Rockefellers who have sold activists on the notion that you have to be poor, and that’s for the precise purpose of making you ineffective.”

-Mike Ruppert



m. Keep the comments coming!

It’s encouraging to see current and former staff posting comment reflections of their experiences.  The more, the merrier!

If you wish to even write a post – please leave a comment.



11. The facade

I remember coming out of a training as if it were the end of an army training.  Some hoopla about “we’re gonna be fighting for social justice and social change!”  I felt a little sick inside, because every creepy PIRG method that had been presented to me about how to recruit and organize people seemed to lose all of that in the equation.

Never addressed was how to get to know and deal with these new communities we’d be organizing in.  Sure, they were college campuses, maybe a little set apart from the real world – but the students there still dealt with many very real issues.  Many of these campuses were in urban neighborhoods.  Many of the students, full or part-time, juggled full to part-time jobs on the side, a rigrous courseload, and in some cases, children.

The whole structure of the organization kind of rendered everything we were fighting for to a facade.   I never really felt like I really cared about the textbook-global warming-hunger & homelessness campaigns we were expected to organize on, because we were too damn busy trying to figure out “How many people are going to attend the GIM meeting?!”  “I gotta do my numbers.”  “My tabling rate isn’t too good.”  It was like a constant struggle to re-evaluate yourself rather than fighting for the students you were working with.  Sure, the aforementioned issues drew attention and resonated, but they never really made us think outside the box.

-Amie



10. Is an organization as large as PIRG really “grassroots”?

Like many other former employees, I struggled with that question.  Every day we were told that what we were doing was soooo progressive and soooo grassroots.  But it never really felt that way.

I personally think the groups that are locally-based and made up of community members tend to create the most meaningful change.  You see, the problem with PIRG is that they will place canvassers, organizers, or advocates in a random city that they are not familiar with.  They are then, in many cases, barely expected to brush up on the local politics and force the same national PIRG agenda down people’s throats.  Sure, the state PIRGs do some decent work on state and municipal legislation here and there, but for the most part, every state PIRG’s website looks identical.

The PIRG/Fund/GCI have strangled the left.  Money that could have been granted to and spent on smaller non-profit organizations working on truly local issues has somehow found its way over to the PIRGs because, well, they know how to ask people for money, and do it often.  Sure, they advocate on some decent issues, but why can’t they just stick to the federal level unless they revamp the way their state PIRGs work?  If I would suggest anything to senior staff at the PIRG: make your state offices more reflective of the state you are representing.  Become a part of the fabric of the community – don’t just exist to fulfill cold numbers for the overall national goals.

-posted by CaliforniaDude



9. A good quote from “Lockse”

Not unlike my own blog, many accounts of the PIRG – oft more scathing than mine – exist on the internets – especially in response to the stories on the Fund canvass office in LA that was working to unionize and Dana Fisher’s book, Activism Inc.

In any case, a poster Lockse has a great thought on why the PIRG/Fund/GCI model is so caught up in recruitment:

“Altogether, I’ve become ashamed that one of the central lessons of my years of training–recruit, recruit, recruit–has allowed PIRG/Fund/GCI leaders to fall into the attitude that since there are always more people to fill the ranks, there’s no need to form relationships based on respect and trust.”