Under the support and guidance of a budding political movement calling itself Socialist Alternative, the bulk of the local fundraising staff for Greenpeace have walked off the job amid demands for a change in employment policy to eliminate mass turnover and the firing of historically prolific donation gatherers.
"I spent about three and a half years at Greenpeace as a canvasser and team leader in the organization," says Joe Hupperich, who is advising the strikers. "After years of raising tens of thousands of dollars for the organization, I 'quota'ed out' after three weeks of low performance."
At issue is a fundraising quota, which employees must meet on a weekly basis or face termination.
Pressure to Perform
"If Greenpeace decides to hire you, you have three days to sign up three members who donate on a monthly basis," says Hupperich. "If you succeed, you've made the staff, at which point you're held to a quota of gathering $150 in committed monthly donations every single week. If you miss that quota by any amount, you go on what's called 'warning,' and if you miss it two weeks in a row you're fired — for longer term employees this extends to three weeks.
"If you experience a death in the family, a shattered relationship — there are life events that can make it difficult to focus. And though you may be grieving, you're under pressure to come to work and meet your quota."
The group on strike, which included 16 of the 19 active San Diego area fundraisers at the time the strike was called on August 5, is seeking a new system in which the amount of cash they're able to gather standing on street corners hawking for the group is considered over a long-term basis.
"Before going on strike, ideas were presented to management, including what we call a 'lifetime quota' system based on how much you're actually bringing in every month," Hupperich continues. "If the donations you've gathered are covering more than your salary, you deserve a little more job security.
"It seems to us that an organization as progressive in their environmental issues as Greenpeace should act similarly on labor issues."
Overall, Hupperich and fellow organizers Andrew J. Mackay and Bryan Kim say a Greenpeace fundraising job isn't bad. "The pay is decent, and they offer benefits after 90 days. It's just that there's no job security."
In addition to hourly wages (most workers average about 33 hours a week and consider canvassing their full-time job), employees receive bonuses for signing up "premium members" — individuals over age 25 who the organization has found to be more financially stable.
Resolution in Sight?
"The biggest news that we have is that the development director, which is a super-high position within the organization, is going to come out here in early September to negotiate with us through a third-party mediator," Hupperich adds optimistically.
Until then, the staff, including most of the experienced trainers for new recruits, will sit on the sidelines waiting for their grievances to be heard.
Following the interview with Joe Hupperich, Greenpeace chief development officer Brian Anderson, responding to a request for comment, said, ”While we work to assess and improve the program, we have immediately implemented a new interim quota system where long term and high performing canvassers could have a longer grace period of up to six weeks to get their contributions back on track. We hope that this immediate measure, along with increased attention to strengthening our canvass program, will make Greenpeace an even better place to work.
“When our staff members express concerns about our policies we take it very seriously. Greenpeace strives to be an organization that treats its employees well and empowers individuals at every level of the organization to speak their minds. I have personally reached out to these individuals to hear their concerns, and we have plans to meet with them in the near future to discuss how the program will evolve.
“We particularly want to address concerns around job security, as we would like to improve our retention and particularly want to honor the contributions of long term staff. Many of our staff in other departments got their start canvassing. Frontline staff contribute so much more than just the money they raise, acting as advocates for the campaigns and bringing energy and passion to the organization. “