Obama's high tech campaign sweatshop

Clarice Feldman and Rosslyn Smith
Many others have noted that while Barack Obama is up on his pop culture, he doesn't seem to know much about American history.  One of the drawbacks of having a president who probably thinks the Lowell Mill Girls are a pop group is that he would likely miss the full extent of the irony in Don Mage's  I Was a High-Tech Sweatshop Worker for the Obama Campaign.  

The author details that as a home-working contractor on a piece work rate, he earned less than half the current minimum wage while employed by ChaCha Search Inc, a business that specializes in answering questions sent by text message, email, and voice mail.  It is not known if Obama personally knew about how ChaCha compensated its contractors, but that company featured prominently in Obama's widely praised campaign outreach efforts.  As Mage notes:
Does Obama's relationship with ChaCha matter? Consider his own words, first spoken during a March 2008 campaign appearance in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and later incorporated into his campaign infomercial (transcribed here by Time's Mark Halperin): "If they're able and willing to work, they should be able to find a job that pays a living wage." Obama also favors raising the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by 2011. But despite all of that lofty talk, his campaign still employed ChaCha's high-tech sweatshop labor
The hypocrisy of calling for a living wage while using the service of a company that runs the cyber version of a sweatshop is obvious.  But note also the practice of the political left in recent years to prefer the label "progressive" to that of "liberal".  As someone who was taught in high school about how late 19th and early 20th century Progressives worked to curtail both the practice of paying workers on a per piece basis and the use of homework as often brutally exploitation, I was more than a bit amused by Mage's tale.  Many of the early attempts to organize unions came during economic downturns when the piece rate was cut below point where workers could not earn enough to live on without their entire families laboring 18 hours a day.  

Homework, a practice whereby workers would take items home to finish thus extending their hours and often involving their children in violation of child labor laws, was also considered barbaric.  It was finally outlawed in several apparel related industries by the US Department of Labor in the 1940s with the ban only lifted in more recent years when it was obvious that the proposed home work arrangements such as knitting high end items to be marketed as hand made, were in no way exploitative.  

When I read about the lifestyle of modern labor bosses, see their ties to organized crime and look at how union demands have helped sink entire sectors of the American economy, I often wonder:  If 
Samuel Grompers and Sidney Hillman and the other founders of American organizes labor could return today which side would they be on?  Homeworker Don Mage's or the friends of Barack Obama's like UAW's Ron Gettelfinger and SEIU's Andy Stern?  
Would men like 
Louis Brandies  Robert  La Follette, SrThorstein Veblen,  Andrew Carnegie and Upton Sinclair welcome Rahm Emanuel, John Edwards,  Paul Krugman, George Soros , Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore as genuine political progressives following in their footsteps, or would they find them repulsive foul mouths and grubby self promoters? 

Post Script.  Mage calls himself a contractor, so I assume that ChaCha reported his compensation on Form 1099-MISC.  But from Mage's description of the work that he did, it is certainly arguable that his activities were integral to ChaCha's business and that he was under ChaCha's
supervision and control.  Thus in addition to compensating labor at sweat shop rates it is possible that ChaCha is in violation of the laws relating to the collection of employment taxes.
Many others have noted that while Barack Obama is up on his pop culture, he doesn't seem to know much about American history.  One of the drawbacks of having a president who probably thinks the Lowell Mill Girls are a pop group is that he would likely miss the full extent of the irony in Don Mage's  I Was a High-Tech Sweatshop Worker for the Obama Campaign.  

The author details that as a home-working contractor on a piece work rate, he earned less than half the current minimum wage while employed by ChaCha Search Inc, a business that specializes in answering questions sent by text message, email, and voice mail.  It is not known if Obama personally knew about how ChaCha compensated its contractors, but that company featured prominently in Obama's widely praised campaign outreach efforts.  As Mage notes:
Does Obama's relationship with ChaCha matter? Consider his own words, first spoken during a March 2008 campaign appearance in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and later incorporated into his campaign infomercial (transcribed here by Time's Mark Halperin): "If they're able and willing to work, they should be able to find a job that pays a living wage." Obama also favors raising the minimum wage to $9.50 per hour by 2011. But despite all of that lofty talk, his campaign still employed ChaCha's high-tech sweatshop labor
The hypocrisy of calling for a living wage while using the service of a company that runs the cyber version of a sweatshop is obvious.  But note also the practice of the political left in recent years to prefer the label "progressive" to that of "liberal".  As someone who was taught in high school about how late 19th and early 20th century Progressives worked to curtail both the practice of paying workers on a per piece basis and the use of homework as often brutally exploitation, I was more than a bit amused by Mage's tale.  Many of the early attempts to organize unions came during economic downturns when the piece rate was cut below point where workers could not earn enough to live on without their entire families laboring 18 hours a day.  

Homework, a practice whereby workers would take items home to finish thus extending their hours and often involving their children in violation of child labor laws, was also considered barbaric.  It was finally outlawed in several apparel related industries by the US Department of Labor in the 1940s with the ban only lifted in more recent years when it was obvious that the proposed home work arrangements such as knitting high end items to be marketed as hand made, were in no way exploitative.  

When I read about the lifestyle of modern labor bosses, see their ties to organized crime and look at how union demands have helped sink entire sectors of the American economy, I often wonder:  If 
Samuel Grompers and Sidney Hillman and the other founders of American organizes labor could return today which side would they be on?  Homeworker Don Mage's or the friends of Barack Obama's like UAW's Ron Gettelfinger and SEIU's Andy Stern?  
Would men like 
Louis Brandies  Robert  La Follette, SrThorstein Veblen,  Andrew Carnegie and Upton Sinclair welcome Rahm Emanuel, John Edwards,  Paul Krugman, George Soros , Keith Olbermann and Michael Moore as genuine political progressives following in their footsteps, or would they find them repulsive foul mouths and grubby self promoters? 

Post Script.  Mage calls himself a contractor, so I assume that ChaCha reported his compensation on Form 1099-MISC.  But from Mage's description of the work that he did, it is certainly arguable that his activities were integral to ChaCha's business and that he was under ChaCha's
supervision and control.  Thus in addition to compensating labor at sweat shop rates it is possible that ChaCha is in violation of the laws relating to the collection of employment taxes.