DPW vs The Org: Labor Relations Board Ruling

Towards the end of last year, we heard about a big case – one that dealt with issues that Burners who create Black Rock City have had for many years with the organization that collects the money and *ahem* saves it for future roadworks. Here’s a similarly themed protest from 2007:

It doesn’t seem like things have changed much in 11 years. BMorg’s attitude seems to always have been “DPW are volunteers, they can leave any time they want, they should be grateful we give them some food and money and social cachet”.

So what happened with this case?

The only media coverage I saw was in the Reno Gazette-Journal, first from 10-year volunteer Jessica Reeder:

In 2014, it all changed. The event was growing faster than the crew. The work got too hard, the days too long, and collectively, many of the crew realized we wanted to “gift” a little less of our sanity and health. A member of my crew started organizing for labor rights.

Burning Man, to its credit, improved working conditions somewhat. It started feeding laborers for the full season, for example, and instituted a transparent structure for those who do get paychecks. However, the company still “encourages volunteerism,”  asks workers to camp in the dirt for months — and last year, fired the crew member who was suggesting we unionize.

My coworker took his case to the National Labor Relations Board. In a settlement last month, Burning Man compensated him for lost wages, and notified the entire workforce of their right to fair treatment under the law. That’s not an admission of guilt, but it also doesn’t indicate innocence. My coworker was not the first to agitate for better working conditions; and whether it’s coincidental or not, the people who complained did not tend to keep their jobs.

It’s shocking to consider that Burning Man, a people-oriented nonprofit, would do anything other than invest in the health and happiness of its workforce. As a company whose strength is its people, I hope Burning Man will take the lead in treating its crew like a valuable resource, instead of continuing to expect them to “gift” their own lives and well-being.

[Source]

The story is not exactly critical of BMorg. Still, it was quickly followed up by another op-ed in the same paper by Joanne Fahnestock

I’m not sure where to begin in my response to Jessica Reeder’s column about Burning Man doing right by its volunteers (“Is 2018 the year Burning Man starts doing right by its workers?,” Jan. 14.)

The obvious first would be: What is the National Labor Relations Board doing getting involved with a volunteer? “Volunteer” says it all. You do not get paid and you can leave whenever you want. If someone wants to change that, it certainly should not occur while you’re accepting the position of volunteer worker.

I agree, the conditions at Burning Man are brutal — hot during the day, cold at night and windy and dusty all the time. You bring your own food, shelter and water. This is all made very clear at the start.

And if it was not clear to you when you signed up, it would be apparent as soon as you got there. You can leave at any time. There is no contract, no obligation. You stay or
you don’t.

One of the 10 principles of Burning Man is gifting time, energy, money, kindness. And it does not contemplate a return or an exchange for something of equal value. Clearly this is a misunderstood principle that neither the workers who filed the complaint, the ones trying to organize or the National Labor Relations Board comprehend.

I have been going to Burning Man for over 10 years and I gift my time. I do not expect anything in return. It is an experience I cannot begin to describe to anyone who has not been there. I expect nothing from the Burning Man Organization. I get so much more than they could possibly give me in dollars.

And when I choose to no longer go to Burning Man, I won’t go.

Doing the right thing is living by the 10 principles. Some are easier than others, but they are always voluntary.

[Source]

I wonder if this preachy person has any idea what it is like in the weeks and months leading up to Burning Man, building Black Rock City. Burning Man is hard enough with free pancakes and carcass washing, spare a thought for the people that are laboring long days in the sun and dust constructing things without any of that infrastructure being available to them.

There were no comments to either of these stories, although the case did draw some commentary from long-time Carson City critic Guy W Farmer. There were a few complaints about the obvious shill story on Reddit:

[Source]

There is some further discussion at this other r/BurningMan thread about the class divide between paid and unpaid workers and the rich tech bro clientele putting $12 million cash in the Org’s bank.

Jessica Reeder’s original story links to the National Labor Relations Board case information, which doesn’t shed much light:

Screenshot 2018-07-17 15.03.35

BMorg retained a notorious union-busting law firm to represent them against their worker.

I followed the instructions to obtain a copy through the FOIA system. Personal Identifying Information has been redacted by the government.

The plaintiff charges that they were dismissed for (1)discussing and (2)protesting their pay and working conditions.

In the settlement agreement, Burning Man did not acknowledge that they had violated the National Labor Relations Act, but paid the employee in full.

The key finding is that DPW have the right to unionize, and BMorg has been forced to inform all its (200) workers of that.

So there you have it. They will “not refuse to rehire” anyone who complains about working conditions. At least, that’s what they say. YMMV.

Here’s the full documentation:

NLRB-2018-000431_Responsive_Records_Redacted_FINAL

NLRB-2018-000431_Responsive_Records_Redacted_FINAL

“Nothing For Sale On The Playa”: 2017 Burning Man Vendor List

I had to file a FOIA request to get Burning Man’s vendor list, even though I spoke to the BLM’s Winnemucca office some time ago and they initially told me it would be no problem to provide it. Somehow that got intercepted, just like the arrest statistic information seems to have been. Maybe #Chocotacogate caused a distraction.

Perhaps it is time to stop the charade that Black Rock City is a world where nothing is for sale except ice and coffee. I count 84 different vendors, none of whom appear to be selling those products. In addition we have BMOrg ($40 million+), the Feds ($4 million), the State ($3.6 million), the Counties (hundreds of thousands)…and whatever black market activity might be going inside a Utopian pleasure city of 80,000 people…and about $100 million being added to the local economy from all the Burners hitting up the casinos, Wal-Marts, gas stations, CostCos and Whole Foods on the way.

Burners vs Bureaucracy

In the wake of the Santa Rosa fires, many Burners wanted to do whatever they could to help. The shelter situation was dire, with 3000 homes destroyed (5% of the total housing stock) and 100,000 people displaced.

Advanced Shelter Systems of Napa stepped up with SHELTERPODs for first responders.

Burners from Camp Epic raised $30,000 to bring their camp accommodation to Santa Rosa to create Oasis Village. 40-ft shipping containers decked out with power, lighting, insulation, and climate control. They got some land donated from a local weed medical marijuana grower, and shipped the containers out, set them up in a village ready for fire survivors to occupy.

And that’s when The Man stepped in to kill it.


Burner-Tainers

Danger Ranger brought the first shipping container to Burning Man in 1997, a military psyops unit used during the Vietnam War.

Burning Man 2008

Since then, containers have become part of the fabric of Burnitecture.

ian ross container 2012

ekoVillages.com upcycled art container

We contributed several containers to the Burner-founded [free|space] project in SF, earning a commendation letter from the Mayor’s Office. However we were very careful to ensure the containers were not used for residential purposes.

freespace mission2

Thanks to Tim Lipton (pictured) for bringing this sad story to our attention

freespace missionst

ekovillages.com up-cycled art containers at [free|space]

 Read more about the [Free|Space] project here:

Temporary Autonomous Zone: Proof the Model Still Works (2013)

 


No Gifting for Santa

Shipping containers are heavy, expensive to move, and in many ways impractical forms of shelter. But they are solid enough to withstand windstorms, and much more comfortable for a family than sleeping in a car.

So what was the problem in Santa Rosa? They were fitted out in Nevada, not California. And they didn’t have windows. So the city said “no way”, leaving the Burners with a foul taste in their mouth, swearing to never do anything in California again – and leaving the families who’d lost their homes still sleeping in their cars. “Cars have windows”, said the building inspector.

Communal Effort and Gifting means Burners want to help others. This is why Burners Without Borders was formed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Many Burners went to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake in the same spirit.

More recently, Burners have created a cryptocurrency for disaster relief and are rebuilding Puerto Rico as a crypto-Utopia.

Unfortunately it seems that in Burning Man’s home state of California “Civic Responsibility” is a buzzkill for the other Principles.

The project was initially lauded in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat and USA Today. Burners Without Borders promoted the fundraiser. Appeals to previous Burning Man supporters Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown fell on deaf ears.

Here is the full story from the SF Chronicle (hat tip to Tim Lipton from Black Rock City’s Volunteer Response Team for bringing this to our attention).


Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.57.52

Screenshot 2018-03-14 15.03.02Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.58.09Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.58.16Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.58.23Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.58.28Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.58.34Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.58.57Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.59.03Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.59.11Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.59.18Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.59.24Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.59.34Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.59.39Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.59.45Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.59.49Screenshot 2018-03-14 14.59.56Screenshot 2018-03-14 15.00.06Screenshot 2018-03-14 15.00.13

Screenshots from SF Chronicle, Feb 25 2018

Read more:

Exclusive Interview with SHELTERCOIN Founder Christian Weber

Burners Building a Crypto-Utopia in Puerto Rico

Burners Building Crypto-Utopia in Puerto Rico

Brock Pierce is perhaps the most famous person in the world of cryptocurrency. He got married at Burning Man, and has much more time for Burners than civilians. He and his friends are living in a Monastery and building a permanent city in Puerto Rico called Sol: a Phoenix rising from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.

See the whole interview with Brock and Tai Lopez here.

The New York Times picked up this story:

SAN JUAN, P.R. — They call what they are building Puertopia. But then someone told them, apparently in all seriousness, that it translates to “eternal boy playground” in Latin. So they are changing the name: They will call it Sol.

Dozens of entrepreneurs, made newly wealthy by blockchain and cryptocurrencies, are heading en masse to Puerto Rico this winter. They are selling their homes and cars in California and establishing residency on the Caribbean island in hopes of avoiding what they see as onerous state and federal taxes on their growing fortunes, some of which now reach into the billions of dollars.

And these men — because they are almost exclusively men — have a plan for what to do with the wealth: They want to build a crypto utopia, a new city where the money is virtual and the contracts are all public, to show the rest of the world what a crypto future could look like. Blockchain, a digital ledger that forms the basis of virtual currencies, has the potential to reinvent society — and the Puertopians want to prove it.

For more than a year, the entrepreneurs had been searching for the best location. After Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure in September and the price of cryptocurrencies began to soar, they saw an opportunity and felt a sense of urgency.

So this crypto community flocked here to create its paradise. Now the investors are spending their days hunting for property where they could have their own airports and docks. They are taking over hotels and a museum in the capital’s historic section, called Old San Juan. They say they are close to getting the local government to allow them to have the first cryptocurrency bank.

Read the rest at the New York Times.

This sounds like a great use of Burner power.

Why devote a year’s worth of energy to building something that is destroyed in minutes? I mean, don’t get me wrong, that can be fun the first few times you do it. Is that all there is though, the pinnacle of Self-Expression is destruction? What about other values, Civic Responsibility, Communal Effort, Immediacy? We can take all the creative and artistic talent, brainpower, networks, and newly minted crypto capital of the Burner community and use that to do permanent good, helping others in need. Gifting things that make a lasting impact to many.

BMorg might tell you “but that’s what we do, Burners Without Borders”! Unfortunately the most recent financial data we have says that they spent less than $8000 on these projects in 2015 and 2016, years in which they took in more than $80 million.

At this point the chances of Decommodification, Inc and their ever-expanding year-round crew saving the world are pretty slim. They would have to become something they quite clearly are not. Look at Flysalen, 2 years to figure out a vision for that, hundreds of people plotting world domination in the hot tub at Esalen…still nothing.  Burners, on the other hand? We know how to get shit done. We can make the world a better place. Many of us already are, like SHELTERCOIN. Puerto Rico needs our help, there are many other disaster-devastated destinations. Why destroy stuff when you can rebuild homes and restore communities?

Or, we can just do the same hedonistic debauched thing every year in the same way, the only thing changing is ticket prices going up and lines getting longer while the quality of the crowd goes down. Eat, sleep, Burn, repeat, forever and ever and ever…

 

CryptoBeast #6 – A World of Infinite Love and Abundance

How do we make the world a better place? Is it by paying $1200 for Burning Man tickets, dropping acid and partying for a week half naked on a bicycle? Isn’t going to festivals just another form of commodification?

New technology is offering new opportunities to truly attain freedom – not just financial independence, but lifestyle independence. Burning Man used to be about rejecting the Default world and embracing something new and better. Now that action has shifted to the blockchain.