Well, it has certainly been an interesting 24 hours in the Arizona convention scene. News broke yesterday on Facebook about upcoming changes to Phoenix Comicon that dealt with volunteering (from here on is referred to as being staff) and the amount of staff being reduced over the next few years. If you missed it, in short, Phoenix Comicon will now be staffed by a non-profit organization called Blue Ribbon Army which started as an unofficial Phoenix Comicon fan group that has evolved into a “social club” that has membership fees, much like a country club for example (or you can read this). To become a member, a yearly due is required in which you have three choices that consist of different perks (such as being eligible to be staff): $20, $40, and $100.
Now this is what has caused all the fuss. Paying to be able to volunteer your time at Phoenix Comicon. Why the big change in what is a normal practice for comic conventions? Because of situations such as the one Emerald City Comicon is facing. Labor laws when it comes to unpaid labor for a for-profit company gets a little tricky. The other reason for the change is because the system is setup to allow people to collect their badge at the beginning of their shift and never do a second of their responsibilities as staff. You know the saying right, “a few bad apples ruin it for everyone”.
I’m not here to defend this change or rally the masses in some boycott because I disagree. Are there alternative ways to ensure staff show up and fulfill their duties instead of gaming the system for a free a badge? Probably. Will it continue to happen? Probably. This change in staffing will effect roughly 1,300 or less of the 70,000 + people who will attend Phoenix Comicon in 2017. If you’re one of those 1,300 people than you no doubt have a decision to make. For some, an extra $20 can’t be afforded and for others it’s the principal of the matter. Either way, let those people decide, don’t be nasty about it when they make a decision one way or another. Some call this corporate greed, others see it as a necessary step to weed out the untrustworthy but let’s just see how this plays out. If it turns out to be a complete crap show, than I’m sure changes will be made. Who knows, by next week people will forget about this and won’t be the wiser. Either way, I can’t wait for Memorial Day Weekend.