Phoenix Comicon “All Hands” Meeting Recap

Well, here we are. In a topic I thought I was going to be done talking about for awhile has pulled me back in. Let me be frank right off the bat, I have no horse in this race and because of that, I will leave my opinions out of this. The information below is just to share with attendees/staff that is interested in knowing what is going on with the largest convention in Arizona.

The Phoenix Comicon meeting was held at the Phoenix Convention Center and was open to anyone wanting to attend. Just using the eye test, I would guess around 150 people were present for the meeting. The point of the meeting was to give people to chance to ask any questions on the two potential staffing models: Paid staff or staff via the Blue Ribbon Army. The meeting opened with convention director Matt Solberg apologizing for the first of two emails that had been sent out (the first one he is referencing is the one that was leaked and got an exhibitor banned), saying it could have been worded better. He then went on to explain the two staffing options, saying there won’t be a third but the current status quo is too risky.

He touched on the “Paid Plan” which would require less staff and be easier to manage because they can pay staff to work longer hours (which would be 8-10 hours a day). The biggest downside to this plan is that the number of positions would be reduced, leaving a lot of people not able to be staff. He explained using the “Blue Ribbon Army Plan” which would not change much of the current staff structure and the downside to that plan was having to join a group. He then used a Groucho Marx reference along the lines of “I don’t want to belong to any group who would have me in the group”.

At this point, he welcomed people to stand in line at a podium to ask him questions. This will all be paraphrasing with the most important information from each question and answering being accurate.

Would paid staff be working 40 hours?
Yes. Longer shifts can be given in the paid plan.

Does work that is done leading up to the convention get take into account in the paid plan?
Yes. There will be an hourly wage for all pre-convention work. It is also explained some positions “examples of software developer and photographer” will be independent contractors, not employees in the paid plan.

Will staff benefits change under the Blue Ribbon Army plan?
Benefits won’t change much under the Blue Ribbon Army plan however, in the paid plan, they do. The employee is being paid to work a shift so benefits such as meal vouchers and comped hotel rooms would no longer be in the plan. Additional free badges for friends/family in the paid plan is still to be determined.

What is Matt Solberg’s involvement in the Blue Ribbon Army?
Matt has resigned from his position in the Blue Ribbon Army and unbound his equity in the Blue Ribbon Army. Square Egg Entertainment is still a corporate member of the Blue Ribbon Army, meaning they are like a sponsor of the group.

Another non profit group called the Thunderbirds are used to staff the Waste Management Open (golf tournament) and the open will donate a financial sum to the Thunderbirds after the event. Someone wanted to know if Phoenix Comicon would do the same with the Blue Ribbon Army.
No answer at this time but it shows that other organizations use non profits to staff an event.

The same person who asked the previous question wanted to know “because of the elections in November” what will Phoenix Comicon do to heighten security?
No comment as any comment would give people the chance to learn about the the security procedures of the convention.

A staff member from C2E2 wanted to know if it would take six months for employees to get paid from Phoenix Comicon under the paid plan because that is how long it takes with C2E2/ReedPop.
Matt didn’t it would take longer than a week or two after Phoenix Comicon to pay employees as they would use a payroll company.

Would people have to interview for staff positions under the paid plan?
Yes. It would not be a guarantee that staff who have held a position in the past would still get the same position.

Do you get terminated after Phoenix Comicon under the paid plan?
Yes. It would be an employment contract to work the event, similar to a seasonal job.

Would independent contractors have to take of their own taxes under the paid plan?
Yes. Independent contractors to report their earnings for tax purposes.

With the paid plan and a drastic change in staff positions, would departments be eliminated?
Matt says restructuring could and probably would happen under the paid plan but they have not broken it down yet.

Is paying to be a member of the Blue Ribbon Army tax deductible?
Not as far as Matt knows.

Someone had a concern about cutting staff positions and Matt says there will always be a reduction in staff. Some of it is redundancy and other is parity (someone working 26 hours during the con versus someone who works 12 during the con).

No plans in dropping the age minimum past the age of 18 to be staff under either plan.

Laws dictate the amount of breaks/lunches and when under the paid plan and a floater would probably be used to cover your shift while on break/lunch.

Someone wanted to know what is stopping someone from paying the $20 member fee under the Blue Ribbon Army plan, collecting their badge and still not carrying out their duties.
Matt would like to believe if someone is paying the $20, they will do the work but people will always try to game the system.

Will the 40 hours of work under the paid plan be just during the con or include time worked before/after?
Both.

That about wrapped up the Q&A portion of event, next up was how to vote. To place your vote, you had to have been a staff member last year and you will need to email your director to place your vote. While Matt appreciates the input from all parties, he wants to know what the staff wants and hence, are the ones allowed to vote (he mentioned something about knowing things can be hacked). However, he did say the votes were non binding and the decision is still in the hands of himself and his directors and they are not stuck with the plan forever (meaning that they could do one plan this year and try the other one next year, etc). The names of people voting will be cross referenced with the list of staff members from last year. The event ends with Matt saying he and his directors will still be available for additional questions afterwards and that there is a table outside of the room with free Phoenix Comicon ’16 shirts and buttons.

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