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Thoughts from Cuckoo HQ
Apr 14

Event Volunteers Suing Live Nation

Over in the States a group of volunteers have filed a class action lawsuit against Live Nation and its EDM partner Insomniac. The volunteers are basically seeking pay as they feel they were used instead of paid employees.

If you know anything about us here in Cuckoo then you probably know how highly we regard volunteers in general and especially in the events world. We've long understood that events, on all sorts of scales, simply would not happen in this country if it weren't for volunteers. 

We even wrote this blog post entitled We Need To Stop Treating Our Event Volunteers Like Shit a while back. 

Those involved in taking this lawsuit would seem to think Live Nation see volunteering in a slightly different light. 

What's in the law suit?

The law suit is claiming the following:

  • That the companies (Live Nation and Insomniac) used volunteers instead of paid labour but failed to compensate them for their efforts
  • That this is in breach of the Fair Labor Standards Act
  • That under the act each of the volunteers is entitled to $7.25, the federal minimum wage, and they are seeking to recover the monies owed
  • That the companies misfiled the workers as volunteers so as to avoid paying them and overtime
  • That they failed to track the hours worked by the volunteers
  • That at the Nocturnal Wonderland event the two companies failed to provide rest and meal breaks for the volunteers

The lawsuit goes on to cite that recruiting was done via flyers that promised "meals, water, parking and time off to enjoy the festival" as well as hands-on experience in festival operations. The volunteers taking the case claim they received none of what was promised to them. 

It also seems that the volunteers paid a refundable deposit to the companies which was to ensure they performed their duties. The lawsuit is calling this 'the volunteers effectively paying the companies so they could work'. 

What will come of it?

Who knows? 

Honestly, who knows. I THINK it's the first time this kind of challenge has been taken so it'll be interesting to see how it pans out. 

Live Nation are big and powerful and I'm sure they have a crack legal team. If everything alleged in the suit is true then, to be fair to Live Nation, from my perspective, they're not the only ones at it.

Plenty of event companies / promoters / festival organisers etc. take advantage of volunteers.

Our Approach

We get inundated with emails and CVs from people most of whom are offering to work for free as unpaid interns or as volunteers. Generally these are students or people looking to dip their tow in events to see if they like them. 

Now, don't get me wrong, volunteering is fine. I'm all for it. My thing is simply that if Cuckoo are taking people on in volunteering roles or unpaid roles then we want to be sure it's benefitting them. We don't view it as free labour. We want it to be as beneficial for them as it is for us. To this end we spend a lot of time meeting and interviewing people when we have roles available and we look to put a plan in place to ensure the people we bring in are learning and find it worthwhile. Even where they're 'volunteering' we generally find a way to pay them something, whether it's expenses or a hoodie or whatever.

That's us. 

I'm sure WE don't get it 100% right all the time but we definitely try to and that's the difference. 

And on that note if you've an interest in volunteering at events then I suggest you check out Event Volunteers. They have a great set up and volunteers get training and get to work on some great events.

Ask for Stuart and tell him we sent you. 

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