A Time to Change: Unconscionable Contracts and Workers’ Rights to Use Social Media As Concerted Activity

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Since I believe in open and honest communication and people are curious as to what transpired between Change.org and me, here is a fleshed-out version. It is not meant to ruffle any feathers but just a statement of facts that transpired over the course of the last few days.

I was told early Friday morning — before my last law school final and arguably what was supposed to be the best day of my life this year — that all blogging contracts were being terminated. Shocked and upset, I rushed off an email to the “Immigrant Rights” team, asking them to clarify what was going on and whether there was something else in the works.

I received a clarification: they would love to keep me on at 1/3 pay and did not discuss a new contract with me because I was doing my exams. I still don’t understand why it is acceptable to send me a notice of contract termination during my exams but not two sentences about a new contract. It is incompetent communication.

I was noticeably livid and posted on Facebook and Twitter about my disappointment over losing my job. Then I went to take my final exams. That evening, instead of celebrating with my law school classmates, I stayed in and received a copy of my NTA from DHS with charges that made no sense. I was in removal proceedings facing provably false charges and just lost my job, which would have been a tremendous help during proceedings. It was an extremely tense and stressful situation for me and my entire family.

I checked my email later, which had apologies from practically everyone from the owner of the site down to the Editor of “Immigrant Rights.” On Saturday, I was on the phone with the “Director of Immigrant Rights,” who tried to apologize once again and work through a new contract. On Sunday, I was given a new offer with an apology. I accepted the apologies, agreed with the offer and asked for a formal contract to be drawn up.

I don’t need to get into how I virtually built that site and lent credibility to several causes over the last two years. I wasn’t just a blogger — I went above and beyond the call of duty to teach people how to write, organize and even recruit new members for the team. I was a constant model for how to organize using social media. And that is an understatement. But I digress.

Late on Monday night, I was told that the company had issues with my use of social media. They felt disparaged and pointed to a contract provision that stated that I could never speak ill of an employee or the company under the old contract and going forward in the future. I was told an exception would be made for my past use but not going forward.

In typical law student fashion, I pointed out that the contractual provision from the old contract and the new one on the table was
1) unconscionable (standard boilerplate contract)
2) a violation of public policy (per NLRB v. American Medical Response of Connecticut, prohibiting a worker’s concerted use of social media is illegal)

The next thing I hear, there is no contract for me: clearly, a violation  of an agreement-to-agree in good faith.

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Officially a 2L

I should be out partying with other law school friends right now. Instead, I’m holed up in my studio wondering about how to pay for law school next year.

(Unlike U.S. citizens and legal residents, I cannot get loans for school. Grants and scholarships only go some way to covering $65,000 per year).

On my last day of law school exams, I received notice of contract termination from Change.org in fantastic fashion. It wasn’t a wrongful termination so I won’t put up a protest. Actually I have a lot to say about the way in which I was fired the morning of my last 1L final and a few choice words for a lot of people, but this isn’t the right place or time for it. I need to move forward in life and put the work permit to good use and get it renewed before November. The bad thing about a freelance contract is that I don’t get to sue for wrongful termination or collect unemployment. Comparably, if you have a full-time job contract and they terminated it to give you a “better position,” you can actually sue. My favorite subject in law school has been Contracts thus far and I’m glad I learned it well to deal with unscrupulous employers in the near future.

I’ve had pretty terrible experiences with employers in the past. My first blogging quasi-contract was with Brave New Films. They had someone acting with authority promise to pay a stipend of $250 per month that never really came through. I blogged for about 5 months and they never had even the courtesy to admit that they could not compensate my work. Instead, they were unjustly enriched and I probably have monetary restitution claims against them. It’s too bad suing them for that minuscule amount would cost me more money. But I hold all their claims of being pro-immigrant or pro-labor or even progressive as completely baseless and insincere. It’s simply inexcusable. And it’s almost like the same cycle that keeps repeating itself.

Immigration Blogs – October 2009

An index of my immigration blogs for Change.org last month

9500 Liberty: 9-11 Not the Same as 7-11

Waiting for Change

One Step Closer to Lifting the HIV+ Travel Ban

Showdown: Gavin Newsom vs. Sanctuary City Policy

Young Immigrant Women: Pick Your Poison

Citations for Driving While Mexican

USCIS Director Gets Ready for Immigration Reform

USCIS – More Fee Hikes On the Horizon

CNN Misses the Point with ‘Latino in America’

Census 2010 – Count Everyone

Senate Delivers Death to the Widow Penalty

Republicans Have No Plans on Immigration Reform

This Friday – Congressional Briefings for the DREAM Act

Does Obama Get a NOPE on Immigration?

Offenders: The ‘Illegal Alien’ Halloween Costume

How Do You Make A Rabid Right Winger Believe in Global Warming?

Happy Diwali

Portland City Council Calls for Passage of the DREAM Act

Immigration Judge Rules In Favor of Prolonged Family Separation

New Report: Breaking the Immigration Stalemate

Gutierrez Unveils Vague Principles of Immigration Reform

Michigan Parents Being Deported Without Their 3 Young Children

Columbus Day – Celebrating the First Illegal Alien

ALIPAC Feeling Challenged by Volunteer-Run Network

Change at Change.org Immigration

I feel the need to branch out into migration theory and international migration politics. I spend more time reading about the plight of Indian immigrants in Australia, the racist Nick Griffin in Britain and the fight put up by migrant youth in Israel than I do on American immigration politics. More of the same is just lame.

Changes

Alright, so I promised some changes and here they are –

I took a job as a blogger at Change.org for their Immigration cause so it is likely that all my immigration blogging would go there, primarily. You can subscribe to the feed here. I do have a Wednesday blogging duty at DreamActivist and Friday ones at the Sanctuary that I need to learn to juggle.

Duke released some principles for a progressive immigration reform that got front-paged at Daily Kos and published at Alternet. I suggest everyone should check them out and spread it around (http://j.mp/immigrationreform). It’s the single-payer of #immigration reform. I don’t expect Congressional advocates to be moved by it, but we can have some serious and meaningful discussions in the progressive blogosphere to move the legislation to the (real) left.

And I am launching a collective of pro-democracy Fijian bloggers in the coming few months. When Commodore Bainimarama ousted Laisenia Qarase in 2006, I was relieved and considered joining the government. I am not a fan of democracy, since I do realize that a parliamentary democracy is a colonial manufactured concept that may not work in the interest of the islands. Alas, his military reign has continued and he seems to be a know-nothing opportunist, who has sold Fiji out to Fiji Water, deported journalists, censored the media and now rules over Fiji with an iron fist. Enough is enough.

If someone wants to hire me as a new media consultant or communications and outreach coordinator, I have an impressive resume. Really, I am among the best, but don’t let me tell you that. Find out for yourself.

Lessons from New York

I have never been to New York before but it isn’t places that hold importance–it’s people. And sometimes we meet and spend time with people who remind us why we are still residing in this #%#%% country.

I remember when I was a kid, I had made a speech about how friendship was the most important and telling relationship since it was one of the only ones that we aren’t forced to make or keep. This blog has many friendly stalkers and the ones in New York are both special and important enough to keep.

I inherited the red-eye on Thursday, spent the day in company of friends working to stop the deportation of Taha, had a smashing night with little sleep, got dragged to a meeting I had no stake in, spent a much longer part of the day ‘hobbling’ around New York/New Jersey over Taha’s case and partying the night away. I usually detest traveling but I spent quality time with people I love so the trip was productive.

And I did work. I owed Dave 10 blog posts over the course of the week and delivered duly. From the Senate passing the long-awaited hate crime bill to Lou Dobbs, Pat Buchanan and Kris Kobach to ICE breaking laws to apologies for racial discrimination and to the undying DREAM Act. And I learned some valuable lessons.

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