Two signature gatherers told to let someone ‘touch them’ so they could use it against the unions
By ED FINKELSTEIN
Labor Tribune Exclusive
In the deceptive effort funded by secret dark money groups to put a phony “right-to-work” constitutional amendment on the November ballot, two out-of-state petition gatherers, when they learned what the petition was truly about, decided they had had enough with that campaign’s dishonesty and were leaving the campaign. In an extensive interview last week with the Labor Tribune, they revealed:
• They were deceived when hired from their homes in California. They were hired to collect signatures for only one Missouri campaign, an effort to preserve Confederate monuments, but when they got here, they were told they would be collecting signatures for two petitions, the other being the misleading RTW effort, without receiving any additional pay.
• They were intentionally deceived about the RTW issue, being told it was to ensure “freedom of speech in the workplace.” They were instructed to tell a potential signer that was the petition’s purpose.
“They lied to us,” said Kani Mc-Millon, 19. “When we told people that it was about freedom of speech in the workplace, they were eager to sign.”
“That was the first RIPOFF,” added Jarrelle Augustine, 20.
• Both were promised round-trip airfare but are now being told they have to pay their own way, and it will be deducted from their pay.
• They were offered a graduated bonus after collecting their 160 signatures a day quota but never saw anything.
• They signed agreements with the campaign after being rushed into the signing but were never given copies. When they asked for them later, they were refused.
BILLED BY CAMPAIGN FOR CALLING THEM OUT
After learning the truth about the intent of the RTW petition and complaining, Augustine was fired. Several days later, McMillon quit as he agreed with Augustine about all the events that happened and that he too was misled.
When he went to collect his 10-day’s pay, Augustine was told he owed the campaign $80 and was accused of fraudulently signed names himself. In a threatening tone, a supervisor told him that signing someone else’s name was a felony but instead of calling the police, the campaign was deducting all their costs from their checks – leaving him with an $80 deficit to the campaign – and would not turn the signatures in.
Both strongly denied the accusation, noting it was a way for the campaign to prevent paying them for calling out the campaign for lying to them and the public.
To make the point they did no such thing, Augustine asked to see the alleged fraudulent signatures because he wanted to sign the same name in his own handwriting to prove he didn’t forge the signatures. He was denied, then fired.
‘WE WERE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF’
“We were taken advantage of and that’s not right,” said Augustine. “We worked like dogs, 12 hours a day non-stop without breaks.”
Both McMillon and Augustine were hired by Advanced Micro Targeting (AMT) headquartered in Las Vegas. Both had worked on previous petition campaigns for other firms and were in a database of potential hires. After a phone interview, they were hired. They said some 50 or 60 out-of-state workers were in their group, and that there were several groups. Less than half stayed for very long. They met paid workers from Mississippi, Ohio and Wisconsin.
They were paid $100 a day, given a place to stay, and required to work 12 hours a day, seven days a week, with the requirement of collecting 160 signatures a day. They paid for their own food.
“If you took a break, they would complain,” McMillon said. “They demanded so many signatures an hour.”
He said that they also learned AMT was being paid $8 a signature, meaning if they collected their 160 signatures a day, AMT was collecting $1,280 while the petition gatherers were only paid only $100. If you assume several hundred dollars in airfare and lodging costs, AMT is making a healthy profit from each petition gatherer, he said.
DISCOVERING THE TRUTH
So, how did they realize they were being lied to about the petition’s true intent?
While asking for signatures, several people told them they were lying, that to “protect workers’ rights and give workers freedom of speech in the workplace” was just the opposite of what they were doing; that they were in fact deceiving the public and trying to destroy unions.
McMillon and Augustine then took some time to research the petition effort and, when they learned they had been deceived, decided they couldn’t continue.
“We believe in workers having the right to collective bargaining and not having to support nonmembers,” the pair said.
“Taking away the unions is not a good thing,” McMillon added. “Frankly, we didn’t pay much attention to the issue when we were told to tell people the petition was to guarantee workers’ freedom of speech.
“We needed to earn the money,” he said, “so we went to work.”
McMillon and Augustine said they worked some additional days after discovering the truth but where not “enthusiastically” trying to get signatures. Some days they turned in only a dozen signatures.
After 10 days, they figured they had covered their own expenses and openly challenged the campaign staff. That’s when Augustine was fired and told he owed the campaign $80. McMillon said he doubts he’ll ever see his money either.
And, given what they now know about how they are running the campaign, the two worry that organizers might take other actions to punish them.
“They have our Social Security numbers and we’re afraid they will turn in negative reports and damage our reputations,” McMillon said, adding that the petition supervisor had already threatened him in a text message, which he shared with the Labor Tribune: “Don’t every apply here again,” the message read. “I’ll make sure you won’t have a job here.”
TRYING TO MAKE UNION MEMBERS LOOK BAD
In addition to lying to the public, McMillon and Augustine said they were also told not discourage anyone challenging them – preferably a union worker – and to “let them touch you,” said Augustine. “We were instructed to get their license plate number or possibly video tape them.”
Why? “To make the Labor guys look bad,” McMillon said. He noted that when they launched the campaign, a lot of people were hassling them and when they reported that to their campaign handler, were advised to “let them touch you.”
Augustine, who has union members in his family (carpenters, laborers and elevator constructors) decided to do some research and discovered the true intent of so-called “right-to-work.” He was angry. He called an uncle who is a union laborer and asked for help in contacting someone with a Laborers local who he could talk with.
His uncle gave him the phone number for Laborers Local 42, and he spoke with President Rich McLaughlin, who in turn contacted the St. Louis Labor Council which contacted the Labor Tribune.
Both young men readily agreed to an interview. They were candid, honest and angry about their treatment, both personally and in the deception of the public. The interview took place at an Imo’s restaurant in St. Charles on Friday, April 27.
In addition to being lied to about the nature of the petition, McMillon and Augustine said as African-Americans, the campaign intentionally placed them in communities with high African-American populations: Ferguson, St. Charles, and Beverly Hills, where, said Augustine, “They felt people would be sympathetic to two young black men asking for their help and would sign without hesitation.”
Don’t engage; Decline 2 Sign
If you encounter a said out-of-state signature gatherer circulating a deceptive pro-RTW petition, telling voters it’s about workers’ rights, when in fact the measure would enshrine RTW in the Missouri Constitution, don’t get goaded into a fight.
These petitioners are also being encouraged to prompt a fight. Some have even been offered a cash bonus for provoking a confrontation with a union member, which could then be recorded and used advertising that supports RTW.