"Hired Feet" Protest Low Wages—For Low Wages


Unions hire homeless to do their picketing for them–for 8 bucks and hour with no benefits:

The picketers marching in a circle in front of a downtown Washington office building chanting about low wages do not seem fully focused on their message.

Many have arrived with large suitcases or bags holding their belongings, which they keep in sight. Several are smoking cigarettes. One works a crossword puzzle. Another bangs a tambourine, while several drum on large white buckets. Some of the men walking the line call out to passing women, "Hey, baby." A few picketers gyrate and dance while chanting: "What do we want? Fair wages. When do we want them? Now."

Although their placards identify the picketers as being with the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, they are not union members.

They're hired feet, or, as the union calls them, temporary workers, paid $8 an hour to picket. Many were recruited from homeless shelters or transitional houses. Several have recently been released from prison. Others are between jobs.

"It's about the cash," said Tina Shaw, 44, who lives in a House of Ruth women's shelter and has walked the line at various sites. "We're against low wages, but I'm here for the cash."

But don't worry. The union helped at least one person get a decent job:

William R. Strange, 41, said he started working as a for-hire picket two years ago when he lived in a homeless shelter on New York Avenue. He is now paid $12 an hour because he plays the buckets during the demonstrations.

A few months ago, after a day's picketing across from the National Geographic Society at 17th and M streets NW, Strange went inside and filled out a job application. He now loads trucks for National Geographic's warehouse at night. He still pickets during the day.

Germans have been renting protesters for a while now.

Via Marginal Revolution 's Markets in Everything series.