Hiring The Homeless

A friend recently asked,
“…here’s a topic for you to blog about. Ticket scalpers that hire the homeless to camp out overnight and hold a place in line for them to get tickets for high demand shows. (Like Taylor Swift, which is happening downstairs.) Good thing or bad thing?”

My reply:
I am 100% against ticket scalping. And I’m surprised that Nashville of all places allows it to happen. No doubt there are those in the powerful music industry that are benefiting from it. Hiring the homeless to do the standing in line, well it all depends on how much they are paying the homeless person. A fair wage is a fair wage, regardless. The problem always comes when someone takes advantage of a homeless person and pays them less for the work because they know the homeless person is desperate. If you spend 12 hours in a line and get paid only 10 dollars for it, well, that is just plain wrong. But, I don’t know how much they are being paid. I seriously doubt they are getting paid much.

I once worked at the Titan’s Stadium as part of the clean up crew after a game. There were MANY homeless people gathered just outside one of the gates to the stadium the entire game, all waiting for a chance to be picked for the job of cleaning up after the fans.

I have to tell you, it’s not easy work. Fans get drunk and messy, and they don’t think about what people will have to go through to clean up after them. It seems like part of the celebration is to throw your cheese nachos face down on the ground for everyone else to walk on. Now imagine forty thousand people doing the same thing with their beer and peanuts and coke and hotdogs and snot rags, and chewing tobacco, etc. And think about how the seats are arranged closely together without much room for maneuvering to get under and around the seats. Anyway.

At the end of the game some representative of the company contracted to do the clean up comes out to the huddled mass of homeless people waiting for work. He gives them a good looking over. Then he chooses about half of those for the job. Then he announces how much they are going to pay. On the night I went, the said “$30” for the job.

They don’t pay people according to the work that needs to be done, but solely on the size of the labor pool they have to choose from, and how little they can get away with paying for the work. And, they don’t “hire” anyone, and don’t offer an hourly wage. What they do is contract your labor at a set rate. If anyone in the group they picked for the work complains about the amount being paid, the company representative goes back to the group of not picked homeless and asks, “anyone want to do the job for 30 bucks?” Someone always says yes, and so the complainer is dismissed and the new guy is taken on. Of those who took the job, I’d say about half of them were crack heads and alcoholics, willing to do just about anything for their next high.

It took us over 10 hours to complete the job, which came to making less than 3 dollars and hour for the back breaking work.

Since I’d heard other homeless talking about the job, I thought I’d check it out. Well, I learned my lesson. I won’t be going back to work there again.

Ya know, it’s not like the multi-million dollar pro football industry can’t afford to pay a fair wage for this work. But Tennessee is a “right to work” state, which means unions have almost no power here to help people when employees are mistreated by unfair wages.


About Kevin Barbieux

I have been diagnosed as being chronically homeless. I write about my experiences and opinions of being homeless
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