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Paid To Protest, Some Homeless Almost Make A Living

Published: November 25, 2012
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Carpenters locals have used hired feet rather than their own workers for picket lines in cities across the country for several years. They may be the only union that regularly does so. A spokesman for the United Steelworkers told the Washington Post in 2007 that paying picketers is not a good way to engender sympathy for workers. The Post's editorial board has harped on the protests as a "cynical use of homeless people to do this dirty work."

Are the homeless workers being exploited? Neil Donovan, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, objects to the practice, saying unions should use their own workers.

"If you’re gonna protest, then protest," Donovan said. "Also, if you’re gonna protest, don’t cause harm to another group of individuals who have something of their own to protest."

While the wages might help homeless workers manage their lives on a day-to-day basis, Donovan said the lack of benefits or job security means the work falls far short of alleviating the bigger problem of homelessness.

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