8/25/2014

Burning Man Closed for the day - Who it may hurt


Word has come down from on high that entry to the event-site where Burning Man takes place is forbidden due to rain. While those not yet on the playa this Monday of the 2014 burn that will not be let in are definitely impacted the rain might have other impacts as well. While certainly not confirmed, it may at least be a headache for some management types in the various departments.

Though it may not be widely known, volunteers from a few different departments may earn a free or reduced price ticket for the year following the one they are currently working, if they work enough. So, perhaps one needs to work 30 hours in 2014 to get a free or reduced priced ticket in 2015. How a day of closure due to rain impacts a system that relies on people to work for X number of shifts, or hours, to get a ticket is unclear. It will likely have some managers scratching their heads and leave some volunteers, who may rely on the reduced or free ticket to be able to attend, wondering what to do.

It is unclear how the various departments deal with such a situation such as a whole day of missing shifts.

Whether or not a day of closures has an impact on those working towards a free or reduced price ticket something certainly should be done to more properly and assuredly compensate the volunteers who make burning man possible. With a different policy for almost every different department one can have people working the same amount of hours getting totally different consideration for their work, ending up in either a piece of swag and a thank you, or a ($380) ticket and some hot meals.

Myself personally, having been in a situation where getting a ticket as consideration for work would be a deciding factor on whether or not I could attend, and knowing other volunteers who were concerned that they weren't going to have enough shifts to get a ticket for the next year, I feel something more needs to be done. Leaving those that work for you, which enable your event to take place, effectively in limbo, is not the best thing for the organizers of burning man to do.

Volunteers who commit to work a significant amount (like 10-15, or more hours) for burning man should get a ticket, or a reduced priced ticket. It is understandable that the organizers fear people not showing up for shifts while seeking to retain people by giving them a ticket for the next year, but this situation that leaves volunteers stressed out that they might not get a ticket because they are 2 hours short of it is just silly.

As well organized as burning man is, and some things are very well done, there is a lot to be desired in other areas. While leaving the various departments and managers to decide on budgets and compensation might allow them to work better and more autonomously in general, the compensation of volunteers who work hard and make burning man happen should be the same across the board. And, that compensation, or consideration, should err on the side of giving more to the volunteers, not less.

While it is unclear whether or not a day of rain will make someone lose a chance of a ticket, If I myself were on the playa, and in a situation where I may be working towards one, I certainly would be a bit stressed out about it and it would likely be one of the first things I'd be asking a manager about when I could. Perhaps they've got it all under control, and people will be given a mulligan for the shifts they committed to. Perhaps this is all just useless pontificating. But, it remains an unequal system overall for the volunteers. And that, rain or no rain, should be fixed.