Our friends at Seattlish just broke the story of a class-action lawsuit filed against the owners of Emerald City Comicon for not paying their volunteers. (ECCC officially calls its volunteers "minions," which is not a very good look; ECCC vendors and talent have complained to us about how "demeaning" that title is on multiple occasions.) Seattlish explains:
According to the suit, the volunteers are expected to work essentially as paid workers would — performing functions necessary to the operation of the convention — but aren’t required to be paid for their labor or their overtime due to their volunteer status.
Seattlish notes that minions "willingly enter into an agreement stating that they’ll work for free," but, as ECCC is a for-profit business, this means the volunteer status could legally be interpreted as nebulous. It's a stretch, but these volunteer positions might be perceived as similar enough to unpaid internships to make things tricky for ECCC; in recent years the federal government has been (rightfully) cracking down on abuse of unpaid internships by for-profit businesses. This story is a very big deal, and Seattlish will be all over the suit as it progresses. We'll keep you posted.