Most people who attend CAMRA beer festivals understand that these events are organized and staffed entirely by volunteers. But what they may not know, until they sign up to volunteer themselves, is that tremendous leeway is given to choose when to work and what duties to perform…
Last week, at a certain branch’s festival, Mr Fueled by Beer was confirmed to work back-to-back shifts of bar work. So imagine how he reacted when, after traveling at personal expense by bus and train, instead of being directed to his bar assignment, he was given a large black plastic trash bag and told to go out in the field and pick up litter.
Let’s just say he was ‘disappointed’.
Now I know each task has to be performed by someone but Mr Fueled by Beer specifically didn’t sign up for this one. As a matter of principle he doesn’t pick up other people’s trash, not even his own kids’ since they’ve been old enough to know you don’t just toss trash on the ground.
So he invoked his right to refuse the work under CAMRA’s Volunteer Charter whose opening paragraph states:
CAMRA recognises the importance of its volunteers. CAMRA volunteers are people who contribute their time, energy and skills to support CAMRA without payment. They are the lifeblood of our Beer Festivals We believe that it is important that you enjoy any volunteering you undertake. As a volunteer, you have the right to say no to any activity that you do not wish to take part in or with which you feel uncomfortable.
If all I had to do was say no you may be forgiven for wondering why I am making such a big deal about this incident in a blog post?
Well, before I decided to say no, I did actually start walking around the field and in the marquees to see what was involved. And I couldn’t help noticing that several other volunteers were also wandering around the field with black plastic bags — and they were already stooping down and picking up trash.
What bothered me was that nobody was wearing protective gloves (I wasn’t offered any) nor did anyone have any tools like litter grabbers, etc. And the thought occurred to me: not only was this process exposing them to the health & safety risks from various solid and not so solid waste typically produced at a beer festival, they were exposing themselves to potentially far worse.
You see, just days before, this was an open field in a city park where Fido is allowed to bound around off-leash depositing what any Fido left to nature will happily leave behind. And since I’ve observed enough lazy dog owners to know that some of the piles do indeed get left behind, I knew the chances of that half-eaten bratwurst actually being sun-dried dog poo was pretty high.
This is what I mean by “How Not To Treat A CAMRA Volunteer.”