Yesterday we told you about those homeless folk in Austin who were being put to work as wi-fi hotspots for SXSW. Well the internet kind of went nuts over the story that read eerily like a Portlandia sketch, so the New York Times came in and did a follow-up that revealed something shocking but hardly surprising: the homeless men hired to act as wi-fi hotspots are being only being paid $20 a day for their work.
Saneel Radia, the director of innovation at BBH Labs who oversaw the project, said the company was not taking advantage of the homeless volunteers. He said that the company had had success with other such experiments, including one in which it gave homeless people in New York cellphones and Twitter accounts as a way to call attention to their plight.
Mr. Radia said he modeled the hot spot project after the street newspapers that homeless people sell for a dollar.
“We saw it as a means to raise awareness by giving homeless people a way to engage with mainstream society and talk to people,” he said. “The hot spot is a way for them to tell their story.”
Um, okay — try telling that to the Labor Department officials who hopefully will go knocking on Bartle Bogle & Hegarty’s door for violating the country’s minimum wage laws. I’m sure that they’ll totally go for the “we weren’t employing them as much as we were giving them a platform to tell their story” line.
People are the worst sometimes.