Bil Browning

GetEqual gets organized

Filed By Bil Browning | May 25, 2010 7:00 PM | comments

Filed in: The Movement
Tags: GetEqual, Heather Cronk, Kip Williams, New Organizing Institute, NOI, organizational structure, Robin McGehee

After raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, new activist organization GetEqual has started hiring staff. National Equality March co-chairs Kip Williams and Robin McGehee will be part of the upper management and the New Organizing Institute's Chief Operating Officer, Heather Cronk, will leave her position with NOI to be GetEqual's Managing Director.

colorgraph.pngThe New Organizing Institute is best known for their boot camp trainings for liberal activists. The group is holding an LGBT-specific Boot Camp in early August.

GetEqual was just given $250,000 by Jonathan Lewis, the son of one of the founders of Progressive Auto Insurance. According to veteran activist Larry Kramer, Lewis also paid for the activist retreat at the Highlander Research and Education Center in rural Tennessee in late January.

The organization currently employs five activists including Williams, McGehee, and Cronk. In an e-mail to journalist Michael Petrelis, Williams said that he and McGehee were making "less than $90K per year." He also said the group had spent around $180,000 "since December 2009 to create and launch GetEQUAL" and for the retreat.

The organization's structure still seems nebulous with both Williams and Cronk admitting that some framework still needed to be put in place. "We are putting in place a very diverse board of directors," Williams told Petrelis.

"We have three other staff to help with direct actions, outreach, planning and implementation, but everyone else is a volunteer--no one who has participated in an action that either risked arrest or were arrested were paid for their participation."

"The structure of GetEQUAL is constantly evolving, depending on what we need from staff/volunteers and what assets our staff/volunteers bring to the table," Cronk told me over e-mail. "We're in the midst of re-examining our structure now that I am on board, so that question will be better answered in a few weeks after an upcoming staff retreat."

"Most of the work that GetEQUAL has been able to accomplish has been at the hands of our network of volunteer organizers. GetEQUAL provides structure and support to those volunteer organizers, and will soon be launching an even more thorough system for empowering individuals to take action in their communities," Cronk said. "Of course, GetEQUAL organizes actions ourselves, as well, and will continue to do so in ways that are strategic and targeted in order to move closer to our goal of full legal and social equality."

Williams told Petrelis that the upcoming retreat would also address the issue of transparency.

While Cronk said that neither Williams nor McGehee were NOI Fellows, the site's website still lists Williams as focusing on "organizing activists online and offline to demand legal and social equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer community." Since not-for-profit websites are often slow to update, Williams' presence on the site could just be an administrative mistake.

Williams told Petrelis that he and McGehee were on sabbatical from their regular jobs to do GetEqual work. Williams is also a Bilerico Project contributor.

Follow up questions sent to Cronk, Williams, and McGehee weren't answered by publication.

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And never a single word about how these childish publicity stunts change any minds.

The fact they they haven't attracted any participation is evidence of what most of us know - these stunts are not helpful.

It's a waste of money and this group of self-described "activists" won't last long. We just have to endure the embarrassment a little longer.

You know what the real embarrassment is, Andrew? That our antiquated, backward laws regarding our LGBT citizens make the US the moral laughingstock of the western world. A transsexual pilot serves in Prince William's regiment, but we Americans somehow can't even manage to treat our own LGBT soldiers and civilian workers decently.

That and the even bigger embarrassment that somehow our so-called "progressive" government leaders apparently aren't at all ashamed about any of it.

HOW do the GetEQUAL publicity stunts HELP us?

How do they ADD support for us?

How do they inspire or motivate people?

The issue remains accountability and GetEQUAL has never provided any rationale for these stunts. Perhaps, it is because there is none.

Pissing on our friends (as unreliable as they may be) is NOT a strategy. Demanding - without a real threat, is NOT a strategy.

GetEQUAL's strategy appears to be getting paid to complain. I feel cheated.

90K a year? How much is Cronk getting?

At least we have another HRC! I didn't think we had enough before!

Somebody give Jillian $90k a year.

At least we'll get some thoughtful consideration and not just colorful complaining. I'd rather pay people to think, than to piss on our friends.

First, know that my comment is not directed at the many wonderful GLBT organizations who remain passionate and dedicated to achieving full equality for GLBT citizens. They work their hearts out to accomplish this and have my deepest gratitude for their tireless work.

That said, if we're going to throw our hard earned dollars at a GLBT Rights organizations, we deserve more than lip service and media stunts. I couldn't agree with Andrew about Jillian, she's worked tirelessly in our efforts to get ENDA passed. Jillian accomplished more to bring awareness of ENDA, kept us constantly updated and brought our community together to achieve a common goal. This is more than any of these high paid GLBT org leaders have done. If anyone deserves to receive $90k for their work she does.

It's so very sad and angers me when our passion and responsibility to do our part to achieve GLBT equality, is replaced by the ole mighty dollar. Considering the President earns $400,000 a year, it makes me question if their efforts and time is worth 300,000, $100,000, or $90,000 a year? They earn more money in a year, then most of the people who make donations to these orgs, make in 5 or more years. The salaries of leaders and staff of these so-called GLBT Rights organizations is just plan irresponsible and boarders on pure greed on the back of their supporters.

I've been a grassroots activist for over 20 years, worked on more local, state and national GLBT Rights or Anti-Hate campaigns than I can list in space allotted. I, like many, many others, never receive a penny for our efforts, nor did we expect to be. We do not put a dollar amount on our time or efforts, we take our responsibility to advance the GLBT rights for our youth and members of our community seriously. I believe the boots on the ground activists are the true worker bees of our rights movement and have achieved more than any of this multi-million dollar orgs will ever accomplish.

I donate to at least 5 different GLBTQ organizations because I support their missions and I believe my money is a good investment.

I agree with their strategies and I trust their professionalism.

When I do disagree, I know who to talk to to air my grievances. I can track the progress and evaluate on an annual basis who should get more money, who should get less and who I might stop funding all together.

I am not a stooge being sucked dry by unaccountable organization vampires. It confounds me that so many people beating this tired drum claim to value ordinary people yet act as though we are mindless drones stuffing cash into anything with a rainbow flag.

My only purpose in responding to you is to say this: The groups I fund and my friends fund in my state and at the national level are accountable in ways that these fly-by-night, self-style, cults of personality never, ever are.

So suggest you not support a groups you don't think are worth the investment but I hope you will stop treating those of us who believe differently like idiots.

I'm a union man myself and I want to know my organizations are paying a livable wage from senior staffers to the janitor. I want to know my rights are a full-time focus of smart and dedicated people. My review of the groups I fund shows our community orgs lag in salary, benefits and retirement benefits almost across the board. State and local groups especially those focused on Youth and Students fare the worst.

I think the mentality that people should do this for free is dangerous to our movement especially since our community is notoriously stingy about funding our rights.

Our opponents outspend us dramatically and we are still gaining faster than any other movement in civil rights history.

It is never fast enough. I'll keep my odds and my money with accountable groups, with the infrastructure to get the work done and salaries to draw and keep top talent.

Michael @ | May 25, 2010 8:39 PM


Joe Solmonese makes over $300,000 a year! 15 others makes over $100,000 each a year. Total employee salaries come to over $9 MILLION a year just to open the doors of the BUILDING they own!
Total expenses a year: over $25 MILLION. Over their 30 years, they've blown probably close to half a BILLION dollars, so.....

Jim Stone | May 26, 2010 5:34 PM

Your statement made me think of hard would you fight for equality if you knew that once equality is won there would no longer be a need for your organization and you would lose your job?? Perhaps that is a terrible thing to say but it makes you wonder why the HRC tends to "drag its feet" on issues sometimes.
For instance...we have heard that there is a cure for the common cold out there but the over-the-counter cold remedies make companies millions of dollars. Those millions of dollars can purchase a lot of "cures" and PEOPLE!!!
OMG!! I am starting to sound like a conspiracy theorist!! Forgive me!!

Oh great. One more LGBT organization run by white folks telling the people of color what to do. I'm just so excited! . More retreats? White folks sure know how to spend the community's collective funds (well, unless daddy's little boy Jonathan Lewis bankrolls the whole show. In which case it'll be another example of rich white people pushing their self-interest and self-serving agenda down our throats and masquerading it as full LGBT equality. If we've learned anything at all in our post-Prop 8 organizing world, it's that this is largely a fight for rich white folk's benefits. I predict this ship will go belly up just like the Restore 2010 Campaign. Any more exclusive, whites only retreats to plan our future without our input? Sigh!

Again with the fake allegations of racisim, Nakhone? You know, real racism happens every day without anyone having to resort to making stuff up.

You're just another white gay man covering for your white LGBTs Bil. I don't recall ever saying anything about racism in my last post. This is becoming evident that anytime a minority person such as myself don't agree with your views and have the balls to voice his opinions is subject to being tarred and feathered on the Bilerico Project. Nice! While we're at it, since you're so well versed in suffering from racism within the rainbow, Bil, why don't you recount the many ways that you have suffered at the hands of your own community, by way of racial discrimination? That would be interesting to hear.

Nakhone @ 7:27pm

I don't recall ever saying anything about racism in my last post.

Nakhone @ 2:09am

One more LGBT organization run by white folks telling the people of color what to do. I'm just so excited!... If we've learned anything at all in our post-Prop 8 organizing world, it's that this is largely a fight for rich white folk's benefits.

Simply put and plainly shown, Nakhone, you lie. You don't tell the truth. You make things up.

Nakhone @ 2:09am

Any more exclusive, whites only retreats to plan our future without our input?

The first retreat wasn't "white only."

Your whole argument is that it's a racist org and had a "whites only" meeting and probably would again. It's not. They didn't. They wouldn't.

You lie. Period.

You've done the same thing here before. You've been put on moderation and were given a time out of not being able to comment for a while because of your lies, your baseless allegations, and not being able to have a rational discussion without having to resort to reliance on lies and personal attacks.

This is your only warning, Nakhone. You can join the conversation if you'd like, but you have to be truthful or there's no point in engaging.

Could we please stick to the subject of the article, which unless I am mistaken was the political nature of "GET EQUAL" who is an who isn't paid to rant, instead of going off half cocked on someone else's rant. Ranting among each other is not what BILERICO should be about. Sure we have personality differences speak your peace and let the chips fall where they may. The gist of your article was White guys and I immediately knew that you were a ranting person of color be you white, yellow, red, brown, or black we should all be in this fight together. Please now keep the personalities to yourself.

Michael @ | May 26, 2010 4:11 AM

Excuse me?

Dan Choi is a person of color, and he works with GetEqual and he attended the civil disobedience training retreat.

Race baiting doesn't look good even by someone as pretty as you. But you've played that card so well before against....wait for it, Dear Readers...Robin McGehee when she was organizing NEM...why should you stop now. Is there some other guest speaker contest or the like you're trying to extort her into accepting whom YOU think should win by yelling "Racism" as you did last year?

We think we liked it better when you declared,
"I am washing my hands from the LGBT movement because I no longer believe in this fight for equality."

Big hug.

It really doesn't matter. There are 20 million LGBT persons in America. Maybe 20 are involved with GetEQUAL. They hyped Harvey Milk Week of Action with EQA and all across America only 2,000 people participated. 100 in LA and less than 200 in NYC. Nobody is following GetEQUAL's childish brand of self-described "activism." It is embarrassing.

Last night Obama said "hey nice to see you again" (all ONE of you) after being interrupted by Kip Williams - the head clown. Not only did Obama laugh, but everyone in the room and the media did, too. The media, thankfully, continues to ignore these childish stunts.

Is that what we're after? Laughs? Because we got some good ones last night.

Activists that have been in the struggle for many years are now distancing themselves from GetEQUAL's lunacy. They understand that "pissing on our friends" in counterproductive. GetEQUAL is counterproductive.

This is crazy. How many more of these vanity projects are going to be mucking up our real efforts? GetEqual, Equality Across America, there is a new one every other day and the mission statement seems to be the same: "Whine, whine some more. Throw a tantrum. Self aggrandize and then go back to whining."

GetEqual has the nerve to talk about Gay Inc., and the Gay Org elite when they are slopping from the same trough.
They don't work for "the community" they work for Jonathan Lewis and his checkbook caddy Paul Yandura.

In case no one else will tell you guys: We are moving forward despite your melodramatic publicity stunts and faux martydom.

As a private citizen and proud QUEER veteran please tell me what I can do that is more than the writing of letters that I am now doing. While I didn't drop my drawers when the mayor of Eugene rallied to the U of O campus to support the LGBT when they came up with the cockamamie plan to throw free speech off the University Campus. Yes it was a GET EQUAL style tantrum that was not well thought out; all the while our Mayor ignores supporting DADT to repeal this law in a letter to our Congressional Delegations. She is fully aware that over 10,000 soldiers have been discharged under the 1994 public law of which 800 were critical skills and 322 were linguists so I find that her, feel good, response is an insult that fortunately died quickly. In the past I have offered to provide anyone who asks for a copy of the letter similar to the one advanced by the Lane County (Oregon) Commissioners sent to the same Congressional Delegations. Nobody asked for a copy from BILERICO so I can only assume that GET EQUAL holds sway to our own rank and file. All that I can ask is that everyone of you do something to advance your QUEERNESS in any way that you can and let the chips fall where they may.

Exxon Mobil annual shareholders Meeting:

Last year 40% of shareholders voted in favor of "partner benefits."

This year 22% of shareholders voted in favor of "partner benefits."

Almost HALF the support we had the previous year.

For the previous 6 years in a row we made progress. This year, we were all treated to GetEQUAL's childish "Dump the Pump" protest, which sought to inconvenience people AT A CONVENIENCE STORE, another senseless act of demanding.

People do not respond favorably to complaining and that is GetEQUAL's only strategy. We need to fully understand the dynamics of this over-the-top embarrassing and pissing on our friends. It is counterproductive.

Kip Williams claimed in his email to Michael Petrellis that "activists participating in the actions were volunteers" and that "none of them were paid." Then we learn that both Robin McGehee and Kip Williams are PAID and both have been arrested.

I have asked a dozen times for someone, anyone, to please connect the dots about the logic of these stunts. They are not civil disobedience. They are not rallies of support. They are high-profile complaining stunts purportedly to "apply pressure" on their targets. That is silly.

We should recognize the potential damage being created by these loose cannons. THEY have a responsibility to make some sense of their strategy. We do not need to run around complaining, embarrassing and insulting. Those "actions" don't change any minds or garner any support.

Andrew W. Have you ever considered that complaining is all that some of these "High Profile" entities such as Get Equal are capable of in their own minds. It might be worth our time to educate them in a better way instead of dissing them in articles that they won't read anyway. I just hope that there is a better way at the end of the tunnel. I for one am getting so tired of the spam that is coming from these groups that ultimately wants donations for their ranting. I don't know the reason that support is down by 50 % except that you say so for "Partner Benefits". It is easy to rant on both sides and it doesn't amount to a hill of beans as my grandmother would have said so many years ago. So my advice is to either ignore the ranting or work to change their tune and dance.

Thank-you for your thoughtful comment Daniel.

There are many people working very hard to create real, sustainable solutions. In the meantime, these childish stunts are counterproductive. They are hurting us - all of us.

Bill Perdue Bill Perdue | May 27, 2010 12:11 AM

Table A-1. Current and real (constant 1982-1984 dollars) earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls, seasonally adjusted for April 2010 is $766.23 per week or $39,843.46. per annum. That plus benefits is all anyone needs. If people want to go on vacation, even if they call it a retreat, that's fine. Vacations, travel expenses, eating out, entertainment and etc. should come from the $39 grand.

$90,000.00 a year is the beginning if a new LGBT bureaucracy, and we need less of that, not more.

Much of our movement is misled by eurocentric and bureaucracy ridden compromisers. They range from HRC whose main goal seems to be fundraising to pay half million dollar salaries to mountebanks like Solmonese to groups whose main goal consists of being front groups for the Democrat or Republican parties. They relentlessly hustle votes and fundraising for the twin parties of bigotry and that precludes anything but nominal efforts to push our equality agenda.

To be viable we have to develop a nationwide organization of activists who can work out a program to fight or and win equality and then, not before the discussion, but after it, elect a leadership based on that program. The central problem with groups like HRC and EQCA is their lack of internal democracy. Instead of regular, mass membership meetings they're run by self-serving "boards". It's no accident that both their internal functioning and their politics reflect those of corporate America. And in Solmonese's case they reflect corporate salaries to boot.

We need an organization determinedly independent of both parties if bigotry and one that relies on volunteerism and stipends for movement leaders. We need leaders willing to make the sacrifices involved in movement building not those who require almost a hundred grand a year to 'get by'.

We need an organization and a leadership that won't compromise with the Party that brought us DADT and DOMA and whose leader wrecked our chance to retain same sex marriage by empowering and galvanizing the bigot with ''gawd's in the mix."