In preparation for the annual Phoenix Comicon, held May 25-28 this year, the convention director for the rapidly growing Valley event, Matt Solberg, made the decision in a letter penned to the public that the hundreds of volunteers who have worked for the event previously will now have to pay to volunteer generating outrage amongst the geek community.
In order to volunteer now, one must be a registered member of the Blue Ribbon Army, a pop-culture oriented social club with membership fees ranging from $20 to $100 annually. This move has polarized many in the community with many being insulted, especially the volunteers who give several days of their time and travel to make this event possible. That convention director, Matt Solberg, was also a board member for the Blue Ribbon Army is noteworthy considering the conflict of interest involved.
The explanation Solberg gave for making this decision was due to Phoenix Comicon being a for-profit convention and the necessary compliance with local labor laws regarding for-profit enterprises. One option was to pay all of the staff who worked for the event, which would result in 1,000 positions being eliminated he wrote. The other option, which was chosen, was to partner with a non-profit social club, which would require a membership fee and allow an estimated 90 percent of the staff to return for Phoenix Comicon 2017.
Due to the outcry from enthusiasts, Solberg has resigned his Board position with Blue Ribbon Army and will remove his equity position as well. The Blue Ribbon Army was launched in 2013 as an unofficial Phoenix Comicon fan club and operated as a non-profit charity organization.