I think this one might count under both my “New Things” categories: New learning AND a new experience. (Note my new “categories” section on the sidebar. Hey, I made a “Categories” widget, can that count as a new experience?)
Being involved in a class action suit is not a new experience. Just yesterday I opened my mailbox to find an official looking check made out to me for the sum of $10 from “Settlement Administrator.” This is my portion of a class action lawsuit against Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company who apparently did something horrible to me. I vaguely remember that at some point in the past year I received something that said “fill this out if you want to EXCLUDE yourself” and of course I threw it away because who am I to argue if someone wants to send me $10 at the expense of a multi-billion dollar insurance company who ripped me off, probably for a lot more than $10, 15 years ago. Even though I’m sure the lawyers got 10 million dollars. Hey, I read “King of Torts.” I know how this works! DH even received a refund a few years ago by signing up for a class action lawsuit regarding an expensive, faulty car part. This one involved not only filling out numerous forms, but actually KEEPING TRACK of receipts and such. They make you work a lot harder for your $600 settlement than for $10.
But actually emailing a class action lawyer (I wonder if he knows John Grisham?) and saying, “Me too! Yes, this describes me!” is a new experience. Actively debating, researching and thinking about whether I want to sign up for a class action lawsuit and if so, which of the two law firms who have both filed suit I would go with (or can I double-sign, cover all my bases?), wondering how my colleagues feel about it, how it might affect me professionally, if at all and actually feeling emotionally invested in the outcome because, “Dammit I was wronged!”….those are new experiences.
This particular lawsuit is being filed on behalf of members against the American Psychological Association. Many years ago the APA realized that they wanted more money for lobbying efforts on behalf of practicing psychologists, but decided that if they actually just asked for donations they wouldn’t get as much as they wanted, so they instituted a mandatory special assessment fee. As time went on there was apparently concern about little things like IRS rules and APA’s tax status, so about 10 years ago they started the APA Practice Organization (APAPO). And the mandatory assessment fee continued to show up pre-printed on the dues statement every year but was apparently sent off to the APAPO…an organization that is legally separate, yet eerily the same as APA….same address, phone number, membership and even Board of Directors. The amount of the practice assessment, while not huge, was also not a small amount….I think last year it was about $135. When you add it up, the APAPO was taking in about 5 million dollars/year, almost all from APA members who assumed they had to pay the amount APA told them they had to pay toward the lobbying efforts (which they often didn’t agree with) or be dismissed from the whole organization.
Then apparently all Psycho-heck broke loose when someone innocently asked a question on a mailing list about the dues and received a response from an APA type of person who somehow indicated that paying the practice assessment was NOT necessary for APA membership. And its gone on from there.
I won’t go into all the details about the whys and wherefores and whatnots, because no one besides psychologists would be interested in those. But the bottom line for me is that yes, I feel manipulated and deceived. I’ve had mixed feelings about the APA for a long time anyway. But I am also concerned that psychology is pretty much headed down the toilet anyway, and it probably isn’t in our best professional efforts, particularly at this point in history with health care reform, medicare struggles and turf battles for professional survival on the line, to all flush at the same time. So at this point I’ve been doing a lot of research which I can put in the “new learning” portion of my brain.
And in the meantime, when I paid my 2011 dues this past month, I steadfastly crossed out the “practice assessment” (which is still pre-calculated into the total but has a new disclaimer next to it) and wrote my check for the APA dues portion only. I figured I will at least make that small statement. Then maybe someday I’ll open my mailbox and find either a sincere apology from APA, or a $10 check from the Psycho-Settlement Administrator that I can use toward keeping my electric bill paid once I no longer have a viable career.