Wines & Vines Home
   
 
Welcome Guest
LOGIN |  CREATE ACCOUNT
 
ADVERTISEMENT
 
 
 
06.24.2009  
 

Legalities Halt Wine Ambassador Program

Successful volunteer organization promoted Washington wines for six years

 
by Peter Mitham
 
 
couple
 
A pair of Washington Wine Ambassadors wear t-shirts that read "Will Work for Wine" while volunteering at the Summerfest in Kirkland, Wash.
 
Seattle, Wash. -- Washington Wine Ambassadors, a successful volunteer program serving the Washington state wine industry, has been killed by legal concerns. Since its inception in 2003, the program has attracted a roster of more than 1,300 volunteers who assist with various events throughout the year, including Taste Washington and Passport to Woodinville, as well as charity events. Volunteers also have provided help to wineries at peak periods, such as harvest and bottling time.

Volunteers paid a nominal, one-time registration fee to participate in the program, which has operated under the auspices of the Washington Wine Commission overseen by what's known as the Cork Board--a volunteer board of directors whose sole mandate was to coordinate the ambassadors program.

But a year ago, one of the wineries that tapped the program for volunteers discovered that Washington state law deems it illegal for for-profit businesses to use volunteer labor. Workers are required to be paid wages, rendering illegal the wine enthusiasts who enjoyed the chance to stoke their enthusiasm for the industry by lending a hand.

guy with wine
 
Former Cork Board president John Gagliardo pours wine at the Kirkland Choral Auction.
 
"We had no direct oversight," explained Chris Stone, marketing director for the WWC and one of the original participants in the program. "Our legal counsel basically felt that it's not a matter of 'if' but 'when' there is some sort of an accident -- whether it's a volunteer over-serving someone at an event or a volunteer getting hurt while working for a winery. And he felt that legally -- because we sanctioned this group, it's officially a wine commission group -- that someone could potentially come back and sue us as the wine commission, as the sanctioning body." These concerns prompted termination of the program effective June 30.

An alternative to ending the program was to establish a not-for-profit body to operate the program. Stone told Wines & Vines that the wine commission offered its support to the Cork Board in facilitating and funding the transition, but the board turned down the offer.

The Cork Board sent a letter to ambassadors June 11, explaining that setting up a not-for-profit organization to oversee the program would be an expensive undertaking for a program that has, to date, always been run by volunteers. The current core of active "ambassadors" numbered about 300. A new organization would require funding for administrative staff and operating expenses, as well as the legal and insurance costs associated with running the program.

The decision disappointed Stone, who believes a number of funding options could have been investigated, such as charging volunteers an annual fee to participate; charging organizations for sourcing volunteers, and selling t-shirts and other merchandise.

"The wine commission absolutely 100% valued this program and saw it as a critical service to the industry," Stone said. "There's a number of things we think could have been done to let the group survive on its own, as its own separate entity."

A final appreciation party for the volunteer ambassadors is set for June 28 at Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville, Wash.

Stone said ambassadors who would have volunteered at the Auction of Washington Wines, an annual fundraiser in support of uncompensated care at Seattle Children's Hospital, and the Washington Wine Education Foundation that will take place Aug. 13-15 this year may continue to assist as part of the event's pool of volunteers, but not as part of the program.

However, the success of the program, which has helped heighten awareness of Washington state wines and cultivated talent for the industry (Stone himself started as an industry volunteer), is inspiring Idaho to consider developing a similar program.

Moya Shatz managed events for the WWC prior to joining the Idaho Wine Commission as executive director late last year. While the legal challenges facing the Washington program mean she'll be giving the initiative extra thought before moving ahead, she said the program offers clear benefits to the wine industry. This past weekend, the Idaho Wine Commission hosted Savor Idaho, a celebration of Idaho wines. The event attracted more than 700 people and employed 25 volunteers.

While the liability associated with coordinating a volunteer program isn't something the commission is willing to assume, Shatz would like to develop a plan to facilitate participation from volunteers keen on Idaho wines. "Then we'd have the volunteer pool to help us put on these events without a hitch," she said, referring to Savor Idaho and other initiatives.

Back in Washington, Stone remained hopeful that a new program will emerge. "It wouldn't surprise me if it resurfaces in some form," he said.
SHARE »
Close
LATEST READER COMMENTS
 
 
Posted on 06.25.2009 - 11:09:25 PST
 
Awesome! Another victory against free people helping to aid consumers and businesses in the Northwest!!! Well done Washington legislature!!!
 
bill
 
munster, IN USA
 
 
CURRENT NEWS INDEX »


 
Wines & Vines Home
 
866.453.9701 | 415.453.9700 | Fax: 415.453.2517
65 Mitchell Blvd., Ste. A San Rafael, CA 94903
info@winesandvines.com
Wine Industry Metrics
 
Off-Premise Sales » Month   12 Months  
July 2014 $557 million
5%
$7,577 million
6%
July 2013 $533 million $7,128 million
     
Direct-to-Consumer Shipments » Month   12 Months  
July 2014 $61 million
9%
$1,674 million
10%
July 2013 $56 million $1,517 million
     
Winery Job Index » Month   12 Months  
July 2014 312
10%
222
19%
July 2013 283 187
     
 
MORE » Released on 08.15.2014
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Practical Winery & Vineyard Library
 
Search the PWV archive »
 
 

Direct To Consumer
Wine Shipping Report
2014
 
Download full report »
 
 

CALENDAR
  • August 29-31
     
    Sonoma Wine Country Weekend
     
  • August 30 - September 1
     
    Columbia Gorge Open House Weekend
     
  • September 5-6
     
    Windy City Wine Festival
     
  • September 11
     
    Women for WineSense "Women in Wine"
     
  • MORE »
 

READER COMMENTS
 
Article: Ledger David names first winemaker »
 
What a joy to have Kiley on the team! A lot of exciting things happening...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Useful Spanish for Wine Harvest »
 
you misspelled "zona" under Loading Area
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Early 2014 Grape Harvest Begins »
 
Thanks for mentioning Temecula and the South Coast appellation in your article. It is great...
Reader: Guest
 
Article: Wineries May Lose Internet Domain Dispute »
 
All these arguments could be levied by any industry associated with any gTLD, new or...
Reader: Doug Barnett
 
Article: Wineries May Lose Internet Domain Dispute »
 
Do brands get hijacked now? Even though .wine does not yet exist, are there false...
Reader: Larry Chandler
 
 


Directory/Buyer's Guide — Your Wine Industry Marketplace
 
 
WINERY SEARCH
 
 
Advanced Search »
SUPPLIER SEARCH
   by Product
 by Company Name or Brand
 
Browse by Category »
2014 Directory/Buyer's Guide
The Wines & Vines Directory and Buyer's Guide
 
 
EXPANDED ONLINE SEARCH INCLUDED WITH PURCHASE
 
ORDER NOW »
 
LEARN MORE »
 
 
Wines & Vines Magazine
 
 
LEARN MORE »
 
SUBSCRIBE »
 
Digital Edition Now Available!
Wines & Vines Digital Edition Now Available
 
LEARN MORE »
 
ORDER NOW »
 
 
The Wines & Vines Online Marketing System
 
The Industry Standard winery marketing application
 
FREE LIVE DEMO »
 
VIEW VIDEO »
 
 
 
 
Latest Job Listings
 Broker Wine Sales Nort...
 Sf, Oak, Sd, And La, CA
Sales and Marketing
 Off Premise Dm
 Metro Ny, NY
Sales and Marketing
 Wine Research Assistan...
 Napa, CA
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Client Relations Repre...
 Napa, CA
General Administration and
 Acquisitions Advisor
 Napa, CA
General Administration and
 Procurement Category M...
 Napa, CA
Winemaking and Production
 Sales Associate Calgar...
 Calgary, AB
Sales and Marketing
 Part Time Tasting Room...
 Dundee, OR
DTC, Tasting Room and Retai
 Delivery Driver
 Napa, CA
General Administration and
 Sales Manager
 Walnut Creek, CA
Sales and Marketing
 
More Job Listings >>
Follow Us On:
 
 





Home  |  About Us  |  Editors  |  Subscribe  |  Print Edition  |  Digital Edition

Advertise  |  Site Map  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy
 
 
Copyright © 2001-2014 by Wine Communications Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
No material may be reproduced without written permission of the Publisher.
Wines&Vines does not assume any responsibility for any unsolicited manuscripts or materials.