Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Scientology and other Crappy Jobs

A few weeks ago I posted another AI inspired by a New Yorker article on Scientology. That article mentioned the fact that the FBI was taking a look at the church to potentially examine allegations of human trafficking and labor violations.

And guess what?

This week, 20 year old newly-ex-scientologist, Daniel Montalvo has indeed filed similar charges.

The St. Peterburg Times has a full rundown of the story. The allegations by Montalvo filed in Los Angeles Court include the following:

• Was permitted to attend school about one day a week because working for Sea Org took priority.

• Spent his childhood working at least 40 hours a week, and often more than 100 hours a week for pay that ranged from $35 to $50 a week.

• Had no work permits required of minors.

• Was made to work back-to-back 12-hour days in the fall of 2007, when the church was pushing its staff to produce and sell a new book release.

• From 2008 to 2010, was punished along with other workers for lack of production. He was made to run laps wearing a jacket and tie, clean grease traps and do push ups.

• Worked past midnight for two months in 2009 after rising at 6 a.m. each day, and was made to do push ups and dig ditches for lack of production.

• Suffered an accident at age 16 while cleaning a “notching” machine at the church’s printing unit, Bridge Publications. Half of his right index finger was cut off and no ambulance was called, the lawsuit asserts. It says Montalvo was taken to the hospital but told by the Sea Org to tell doctors he was a volunteer. He was not to mention Scientology.

Until this case goes to court we won’t be able to know if these allegations are accurate but the story really made me think about all the crappy jobs I have had to endure over the years and I couldn’t help but compare them to the idea of working for Scientology. And from dog washer to cigarette girl to cocktail waitress, I can happily say, that none of my jobs were as crappy as Montalvo’s appear to have been.

What about you? What is the worst job you have ever held? Do these allegations seem likely or do you think this kid just trying to scam a timely and fast buck off of an innocent church?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. I can honestly say that I have never had a truly crappy job. I have had the worst boss in all of recorded history though, which made going to work painful, but at the same time, my job at the time was really wonderful and fulfilling.

    The “worst” job I have is right now because I deal with FDA regulations all day and they are vague and open to random interpretation. Hey! Kinda like the bible!

  2. Physically, my worst job… which is no way compares to Scientology… probably was working as a surveyor in a Houston summer. We quickly ignored the rules that said long pants and steel-toed boots as we cracked open sewer mains in the Houston heat. I came to regret the eschewing of steel-toes when I dropped a manhole cover on my foot a week before I was going to quit (because school was starting). While I was home from that (with a broken toe and a peeling off toenail), I fell asleep in the pool. Naked sunburn = not fun. Bright side? Worker’s comp paid me until a week into school’s start.

    Probably the roughest year would’ve been July 2005-2006. I’d been “released” from a teaching job that May, and got a job delivering wings and a second one teaching ESL to adults. On top of that, I was taking 6 graduate hours at Cougar High… I mean, the University of Houston. I’d ride the bus to my ESL job in the morning, teach, ride the bus to school, drive the car home (my then-wife would take it there, as she was also in school) and then go to work. After a while, I got to be a manager, which meant I didn’t drive, though that actually resulted in a loss of income (no tips or delivery charges). It also meant I had to deal with the owners stealing cash out of the register, and the fact that paychecks were often not honored. I wound up paying people out of the night’s tills, having them sign over their checks to our bosses, and leaving them in lieu of cash. I was also having a horrible time keeping up with classes… my Latin homework was consistently not getting done, and I was falling asleep in Norman history. And my wife had started to date other people. I really was not in the best of places at that point.

  3. Thinking back on it, most of my jobs weren’t too bad (most were too short, thank you, volatile economy). I despised working nights for a newswire service because it was beginning to degrade my health and I suspect my boss didn’t like me very much, but I guess my most hateful job was at AIG as a Marketing Associate where I used to come home every evening checking to see if there was a dagger hilt protruding out of my back. AIG is located in Lower Manhattan, and my building was about two blocks from the WTC … I was running late, so I never made it into the office. However, I received an email later that night from my boss who only had one question for me: How much work could I get done from home?

  4. The nastiest job was my first real job; when. I was fifteen I got a job cleaning up a grocery store butcher shop for two hours after school. The physically hardest job was when I was 18 and worked for the State as a forest fire fighter. There were a number of fires where we worked 24 hours straight and then back at it after a six hour break for another shift of at least 12 hours.

    A lot of young people are easily manipulated and the story of the young guy working for Scientology rings true based on other accounts I’ve read of similar treatment of their church staff. And I think Montalvo should squeeze every dime out of the mofo’s he can get.

  5. I haven’t had a physically awful job, unless you count chasing other people’s bratty toddlers at a day care.

    The worst mentally crappy job was my first, some 30-odd years ago. I drove an ice cream truck. Every day was a challenge – those darling angels run up to your truck with their handfuls of dirty pennies, yet never quite enough for what they wanted. So you make up the difference and give the poor kid an ice cream. And then another one, and another one, and so on. That job cost me money than I made.

  6. I was a caddy when I was 14, that job did not suck as much as it failed to live up to expectations.

    I worked in a grocery store for 9 years, a lot of the jobs I ended up doing there were pretty disgusting. But nothing as bad as that poor kid.

  7. Hmm…

    I think I’ve been a bit spoilt.

    The *hardest* job I had was as a banquet barman/waiter at a conference center.

    The center I worked for competed on price – which meant large numbers of guests and small numbers of staff. Setting up an empty hall to support a 400+ banquet with five people working a 12 hour shift isn’t easy. The overtime pay was very fair and reasonable – but all the same. Hard work and plenty of it. Those tables were *heavy*.

    And we had to be done, dusted, presentable and elegant by the time the first guest arrived. Phew.

    That said, it was hard and satisfying and the bar that I had set up myself was my own little fiefdom. Plus, it’s also useful to learn all the little tips and tricks that go into hospitality training, and how hard the poor caterers usually have to work.

    The most boring job I ever had was my first one, gas station attendant. But even that had an occasional charm to it given some of our regulars.

  8. @Rebel 16: Yeah, sorry about that…should have been explicit considering Mr. Ham’s Wilde Ride…I mean website. American International Group. And I suppose I should clarify that I got the call about working from home on the evening of Sept. 11th, 2001. It took a great deal of restraint for me not to deck my boss the very next time I saw him.

  9. From the article:
    “Church spokesman … noted Montalvo took Church of Scientology property — computer hard drives — when he left valued at tens of thousands of dollars.”
    and later
    “church attorneys who questioned him about five missing church hard drives.”

    Leave whatever crappy job you have – you can make enough to live off by selling as few as 20 hard drives per year to the Scientologists. Apparently they pay about $3000+ each for them (translating ‘tens of thousands’ as at least 15,000).

    I wonder what the legal status of the information on those drives will be.

  10. Morning setup, breakfast rush and teardown at Maccas. The place was constantly short-staffed so I’d end up getting held over for the lunch rush.

    Additionally-this was the old days-when we actually still fried the burgers-can you say “grease-trap cleanup duty?”

  11. Worked at a chicken farm one summer. Jobs included shoveling huge piles of chicken guano and moving and dumping garbage cans full of chicken intestines.
    Didn’t eat chicken for years.

  12. Worst job I had was at Coldstone Creamery. The manager didn’t like me and I didn’t like her. In fact, when I had to take a day for myself (because while I was going in to work, I received a call telling me that a close friend had had a serious heart attack (at age 18)) she said that she thought it was unprofessional of me not to leave my problems at the door. I would have agreed with her, had that been a call about my cat being sick or somebody breaking up with me but an otherwise healthy 18 year old girl having a serious heart attack? ‘Sbullcrap, yo.

    I only worked there for about a week and I feel that even that was too long.

    Whether or not it’s a scam, this church is far from innocent but I think that at least some of the allegations must be true. These seem like things that a creepy cult would think were just A-Okay to do (and Scientology, I would say, is just that).

  13. The third worst job I´ve ever had was as a human shovel.

    Every year the Geo-thermal power-plant I worked at during summer breaks, would shut down for maintenance. There was this pipe underneath it that had to get cleaned out as it got half filled with silt after a years use. The first meter was easy enough. Just stick a shovel in there. But after that is where the skinniest, youngest summer worker came in. Which was me.

    I was dressed in rain coat and pants. The openings around my neck, hands and feet were taped shut and a rope was tied around one of my ankles.

    Then with as much grace as I could muster I crawled into the pipe which was just big enough for me to prop myself up on my elbows, embraced the silt with my out-streched arms and yelled pull!

    Now they have a machine that does it. They call it “the pig”.

  14. @poose: I agree about working in fast food. My second job was as a food preparer and general help at a local fried chicken franchise (not one anyone would know). Cleaning the grease trap was one of the worst jobs I can remember doing.

    It ties with dumping airplane lavatories and cleaning up barfy seats when I was in the airlines as the nastiest job duties I ever had. However, one adapts. After having kids, the lavs and barf duty didn’t bother me as much.

    Much of the airline work was physically punishing, but it was honest work. It did take its toll on me later in life, but that’s another story.

  15. The worst paid job I have had was working at a supermarket. For some reason I always got stuck cleaning the walk-in refrigerator and freezer storage.

    The worst job I’ve actually done was cleaning the guano out of my parents chicken coop.

  16. The worst job I had was working for Blockbuster Video back in the 90’s. Low pay, horrible managment, and a non-stop stream of angry customers. My best manager quit and went back to his old job, managing a garage, because the fits over repair work and costs were nothing compared to the hysterial meltdowns when ‘Crocodile Dundee’ was all checked out. I always called it fast food without the food.

    Most boring was probably marbeled murrelet surveying in Oregon, in areas that had no murrelet habitat, but at least I was out in the woods.

  17. @weatherwax: Heh…I worked for Blockbuster back between 1994 and 1996 … I remember a customer actually throwing a magazine at my manager one night when he explained why we couldn’t refund her money on a movie she didn’t like. Also, that was about the time I first saw Clerks.

  18. I worked at a barn for a while mucking out stalls, but that never really bothered me. What bothered me I can describe in two words: popcorn sludge. I worked in a movie theater in high school, and often had to clean out the popcorn machine. That thing was always disgusting no matter how much you scrubbed. Something in manufactured butter product, heavy grade oil and popcorn combines to form a viscous sludge that would stick to your skin, your clothes, your hair… I still can’t stand the smell of popcorn to this day.

  19. I’ve had lots of crappy jobs, but I doubt any of them were as exploitative as the Scientology gigs.

    BTW, the 100th anniversary of L. Ron’s b-day is this Sun. Anyone want to walk over to the Hollywood Scientology Center with me to see if they have cake?

  20. @scribe999: I had one older lady who kept renting the nastiest movies, then insisting we take them off the shelf because they were so horrible and she was afraid her kids (grown) might see them.

    I watched them afterward, ’cause I had a bent for really bad movies, and often found the scenes she described weren’t in the movie.

  21. Oh, and how could I forget: I worked the closing shift, we’re open ’til frickin midnight. So why do all the drunks show up at 11:59PM, “I know just what I want”.

    It would take a half a F#$%^EN hour to get them to pick something, after which “We’re not members”, “we don’t have any id”, and “We don’t have any money”.

  22. @weatherwax: Do you have that movie that starred that guy…

    “So why do all the drunks show up at 11:59PM” — I feel that pain, for sure.

    another good one: “Where are the new releases?” — probably along the wall that has ‘New Releases’ painted in big block letters around the entire perimeter of the store, but what do I know…I just process lots of credit card numbers.

  23. @scribe999: OK I know I’m sidetracking the board, but I just have to share one phone conversation I witnessed.

    Thank you for calling Blockbuster Video this is Brad how may I help you.

    Caller: What movies do you carry?

    Brad: Well, we have alot of movies. Was there anything in particular you’re looking for?

    Caller: Nothing in particular, just tell me all of the movies.

    Brad: Well, we have over 10,000 titles in this store, so I can’t name them all, but if there’s anything you’re looking for..

    Caller: I want to know all the movies you have!

    Brad: Well ma’am I just can’t do that.

    Caller: I want to speak to a manager.

    Brad: OK. Hands phone to Asst Manager Lisa.

    This is Lisa, how may I help you?

    Caller: Not you! I want to speak to a man!

    Lisa: Alright. Hands phone back to Brad.

    Brad speaks for a moment, then hands phone back to Lisa. The phone goes back and forth for about 10 minutes.

    Caller: I demand that you help me!

    Lisa: Ma’am, I think you need more help then we can give you.


    Lisa: …..I’m hanging up now. Click.

  24. The worst job I had? I spent 1 day at an industural buchers where a quarter of a cow went bouncing down onto a convayer belt where someone would start hacking out their designated bit. I was at the end freezing (it was refridgerated) picking the bones and stuff (that day I learnt that a spinal collum is yellow, I never wanted to know that!) grab the skin and put into a machine that shaved to top layers off.

    Another on was working at an industural bakery where i would straighten 4 cobs as the went down a convayer belt, I barly held onto my sanity…

  25. @weatherwax: Are you sure you weren’t trolled? That sounds like a pretty decent prank call.

    Worst Job: McDonalds – mainly because we had a generally angry manager that sometimes came in intoxicated (a couple times I noted I could clearly smell beer on her breath – and that’s while I’m working the grill). She also seemed to have some major gender bias issues to work out. I didn’t work there long.

    Considering that I’ve worked jobs where I’ve had to scrub my arms with Acetone/Xylene due to having globs of epoxy on me and such (and I LIKED that job), that’s saying something.

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