CASTRO VALLEY, CA — A small family winery has closed its doors after being fined $115,000 for allowing volunteers to help in the wine-making process.
“There’s just no money left; they’ve taken everything,” said Jim Smyth, one of the owners Westover Winery.
Unbeknown to the Smyth family — and many other California business owners — it is illegal in the state to use unpaid volunteers at a for-profit business.
Among the reasons cited by the California Department of Industrial Relations, was the fact that no income taxes were being collected on the volunteer labor.
The fines represent more than a decade’s worth of profits for the winery, which is open about 10 hours per week and nets about $11,000 a year, the San Jose Mercury News reported.
The volunteers were comprised mainly of people interested in the wine-making process, and helped out in exchange for valuable experience.
“That’s what I wanted, to be as involved as much as possible — it was all about learning,” said Peter Goodwin, one of the illegal volunteers. “I don’t understand the state’s action. It was my time, and I volunteered.”
No warnings were issued for the offense before the enormous fine was issued.
This tragedy is the embodiment of the institutionalized injustice that persists everywhere the government imposes an income tax. Such a policy stakes a claim of state ownership on the time and labor of every individual. It effectively makes it illegal for a person to willingly exchange his time for money — or in California’s extreme case, no money.
People are hard pressed to claim their freedom when voluntarism is outlawed; when they are forbidden from voluntarily exchanging one commodity for another without a portion being confiscated.