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Skid Row In Indio: Uncovering The Coachella 2016 Fraud Hiring Scandal

The 2016 edition of Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival made for just as shining a monument to youth culture as those of previous years - holding the gaze of revelers long enough to distract them from what unsightly affairs took place behind the scenes.
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Munoz compared the campgrounds to the borderline third-world conditions of Los Angeles’ Skid Row district.

“It looked all fucked up,” he said. “There was just a lot of people doing whatever they wanted, a lot of running around.” As he acquainted himself with others staying in the campsite, he learned that theft and violence had run rampant between the security staff as the conditions had made them irritable. As he pointed out, “a lot of things that were promised weren’t given, so they were in a bad mood already.”

Upon arrival, Munoz’ superiors had offered to schedule him for a later shift so that he could sleep beforehand, as he worked a graveyard shift at his regular job directly before going to the shuttle pickup location that morning. When he asked where to find bedding, Securacorp employees told him that individual tents would remain in storage until sundown, so he would have to sleep in a large tent alongside other employees with nothing but dirt on the ground. “They didn’t even want to at least give us a sleeping bag or something,” he said.

Before he was even allowed to try to sleep in the tent, however, he was instructed to register as an employee. Securacorp staff led the group that had just arrived into a warehouse where they asked for Munoz to provide identification and then printed him off a Securacorp badge. He claims that he stood in line four or five hours before employees gave him a Securacorp shirt, used his badge to clock him in on what looked like a time punch machine, and put him to work without any orientation or training.

“I thought I was gonna be able to go to sleep, but that didn’t happen,” Munoz recalls. “As soon as we got our IDs, we were thrown straight into work.”

Munoz manned a post searching bags at the entrance of the all-access area behind the Gobi tent for eight hours with no sleep – on a day during which temperatures in the Indio valley climbed to 94° Fahrenheit. “They wanted me to stay for an extra couple of hours, but I was too tired,” he says. “I had gone more than a day without sleep.”

Before returning to the campsite, though, Munoz decided to briefly venture into the festival grounds. He remembered Salazar telling him that he would “get paid to play,” and none of the employees he had been working with stopped him on the way in.

On the festival grounds, the first confrontation of Munoz’ weekend arose when guards from a separate security staffing company called Staff Pro spotted him, and then surrounded and antagonized him. He recalled:

“They were being really aggressive. They were saying, ‘Why the fuck are you here? You’re not supposed to fucking be here.’ I didn’t know who they were at first so I just started kind of walking away, and they were like, ‘Oh, you really wanna fucking walk away?’ They called other guards, and they kinda’ ganged up on me. They didn’t physically push me, but three of them were really close to me against the fence.”

“One of them did threaten me,” Munoz mentioned. “He said, ‘Don’t hesitate to think I won’t fuck you up right now.’”

The guards told Munoz that a pamphlet he had been issued specifically instructed employees not to enter the festival grounds. Munoz had never received one, and informed them of that. He was still in uniform during the encounter, and then when they saw the Securacorp logo on his badge their tone changed considerably.

“They talked amongst each other, saying, ‘Oh, they weren’t trained. They weren’t prepared for this. They were thrown in here, and they weren’t given a pamphlet,’” Munoz said. “That’s when they understood, and they apologized and stuff like that, but I still think it was unnecessary that they pushed me up against the gate and yelled at me and stuff.”

Munoz’ experience with the Staff Pro security guards obviously ran contrary to the promises Salazar made him when they first offered him the job, but their familiarity with Securacorp’s lack of employee preparation suggested that Munoz and the group with whom he arrived had not been the only ones to forego training.

“They said specifically, ‘Don’t worry, you guys are good. This isn’t gonna be reported, just don’t do it again,’” Munoz said.

Tired and aggravated, Munoz finally arrived back at the campsite and found some of his personal items in different places from where he left them. He had been told that somebody would be watching over the tent to keep his belongings safe the whole day, but when he arrived there was nobody manning the post.

To make matters worse, tents were still unavailable; he had been told that they were only in storage during the daytime but even at nighttime they had not been provided. “Everybody kept saying that they were in storage, but I’d never seen them come out,” he says. “Ever.”

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