Tradition eight mandates that Alcoholics Anonymous will never have a “professional” class. The tradition says, “Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever nonprofessional, but our service centers may employ special workers.”
By design, Alcoholics Anonymous is made up of amateurs…non-professionals. Meetings are not run by anyone with any special training…not by anyone who makes a job of AA.
This tradition follows naturally from the previous tradition, which does not allow for Alcoholics Anonymous to accept contributions from outside sources. As such, they adopt a policy of “corporate poverty”. The goal of the organization is to take in just enough money with a little reserve.
But, running any organization takes money. Helping to get alcoholics sober takes a lot of work. Much of that work is done on the group level…one alcoholic to another. But substantial administrative overhead still remains. This is where “special workers” come into play.
Alcoholics Anonymous allows for employees to be hired at national and district levels to perform these tasks.
Theoretically, volunteers could do this work. The problem with non-paid personnel is that they often have other obligations that may come before their voluntary obligations. A volunteer may fail to show up for a shift. AA sees the work that takes place in their service centers as so important that they must ensure constant staffing. This can only be done with paid employees.
Alcoholics Anonymous and Religion
AA is often confused with religion organizations. Tradition eight sets AA apart from religion.
One of the hallmarks of organized religion is the employment of highly trained professionals who are in charge of the church, synagogue or mosque. Priests, Rabbis, Ministers, Imams or Pastors organize the activities of the religious bodies and “tend to the flock” of laypersons in their congregation.
Alcoholics Anonymous has no such shepherds. It is directed by the conscious of individual groups.