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ACORN Strike Enters Sixth Week - April 10, 2001

By Fellow Worker X352548, April 6, 2001

The IWW members on strike at the Washington ACORN office have entered the sixth week of the strike, and Wade Rathke, ACORN chief Organizer and Doug Bloch the local boss, are showing weakness in the face of the continued pressure from the workers and the community.

ACORN management has broken more laws by employing scabs when workers have offered to return to work. The union has filed a 10(j) injunction with the Labor Board in response. Each week, thousands of dollars of back pay for workers accumulate which will have to be paid to the workers when the employer loses their NLRB cases (at this point we estimate the aggregate back pay for ACORN workers in Washington alone to exceed $10,000). If anything will destroy their organization, it will be management's decision to spend resources on expenses for strikebreakers, legal fees, fines, and back pay. Since the workers are not demanding pay increases, recognizing the union was the cheapest way to go all along, and still is. Yet, Rathke in his arrogance of power claims that the IWW is out to "destroy the organization". The contradictions continue to pile up.

The IWW declared the strike an Unfair Labor Practice strike, because it has been precipitated and prolonged by management's violations of the law.

Unions for staff of progressive organizations are controversial, indeed. However, staff and organizers of the Health Professional and Allied Employees AFT/AFL-CIO, the largest registered nurses union in New Jersey, have come out in support of the strike, as members of Health Professionals and Allied Employees Staff Union (HPAESU). A letter written on April 9th and signed by all staff and organizers stated, "We feel that it is completely consistent with our beliefs as people who work for social and economic justice to be members of a staff union. In fact, we feel that it would be hypocritical of us not to be union members, when we preach the value of empowerment through organization to fellow worker... We are deeply disturbed by reports that we have heard that ACORN, Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, has engaged in union busting, including firing workers for union activity".

There have also been reports that Rathke is attempting to convince the Labor Board that the strike is "illegal"; last we checked it is still legal to go on strike, but perhaps Rathke is in on something about the new Bush administration that the rest of us have yet to find out.

Support for the strike has been broad as well as generous. Strike funds continue to pour into the office to grant relief for unpaid bills and rent, though the struggle is not over yet.

Rathke also called the IWW office in the Bay Area, leaving an angry rant about the strike in Seattle, proving that he hasn't been capable thus far of hiding behind the local managers in his union busting campaign.

A campaign by management to plant rumors in the local activist community has taken a few hostages. Local "progressive" writer Geov Parrish at Eat the State, a local left tabloid in Seattle published rumors about the strike circulated by management, and published false information about the IWW alleging that the union has no contracts, no victories, and that the workers were being "misled" (!)---he didn't check his facts. The article had the opposite effect, infuriating activists and supporters from all camps.

Strikers reported seeing as many as six scabs working at the Washington ACORN office, and management continues to deny that the strike is affecting them, as they attempt to rebuild the organization using scabs from out of state. Other reports of the scabs indicated that they are having a hard time convincing people to join the organization, when they themselves do not even live in the neighborhoods or cities where they are trying to scab, and they have no clue about local issues that face the people that live here.

Three scabs visited the local radical bookstore, claiming the title of "anti-wobblies" and quickly discovered that their ilk is not tolerated here. (Perhaps ACORN could have spent the membership dues toward letting strikers return to work, instead of plane tickets for scabs from the east coast.) Scabs imported from the Portland ACORN office were outed to their community in the paper the Portland Alliance, who printed their names with a story about the campaign to organize ACORN staff. Efforts to recruit local scabs have been fruitless.