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AFL-CIO Head Ducks Left Punch

by Eric Convey, Boston Herald, Thursday, March 29, 2001

The latest round in a fight that has flared up around the nation between two heavyweights of the political left will open in Boston tonight.

Members of the Industrial Workers of the World plan to picket a big event run by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. And in a blow to ACORN, as the activist group is known, IWW officials convinced Robert Haynes, the president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, to stay away.

"Bob will honor a picket line," a spokeswoman, Sarah Nathan, said last night.

"We respect the work of both organizations . . . and are hopeful they can resolve this dispute before tomorrow night," she said.

Haynes was one of three people ACORN planned to recognize with awards at a 120-guest event at the posh Omni Parker House Hotel. The other two to be honored as "friends of the people" are state Rep. Shirley Owens-Hicks(D-Mattapan) and Lawrence K. Fish, the chief executive of Citizens Financial Group Inc.

An IWW member said the picketing stems from ongoing disputes between ACORN and the IWW in Seattle, Philadelphia and Dallas. In several cases, IWW workers have accused ACORN of engaging in unfair labor practices.

"ACORN is firing unionists and engaging in the very activity it claims to oppose," said Alexis Buss, the IWW's general secretary-treasurer.

The executive director of ACORN's Boston office, Lisa Clauson, countered that the IWW has spread "inaccuracies" about their dispute.

ACORN advocates higher federal spending on housing subsidies and expanding the government's involvement in health care.

ACORN and the Massachusetts AFL-CIO recently joined together to fight for the so-called "living wage."