Detroit The ACORN Canada staff finished an excellent Year End / Year Begin meeting in “southern Canada” across the river from Windsor in Detroit, where 15 of the team discussed campaigns, results of last year’s work, and goals for the coming year. In order to get a sense of other organizing while they were in Detroit, they took advantage of the opportunity to meet with some other organizers on the community, political, and labor fronts.
Kim Hodge, executive director of Michigan Time Banking, and a great former ACORN and Local 100 organizer, visited with the crew and detailed how people can do “deep” community organizing by creating time bank exchanges where various skills and tasks are traded with other neighbors in the community. The sharing involves an array of things from rides to yard work, child care, cooking, gardening, and whatever you might be able to do that someone else might need. The ACORN Canada organizers were particularly interested in the “political” or “organizational” exchanges for attending meetings and actions or getting involved in voter registration. One could see the wheels turning, and given Kim’s history with the ACORN model, she knew how to work it!
In a similar fashion John Freeman, who also had worked with both ACORN in Dallas, Sioux Falls, and Albuquerque and Local 100 in Baton Rouge, was able to bridge the very different politics of America with the Canadian experience. Amy Chapman joined him in discussing the mechanics of US political work now as well as her perspectives having run the Obama campaign in 2008 in Michigan and closely observing what the coming 2012 campaign might portend. John detailed his work with a new organization, Know Your Care, which is running an educational effort to explain and build support for Obama-care before the 2012 vote. Questions were flying about databases and voter “modeling.” Getting a feel for the size and scale of the field operation in 2008 and what already exists in places like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania for the re-election campaign was interesting and disturbing. If Michigan is a tossup for Obama, this is going to be a nail biter of an election.
The recent Teamsters election won by Jimmy Hoffa, Jr. over a couple of candidates including Teamsters’ for a Democratic Union (TDU) supported (and old friend) Sandy Pope was the opposite of a nail bitter from the story told the staff by TDU’s long time sparkplug, Ken Paff who has led the oldest labor reform movement in US labor for more than 30 years. The stories of the convention were harrowing. The resistance to democratic practice in unions is longstanding and controversial, so that doesn’t separate the Teamsters as much as the extreme and aberrant degree they take intolerance to dissent. Ken had kept his sense of humor and vision alive and that was invaluable for the ACORN Canada crew.
Add all of this to ambitious membership goals for 2012, excellent planning for the Remittance Justice Campaign embraced by all of ACORN International, and the camaraderie of the staff, and it made for a great meeting.