New Orleans ACORN was a great organization and some of the gifts from its membership to their neighbors and co-workers keep on giving, despite the fact that the organization shut its doors 13 months ago in the United States.
No better example can be found in the automatic increases in a number of state minimum wage programs that are triggered by automatic inflation escalators at the beginning of each year. The New York Times noted that this was coming in another week in eight states: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Montana, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and Washington. In the largest of these states Ohio and Florida, ACORN was the driving force in organizing the ballot initiatives that won the change. ACORN members did the same in Arizona and Colorado. Of the more than 1.4 million workers that will directly or indirectly receive wage increases, probably more than 1 million of these come from the ACORN initiatives.
The National Employment Law Project (a great outfit!) estimated the increases would range between $0.28 and $0.37 per hour which for a full-time worker (if there are any still out there?) would mean a boost from $582 to $770 per year. Let’s low ball it and say that the increases for the ACORN-million will only be $400 per year. This is simple math but that adds up to $400,000,000 in additional wages that lower wage workers would get from ACORN’s work this year alone. But, let’s not quibble, whether it’s a quarter of a billion dollars or half a billion, it’s a whole lot of money that employers (not the government!) will pay hard working, lower wage workers in one of the few ongoing programs increasing citizen wealth for the 99%.
NELP told the Times that labor was planning on doing this again in some other states in 2012. That’s welcome news that I had not heard, and, truthfully, I don’t want to Grinch it, but I’m almost doubtful that it’s true. These are big efforts and much needed, but they take deep commitments, huge organization, and not insubstantial resources. Without ACORN around to put some of these pieces together, organizers may find this is an even more difficult task this time around. Furthermore, employers in a weak economy will be crying “foul!” every chance they get and high unemployment may confuse some workers who otherwise might go to the polls to “vote themselves a raise” as the employers used to argue in our campaigns. Add to that the strenuous efforts of the Republicans to restrict access to the voting booth with new identification procedures and other voter suppression methods that ACORN used to fight, but few others have stepped up to stop, and the road could be tough.
Speaking for lower wage workers, such efforts in many other states would be a Christmas present that would keep on giving just has it has in these states!