Little Rock I saw Joe Fox for a minute as I left his Community Bakery on Main Street with the remains of the last cup of coffee of the day. He kidded me about having expected to see me on my “annual Good Friday tour.” I joked that if anyone was following me, it was the easiest job they ever pulled, since I believed in being a creature of habit. Little Rock always reminds me of the advantages of a smaller city, even though I’ve been gone more than 30 years. Eating at Sims barbecue, which had been “upgraded,” as a neighbor told me when I had to finally ask why I couldn’t find the place in the South End where it belonged, with UALR’s Jim Lynch, who once again I was visiting because he had made the mistake of volunteering that he might be willing to give me a hand on a couple of projects, we turned around from our plates to get a hello out of nowhere from Rosetta Gore, Local 100’s Vice President, who was picking up lunch.
I had gotten to visit with Maxine Nelson, the great ACORN leader from Pine Bluff, several times on the phone. A long visit with ACORN’s veteran national political director Zach Polett allowed us to share some of the grieving of his current transitions and ACORN’s shutdown along with some of the good memories of more than three decades working together in ACORN over the years.
A visit with Local 100’s Arkansas Director Brittany Shaw Deslandes caught me up to date with our members’ current issues. Most of our Arkansas members are state employees and face the uncertainty of budget cutbacks in the wake of the tax declines of the Great Recession. Her progress with organizing drives among Head Start workers and water quality inspectors was astute given that these are still well supported and expanding classifications.
I thought frequently of an email from Orell Fitzsimmons Local 100’s field director based in Houston. Our members in the Houston Independent School District are battling the impact of drastic hours cutbacks in many cases to only 4 hours per day. He wrote:
“as in your book [Citizen Wealth], we are now getting our workers that have been cut to 4 hours unemployment benefits and food stamps, our first member came in today and said at the end of the process that ” she was separated from her husband and no one cares about her other than her two children, but now after being with our staff today she understand that she now has Local 100, it made for a good day.”
The member was Ester Lagunas, a food service worker at Hartman Middle School in Houston.
Organizing still starts and stops right there on the issues of individual members in workplaces and communities, one after another, and then collectively. The work never ends. The work matters. And, as Orell, says, it makes for “a good day.”