Bristol After discussions of progress with the Remittance Justice Campaign and the Digital Access Opportunity Campaign in a number of countries, we hunkered down with some excitement to hear the reports on Skype from India, Kenya, and our Latin America offices. Many of the reports had been sent in writing to great comments.
Applause greeted all of the reports, but there were almost standing ovations as first Dharmendra Kumar reported a membership in Delhi now of 2000 members, and then a bit later Suresh Kadashan, ACORN India’s director in Bengalaru, broke the news that our local unions of street vendors and food vendors had broken the 10,000 member mark. Furthermore, Suresh surprised even me by saying they had also expanded Chennai in Tamil Nadu to registered unions of taxi drivers and dock workers. ACORN is forging ahead in building unions of informal workers.
One organizer told me that one of her favorite lines in the Honduran report was a victory that forced police and the municipality to agree to provide dump trucks to transport waste from the communities to the crematorium where required, essentially organizing communities for general cleaning, as organizer from Tegucigalpa called it. The most unique internal fundraising efforts were also in Honduras where they were selling fair trade coffee and wine produced from Marcala to help fund the organizing. Where there’s a way, there’s a will!
These meetings are also opportunities to look at new initiatives and the knotty problems of the work. It was clear that ACORN International needed to update our bylaws to clarify the different levels of affiliation in the growing organization. We also talked a lot about expansion to London and throughout England.
Offices were excited about finally moving forward and producing weekly radio shows. Toney Orr’s report on his “Workplace” show on KABF made the difference when he talked about the members and organizing opportunities he had built a year of programming. Prague, Italy, and Canada all signed up for time slots, and before the day was over Bristol had found a host and was good to go.
Once again there was a lengthy discussion on whether or not an automatic fine system was possible to win for tenant protections and whether or not fines could be prompted based on pictures sent to inspectors triggering fines rather than long delayed legalistic procedures. A pilot being developed in Toronto to full the system with complaints might force a change, organizers thought, but we wanted to find a cure-all, not a band aid fix.
Organizers are never satisfied, which made the discussions at the annual ACORN International staff meeting even more exciting, and, frankly, satisfying.