Amsterdam In the second meeting of what we are now calling the “The Organizing Forum” or TOF, which I choose to pronounce as TOUGH, more than forty organizers from the Netherlands, France, Brussels, the United Kingdom, and the United States came together in Amsterdam to share experiences on organizing campaigns, strategy and tactics. Participants included ACORN community organizers along with representatives from unions in several countries, some parliamentarians, and members and organizers from progressive political parties. Having launched the first meeting in the fall of 2019 with less than twenty participants, TOF seemed to be moving with a full head of steam to meet a need that organizers across Europe were recognizing.
After a period of introductions and sharing, Nick Ballard, head organizer of the ACORN Union in England, gave a summary and analysis of both the recent election in the UK where the Labour Party was heavily routed in former strongholds, and what it had meant for organizing now looking forward. The surge in growth for ACORN continuing now in the post-election period where organizing committees are queuing up in communities across the country to form new chapters is an encouraging phenomenon.
There was spirited discussion that was triggered by a session I ran for the assembly on the experience of ACORN and our unions, both with the Service Employees, United Labor Unions, the AFL-CIO, AFT, NEA, UFCW and others in building community-labor coalitions to mount organizing and issue campaigns. We talked about the TEAM effort in the 1980s, the HOTROC campaign in the 90s, and Walmart campaign in the 2000s as good examples of the organizing efforts, as well as the partnership between ACORN and SEIU, the AFT, and the CWA in organizing home health care and home day care workers. On issue campaigns, we discussed the living wage campaigns that ACORN had initiated with labor in the US and Canada from the 1990s until today.
All of which set the table for a discussion on the progress and potential for the Fight for 14 Euros Campaign in the Netherlands to try to raise the minimum wage per hour from 9.40 euros to 14. The worker constituency, not surprisingly, is composed heavily of short term or no contract workers, immigrants and refugees, and subcontractors at major companies and public facilities like the giant Schiphol airport in Amsterdam. Unions were under no illusions that this would be a quick and easy victory, and saw the fight across many fronts that included the election cycle culminating in spring 2021 as well as their efforts with their own collective agreements. Exciting stuff with deep commitments and resources!
It was a jam-packed afternoon, and despite the fact that I was reeling from an overnight flight, I couldn’t miss the enthusiasm and the interest in continuing the momentum of putting organizers together over the coming year.