Bergerie de Villareaux It had been so long since ACORN International’s organizers from the various affiliates had been able to come together in a meeting that when they were all greeted by our host, our French affiliate, an extra year was added to the time marking the last reunion in July 2018, rather than 2019. It didn’t matter to anyone. Everyone knew it was way too long at two years and counting. There was a lot of catching up to do, new organizers to meet, and senior organizers to greet, as we hunkered down to business.
We were meeting in a majestic conference and retreat center more than one-hour in the country outside of Paris. We had taken one of the metro lines to the last stop and then were driven another twenty minutes farther. The stone buildings had once been part of a sheep farm with some new dormitory additions and other upgrades. The foundation that owns and runs the facility had made it available for our meeting because of their work with Marielle Bencheboune, the director of ReAct Transnational, an affiliated sister organization, and our shared commitments around informal worker organizing. We felt like we were living large.
The pandemic was a through line in many of the reports. Mutual aid had been huge in India and England. Surprising to some, since we were kept off the doors for long stretches, had been the significant growth experienced by many of the affiliates, especially Canada, England, Scotland, and even our newest, CATU in Ireland. Importantly as well, the resource picture had improved for many of the countries in terms of dues income and in some cases external support.
There was also a commitment by our affiliates with a tenant base to expand to meet the memberships’ demands that went past housing and landlord issues. Several countries had been involved in robust transportation campaigns. The cost and impact of utilities and their pricing were concerns for others. The list was long.
Equally significant were the number of attacks on our organizations. Lawsuits by landlords in the United Kingdom of course, but also stringent efforts to block us and our allies in France from the top reaches of the government. In a meeting of the top directors after all the day’s meetings had ended, head organizers shared strategies for upgrading our defenses and protecting not only our members from the attacks but the infrastructure and survival of the organization themselves.
Threats and challenges were all swirling in the gumbo, but for many being able to come together again meant that there was a better chance to preparing to fight and win even more in the future.