Motions in the Movement

ACORN International Housing Unions

            Sheffield           There was so much going on at the United Kingdom’s ACORN National Conference for 2024 that after listening to the officers’ reports to the elected branch chapters, I snuck out to hear the presentations and audit the workshops with the rank-and-file members and organizers.  Doing so, I would miss hearing the introduction and debate on a series of motions that would determine some of the policy positions of the organization in England and Wales over the coming years.  Reading the booklet later gave me a good sense of what I missed.

This kind of thing is common in union gatherings, where motions can range from the mundane to the global, from simple grievance demands to issues of war and peace.  In most ACORN affiliates these positions are referred to the elected boards and debated at the local group level before they get there, and sometimes referred back to them for refinement and action, if required.  As Nick Ballard, the head organizer, explained to me later, their two conferences are somewhat of a hybrid, part board meeting and part convention.  Likely, they will have to be split in the future, so that the leadership is more integrated into the members’ activities in the overall meeting and meets separately at another time from the overall agenda on policy and other internal matters in the organization.

The motions in the main came from the local branches.  This was not a haphazard process.  There had been organizational trainings conducted on the form, substance, and propriety of motions to keep them within the boundaries of the ACORN’s activities.  Once properly proposed, the motions were circulated.  Reading the motion’s booklet, I could see where in some cases other branches had modified a word or phrase here or there for meaning or clarification.  Only one of the motions was a rule change, and this had to do with how to handle public officials that were also union officers in some branches to make sure this was evolutionary, rather than opportunistic, and always subject to accountability within the branch.  The rest of the motions were about policy.

Most of the membership is involved in tenant and housing issues, so unsurprisingly, most of the motions tracked those campaigns.  Evictions got attention, especially restricting the role of bailiffs, which had been successful in some areas.  Landlord licensing was a campaign in a number of branches and had been won is several and saw three different motions.  Fire safety, second homes, and specialized housing accommodations were subjects of other campaigns and motions.

ACORN’s interest wasn’t limited.  Internet access got attention, as did dealing with deteriorating housing, deindustrialization, and making local bus service public again by stopping privatization.   I read closely one motion about “furniture poverty,” which was a new one to me.  It seems some councils require a total clear out between various families coming and going of everything down to the nap, including pulling out all of the carpets.  This often leaves new families with less along with colder floors and other discomforts.  The call was to change the policy, and it made good sense.

All of these motions passed after discussion and debate.  A good process and solid leadership activity had delivered good results to the membership.  The harder part is now fighting to win, but the ground where the organization stands is solid.