Montreal Close to 250 people from all over Canada had rolled into McGill University on the rise of Mount Royal overlooking the city. Three school buses came from Ottawa, vans and cars from Nova Scotia 14 hours away, a coach bus from Toronto, and flyers from British Columbia. There was even a delegation from ACORN International in the USA and a team from Local 100 that drove up from Dallas and Little Rock. Members were camped out in the lobby in their red t-shirts and on the sidewalks outside of the residence hall like it was a summer action camp.
They were all ready and chanting their local slogans as they entered the ballroom on Sunday morning ready to roar. They were met with welcome and exhortations by one speaker after another, beginning with Adrian Profitos, an ACORN member from Ottawa now living in Montreal and helping organize ACORN’s newest chapter there. A delegation from our longtime allies, the Immigrant Workers Center, brought cries of “shame, shame” from the members as they detailed the exploitation of workers by temporary employment agencies that now number 5000 in the Montreal area. A machinist leader from the FTQ, the Quebec labor union council, had the crowd laughing when he told the members that he had apologized to his young children when he had left this morning that he would not be watching cartoons with them because he had to give greetings to some “corporate crowd.” The punch line was that “I could not have been more wrong,” as the ACORN members hooted and hollered.
Aside from ACORN Canada leaders, the most riveting speaker, setting the tone for the convention was Mike Palecek, the National President of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers or CUP-W, as it is called. The union has been our staunchest ally on the remittance justice campaign and has joined us enthusiastically in fighting predatory lending by banks and payday lenders. The postal union envisions an expansion of the post office capacity as a postal bank, common in some other countries as well as adding the ability to handle money transfers as not only good for low and moderate income families as ACORN does, but a way to protect and keep postal members working by offering more services. There is a lot of excitement in Canada now about the startling upset by the New Democratic Party in the western province of Alberta after 40 years of rule by the Conservative Party and whether or not that signals change in the election coming in four months nationally. Palecek sensed that this was a crowd hungry for change and he stoked the fires.
In the afternoon, buses of members fanned out across the city to a huge response in neighborhoods regardless of our faltering French to talk to people about supporting ACORN’s “Internet for All” campaign to bridge the digital divide. Members reported enthusiastic support and real anger over cost, quality, and access. With hearings pending in Ottawa on this issue, the support in Montreal opens up an important front.
ACORN’s convention is not about parties and parades, but outreach and action, and it is moving and inspiring to see the members join together to get the job done.