Tag Archives: Local 100 United Labor Unions

Serving Meals in Delhi

From Street Demos to Solidarity Work

Pearl River     What do mass-based organizations and social movements do when their tactics of mass action, disruption, and street protests are impossible due to stay-at-home orders and social distancing?  Do collective actions simply devolve into solitary moans on social media?  No, never!  Mass-based organizations assemble the base into action in another way to serve their members.  Let’s call it solidary or support work, and for all of the companies and governments who think that the dissipation of direct action is a silver lining in the cloud of the coronavirus, here’s bad news for you:  It’s making us stronger!

In the United Kingdom in recent weeks, ACORN mobilized 3500 volunteers to support individuals stuck at home and without services, to support food banks, to pick up groceries and drug prescriptions, and you name it.  Add to that circulating a petition that gained thousands of signatures to stop evictions and demand rent relief for its members.  Throw in this special distribution which is getting props from media throughout the country:

Coronavirus: Latest Information for Renters by ACORN. For those concerned about their housing during the ongoing pandemic, ACORN has a section providing information.

Membership is soaring!

The work gets really direct for ACORN Delhi, where we and one of our affiliates, Janaphal, administer more than a dozen night shelters for migrant workers who were caught by the government shutdown order and police action without work, and therefore income, and of course food as well.  Suddenly, we are running seven kitchens in the centers and during the week went from serving 3000 meals a day to 7000 and still rising.  The government is supposed to reimburse us, but the government was supposed to provide food to these workers during the shutdown.  People come first, as long as we can get the food to cook.

The stories abound throughout the ACORN federation of organizations, but it’s solidarity work with a bite, as collective actions continue where essential workers continue to labor.  In France, our affiliate in Lyon, Uniti, coordinated a strike of security workers being forced to work without personal protection equipment (PPE), and won. In Louisiana, workers in MH/MR community homes run by the giant national service company, ResCare, were left without adequate protection or quarantine procedures once a resident contracted the virus.  Workers passed petitions and joined Local 100 United Labor Unions to demand more from ResCare, despite threats of retaliation. Membership is soaring!

This is happening everywhere.

In Hong Kong, as reported by the Washington Post, “Rather than continuing to plug mass demonstrations, anti-government activists have used the networks they built during months of organizing to import more than 100,000 medical masks and distribute them to people in need.”  In Chile, “they’re also moving to adapt. They’ve been callingcacerolazos — balcony-bound pot-and-pan-banging protests traditional in Latin America — loud enough to drown out music and conversation inside homes. An artist’s collective, Intermediate Depression, published an illustrated “manual for protesting from home” on Instagram, encouraging Chileans to deck their balconies with protest signs, “share [their] favorite songs with [their] neighborhood” and engage in cyberactivism.”

Trust me on this.  In crisis we double down.  People learn what the slogan, “The People United Shall Never Be Defeated,” means in daily life, not just on the streets.

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Some Changes the Coronavirus Should Bring

Pearl River     In the Age of Trump and the Time of the Coronavirus, there seems to be constant speculation about what changes in our society, habits, and government might be permanent given our collective experience.  Much of this is hyperbole.  One pundit argued that he went “to sleep in America and woke up in democratic socialist Europe.”  Oh, if dreams could come true!  Let’s instead talk about lessons we should learn in this crisis, and things that should absolutely change in the wake of this crisis.

The Affordable Care Act is now ten years old, celebrating its anniversary during the lockdown.  No matter Trump’s rhetoric and Mitch McConnell’s Senate Republican caucus, can anyone make the case that the private health insurance and the patchwork quilt of state health coverage is adequate for our people?  The elimination of mandatory coverage left our hospital network damaged, albeit their greedy pricing of their services, drugs, and the like are major players as well, forced mergers and left us with too many sick and not enough beds, equipment, and personnel.  Millions in states across the country are facing this crisis without any insurance.  That has to change.

How could we not learn that the internet has to become a public utility?  How could we not realize that we finally have to take this matter out of the hands of the telecoms and the pattycake FCC voluntary programs and eliminate the digital divide, here and around the world?  How can all the ideologues who want to argue that education is the answer, despite the facts, maintain their position as the country from elementary to college is pushed into on-line learning, leaving lower income families even farther behind?   Put this near the top of the list.

Living wages, paid sick leave, real unemployment benefits, the play pretend that gig workers are not employees, are all things that we have once again been taught have to be part of the safety net for everyone, especially lower waged workers and their families.   The failure of government in this crisis has to end the argument that somehow the private sector and the magic of market forces are somehow going provide for families.  They never have, and they never will.  That’s why we need a government, it’s time to make them do the job.

I didn’t put this on the top of the list, but our union represents home care workers, nursing home workers, developmentally disabled workers, and the government and society has depended on them for care as much as they do hospital workers, yet they are severely underpaid and under resourced.  Good health care is a top to bottom priority, and we have to guarantee our people that they will be provided for when in care, and when giving care.

Yes, people will finally learn to wash their hands better, but the virus ought to bring forward a host of changes that we desperately need and can no longer ignore.  The temptation by policy makers will be to fight the last war, rather than the next, by putting more respirators and masks into production.  Many of us will include different items in our “run for it” bags and storage closets for sure.  But we need to learn from this that there are fundamental changes that we have to make in protection and provision for our people, and we need to do it now.

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