Rave Reviews for ACORN International in Dharavi

From the National Geographic article featuring ACORN International ragpickers.
From the National Geographic article featuring ACORN International ragpickers.
From National Geographic Article
From National Geographic Article

Mumbai      Vinod Shetty, ACORN India’s Director, and I had been meeting for hours along Juhu Road at the Sip ‘N Munch going through our work list of what needed to be done on campaigns around remittances, the Commonwealth Games, and multi-national food contractors and their labor law violations.  We had discussed the great progress of our Dharavi recycling center.  He had told me the good news that Joseph Campana’s project for us of producing a book that would support our Dharavi work finally had a publisher in Harper-Collins-India.  We had talked about the prospects for acquiring a set of scales and a crushing machine to be able to raise the prices for our plastic recycling and increase our waste pickers wages.  We had checked the dates and filings on our paperwork for the ACORN Foundation (India).  We had discussed our efforts to repackage and sell products being produced in Dharavi for Diwali and other festival dates to our school recycling partners like Eco-Mundial and the American School.  We had taken notes for reports owed to our friends at BCGEU and SEIU.  There were a lot of items ticked off the list.

Finally at that point Vinod pulled out a staff of glossy magazines and newspapers with almost a blush.  The magazines ran the gamut.  One was the Clean India Journal which focused on environmental progress for companies, contractors, and others in India and featured our work in September in a piece called, “Waste Matters for Green Workers” about our ragpicker organization in Dharavi.  Another in a the “green” issue of an upscale fashion monthly called Jade and style magazine was entitled “Green Heroes:  Ragpickers or City Savers?”  (Access both on our website at www.acorninternational.org)   Later he forwarded me another piece published on several websites by a Londoner which was not quite as gushing but referred to our ragpickers as “invisbile heroes” in http://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/3790-Invisible-heroes-of-Dharavi.  An article distributed for school children in a “weekly reader” style publication called Robin Age also contained a recent feature.

Looking quickly, the Jade piece by Sugatha Menon ended with the lines:
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Union Leaders Thinking “Outside the Box”

Workshops on subcontracting and nursing homes and community homes
Workshops on subcontracting and nursing homes and community homes

Texas Union Members speakingUnion Organizer Roger from Houston listeningShreveport Local 100’s stewards and leaders organized themselves into three different workshops. One focused on schools and head start units, another looked at health care with nursing and community homes, and the last bit hard into contractors and subcontractors for sanitation and janitorial workers. The results were inspiring and exciting. In the report backs one leader perhaps summed it up best by saying, “we have to think ‘outside the box.’”

The reason is simple enough to follow as well. Companies are “way out the box.” One problem stewards were unpacking focused on a unit where Local 100 had won an election in April 2009 for cleaners with a local, Dallas-based company at D/FW Airport Concourse D. After endless delays in bargaining including company delays around election objections, after six months of bargaining in which the company delayed and postponed one meeting after another, they walked away from the table in spring of 2010 with dueling NLRB charges. Another company won the bid in May 2010 and recognized the unions but within hours of coming to agreement with the union in August, they walked away from the contract. A third company is now bargaining with the union, and prospects are fair for a settlement, but the union has now had to also demand recognition with several additional companies that are subcontracting part of the work. The workers, those that have survived, are shell shocked. The giant public airport authority running one of the USA’s largest airports is involved in such a race to the bottom, that it is squeezing contractors and sweating workers without a moment’s hesitation. The Local 100 stewards understood that these problems require not just leadership, but virtually heroism!

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