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Philly ACORN Workers Strike for Safe Jobs and End to Union Busting

The IWW struck the Philadelphia office of ACORN on February 8 to protest a series of unfair labor practices that had made working conditions intolerable. ACORN workers asked management to recognize their union and to respond to concerns about job safety and working conditions January 29. Although ACORN claims to be a progressive coummunity group promoting rights for working people, management refused to recognize the union or address workers' grievances.
The IWW struck the Philadelphia office of ACORN on February 8 to protest a series of unfair labor practices that had made working conditions intolerable. ACORN workers asked management to recognize their union and to respond to concerns about job safety and working conditions January 29. Although ACORN claims to be a progressive coummunity group promoting rights for working people, management refused to recognize the union or address workers' grievances.

In the two weeks between collecting authorization cards and the workers' decision that they had no choice but to strike, managers subjected workers to captive meetings, threatened workers for engaging in direct action on the job, threatened to terminate and then briefly suspended a member of the union organizing committee on alleged productivity grounds, threatened to discipline a worker for taking a lunch break during her 10-hour shift, blamed the union campaign for its refusal to transfer another worker to a safer job, subjected union supporters to surveillance and investigations, and fired a member of the IWW organizing committee.

A lively picket line in front of ACORN's offices drew 15 ACORN strikers and supporters, and enthusiastic support from many passersby. Several ACORN members promised to speak to management to demand better treatment for workers. The picket line concluded with a march into the ACORN office to collect owed the strikers. While inside, Wobblies asked the boss a barrage of questions about ACORN's unsafe working conditions and union-busting, finding that he had almost nothing to say in response.

"We work 54 hours a week, we work every weekend, and we don't get overtime pay," says ACORN worker Gina Giazzoni. ACORN workers' low salaries combined with with weekly overtime means an hourly wage hovering around minimum wage. They plan to bargain for a guaranteed lunch break, an eight hour work days, and at least two weekends off per month.

Another urgent concern is job safety. "Every night after dark we are sent out alone into city neighborhoods to recruit new members," Giazzoni explains. "It's not safe for us. I've been grabbed and molested while out in the field by myself. Our supervisors haven't one anything except issue a vague memo saying to take appropriate precautions. We want to work in pairs, but they won't let us."

Another worker was robbed at gun point while working the streets alone after the union had demanded the right to work in pairs.

ACORN workers have discovered disparities in pay and in work assignments which seem to be base on the race of the workers, and called for measures to address institutionalized racial biases.

ACORN is closely linked to the AFL-CIO, making its union-busting even more ironic. One of ACORN's founders, Wade Rathke, is also an international vice president of SEIU, and head of HOTROC, an AFL inter-union committee to organize hotel workers in New Orleans.

While Rathke heads a campaign for management neutrality, urging employers to stay neutral instead of fighting against their workers' organizing efforts, the Philadelphia branch of ACORN is fighting the union tooth and nail - going so far as to advance the rediculous claim that it would be "illegal" to recognize a union for its Philadelphia staff.

The Philadelphia unionists would like to be in touch with ACORN organizers and staff from other areas. Write: To-Gather c/o IWW, PO Box 13476, Philadelpia, PA 19101 Call: 215-763-1274.
Email: giazzoni (at) usa.net.

In Chicago you can Write: Chicago General Membership Branch-IWW, c/o 937 Sherman Ave., Evanston, IL 60202 or Email: michaelhargis (at) netscape.net.
 
 

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