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ACORN Pays $20,000 Settlement

By Seattle IWW, May 25, 2001

Seattle: Carol-Honey Hirning, a former striking worker at and member of ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) was relieved when she found out that she would receive back pay for her employer illegally locking her out of her job when she went on strike last February. She was surprised to find upon her returning to work that harassment of pro-union employees would escalate, which included threats to reprimand workers and creating a hostile environment.

"They wouldn't even let us do our jobs", says Fitzsimmons, who returned to work on May 7th, after the National Labor Relations Board threatened ACORN with a federal court injunction, forcing them to allow workers to return to their jobs at the Washington ACORN office" They controlled every hour of our day, to prevent us from having contact with the membership thereby preventing the community organizing work that we were hired to do."

Workers had organized with the labor union Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and went on strike on February 26th, 2001, demanding a 40 hour week and recognition of the union. The employer locked the workers out shortly thereafter.

During the strike, lasting over two months, two workers, Alexa Gilbert and Lara Davis went on to take jobs as a result of the lockout, in order to pay the mounting bills and living expenses, and were unable to return to their jobs at ACORN.

The three remaining workers decided to quit in protest, after seeing that ACORN was willing to appeal every ruling in favor of the union, which would effectively postpone a representation election for up to a year. "By then, who would still be working there?", adds Fitzsimmons.

ACORN chief organizer, Wade Rathke, and new Washington ACORN office head organizer, Kent Smith, have claimed publicly that all is well in Seattle and the union drive is over. Supporters have been reluctant to work with ACORN even now, due to their successful campaign to break the union organizing drive in Seattle.

"The community must never forget what ACORN has done", says John Persak, an IWW organizer in Seattle. "How can ACORN management lock workers out for two months, forcing them to quit because of hardship, pay out over $20,000 in a settlement, fly two attorneys to Seattle to further delay the representation election at the Labor Board, and expect people to believe that all is well?" He adds, "This underscores further the doublespeak that causes their workers to unionize or resign in disgust, and it shows that Wade Rathke and his clique have learned nothing about workers' rights."

ACORN had been claiming that they offered to enter into a labor peace agreement. When the opportunity arose to sign such a deal, their attorneys demanded that the IWW also sign a gag order, promising to never criticize ACORN publicly. The IWW, ironically enough, even offered to sign the deal as is, if ACORN agreed to a 40 hour week, lunch breaks, full paychecks, and similar demands in the interim. ACORN refused.

Unfair Labor Practices are still pending against ACORN in Dallas, Texas.