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Oregon ACORN Manager Caught Scabbing at Seattle

By Dave Mazza, Portland Alliance, April 2001

ACORN, a progressive membership based community organization is accustomed to media attention for its work bringing together low income people around issues like better access utility assistance. Now, the national organization is getting publicity of another kind. ACORN's Washington state office has been accused of engaging in unfair labor practices and of bringing at least one manager up from Portland to scab while workers are out on the picket line.

ACORN workers in at least two offices--Seattle, Washington and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania--started to organize and sought affiliation with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). Although ACORN supports workers' rights, including the right to organize, the group is less enthusiastic when union activity began taking place inside the organization.

"When ACORN organizers went on strike in Philadelphia two weeks ago, management promised to recognize the union if a majority of workers joined. Now here in Seattle we do have a majority and they still refuse to recognize the union," states Lara Davis, an ACORN organizer and striking worker. "They are just trying to stall until we give in."

The Seattle office moved beyond mere stalling when three days into the strike by workers, a woman named Darcia, a manager in ACORN's Oregon office and allegedly the girlfriend of Seattle manage Doug Bloch, came north to fill the gap formed by workers on the picket line. The decision to scab has already had an impact on relations between ACORN and some progressive groups in Oregon. Portland Jobs with Justice has requested a meeting with ACORN management. IWW locals in Portland have also communicated their anger over ACORN's use of a scab, as well as urging Portland Jobs with Justice, as the largest labor-community coalition in the area to take a string line on the issue.

Meanwhile, ACORN workers are maintaining their picket line as well as pursuing charges of unfair labor practices against the organization through the National Labor Relations Board. What the repercussions of this incident will be on Oregon ACORN, which had started to work with Jobs with Justice, and even more closely with the New Party and the Rainbow Coalition, remains to be seen.