Speaking as a former employee of ACORN, I can tell you that there are many reasons ACORN doesnt work. ACORN has set itself up as the savior of the inner-city. They claim that they can organize the vote and get it out better than anyone else in America. They have virtually declared themselves to be the ghetto messiah. However, is this true?
Let us examine the facts. ACORN is headed by white leftists and until only a few years ago there where hardly any blacks at the helm, to take care of this PR problem ACORN put Maude Herd in as president. However, the presence of a black face at the top means very little. The driving agenda of ACORN comes from these white liberals and the formulation of their solutions to the problems of American cities comes from books and the classrooms, not personal experience.
Now, the white left certainly has its place in these matters, however what we see with ACORN are people, despite being with the organization for a long time, having very little familiarity with the culture and happenings of the ghetto. Therefore, if you don't know the community ( knowledge doesn't mean you have read a lot of studies), how can you possibly claim to have the solutions.
Furthermore, ACORN pays its workers a very low age. In some states it is right at the minimum wage, despite ACORN being the big campaigners for Living Wage ordinances. With low wages like these ACORN can only attract a select group of individuals. Those who really don't need the money, because they come from affluent backgrounds and those who don't have children. If ACORN truly wants to represent the communities it works in then it must employ people from those communities.
ACORN has also, because of its unfamiliarity with the ghetto, been continuously duped by slick ghetto politicians who everyone, except ACORN , have known to be corrupt. ACORN has made very little effort to reach out to many leaders in the black community, namely the 2.5 million member Muslim community. A fundamental change if ACORN is to succeed in the future.
...More at "Why ACORN Doesn't Work"
So, for you young people out there, you probably don't know the dos and don'ts of the good and/or bad interview. I've had my share of both during my plus two score span.
Here's a hint when the interview for the canvass director position turns bad: You end up telling Pittsburgh ACORN head Maryellen Hayden to, and I quote: "Get the fuck out of my face". I had worked several months before for ACORN back in 1997 and I was sort of disappointed by the experience--getting paid late and not seeing actual benefits for working poor people kind of does that to you.
This is after she told me, and this is from memory, that I was doing it just to get a "job", as if Maryellen's skills of making fun of my pronunciation were in high demand. That simply hasn't been the way that I've lived. I have spent a total of five years of my life knocking on doors for political causes, and I'm not counting the last six months that I worked for ACT. I worked my way through college canvassing. I worked for Citizen Action (pretty much like the army for progressives) (and note the racial diversity of management from that picture) which had a brutal $120 a night quota, for about a year in a half. And my field manager was intentionally trying to get me fired. (I was good.) I then ran a field canvass for three years in Evansville, Indiana, where we canvassed against NAFTA and high cable bills. I don't think I ever did it for the "Big Money", although the 15,000 a year I sniffed at is more than what the average, highly exploited ACORN worker makes.
ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, if you didn't know, kids, is kind of a fucked up place to work. Oh, they have wonderful goals and aspirations, just not for their workers. Let's put it this way: they were paying my rent in Washington DC and I was still starving from my $150 a week salary--which they would pay me late. Thanks fellas. But that's just personal negative experience.
Overall, ACORN makes a claim to be fighting the fight for poor people. But in the past, ACORN has refused to negotiate with unions, hired scabs to replace their striking workers, opposed a minimum wage hike for their own workers (used by right wing publications all the time to show the hypocrisy of the left...thanks fellas, again), will never give you a full weekend--gawd I used to hate that, and has earned its own Page of Contempt over at the IWW Website.
Curiously enough, Ms. Hayden inquired, in her particular parlance: "Whydja come down here if you thought it was a bad place to work?" probably scratching her noggin cartoon like and yearning to catch a fuckin' clue. Honestly, if I could run the canvass my way and pay the workers a decent wage, then why not give it a shot? Perhaps ACORN had gotten better. I was wrong.
(Aside: Funny story. Maryellen was telling me the story of how the last canvass failed and she asserted that the last canvass manager was kind of a heroin addict and that's why it failed, as opposed to the 54 hour weeks, the shortened lunch breaks and late paychecks. Yeah, heroin. Hokay. Of course, she still has her job because when you manage like that you keep your job at ACORN. Laffs were had by all. Still in the jesting mood hours later, I did ask what that guy's name was. She wrote back:
I have no idea what you are talking about.
I guess you have some kind of problem.
Now, Maryellen, you public figure you, I remember the details. Just happened a day ago. Remember when you told me he was a great guy and then he didn't come in and then he didn't answer his cell anymore...you don't remember that? Because if you don't you're either a blatant liar or a deeply stupid woman. Alex, I'm going to go with "What is both?")
Actually, her plan sounds familiar. Sounds like the same very bad ACORN plan that I've seen before. Here's how one disgruntled former ACORN staffer described it:
A main difference between Marx's argument and the relations of ACORN is that bourgeois society exploits workers in order to increase the capital profit of the ruling class. But ACORN organizers are laboring to increase a profit which supposedly does not come in the form of capital in the hands of the rich, but social change in the hands of the poor. Does this mean that we are not being exploited?
The fact is that we are exploited for a different reason. We are being exploited in the name of the movement, and most likely for the accumulation of capital. [Note: I was paid up to $8 an hour which amounted to $32 per night to knock on doors. I was expected to collect $120 per night. If I didn't I was considered to be doing poorly at my job. Few workers seldom ever raised $120 per night yet that was ACORN's unrealistic expectation of us as their workers.] A contradiction occurs in the organization in that it is fighting the wage and class gap by using the same motives and manipulations that corporations have been using for well over a hundred years. ACORN is an organization trying to change the plight of the poor in a capitalist society at the same time it contributes to the problem. The organization is tripping over itself as it perpetuates the injustices of the capitalist system.
By the way, Citizen Action, no angels them, pays about 52 percent up to quota, which I think is up to $130 night. Maryellen wanted to pay the workers a very not generous 40 percent. That's a wage that's guaranteed to keep you poor and probably lower than what the other two summer canvasses will pay (Sierra Club and Clean Water Action Project). How would you compete with those canvasses? You wouldn't. In fact, you would get the worst workers. In other words, if you don't know anything about canvassing then you would probably canvass for ACORN and take one of the worst deals ever...
Just for the record, and I tried to explain this to Maryellen, slowly, despite her bouts of traumatic memory loss regarding her former heroin addict employees, is that the field canvass simply sets the plate for a much more lucrative phone canvass. The Clean Water Action Project doesn't need the hassle of a field canvass anymore because the phone canvass is much more lucrative. But you have to pay the field canvassers a decent wage (at least 50 percent) and not work them six days a week. You might even consider giving them a four day week. Heroin...right.
So, in summation, if you're a plucky young progressive who wants to change the world one knock at a time, I would strongly recommend working for Clean Water, the Sierra Club or even the DAM phone canvass before you worked for ACORN--unless you want your disenchantment with the American Left to start early...and no I didn't get the position. Darn the luck. Or give me an email and I'll tell how to start your own canvass. It'll be tough, grueling work. But you'll give yourself a better deal than ACORN.