May Day or Dis-May Day for ACORN?

New EPI Report Shows National Labor Activist Group Busted Unionization Efforts of Own Employees, Sued To Avoid Paying Workers Minimum Wage, Abused Government Grant to Boost Own Membership
  • Publication Date: May 2003

  • Topics: Minimum Wage

Washington – As “labor-rights” supporters around the world celebrate May 1 as “the real labor day,” it is important to take stock of the real views of some of today’s labor activists – and their hypocrisies.

A prominent organizer of the “living wage” movement has recently been found guilty of union-busting within its own walls. The same group was earlier stripped of an AmeriCorps grant after it was found to be using the money in an illegal fundraising scheme, and had sued the state of California in order to avoid paying its own employees the state minimum wage. These findings and more are found in a new report released today by The Employment Policies Institute (EPI).

“The Real ACORN: Anti-Employee, Anti-Union, Big Business” details the duplicitous history of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). This multi-million dollar organization is a leading proponent of the national “living wage” movement, calling for mandated wages of up to 130 percent higher than the minimum wage. Presently, there are active campaigns in over 100 cities and communities.

Key findings in the report include:
ACORN Union-Busts Own Workers – On March 27, 2003 the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) found that ACORN had violated the National Labor Relations Act and was required to rehire terminated employees and pay restitution. The NLRB ruling is just the latest in a trend of ACORN’s union-busting tactics. ACORN employees have historically demanded higher wages, safer working conditions and more timely contracted wages. These efforts have been repressed behind closed doors by the hypocritical ACORN leadership, which publicly advocates higher pay and better working conditions for private sector workers.

ACORN and the Minimum Wage – ACORN promotes local ordinances that would force businesses to pay a minimum wage in excess of $12 per hour. In 1995, however, ACORN sued the state of California to have its employees exempted from the state minimum wage. ACORN argued that being forced to pay higher wages would mean that they would hire fewer employees. In an even more laughable argument, ACORN stated that paying its employees a lower wage would allow them to be more sympathetic to the low-and moderate-income families they were attempting to help. ACORN argued that these two factors would limit their ability to promote their agenda and would therefore be a violation of their First Amendment rights. The trial court judge dismissed ACORN’s suits, stating, “leaving aside the latter argument’s absurdity … we find ACORN to be laboring under a fundamental misconception of constitutional law.”

ACORN and AmeriCorps – In 1996, the Inspector General of the AmeriCorps program stripped a million dollar grant from the ACORN Housing Corporation (AHC). When applying, AHC had denied any connections to ACORN, since the grant was not intended for political advocacy organizations. Evidence later uncovered by the Inspector General found that not only was AHC created by ACORN and in fact engaged in numerous transactions with one another and shared staff and office space — but it utilized the AmeriCorps grant to increase ACORN membership, a violation of federal guidelines.

“We Just Made That Number Up” – ACORN regularly uses inflated poverty figures to arrive at their exorbitant “living wage” figures. ACORN’s manual also advocates for campaigns to “push for as high a wage as possible,” which may explain a recent response by ACORN living wage resource center head Jen Kern to a Sacramento city councilman. When asked how ACORN derived the living wage figure supplied for Oakland, CA, Kern replied, “We just made the number up.”

“ACORN is a leader in the living wage movement, which is rapidly spreading across the country, yet these findings show that it is a dishonest broker of information,” Kristen Lopez Eastlick, Director of Policy Analysis for EPI, said. “ACORN’s history of hypocrisy, abuse of federal grant programs, and disregard for sound economics should raise caution in any city or community considering its proposal for a wage increase.”