Masks and food for the people

by Wade Rathke

May 14

Pearl River ACORN and its affiliates are direct action, mass-based organizations. Some now ask, how do we explain the fact that we also, especially now, deliver what many would only expect of service-based outfits? Easy answer: a membership-based organization has to be able to respond to the membership. When the membership is in crisis, so is the organization, and that means the organization has to be able to respond to what the membership needs now. We all learned this in the United States when ACORN had to turn on a dime to support our members after hurricane Katrina. We learned it in Peru during earthquake disasters, and with our partners in Indonesia and India after tsunamis. We’re learning it again during the Covid-19 disaster, although the lessons are different and more widespread, since this crisis for our membership is universal, rather than local.

ACORN India in Dharavi, the mega-slum in Mumbai, is delivering food packets to their members, especially among the young people in the waste pickers’ cooperative, who depended on ACORN collections from schools and colleges, that are now closed. ACORN India in Delhi, both among our informal workers’ union and in the more than a dozen night centers we manage, has organized volunteers and kitchens to serve more than 7000 meals per day. The ACORN Union in England has mobilized 4000 volunteers in addition to our members in our sixteen branches to do food purchases and pharmacy pickups for community members in the most precarious situations. (To support these efforts, donate at via the Global Covid-19 Respond Fund.) ACORN Honduras in San Pedro Sula and Choloma are now sewing special ACORN masks for our members and supporters. To support this effort, you can donate via our website to the Global Covid-19 Respond Fund and put Honduras in the memo.


Local 100, United Labor Unions, partnered with #NOLAPPE and its Last Mile Project and delivered 7000 KN95 and surgical masks to our members and others in nursing homes, schools, and community homes supporting independent living for the differently abled. Toney Orr, Local 100’s field director, just returned from mask deliveries in Houston and Dallas to school bus drivers, custodians, and food service workers, and to our nursing home workers under collective bargaining contracts in Shreveport. Deliveries are being made over the next week from Local 100’s New Orleans office to healthcare workers in the city, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette areas.



Working on distribution with the Last Mile, their only request was that we make sure there were pictures taken of the delivery that they could share with the various donors, many of whom had organized to obtain personal protective equipment as members of the personal app-based gaming industry the likes of PacMan, Pokeman, and that sort. Some of the pictures our partners couldn’t use. The members were so excited that they wanted to be in the picture. Whoops, that’s not social distancing, but that is absolutely what a membership organization is all about!

Wade Rathke is founder and chief organizer of ACORN and ACORN International. You can find Wade’s recent past posts here Chief Organizer Reports. And you can link to his website here Chief Organizer ACORN/ACORN International


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