ACORN was the nation's largest community organization of low and moderate-income families, working together for social justice and stronger communities. From 1970 to its end in 2010, ACORN had grown to more than 175,000 member families, organized in 850 neighborhood chapters in 75 cities across the U.S. and in cities in Canada, the Dominican Republic and Peru.
ACORN's accomplishments included successful campaigns for better housing, schools, neighborhood safety, health care, job conditions, and more. ACORN members would participate in local meetings and actively work on campaigns, elect leadership from the neighborhood level up, and pay the organization's core expenses through membership dues and grassroots fundraisers.
ACORN expanded and won major victories in the late 1990s and early 2000s. On the political front, ACORN pursued new directions in the 90s. Through the initiative process, ACORN put strong campaign finance reform measures on the ballot and won overwhelming voter support. ACORN members also spearheaded creation of locally-based independent parties which have put dozens of progressive candidates in office.
ACORN's long-standing concern with education reform led to the creation of alternative public schools in several cities. The ACORN schools emphasize small classes, parent involvement, and community oriented curricula.
ACORN took the lead in organizing broad-based community and labor coalitions in support of a living wage. By the close of the 90s, 41 cities had passed living wage laws requiring employers that receive government contracts or subsidies to pay their employees at least enough to lift a family of four above the poverty level.
In November, 1994, the resurgence of the Republican Party in Congress dramatically changed the political picture for ACORN. It posed new threats to long-standing ACORN campaigns and meant a loss of support for ACORN initiatives. It was not, however, anything ACORN had not seen before. From its beginning, ACORN had fought against politicians who resisted their ideas and their work to build power for low- and moderate-income people. The history of ACORN shows it is stronger than ever and better prepared for the continued struggle.
The last five years have witnessed major innovations in ACORN organizing, making it a stronger organization prepared to operate in a hostile political climate and win. SEIU Locals 100 and 880 have grown enormously, signing up healthcare workers, school employees, janitorial workers, and nurses, among others. Communications have grown also, including a TV station in Salinas, California. New techniques in organizing have increased dues-paying and meeting attendance, especially in large cities. Important new chapters have been added in Seattle, Milwaukee, San Jose, and Baltimore. Finally, mass turnouts at ACORN actions include a crowd of 5,000 for a community meeting in New York and over 10,000 in Philadelphia.
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