New Threats, New Victories, 1994 – 2002


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. 

ACORN has shown that it is always open to new approaches, is always reaching out to organize the unorganized, is always adapting to new circumstances, and is continually developing its ability to empower low- and moderate-income people wherever they live or work. Opportunities and threats come and go, but the mission of ACORN is clear, the vision remains: power through organization and direct action.


New Victories, 1995 – 2002

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. 

With the advent of welfare "reform" ACORN organized workfare workers to demand the same rights other workers enjoy as well as the child care, transportation, and job training necessary to make the transition from welfare to work. 

ACORN launched a new fight for fair lending, this time targeting the subprime loan industry which preys on low-income and minority neighborhoods. 

At the close of the 90s, ACORN was 125,000 members strong. 

In 2000, ACORN escalated the fight against predatory lending. Actions and negotiations have won reforms from some of the largest subprime lenders. The campaign persists in pressuring lenders directly and pushing for stronger laws and regulations governing the industry. 

The living wage campaign continues to catch fire with coalitions forming in dozens of cities, passage of more local ordinances and the first citywide minimum wage initiative, plus the introduction of a federal living wage bill. With the 1996 welfare law up for reauthorization, ACORN also played a leading role in a national campaign to improve the TANF Program. 

On the education front, ACORN has mounted campaigns against privatizing public schools and for adequate funding and qualified teachers. 

Affordable housing, fair lending, jobs at living wages, and better schools remain at the top of ACORN's agenda. At the same time, ACORN groups respond to members' concerns, as they always have, addressing a wide range of issues and building power for low- and moderate-income Americans.

NEW VICTORIES 

1995: 

Boston and Denver ACORN win commitments from city officials for First Source hiring programs. 

St. Paul ACORN puts living wage initiative on the ballot but loses to heavily-financed opposition. 

Seattle ACORN wins library for a high school that previously did not have one. 

New Orleans begins auctioning abandoned houses, implementing city and state laws won by ACORN. 

ACORN tenants in New York fight plan to sell city buildings to private landlords and win. 

ACORN members in Albuquerque win a percentage of affordable housing in upper-income housing development. 

Governor of Illinois signs law pushed by SEIU Local 880 increasing pay for homecare workers. 

1996: 

ACORN Housing Corporation and Prudential Insurance strike a deal to provide full coverage homeowner's insurance in Philadelphia neighborhoods that had been redlined. 

In Albuquerque, ACORN wins additional $250,000 of CDBG money for downpayment assistance. 

ACORN lawsuit forces Illinois to comply with motor voter law. 

Arkansas voters approve ACORN-sponsored campaign finance law by two-to-one margin. 

NY ACORN campaign against corporate welfare wins paid job training and placement program from media giant, Viacom. 

1997: 

ACORN-led coalition wins passage of living wage ordinances in St. Paul and Minneapolis. 

ACORN organizes workfare workers in New York and Los Angeles, winning demands around safety, health, and dignity on the job. 

Philadelphia ACORN wins free transit passes for people moving from welfare to work. 

Boston ACORN and labor allies win passage of living wage law. 

In unofficial election, 99 percent of New York City workfare workers vote for representation by ACORN. 

NM ACORN wins passage of state law establishing mobile home owner's bill of rights. 

Two ACORN high schools open in New York City; ACORN academy opens in St. Paul teaching students in English, Spanish, and Hmong; ACORN dual language high school opens in Chicago Mexican American neighborhood. 

NY City schools chancellor responds to ACORN charges of racism with plans to broaden access to gifted programs. 

1998: 

San Jose ACORN wins textbooks for every child in the Alum Rock School District for the first time in its history. 

Dallas ACORN convinces city to increase funding to pay for home repairs for over 500 senior citizens. 

In test case of new regulations, St. Louis ACORN gets Mercantile Bank's CRA rating downgraded from outstanding to satisfactory. 

ACORN/ labor coalitions win passage of living wage ordinances in Oakland, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; and Cook County, Ill. 

Tenants force HUD to foreclose on Bronx slumlord and give 114-unit building to ACORN Housing Corporation. 

NM ACORN welfare union members win agreement protecting recipients unable to find local child care from penalties for not meeting work requirements. 

Los Angeles ACORN wins grievance procedure for workfare worker, the first in the country. 

ACORN members spearhead formation of the Working Families Party, the first community-labor party with official ballot status in New York state in more than 50 years. 

1999: 

APAC campaign wins election of former Chicago ACORN President a alderman of the city's 15th Ward. 

APAC and labor partners upset 25-year GOP hold on Hempstead, Long Island, City Council, electing two Working Families Party candidates. 

Oakland ACORN wins ordinance providing limited public financing of local elections to help level the political playing field. 

ACORN wins promise of 50 fulltime living wage jobs from Minneapolis Wild hockey team. 

Baltimore ACORN wins comprehensive agreement with city to clean up trash upon ACORN's report and demand. 

Charging environmental discrimination, DC ACORN wins monetary compensation for neighborhood harmed by subway construction. 

IL ACORN signs an innovative agreement offering reduce cost primary health care benefits to members of ACORN and SEIU Local 880. 

New AHC program with Bank of America, with more flexible underwriting and discounted pricing, produces a record $246 million in mortgages for 2,27 low- and moderate-income families. 

NM ACORN mobile home tenants win over $100,000 in reimbursements for utility overcharges. 

ACORN High School for Social Justice opens in Brooklyn; ACORN's Greenville Community Charter School Opens in Jersey City. 

SEIU Local 100 reaches 7,000 members in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas. 

2000: 

Oakland ACORN wins three-year battle to reopen the abandoned Woodland Elementary School as an ACORN community school. 

ACORN WEP Workers Organizing Committee wins New York City Council approval of a grievance procedure for workfare workers. 

Led by ACORN and the AFL-CIO, the Massachusetts Needs a Raise Campaign wins an increase in the state's minimum wage and earned income tax credit. 

Test scores improve at all of the schools where Chicago ACORN parents are organizing. 

Los Angeles ACORN wins a county jobs registry giving General Relief recipients priority hiring status for jobs in departments where they've performed workfare assignments. 

ACORN-led Corporate Responsibility Campaign wins living wage ordinance in Denver. 

Baltimore ACORN wins HUD agreement to renegotiate thousands of FHA loans. 

ACORN negotiates agreement with Ameriquest setting a standard for responsible lending in the subprime loan industry. 

St. Louis voters overwhelmingly approve living wage ordinance put on the ballot by ACORN-led coalition. 

ACORN and Grassroots Collaborative organize 10,000-person march in Chicago to demand amnesty for undocumented workers. 

ACORN's 30th anniversary convention celebrates 30,000th family to become homeowners through the ACORN Housing Corporation. 

ACORN registers 100,000 new voters nationwide. 

2001: 

ACORN blocks attempt by for-profit Edison Schools to take over New York City public schools. 

Philadelphia, Oakland, and the state of California pass ACORN-backed legislation to curb predatory lending. 

In response to ACORN pressure, major subprime lenders, including Household International and Citigroup, commit to stop selling single-premium credit insurance. 

ACORN and other groups in Chicago win a utility bill arrearage payment program funded by the city, state, and the gas company. 

In Arkansas and Providence, RI, ACORN wins re-connection plans restoring utility service to low-income families. 

St. Louis ACORN and allies pass a ballot initiative creating a housing trust fund. 

Home child care providers organized by ACORN in Los Angeles win a grievance procedure. 

Chicago ACORN wins hiring of 3,000 new teachers, almost double the number hired in previous years. 

2002: 

New Orleans voters approve ACORN/SEIU Local 100 ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage. 

St. Louis Board of Aldermen passes ACORN's living wage ordinance. 

ACORN and allies win creation of a $100 million housing trust fund in Los Angeles. 

CA legislation passes laws proposed by ACORN to protect tenants. 

New York City Council adopts ACORN's anti-predatory lending ordinance.

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