ACORN's Wade Rathke Steps Down After Revelation of Brothers Theft and Rathke Instigated Coverup

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Black Leprechan
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Jul 12 2008 03:03
ACORN's Wade Rathke Steps Down After Revelation of Brothers Theft and Rathke Instigated Coverup

The Following is a New York Times Article that folks should be aware of. Following the article is the heart felt letter from an ex-staff member who is not satidfied with Mr. Rathke's excuses or his decades of oppression of staff of color:

Funds Misappropriated at 2 Nonprofit Groups

By STEPHANIE STROM
Published: July 9, 2008
Two prominent national nonprofit groups are reeling from public disclosures that large sums of money were misappropriated in unrelated incidents by an employee and a former employee.
The groups, Acorn, one of the country’s largest community organizing groups, and the Points of Light Institute, which works to encourage civic activism and volunteering, have dealt with the problems in very different ways.
Acorn chose to treat the embezzlement of nearly $1 million eight years ago as an internal matter and did not even notify its board. After Points of Light noticed financial irregularities in early June, it took less than a month for management to alert federal prosecutors, although group officials say they have no clear idea yet what the financial impact may be.
A whistle-blower forced Acorn to disclose the embezzlement, which involved the brother of the organization’s founder, Wade Rathke.
The brother, Dale Rathke, embezzled nearly $1 million from Acorn and affiliated charitable organizations in 1999 and 2000, Acorn officials said, but a small group of executives decided to keep the information from almost all of the group’s board members and not to alert law enforcement.
Dale Rathke remained on Acorn’s payroll until a month ago, when disclosure of his theft by foundations and other donors forced the organization to dismiss him.
“We thought it best at the time to protect the organization, as well as to get the funds back into the organization, to deal with it in-house,” said Maude Hurd, president of Acorn. “It was a judgment call at the time, and looking back, people can agree or disagree with it, but we did what we thought was right.”
The amount Dale Rathke embezzled, $948,607.50, was carried as a loan on the books of Citizens Consulting Inc., which provides bookkeeping, accounting and other financial management services to Acorn and many of its affiliated entities.
Wade Rathke said the organization had signed a restitution agreement with his brother in which his family agreed to repay the amount embezzled in exchange for confidentiality.
Wade Rathke stepped down as Acorn’s chief organizer on June 2, the same day his brother left, but he remains chief organizer for Acorn International L.L.C.
He said the decision to keep the matter secret was not made to protect his brother but because word of the embezzlement would have put a “weapon” into the hands of enemies of Acorn, a liberal group that is a frequent target of conservatives who object to its often strident advocacy on behalf of low- and moderate-income families and workers.
Wade Rathke said he learned of the problem when an employee of Citizens Consulting alerted him about suspicious credit card transactions. An internal investigation uncovered inappropriate charges on the cards that led back to his brother.
“Clearly, this was an uncomfortable, conflicting and humiliating situation as far as my family and I were concerned,” he said, “and so the real decisions on how to handle it had to be made by others.”
The executive director of New York Acorn, Bertha Lewis, who has been named director of an interim management committee set up to run the national group’s day-to-day operations, said Dale Rathke was paid about $38,000 a year but that none of that money was used to pay back Acorn.
Instead, she said, the Rathke family has paid Acorn $30,000 a year in restitution since 2001, or a total of $210,000.
A donor has offered to give Acorn the rest of what the Rathkes owe, and an agreement to that effect should be finalized in coming days, Ms. Lewis said.
“Now that this is under our watch, we are putting financial auditors in place, legal counsel in place, a strong management team in place to make sure this organization moves forward for another 38 years,” she said. “I will not allow and the board will not allow something like this to happen again.”
But the fact that most of the handful of people who did not disclose the fraud when they learned of it eight years ago still work for Acorn or its affiliates concerns many of the group’s financial supporters.
“We’ve told them that when the process is ended, we’ll have a look at it,” said Dave Beckwith, executive director of the Needmor Fund, which has given money to some of Acorn’s charity affiliates for at least 10 years and was contacted by the whistle-blower in May.
Representatives of some 30 foundations and large donors have been discussing the matter on conference calls and may establish a committee to monitor Acorn’s overhaul of its management and accountability systems.

A former Staff member responds:

As a person of color. A former ACORN staff member, and as a revolutionary, and in light recent revelations of Wade Rathke's coverup of the theft of 1,000,000USD I just gotta say amen. Wade doesn't allow dissent within ACORN.

Here is what I can tell you, you gotta read Gery DelGado's ACORN: Growing the movement. DelGado, a founding organizer pushed out by Rathke detailed almost 30 years ago that ACORN had an all white management staff. Until Wade was pushed out of Chief Organizer USA by the board this month? Now Bertha Lewis is heading up the management team to clean up the mess?

Wade pushes her under the bus and into the drivers seat as it is teetering on the edge of a cliff? I have not published my real name and I hope you can appreciate why. I am just a lowly organizer who can be easily smashed by Wade's long arms in the Democratic party.

The kicker for me is that in light of Wade's racism towards CLU, the embezzlement of 1,000,00 and in my opinion more importantly the horrible treatment of ACORN staff who were from the working class? He is getting promoted to Chief Organizer of ACORN International? Chief Organizer of the World? Are people in LA going to stomach that?

A couple of points. The management staff that helped Wade cover up the theft are still in place and he is Chief Organizer International. Anyone who knows non-profit work knows you can shred the books (most of the them) every 5 years. That would mean Wade and his brother Dale (who was in charge of the cash box) could have done this up top 6 times. We in ACORN know that the 1,000,000 is a drop in the bucket. Meanwhile mangement staff all over the country are switching jobs right now. All except the star chamber.

I remember once at a staff of color caucus there were maybe 150 of us in a room. Bertha Lewis asked all staff who had been there over 5 years to stand. Only two people were standing. Then she asked everyone there over two years to stand and literally like 10 stood up. They then asked everyone over a year to stand and maybe 20 stood. The other 115 stood. I remember the resistance the management staff had to us even having a staff of color caucus and remember hovering outside the door nonchalantly. We all resolved to call Wade and others out on several issues. Wade never even acknowledged our resolve.

There are good people at ACORN. Unfortunately they are overshadowed by things like office riots when people who haven't been paid in over a month from poor communities explode. They are overshadowed by staff directives that do not allow for true community organizing. The way it is set up working class staff can't hang with the 60 to 100 hour weeks, the low mileage stipend, the ridiculous fund raising goals set etc..

If you have a kid? And you weren't born from money you can forget about working for ACORN. The Democratic party and Unions are helping to feed this beast. The outsourcing to ACORN for low wage campaign workers at 7-8 bucks an hour to do VR and GOTV with no minimum standards that workers get paid the Living Wage ACORN has out fighting for? This just feeds the beast. PIRG is doing it, Move on does it and so do others. The only poeple who survive between campaigns are North East liberals from often times Ivy League or private liberal colleges that are using ACORN as a resume stuffer in their climb up the ladder to be an Exec Dir or Dem party operative. What about all those people from black, Latino and other communities of color that really could have excelled at ACORN had they been paid a living wage.

When I read the letter circulated about Community Labor Union by Wade Ratke shortly after the unrest that was a result of CLU organized actions in New Orleans by people of color. When I saw that Wade said "these people couldn't organize a two car funeral"? HE compared them to the CIA mole Chalabi who falsely claimed to represent the Iraqi people (are we a little over the top Wade?). I couldn't believe the white chauvinism that dripped from this hypocrite. DelGado has it right. A change has to come about in community organizing. Where people form directly affected communities control the work. It has to happen. This was the Ratke I knew, brow beating, condescending, demeaning, and yes racist. As if he deserved to talk to organizers of color (who had comparable experience) in the way that he did simply because he helped some black folks. Or becuase he had read some Alinsky. There was no excuse for the way he treated his staf.

Working for ACORN and watching some of the white folks in the field made me feel like we were putting poor communities in a skinner box to see how they would react if we gave this toy or that stimulus etc.. Or worse like some zoologist trying to get close to a lion or monkey in the jungle and acting proud if they were able to sit and eat with the animals. I am serious that is how it felt.

I hope the people of New Orleans LA take this opportunity to force ACORN to reverse the methods, tactics, and employment policies of ACORN. Save that other 115 organizers out there from souring on organizing for ever.

Also, SEIU you need to tell ACORN they have to pay a living wage or they can't do SEIU work. Yes SEIU outsourced work to us often, if the Dems, SEIU, or any other progressive group is going to outsource any of their work to anyone. This business of not getting a contract that ensures the workers will be treated fairly has to stop. I have video I have never released of employees rioting in offices who were not paid for over a month. How embarrassing for them, for me, for the movement.

I don't know if you will print this but judging from your site I thought it might be the right place. I am living in the aftermath of ACORN wrecking my life and many of my friends. Burned out, turned out, and broke. That isn't the way progressives are supposed to be.

When I found out about the million? I wasn't even one bit surprised. I have personally seen that much money thrown out the money on nothing in a week at ACORN. By the way, if you leave ACORN the standard line is "F---k them, they left", you have to secretly leave. It is like a cult. If you do good you can't get a reference, your supervisor will hint that you are a problem worker. I know it. It is hard to re-enter the field of organizing because you are burned out and you are white listed by ACORN.

Please post this response. Maybe edit it if you feel any of it is over the top. Our story must be told by progressives or the right wing will turn it to stone and nothing will ever change.

In light of the life ACORN organizers lead to think of Rathke and his brother living rich and happy while ACORN Live lives like this.

ACORN Organizers MUST:

Go door to door ALONE in the dark in high crime neighborhoods.

Work 10 hours a day and 11-4 on Saturday with no overtime.

Work 60 hours (sometimes more) a week for 25,000 a year. (That's 8.68 an hour which is not a living wage anywhere in the Unitied States)

Go door to door no matter the weather conditions (that includes lightning).

Get two members a day in low income neighborhoods who have bank accounts and commit to give $10.00 a month regardless of income.

Collect cash and carry it with them until the end of their workday.

Get arrested when called upon to do so.

BAIL themselves OUT!

Shake down local businesses for money.

Not carry personal protection.

Even when sick go door to door alone no matter the neighborhood.

Work while Sick.

Work without overtime.

Not organize a union.

Manipulate members when necessary.

Not complain about sexual harrassment.

Allow themselves to be the subjects of homophobia, sexual oppression, and even racism by superiors.

Lie to funders.

Lie to members.
Work with other organizers who are abusive and sexist.

Abandon chapters when the members are too poor to raise large amounts of money.

Do outsourced work for Unions at wages that are below union wages and living wages.

Wait for their paychecks for months after they resign, quit, or are fired.

Tolerate never getting reimbursed for personal expenses (mileage,cell phone,copies)

Tolerate money for community organizing being placed into accounts set aside for political action.

Allow their staff to be hired guns for whatever effort their supervisor determines important.

Thanks for the memories Wade.

Peace Out

A Fellow Organizer

pghwob
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Joined: 9-12-06
Jul 12 2008 03:10

Yup sounds about right. At least the IWW organizing raised the wages there from around $13,000 to $25,000 in the course of just a few years.

petey
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Joined: 13-10-05
Jul 12 2008 04:42

thanks BL. i'd heard dicey things but was waiting for some firsthand account.

Black Leprechan's picture
Black Leprechan
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Jul 12 2008 09:26

If you want proof of ACORN's lying about offices and presence they have ongoing? Go to the ACORN website click on the section for offices. Id you click on the most populus states and others listed. You will notice that offices hundreds of miles away from each other will have the same phone number. This is because there is no office and they have another office number listed or the Head Organizers phone number. Why do this? Grants are written for offices that close after the grant is awarded and then the money is shifted elsewhere. It would seem the Ford Foundation, Needmore, Catholic Charities, and others might want to look a little closer at the projects they award money for.

I don't write this because I want to see ACORN destroted I write in hopes that progressives challenge the left to stop faking organizing projects that are glorified fundraising canvasses. Directly affected people will never stay passionate about the movement when the job description is impossible to fulfill.

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Black Leprechan
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Jul 12 2008 09:55

Fascinating article about ridiculous fight Rathke picked with New Orleans respected African American Activists.
This gets wordy. THis upsets me almost more than the embezzled money. In fact it does. To understand the background of this you must understand that CLU is the African American and allied organizations in NOLA that had a pretty militant protest against the city tearing down public housing with no intention of replacing it. The second article is the actual absued rant Rathke wote onhis blog www,chieforganizer.org. The third letter is a letter signed by many respectd African American and Cuacasian veteran organizers including the like of Bill Fletcher, representatives of the SNCC and SEIU reps condemning Rathkes racist and disruptive comments about what he must see as "competing" groups trying to help after Katrina. Rathke is basically trying ot say ACORN in is the only group in Louisiana that has a right to organize black folks. Remember Until last week ACORN's management team has been all white (with brief exceptions) for 38 years. This is a very remarkable look into the mind of Rathke. I read all this and come away saying this " Rahtke gets away withthis?!@! and isn't removed as vice president of SEIU local 100? How is that? They don't condemn racism in SEIU?

This is knid of complicated for folks on the periphery. Understand this. Foundations were looking to Rathke to identlfy all the organizations with a capacity to organize in the aftermath of Katrina. He does here what he does best. Shit talk any other group that might be involved so ACORN gets all the funding. Here is a group that makes national news throwing down a militant action against public housing being destroyed AND NOT REPLACED and Rathke acts as if what they are doing is a personal insult to him! Ohbviously Wade didn't live in those projects. Also understand this Rathke has been set up with mulitple paychecks for years had his wife running the Louisinana operation and his brother running the for profit corporation Citizens Consulting INC that did all the accounting, lobbying (1.6 million just between 1998 and 2004 in lobbying alone), and also did the accounting for the massive project Vote, ACORN housing that rights mortgages, and any other operation they could throw in the mix. Rathke came from wealth and he figured out how to keep it that way. Anyway here is the stream in his own words and the response from the black community please distribute widely it is almost and probably is more disturbing than the embezzlement.

White Labor Leader Wade Rathke Attacks Black-Led CLU/PHF
Wade Rathke is a seasoned organizer who helped found ACORN and SEIU Local 100 in the 1970s. He has remained strongly active in both groups and in a number of others. It is therefore all the more disturbing to see Rathke, a key player in building an organization that “pioneered multi- racial and multi-issue organizing,” make such an concerted and destructive attack on Community Labor United and its Black leader Curtis Muhammad. On Friday, on his blog, Chief Organizer, Rathke was unbelievably condescending.

The most bizarre, and in some ways insulting, question I have been asked in the wake of Katrina is to identify groups to act as sponsor go betweens, just as if New Orleans was another foreign country like Iraq. It is insulting because whether we are talking about almost 10000 family members of ACORN in New Orleans or a couple of thousand members of Local 100 from the city – we have a base, it just doesn’t happen to be in New Orleans, since it is caught in the diaspora now.

A good example is something called Community Labor United (CLU). This is a little bitty thing of maybe a dozen or two activists that has convened meetings off and on for years mostly on Saturdays for a while at Dillard and last I heard at the Treme Community Center. Mainly it is not labor but it has a couple of well intentioned AFT teachers that are personally involved and Curtis Muhammad, who ran a small local union for UNITE for a couple of years before he retired, was often in attendance. Mostly I didn’t recognize the few other folks there, but some may have been students or whatever. Curtis is a good guy, but good love him, he wouldn’t be able to really move any thing in New Orleans, because he doesn’t have the base, the weight, the contacts, or the history god love him. To the best of my knowledge CLU was semi-defunct in recent years and certainly never had a paid staff or any capacity. Back 5-6 years ago when it was trying to first get started, we used to send folks to some of the Saturday meetings because they wanted to support our work and act as a bridge to other communities, but over the last couple of years that has also petered out. But now a wave of water moves through New Orleans and I actually get inquires about whether or not CLU can help in some way.

Huh? What? They are nice people and we count them as friends and allies, but are we talking about something real there? Of course not! Could they handle money? No reason to believe that. Do they have a base in New Orleans? No not whatsoever. Heck, I don’t know if they could organize a two car funeral if they were driving both cars. They have only convened forums in the past to talk about stuff. If that was needed, they could do that I suppose, but there are a lot of folks who can do that.

What is truly bizarre about this attack is that the passing reference to Iraq is actually part of an extended conceit, in which Rathke compares CLU and Curtis Muhammad to Ahmad Chalabi.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had a candidate to front for the Iraqi people – Dr. Ahmad Chalabi. He had been running the Iraqi National Congress for many years from the United Kingdom. He had a degree from the University of Chicago. He was connected. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was not as certain and neither was the Army. Each in turn had their own ex-pat Iraqi leaders who they hoped would get traction once repatriated to home soil.

Make no mistake though. When they were not in Iraqi, but working the world promoting schemes for liberation armies or business ventures or this or that, they had friends and sponsors based on the value that these men and their political formations served to their sponsors, not for the Iraqi people. They were tools in the hands of others.

Watching the embarrassment of the Bush Administration when it was trying harder to install provisional and puppet fronts for the invading force, I would have thought we might have all learned lessons about making sure as an a priori in these matters that one should be very, very careful not to anoint someone from afar, who can not operate on the ground. Now in the middle of the post-Katrina shakeout, I can see that this is not the case. Progressives seem not to want to learn what the conservatives have taught us. We want to make sure we learn the lessons the hard way with our own embarrassment.

In the wake of Katrina everyone and their brother seems to suddenly be interested in New Orleans and trying to figure out a way to insert themselves and their issues into the muck that remains of the city. Some of this is a good thing.

Where it gets hairy is when people try to create representatives for the people for the purposes of the sponsors and the donor community, just like we have seen in Iraq.

The obvious implication here is that CLU and Curtis Muhammad are not only corrupt, but pawns of the Bush administration. Complicating matters for Rathke is Naomi Klein, who has written positively of CLU in The Nation. Thus, in addition to his racist dismissal of Muhammad (”Curtis is a good guy, but good love him [sic], he wouldn’t be able to really move any thing in New Orleans”), Rathke takes a sexist swipe at Klein.

How do Calabi’s happen? Just this way! CLU was somehow mentioned by Naomi Klein in a piece in the Nation. I have no idea what she knows about New Orleans, but I imagine she was grabbing something out of the hat. The article gets reprinted some places, and all of a sudden Chalabi is out and about in New Orleans.

Naomi Klein isn’t from New Orleans, but she is a good investigative reporter, who went to New Orleans early in the disaster and did important work. The article Rathke alludes to certainly shows Klein to have done her homework about community organizations, political leaders, and business interests in NOLA. Further, organizers who support the interests of low-income people should be very interested in what Klein turned up about the housing situation in New Orleans.

More to the point, however, CLU did not simply ride the wave of the fifteen minutes of fame that Klein afforded them. From the first weeks following the disaster, there was a steady stream of press releases and media appearances that indicated a broad political vision and ambitious and determined political organizing, which I was also hearing about through my own contacts among the Civil Right Movement veterans community, of which Muhammad is a well-known part.

If Rathke has a legitimate argument with CLU about organizing tactics or a different political vision, that’s fine. He has not articulated anything concrete. Rather, he has engaged in the worst kind of baseless attack that plays on racial power dynamics and has the potential to be highly destructive to a grassroots people’s movement.

I have more to say about the racism involved in Rathke’s attack and in some of the responses to it and to Curtis Muhammad’s response. But first I will post an important response to Rathke from a coalition of activists (next up).

Below, in order, is Rathke’s attack, Curtis Muhammad’s response, and an open letter in support of Muhammad.

Chalabi and Katrina
Kuala Lumpur 41 days of exile
Wade Rathke

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had a candidate to front for the Iraqi people – Dr. Ahmad Chalabi. He had been running the Iraqi National Congress for many years from the United Kingdom. He had a degree from the University of Chicago. He was connected. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell was not as certain and neither was the Army. Each in turn had their own ex-pat Iraqi leaders who they hoped would get traction once repatriated to home soil.

Make no mistake though. When they were not in Iraqi, but working the world promoting schemes for liberation armies or business ventures or this or that, they had friends and sponsors based on the value that these men and their political formations served to their sponsors, not for the Iraqi people. They were tools in the hands of others.

Watching the embarrassment of the Bush Administration when it was trying harder to install provisional and puppet fronts for the invading force, I would have thought we might have all learned lessons about making sure as an a priori in these matters that one should be very, very careful not to anoint someone from afar, who can not operate on the ground. Now in the middle of the post-Katrina shakeout, I can see that this is not the case. Progressives seem not to want to learn what the conservatives have taught us. We want to make sure we learn the lessons the hard way with our own embarrassment.

In the wake of Katrina everyone and their brother seems to suddenly be interested in New Orleans and trying to figure out a way to insert themselves and their issues into the muck that remains of the city. Some of this is a good thing.

Where it gets hairy is when people try to create representatives for the people for the purposes of the sponsors and the donor community, just like we have seen in Iraq.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin tried this strategy slightly with his recent appointments of a commission, but was simply the usual home cooking from the Poydras Street business crowd with their favorite front people and the usual gang of suspects, just a few bigger names.

The most bizarre, and in some ways insulting, question I have been asked in the wake of Katrina is to identify groups to act as sponsor go betweens, just as if New Orleans was another foreign country like Iraq. It is insulting because whether we are talking about almost 10000 family members of ACORN in New Orleans or a couple of thousand members of Local 100 from the city – we have a base, it just doesn't happen to be in New Orleans, since it is caught in the diaspora now.

A good example is something called Community Labor United (CLU). This is a little bitty thing of maybe a dozen or two activists that has convened meetings off and on for years mostly on Saturdays for a while at Dillard and last I heard at the Treme Community Center. Mainly it is not labor but it has a couple of well intentioned AFT teachers that are personally involved and Curtis Muhammad, who ran a small local union for UNITE for a couple of years before he retired, was often in attendance. Mostly I didn't recognize the few other folks there, but some may have been students or whatever. Curtis is a good guy, but good love him, he wouldn't be able to really move any thing in New Orleans, because he doesn't have the base, the weight, the contacts, or the history god love him. To the best of my knowledge CLU was semi-defunct in recent years and certainly never had a paid staff or any capacity. Back 5-6 years ago when it was trying to first get started, we used to send folks to some of the Saturday meetings because they wanted to support our work and act as a bridge to other communities, but over the last couple of years that has also petered out. But now a wave of water moves through New Orleans and I actually get inquires about whether or not CLU can help in some way.

Huh? What? They are nice people and we count them as friends and allies, but are we talking about something real there? Of course not! Could they handle money? No reason to believe that. Do they have a base in New Orleans? No not whatsoever. Heck, I don't know if they could organize a two car funeral if they were driving both cars. They have only convened forums in the past to talk about stuff. If that was needed, they could do that I suppose, but there are a lot of folks who can do that.

How do Calabi's happen? Just this way! CLU was somehow mentioned by Naomi Klein in a piece in the Nation. I have no idea what she knows about New Orleans, but I imagine she was grabbing something out of the hat. The article gets reprinted some places, and all of a sudden Chalabi is out and about in New Orleans.

Habitat and Enterprise have had very small, precious operations around housing in New Orleans which are producing very, very few houses annually. Best believe they are everywhere now as if they could really do something in New Orleans. This is a President Bush prop up.

But, a prop up is a prop up, and there will be a day of reckoning. People will move back to New Orleans. There will be a battle for the future of the city and people will not be able to be ignored or merely represented from afar. Their opinions will matter more than the opinion pages.

Hopefully progressives will not be caught with Chalabi on their hands and learn one lesson from Rumsfeld about this phenomena.

October 1, 2005

MY RESPONSE: (already sent to Wade Rathke and Andy Stern):
Curtis Muhammad

I read with great anger, the public statements made by Wade Rathke, a Vice President of SEIU, about me, Curtis Muhammad, and my work. I waited almost a week before sitting down to write this note. I waited to see if the largest labor union in the United States whose membership is more than fifty percent black and other people of color, would chastise this man for publishing statements which have the effect of a bombing of a church or a civil rights meeting, or the shooting of a civil rights worker during the heyday of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. I asked myself would SEIU and ACORN want to align itself with the sentiments and actions of a new Klu Klux Klan.

I waited to see if a progressive organization or labor union or a civil rights organization or individual leaders would demand that this man be fired or held to account for such racist and slanderous statements. Does Wade Rathke believe that he has the right to appoint and anoint the leadership of black led organizations and coalitions the way that ACORN and SEIU choose their own leadership? While noting no response, I wondered what would have happened if he had made such derogatory and inflammatory remarks and comparisons about a Jewish or other white person or labor leader or Black person, who had won favor from the white liberal establishment of America.

The truth is I have organized poor black folk for 45 years and I have always known that it was okay to do to, and say or say anything about poor blacks in the U.S, including murder them, and not expect to be punished or reprimanded especially if you are a white male. In fact, the leaders of this country have just tried to murder 150,000 poor back folk and succeeded with the death of about 2,000. Because Community Labor United was quickly able to bring together a broad coalition of grass roots organizations and get some national recognition and support for our work, Wade Rathke, ACORN, and SEIU attacked our character and belittled our work and compared me personally to Ahmad Chalabi, the Iraqi who provided the lies and misinformation about non-existent weapons of mass destruction that gave Bush the cover to invade Iraq.

When one successfully attacks another’s character, that act is the equivalent to murder. What we have here is an arrogant white racist Vice President of SEIU, founder and leader of ACORN, to slander a Black man for his participation in trying to help organize the same poor black people who Bush, Blanco, Nagin and seemingly the whole leadership of the U.S. government left to die just because they are black and poor. These statements and actions are intended to dismantle the legitimate leadership of this new movement for self determination, but they will do the opposite. They will strengthen CLU and the Peoples Hurricane Relief Fund because the people who've been abandoned, neglected, left to die... way before Katrina... are determined to lead in the struggle for their future and will NEVER again be compromised, stepped on or stepped over. Statements such as Wade Rathke's only diminish him and his organization because they are unprincipled and reflect character decay.

Mind you, this attack comes while SEIU and the other Change To Win unions are deciding whether to donate funds and organizers to support our work. Further, Andy Stern has allocated millions of dollars to fund a campaign to unionize the workers at Wal-Mart stores under the leadership of this very same racist arrogant white boy who spent millions of SEIU members’ dues money trying to organize hotel workers in New Orleans and never organized a single hotel!

I’ll close with a little story: many people think the Klan stopped shooting us, burning our churches, bombing our offices and freedom houses because the government made them stop. The truth is the movement stopped the Klan, led by poor, black communities of people.

Wade, Andy, ACORN and SEIU we invite you to a face to face meeting. We were taught to try and negotiate with the white power structure before we attacked.

Please see chronology of work below.

It ain’t personal; it’s business,

Curtis Muhammad
People’s Hurricane Relief Fund & Oversight Coalition (PHRF)

Timeline: (August 20 ~ October 16, 2005)
-Saturday, August 20, 2005: Community Labor United (CLU) has monthly breakfast forum at the Treme Community Center in New Orleans; ACORN presents current Living Wage Campaign

-Monday, August 29, 2005: Hurricane Katrina occurs
-CLU reaches out via phone calls and email to reach CLU activists
-Conference call of available CLU activists
-Thursday, September 1, 2005: CLU sends out Action Alert widely via email
-Vanguard Public Foundation agrees to host PHRF account
-Tuesday, September 8, 2005: Press Conference held in Houston, TX outside of Astrodome
-Speaking engagements
-Conference call of CLU activists- invitation extended widely
-Website www.communitylaborunited.net established
-Jackson, MS, Communication Center established
-Tour of shelters along I-10 (from Jackson to Houston)
-Saturday, September 10, 2005: Meeting held in Baton Rouge of CLU activists and supporting organizations- decision to become the PHRF and to establish workgroups
-Legal, Education, Finance, Health Care, Media, Internal Organizing workgroups begin to meet via conference call

-September 30 ~ October 2, 2005: PHRF retreat held at Penn Center in South Carolina- Interim Coordinating Committee established, more workgroups formed (Economic Justice, Reconstruction, Safety and Accountability, etc)

-New Orleans, LA, Communication Center established, plans for reconstruction in New Orleans

-Education Work Group Summit to take place

-Begin to canvass major southern cities with large numbers of evacuees

-1-800 number to be established

An Open Letter to the Labor Movement regarding Katrina

Brothers and Sisters,

The crisis for the working class (whether employed or not, waged or not) continues to grow. Even as the nation, and especially the poor and Black working class of the Gulf states and New Orleans in particular, tries to pick up the pieces after Katrina's (and Rita's) devastation, the assault by capital and their partners in the government grows more intense -- the suspension of Davis Bacon and OHSA safeguards, plans to defund the safety net to finance business interests in the reconstruction of the region, little thought to how those left behind will find a home in the reconstruction process and its outcome. The Democrats have failed to articulate a credible alternative to this plan or address this crisis in any significant way.

It is also true that the flip side of disaster is opportunity. For the trade unions the moment presents a unique opportunity, not open since the sit-downs of the 1930s, to bring dignity, voice, a living wage and benefits in the form of unions to the masses left behind in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, particularly the poor and African Americans. It is a well-established fact That Blacks are the most pro-union force in the U.S. They have proven time and time again to be this country's most dedicated fighters of oppression. But the trade union movement may not be able to take advantage of this opportunity unless it addresses issues not yet confronted in any meaningful way by the debate and programs of the two new federations.

Now these issues have surfaced in the wake of Katrina, specifically in a piece by ACORN and SEIU leader Wade Rathke entitled "Chalabi and Katrina" (www.ChiefOrganizer.org, 3 October 2005) that disparages an organization, Community Labor United, and one of its principal organizers, Curtis Muhammad, with deep roots in the voter registration drives in Mississippi, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and for the last 20 years a part of the New Orleans community.

Days after the hurricane and while struggling with their own displacement, CLU folks began to pull together what has become the People's Hurricane and Relief Fund. Since then they have held two national meetings, the first on September 10th with participation from 49 different organizations, and the second, September 30th-October 1st, with more than 100 participants from prisoners' and women's rights groups, predominantly black cultural, faith-based, and educational groups, non-union worker organizations, community groups, legal scholars, and the ACLU. A Coordinating Committee, representing the breadth and community organizations throughout the Gulf Region as well as CLU's own base, was chosen by the survivors, and working subcommittees and 6 regional communications centers (organizing offices) have been established. There has been widespread support for the PHRF both nationally and internationally. (For more, see the PHRF website: www.communitylaborunited.net.)

With this background we want to examine the issues raised by "Chalabi and Katrina":

Confront racism within our movement. White leaders, even those whose membership base is predominantly Black and Latino, should be careful about making pronouncements about who is genuine and who has the requisite skills. Confronting racism means understanding that our culture and economic and political system is build on racialized capital and we operate within that context. Diversity should not be confused with power. If we are serious about bringing unions to the south (all those red states and their right-to-work laws), then we need to cede power to those very folks we seek to organize. The job of unions is to help give these forces additional information and resources they might not currently have so that they can chart their own future.

This movement must be built democratically from the bottom up, engaging the base to develop tactics and strategies that speak to their constituencies' own needs, culture, and history. The grassroots must control their own organization and movement. Remarks that belittle the work of grassroots activists of many years standing, organizing on a model based on experience among working-class and poor Blacks of the south that does not fit the union template, have no place in the labor movement. We have too much to learn from each other.

Fund and collaborate, and be prepared to take leadership from indigenous Black (and Latino, Asian, and Native American) forces on the ground. Many of these forces prior to the hurricane were not organized in ways that the unions are. They do not have a large paid staff, or offices with all the trappings. But that does not mean that organizations like CLU are "little bitty" or insignificant or cannot "handle money" or could not "organize a two car funeral" (as Rathke puts it in "Chalabi and Katrina"). This disrespect fails to acknowledge, on one hand, that the base of the labor movement (and with it dues dollars) and that of the CLU are the same, and on the other hand, the severe obstacles, principally racism and the legacy of slavery, that on-the-ground folks face in the south. Networking and informal ties have protected and nourished their organizing long after efforts like Operation Dixie or the Civil Rights Movement have moved on or declared victory. Organizations like CLU demand our respect and support.

Build a united front against the enemies of working people, employed or the unemployed poor. Our task is so huge that we can not afford to undercut each other with name-calling, patronizing statements, and inappropriate remarks. We must air differences in a principled way. Many of us work with ACORN in our cities and are on good terms with many organizers from that group. We cannot believe that such a provocative and destructive letter was circulated by Rathke to other ACORN leaders or reflects their views. We hope that people of good will in ACORN will give some signals to disassociate themselves from this divisive and chauvinist tactic. None of us has discovered the sure-fire way to organize or build a movement. Let's not give our enemies more fire power than they already possess. The Cold War era purges of the labor movement should have taught us that.

We exist at what one might describe as a "Katrina moment." It is a moment of both reflection and action. It is a moment to better understand and unpack the issues of race and class that have become so obvious through this disaster. It is also a moment to challenge the prevailing neo-liberal economic theories that were partially to blame for the scope of the disaster and seem to be central to the discussion of the nature of reconstruction. It is also a moment for a mass response to the disaster, which means that this is not the time for any one organization to hold itself up as the central core or the provider of franchises. To put it in other terms, this may be a moment to lay the foundations for a rebirth of a labor movement that is in synch with other social forces that share our opposition to the steady slide toward barbarism.

In solidarity,

(In alphabetical order)

Ajamu Baraka, Executive Director, US Human Rights Network

Gene Bruskin, co-convener of USLAW*

Kathy Engel, founding Executive Director MADRE, cultural and communications worker

Ray Eurquhart, retired UE 150 volunteer organizer

Bill Fletcher, Jr., President, TransAfrica Forum

Badili Jones, member, SEIU Local 1985

Elly Leary, Vice President and Chief Negotiator, UAW 2324 (retired)

Eric Mann, veteran of CORE, SDS, and UAW

Marsha Steinberg, Field Representative/Organizer SEIU Local 660

Makani Themba-Nixon, Executive Director, The Praxis Project

Jerry Tucker, former member, International Executive Board, UAW

Steve Williams, Executive Director, People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER)

Black Leprechan's picture
Black Leprechan
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Jul 12 2008 10:27

Wade is still vice president of SEIU and his brother Dale did the accounting for both the SEIU local and ACORN. Wade has covered up for 8 years his brothers theft of 1,000,000 and he is still vice president of SEIU?

I got a question Wade? If anyone besides your brother had gotten busted stealing 1,000,000 would you have covered it up then? HELL NO! I just can't believe this.

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thugarchist
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Jul 12 2008 15:35
Black Leprechan wrote:
Wade is still vice president of SEIU and his brother Dale did the accounting for both the SEIU local and ACORN. Wade has covered up for 8 years his brothers theft of 1,000,000 and he is still vice president of SEIU?

I got a question Wade? If anyone besides your brother had gotten busted stealing 1,000,000 would you have covered it up then? HELL NO! I just can't believe this.

Um... in your war against Rathke, which I've got no problem with mind you, just so its clear that its not actually possible to remove an elected official from union office under U.S. Department of Labor regulations unless they've violated fiduciary or other serious constitutional duties within the union. Members would have to vote him out. Never mind that Rathke isn't actually a VP of SEIU. He's the equivelent of an elected organizing director for a tiny local of 5000 or so members.

David in Atlanta
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Jul 12 2008 16:10

Thug, was he ever an elected official of SEIU at the international level?

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Black Leprechan
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Jul 13 2008 00:20

Excuse me,.I am sorry. He is Chief Organizer for local 100. Is that an elected position? He is the only organizer I know with that title. Aren't Union Organizers usually paid staff and not elected?

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thugarchist
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Jul 13 2008 04:10
Black Leprechan wrote:
Excuse me,.I am sorry. He is Chief Organizer for local 100. Is that an elected position? He is the only organizer I know with that title. Aren't Union Organizers usually paid staff and not elected?

Yeah its elected. Some locals have elected organizing directors, some don't. Local 100 does.

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thugarchist
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Jul 13 2008 04:13
David in Atlanta wrote:
Thug, was he ever an elected official of SEIU at the international level?

Yes. Its been a long time though. I'm pretty sure he got bounced off in the 90s. Rathke's one of those guys who likes to collect multiple paychecks and SEIU got rid of all that shit.

David in Atlanta
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Jul 13 2008 04:56
thugarchist wrote:
David in Atlanta wrote:
Thug, was he ever an elected official of SEIU at the international level?

Yes. Its been a long time though. I'm pretty sure he got bounced off in the 90s. Rathke's one of those guys who likes to collect multiple paychecks and SEIU got rid of all that shit.

That was a wise move. I know the type and they're not good people.

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Jul 13 2008 04:59
David in Atlanta wrote:
thugarchist wrote:
David in Atlanta wrote:
Thug, was he ever an elected official of SEIU at the international level?

Yes. Its been a long time though. I'm pretty sure he got bounced off in the 90s. Rathke's one of those guys who likes to collect multiple paychecks and SEIU got rid of all that shit.

That was a wise move. I know the type and they're not good people.

I don't want to disrupt the thread, I pretty much can't stand Rathke, but it was a long and difficult battle to get rid of double dipping. Started from the 1199 merger and finally got entirely finished at the convention this year (inbetween suppressing democracy and beating teachers).

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Black Leprechan
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Jul 13 2008 05:05

Strange Wade once told us he was paid by SEIU. I know he did.

Speaking of multiple paychecks? His wife, him, and his brother. His best friends etc.. Why isn't anyone turning on Wade? Because he can take them down with him.

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thugarchist
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Jul 13 2008 05:23
Black Leprechan wrote:
Strange Wade once told us he was paid by SEIU. I know he did.

Speaking of multiple paychecks? His wife, him, and his brother. His best friends etc.. Why isn't anyone turning on Wade? Because he can take them down with him.

He is paid by SEIU local 100. He is an elected organizing director. He gets paid for it. However, he can be unelected if the members vote for someone else. Then he wouldn't get paid.

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Black Leprechan
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Jul 13 2008 05:27

OK so he s still dipping multiple paychecks.

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thugarchist
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Jul 13 2008 05:30
Black Leprechan wrote:
OK so he s still dipping multiple paychecks.

From things outside the union? Clearly. But that ain't none of our business. Double-dipping refers to multiple paychecks from within one organization. As in a local union officer who gets paid and is also an international union officer that gets paid. Most unions do this. SEIU got rid of it.

pghwob
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Jul 13 2008 06:31

I believe you can find Rathke's bio including reference to his time on SEIU International Executive at waderathke dot com, and he has a statement on his blog about his own poor, misguided brother and how he even had to "reassign" his brother within the organization. Makes me wonder if brother is taking the fall for something a bit bigger.

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Jul 13 2008 08:33

Ok so the point I am making is he gets a paycheck from ACORN for being a salaried ful time staff and he has drwan a salary as full time staff from SEIU. Here is my problem withg that. First, our employees at ACORN had to work minimum 60 hours a week and as many as 100. Our employees were not alllowed to have another salaried job at another non-profit, union, or etc... In fact I know people who inquired about doing that and they were told that if "they weren't happy working at ACORN" then it might not be a good fit. We were also told "ACORN expects complete loyalty to our organizational goals. Now even if they had been told ok tere wouldn't have been enough hours in the day for them to do two salaried jobs.

POINT: Why is it ok for Wade to do so? Is his time that much more valuble than the rest? It is crap.

Also what is also lost on most is this Citizens Consulting INC. The FOR PROFIT company Wade had his brother Dale set up didn't only do the books and other services for ACORN. He also had access to huge sums of money from SEIU 880 and 100:

According to the most recent Department of Labor financial disclosures, the ACORN-founded SEIU Local 880 in Illinois:

Paid $191,820 in fees and expenses to Citizens Consulting, Inc. in New Orleans, a legal and lobbying firm run by ACORN founders brother Dale Rathke
Paid another $31,745 to “CCI Legal”
Paid $92,006 to “ILLINOIS ACORN WNB”
Sent $181,366 to the Chicago Organizing Support Center (another stone in the ACORN pyramid)
And, of course, don’t forget the $5,894 to the “Chief Organizer Fund” at ACORN’s office (Rathke is ACORN’s Chief Organizer). Remember, this is union member money being sent to ACORN, which founded and influences the union.

Then there’s SEIU Local 100, which has been personally run by Rathke for years. Despite membership declining by 33 percent since 2004, Local 100 keeps pumping money into other Rathke endeavors. Their 2006 financial filings show:

$5,670 paid to Citizens Consulting, Inc
$71,899 in “gifts” given to the Service Workers Action Team (described as a political action committee and housed, of course, at ACORN’s New Orleans office)
Accounts payable totaling $138,516 to other Rathke entities
Shuffling union member money back and forth between Rathke and ACORN entities is nothing new. Last year’s financial disclosure for Local 880 showed:

A loan receivable from Local 100, which started the year at $11,500 and ended the year at only $500 – a note shows the loan wasn’t repaid in cash, but rather “reduced to in-kind service”
880 received $36,425 as a “contractual fee” from the L880 Political Action Committee
Representational activities included: $6,388 in non-itemized payments to the Chief Organizer Fund and $66,870 in non-itemized payments to Citizens Consulting
“Gifts” totaling $151,694 to the L880 Political Action Committee
$177,430 paid to Citizens Consulting for “Accounting and Administrative Support” and non-itemized transactions for “General Overhead”
$10,102 paid to Citizens Consulting for “Union Administration”
That’s a total of $459,909 in intra-ACORN transactions in 2005 alone.

This has been going on how long?

And folks think the Rathke's only took a million. No this is only the million they got caught taking.

Antieverything
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Jul 13 2008 08:57

We should really merge this thread with this one:

http://libcom.org/forums/north-america/massive-fraud-acorn-10072008

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Jul 13 2008 09:03

Notice anything interesting about this?

SEIU 100 in New Orleans
1024 Elysian Fields Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70117
504-872-0480 ext 118
504-617-6045 FAX

Now here is the address for Citizens Consulting Inc:
1024 Elysian Fields Ave
New Orleans, LA , 70117-8402

Now Here is the address of ACORN National in New Orelans (Wade's office)

ACORN National Louisiana
1024 Elysian Fields Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70117
chieforg@acorn.org
Phone: 504-943-0044

Iam 99% sure ACORN housing is at the same address in NOLA

So

OK there are corporate executives that don't have a deal this sweet.
He got his union, his Non profit, his mortgage company, and his own private nonprofit run by his brother to slice some pie off in administrative and lobbying fees on every transaction. No foundations have a problem with this? My god. How many paychecks can one so-called organizer derive form one building. Seems like the only thing Wade has organized well is his own bank account.

How can Wade throw up his hands 8 years ago and say "oh my god my little brother stole a million dollars rigth here in my own office, how could it be? Well for the best interest of the movement let's cover it up ok everybody? And I will get everyone to pitch in and pay back our I mean his 1 million dollar debt." If you were ewver around the New Orleans office for any length of time you would understand.

Oh yeah anyone find it interesting that the ACORN office where NOLA members are welcome to hang and see what is going on is not at this address. Perfect crime! This is better than catch me if yo can.

Black Leprechan's picture
Black Leprechan
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Jul 13 2008 09:03

Notice anything interesting about this?

SEIU 100 in New Orleans
1024 Elysian Fields Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70117
504-872-0480 ext 118
504-617-6045 FAX

Now here is the address for Citizens Consulting Inc:
1024 Elysian Fields Ave
New Orleans, LA , 70117-8402

Now Here is the address of ACORN National in New Orelans (Wade's office)

ACORN National Louisiana
1024 Elysian Fields Ave.
New Orleans, LA 70117
chieforg@acorn.org
Phone: 504-943-0044

Iam 99% sure ACORN housing is at the same address in NOLA

So

OK there are corporate executives that don't have a deal this sweet.
He got his union, his Non profit, his mortgage company, and his own private nonprofit run by his brother to slice some pie off in administrative and lobbying fees on every transaction. No foundations have a problem with this? My god. How many paychecks can one so-called organizer derive form one building. Seems like the only thing Wade has organized well is his own bank account.

How can Wade throw up his hands 8 years ago and say "oh my god my little brother stole a million dollars rigth here in my own office, how could it be? Well for the best interest of the movement let's cover it up ok everybody? And I will get everyone to pitch in and pay back our I mean his 1 million dollar debt." If you were ewver around the New Orleans office for any length of time you would understand.

Oh yeah anyone find it interesting that the ACORN office where NOLA members are welcome to hang and see what is going on is not at this address. Perfect crime! This is better than catch me if yo can.

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Jul 13 2008 16:15
pghwob wrote:
I believe you can find Rathke's bio including reference to his time on SEIU International Executive at waderathke dot com, and he has a statement on his blog about his own poor, misguided brother and how he even had to "reassign" his brother within the organization. Makes me wonder if brother is taking the fall for something a bit bigger.

I'd be interested in the story around how he got thrown off the IU board. I know someone who worked with him in Arkansas. I'll ask.

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Jul 13 2008 16:19

Local 880 was a really awesome and very clean local. It actually no longer exists (or won't shortly). Anyway, they've been very successful and won huge victories. I'd hate to see their name besmirched because of an association with ACORN that lots of organizations have. Local 100 I don't much care about...

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Jul 14 2008 11:24

ACORN's Sweat Shop Organizing

http://tijuanatales.wordpress.com/2008/04/15/help-the-struggle-of-the-former-workers-of-acorn-tijuana/

Help the struggle of the former workers of ACORN Tijuana
April 15, 2008

And another bit of info from my inbox:

Monday, April 14 11:00AM in front of the offices of ACORN at Third Ave. Suite 102, Chula Vista CA 91911

The former workers of ACORN Tijuana and other organizations of Mexico and the United States are confronting ACORN over its practices against the rights of labor and the health of its Mexican workers. We demand:

A. The payment of the official judgment given which was handed down by the Local Board of Conciliation and Arbitration the 6th of September of 2007 in favor of the organizers Lilia Leon and Maria Antonieta Robles for being fired without justification and for other amounts due them such as the payment of lost wages from the day of their firing to the day they are paid, all their due under Mexican labor law.

B. The payment of 4 two week pay periods owed to Carmen Valadez as well as her medical costs in the IMSS for a week of hospitalization for diabetes in 2007 and the constitutional indemnification and other amounts owing for failure to comply with her labor contract for the reason that in the last two months of her work in ACORN they did not pay salaries due. In October 2007 Carmen Valadez renounced the labor relationship with ACORN because of the failure to pay her and the failure to provide medical and social
services owed.

C. We demand that ACORN stop its practices of violating the human and labor rights of its workers, of the health of its community organizers, women workers of ACORN in Tijuana, and of its workers in various cities throughout the United States in cities such as Saint Louis, Chicago, Seattle, and other places.

Our demands are directed to the central office of ACORN in New Orleans, to Wade Rathke, founder and chief organizer of ACORN USA and International, Ercilia Sahores, International Organizer responsible for ACORN Mexico, and Suyapa Amador, principle organizer of ACORN Tijuana, and Maude Hurde, President of the Executive Council of ACORN in the USA.

Endorsed by: Lilia León, Antonieta Robles y Carmen Valaldez Ex Trabajadoras de Acorn Tijuana in Struggle, Centro de Información para Trabajadoras y Trabajadores (CITTAC), Colectiva Feminista Binacional, La Otra Tijuana, San Diego Maquiladora Worker Solidarity Network

Information:

Claudia Elias, San Diego Maquiladora Worker Solidarity Network

(619) 245-9227