05.31.2010 0

Change to Win Union Coalition Now a Major Conduit for SEIU Donations to ACORN

  • On: 06/28/2010 21:20:24
  • In: Big Labor
  • By Kevin Mooney

    ACORN and its number one union benefactor, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), both see great value in operating under different names as part of a larger effort to avoid criticism and foster financial partnerships.

    An internal memo The Politico recovered last year from ACORN’s California branch shows that the organization’s leadership has recognized for some time n ow that its tarnished name could complicate fund raising efforts and undermine support on Capitol Hill.

    “Sadly there is a growing list of reasons why the name ACORN may make it harder for us to advance the issues and goals of our organization, members and communities across the state,” the memo acknowledges. “The name ACORN has been dragged through the mud and we are coming across a number of people and groups who want to work with us, want to support the work we have been doing, but feel that they can only do so, if we change our name,” the memo says.

    Known in full as the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now, the ACORN network proceeded to rebrand its state and national affiliates with generic sounding names in response to on-going scandals. The idea here is to re-establish ties with foundations and corporations that distanced themselves from ACORN last year.

    SEIU, which has donated more money to ACORN than any other union organization going back to 2005, is applying a similar technique with the Change to Win coalition, which came together in 2005. Although it was sold as a launching pad for innovative organizing strategies that would benefit the labor movement as a whole, Change to Win has evolved into a front group for the SEIU.

    “Despite being a coalition of several unions, Change to Win has been of material benefit to one union only, and that is the SEIU,” Glenn Spencer, the executive director of the Workforce Freedom Initiative with the Chamber of Commerce has observed. “SEIU still views Change to Win as a useful mouthpiece and it can use it as a pathway to funnel money to shady groups like ACORN without putting its own name on the check.”

    All told, organized labor has contributed over $10 million to ACORN since 2005, with SEIU contributing about $8.7 million of this sum. That includes over $222,000 in 2009 alone, according to Labor Department records.

    Meanwhile, Change to Win was responsible for one of the single largest ACORN donations in 2009 in the amount of $181,355, which was funneled into the California affiliate for representational activities, Labor Department records show. It also donated $40,000 to an affiliate in Washington State.

    It is difficult to overstate how closely connected ACORN remains with organized labor. The Teachers – AFL-CIO Local Union 2 donated over $300,000 to the ACORN office in Brooklyn, over $20,000 to an office in Baltimore and $25,000 to the Washington D.C. affiliate.

    The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which is also part of the Change to Win coalition, plowed over $60,000 into ACORN and its affiliates throughout 2009.

    Going forward, Change to Win is likely to remain an important conduit for union organizations that are allied with ACORN, most especially the SEIU.

    Kevin Mooney is a contributing editor to ALG News Bureau and the Executive Editor of TimesCheck.com.


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