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UPDATE: ACORN’s Former Chief Organizer Comments on Union’s “Pink Sheeting” Practices

Following our earlier post (based on a New York Times article) about union organizers who exposed the outrageous psychological warfare tactic known as “pink sheeting” that used on workers and themselves, ACORN’s former Chief Organizer Wade Rathke posted the following on his blog:

Now in one of the rare articles we have about internal union business we get to read about tawdry internal affairs and psycho-babble mind games:  kill me now!

….

I should disclose quickly that although I understand “one-on-ones” as a methodology, I have never been comfortable with their practice or their claims, largely because in my view they inappropriately elevated the role of the organizer in a way that both create a false mutuality with potential leadership and a distortion of the roles that would most effectively build the organization particularly around the issues of organizer-dependency and a conflation of organizers and leaders making them almost synonymous.  It is neither the way I have trained or supervised organizers nor the way I have been involved in building organizations or organizing models.  Nonetheless, I have always been respectful of the practice, despite my reservations, because I was confident that the best practices in the craft probably protected against some of these potential problems.  In organizers’ shoptalk we used to kid about talking to organizers from other “schools” and having the conversation turn creepy when they started “one-on-one-ing” us and crossing boundaries on a personal level.  But, realistically in doing leadership visits and building leadership relationships over time, all of us understood that real personal friendships would emerge and rigid protocols would evaporate over years of work and mutual understandings.

As the use of “one-on-ones” from community organizing morphed into some labor organizing, I think the adaptation got even more bent.  In looking under the hood with HERE UNITE organizers, part of the construction of the “one-on-one” was more deliberately an effort to pull out of the organizers a core motivation for why they did the work that was deeply rooted in explaining their motivations, angers, and sense of powerless they shared with the workers based on intensely personal experiences in the organizer’s life.  Divorces, family issues, dependencies, addictions, and whatever else frequently emerged as core issues for sharing in the one-on-one.  Staff meetings and training sessions described to me were sometimes too eerily reminiscent of some of the old, hugely discredited Synanon sessions so notorious from the last years of the United Farm Workers under Caesar Chavez. [Emphasis added.]

Psycho babble indeed.

To read our earlier post, go here or see below.

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Cross-posted on LaborUnionReport.

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