Author: Sabine Frid-Bernards

Tenant Actions in Nova Scotia

From ACORN Canada: This has been an explosive week for the Rent Control Now campaign in Nova Scotia! Over the past few months ACORN has been collecting rent increases from across the province. The results are grim but not shocking, members have gotten increases upwards of $900 a month.

One rent increase went viral over social media, Grace – a tenant who works at the local gas station – got a $650 increase designed to force her to move from her apartment so the landlord can renovate the unit. The response from the Province? Rent Control doesn’t work. According to the provincial government it’s a “philosophical issue” – try telling that to Grace and the hundreds like her who are forced from their homes by greedy landlords!

Since then tenants have been coming forward with their stories and ACORN has been more active than ever, getting tenants rallied, sending hundreds of emails to Stephen McNeil and local MLAs, and pushing the province closer to rent control.  We are organizing a rally Saturday (Facebook event here) – with upwards of 1500 people from across the HRM interested in coming – to force the province to act in the best interest of tenants and enact Rent Control Now! Can’t make it? Click here to send an email to your MLA to demand Rent Control!

PRESS:

CTV News: ‘It’s ridiculous’: Calls for affordable housing in Halifax area grow louder (with video!)

Nova Scotia Advocate: News brief: We need rent control and landlord licensing everywhere in Nova Scotia

The Chronicle Herald: Rally calling for rent control in Nova Scotia to be held Saturday in Halifax

Global News: Habitat for Humanity pushes for more affordable housing options in the HRM

The Coast: Halifax to rally for rent control this weekend

UK Tenant Organizing: From illegal evictions to union bootcamps, how Covid-19 could change renting

From iNews UK:

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, 63 per cent of private renters had no savings and almost half of working renters were just one paycheck away from losing their home. Think of them as the “squeezed middle” Ed Miliband once tried to champion – they were already stretching themselves to cover the most essential cost of all: housing. Now, Shelter estimates that 332,000 private renters who were not in arrears prior to the pandemic are now behind on their rent…

In the meantime, without the protections they need and with local authority enforcement patchy at best, some renters are turning to tenants’ unions for help plugging the gaps where the state is failing. Acorn is a nationwide community union with 5,000 members across the country and branches in 22 cities. A spokesperson told they have helped to resist 20 Section 21 evictions in total and picketed lettings agencies. They also reported a “huge rise in attempted illegal evictions” and requests for help. Acorn has been holding “eviction resistance bootcamps” across the country over the last two months. Participants are taught about renters’ rights in the event that a county court appoints bailiffs to carry out an eviction.

“We have seen a huge increase in our membership over the crisis period,” Acorn’s spokesperson added. Tenants unions see themselves as providing grassroots support where legal aid (which was cut significantly back in 2013) and local councils are falling short. They may become more ubiquitous in months to come but, if they do, it will be a symptom of a housing crisis that predated the pandemic and has been exacerbated by it.

ACORN India on the BBC: How Dharavi Coped with Coronavirus

BBC featured an update on the pandemic in Dharavi, where public health programs and aid from organizations such as ACORN have helped decrease infections and deaths. As one of the most intensely packed places on earth, it is incredibly positive news to see that cases and deaths are down. Local leaders attribute this to local health workers who know the slum well and are able to go door to door, and aid from NGO’s and civil society.

“I would put this down to about 6,000 health workers combing every street, doing tests…since they know the slums, they are able to track all the cases,” says ACORN organizer Vinod Shetty. “It’s mainly been civil society and NGO’s which are responsible for the feeding of the whole of Dharavi and the kind of support that was given at the worst possible time. It was civil society, social network of organizations that rose to the occasion and kept the kitchens running.”

Listen to the full story on the BBC.

Tenant Organizing in Montreal

ACORN Canada is organizing to support tenants who are being forcibly evicted by their landlord due to repairs and renovations on the buildings. Organizers say that it is the responsibility of the landlord to find accomodations for these tenants.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic, there is no room to rent and it is expensive! We ask them to leave when Montreal is in code red and we are told not to leave home! ” says Theodros Wolde of ACORN Canada.

Read the full post (in French) from ACORN Canada.





Voter Purge Project in Vice

Vice News talked with founder of the Ohio Voter Project and author of the Voter Purge Project’s data cleaning and analysis methodology Steve Tingley-Hock about our work to track wrongful data purges across the country.

“When I ran the initial queries, that was my first indication that there was a serious problem here,” Steve says of the initial Ohio records that showed about 40,000 voters were set to be wrongfully purged. Steve, along with the VPP, now collects and analyzes data for 16 states.

Watch the full video below, and read more about what we are doing with this data in our report.

Support Protests in Nigeria!

It’s small world.  Marva Burnett, the president of ACORN Canada and ACORN International, visited several cities in Nigeria last year with her church group.  She met a young man named Edem Etido in Port Harcourt, a large city much farther southwest from Lagos, the mega-city, but also along the Gulf of Guinea, nearer to Cameroon.  I talked to Edem via Skype about his interest in organizing ACORN Nigeria, and how we could get him some training.  I promised to visit him when I was scheduled to be in Nigeria.  The pandemic postponed that visit three times with the latest now pushed back to the spring of 2021, but in the last week I’ve heard from Edem several times via Facebook and email.  Protests have broken out in Port Harcourt and throughout the country, triggered initially over police brutality suffered by young people, but now expanding to a host of other issues over corruption, the economy, and the inaction of government.

His message was simple and straightforward, as he wrote,

The youths in my country need international support for what we are advocating for at the moment. I guess you’ve heard or watched the protest that’s ongoing in Nigeria now?

The hashtag that’s trending on Twitter now #EndSars #EndPoliceBrutality is the ongoing protest by the youths here because, the (SARS) which means-Special Anti-Robbery Squad, have gone out from what their primary duties are, which is to protect lives and properties of the Nation and citizens.  All they do is intimidate, harass, and extort youths at gunpoint while also killing youths for no reason, because nobody is gonna query or prosecute them.

We’ve been on this for more than a week now and all our governments could do is just make verbal and audio promises which they have been doing way back since 2015 and we are fed up with fake promises, so we demand full action, and that’s why the protest is ongoing.

We just heard that they are going to send the military to intimidate and shoot at us for the peaceful protest. No country has said anything about this and it’s not fair. I don’t know how ACORN International could help to make this protest go round over there, so as to get the international attentions we need.

If I hadn’t heard of these protests already from Edem, and if you hadn’t heard of them yet, there was a front page picture that jumped later to a story in the Wall Street Journalbecause the protests shut down the city of Lagos along with its airport and main thoroughfares.

How can we help?  There’s a petition that the young people hope to send to the United Nations that you can sign.  You can also make a donation to support the protests.  As the article points out, “More than 55% of Nigerians are underemployed or unemployed and youth unemployment is even higher, according to official statistics. More than 90% of Nigerians work in the informal sector….”  People in Nigeria are desperate for change, so anything we can do, small or large, helps make that possible.

ACORN Surrey Disability Assistance Action

Members of the ACORN group chose a pedestrian overpass in Surrey for a “banner drop” on Wednesday (Oct. 14), in a call for increases to disability and income assistance in B.C. “PWD = Poverty,” read the banner, referring to persons with disabilities. 

The “drop” happened at the intersection of Scott Road and King George Boulevard. ACORN is calling for rates to be increased to $2,000 per month to match the new federal benefits for low-wage workers, group member Bertha Edward told the Now-Leader. “If the federal government determined low-wage workers are entitled to a basic standard of living at $2,000 a month through Canadian Recovery Benefit and Employment Insurance, how is it justifiable that the B.C. government forces people on disability and income assistance to live below the poverty line?” the group said in a news release. “We live in a rich province and there is no excuse for people to live in poverty,” Tabitha Naismith, chair the Newton ACORN branch, said in the release. 

Online, ACORN is at acorncanada.org. The website describes ACORN Canada as “an independent national organization of low and moderate income families with 130,000+ members in 20+ neighbourhood chapters across 9 cities.”

ACORN Farm News

On the ACORN Farm
Nearly 50 Xavier pre-medical students descended on The ACORN Farm equipped with shovels, energy and good will towards the mission of The ACORN FARM.  Master Gardener R.C. Brock, a long-time ACV ACORN member greeted with them with an arm-long list of farm jobs, in the favorable autumn weather. 

As the group planted greens and squash, weeded, dug out fence lines, mowed the grassy areas, pruned trees, harvested squash, and cleared away nature’s debris, the day fell away to good cheer and joy as it came to a finish.
Three of the students, including two young women had mastered the chain saw and removed a dead tree.  

Please LIKE The ACORN Farm on Facebook.  Come volunteer or have a picnic.  

Actions in Cameroon

In Douala, Cameroon, ACORN International members staged an action to push the electricity company Eneo to negotiate and solve issues of dangerous infrastructures and overcharging in bills. Members blocked the entrance to Eneo headquarters, using an empty chair to symbolize the removal of their interlocutor, and the communication interruptions.

Local 100: OSHA Actions

In September, United Labor Unions Local 100 leaders and members in Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas launched a campaign to pressure employers to create and enact health safety plans in accordance with OSHA regulations. Many of our union members shared that they had no personal protective equipment provided by their employer and no guidelines around workplace safety – even while working with patients or students and unable to socially distance on the job.

On Thursday, September 10, workers went to management offices in-person to demand copies of their worker safety plans, after email requests for these plans the week before mostly went un-answered. Most sites were unresponsive or did not have the plans. The week after, union leaders went to the OSHA offices in person to submit formal complaints about the lack of plans. We continue to follow up on the complaints and pressure workplaces to put plans and resources in places to protect their workers during this pandemic.


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