March 17, 2015

Our History

IMG_1222ACTION United is the states’ largest low and moderate income community organization with over 54000 members statewide. ACTION United is a multi-issue organization that works to build power and a voice for its members. Our vision and goal is to build an organization that is powerful enough to have real impact on decisions that are made that effect our members and their communities.

ACTION United was formed in April 2010 by some staff and former leaders of Pennsylvania ACORN, which was destroyed by right wing forces angry at the one million voters registered by ACORN nationally in 2008 and the results of that voter engagement. Seeing a strong need to continue the work done by PA ACORN for over 30 years, ACTION United has continued to employ much the same organizing model as ACORN: building strong, neighborhood based community organizations, signing up individual members who pay dues, elect their local group representatives and decide the direction and issues of the organization. In addition, ACTION united has by necessity developed strong financial systems and a regional and statewide governance system.

In our short history, ACTION United has had a number of significant achievements:

  • Founder of the PCAPS coalition to win real research proven reforms to turn around Philadelphia Schools, fight privatization and fight school closings; in 2013, ACTION United in Pittsburgh helped form the GPS Coalition with similar goals
  • With PCAPS in 2012, fought the closings of what was initially 64 shools so that only 23 were closed. As a part of that campaign, ACTION United filed a Civil Rights complaint with the Department of Education, and got the city council to vote unaimously in favor of a moratorium on school closings
  • mobilized a large and successful civic engagement GOTV program in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Delaware county in 2010
  • In Pittsburgh, ACTION United and our allies won two significant pieces of City legislation related to climate and the environment:
  • Diesel PM filter/retrofit on publicly-funded construction projects– reduces black carbon pollution, which is 2,000 times more potent than CO2 as a global warming agent;
  • Stormwater capture – publicly subsidized developments of significant size are to capture the first 1¼” of rainwater on site per wet weather event. This will greatly encourage the use of green infrastructure.
  • In 2014, ACTION United is running a large Voter Test program in Delaware county along with the Analyst Institute and Project Vote to help determine best practices in Voter Registration and turnout
  • Was a part of the Voter ID coalition that beat back attempts to enforce the voter ID in 2012, and in an offensive move, joined with Project Vote and Demos to win a lawsuit against the state of PA for failing to insure that voter registration was offered at state public assistance agencies
  • Challenged Comcast’s lame effort at bridging the digital divide though its FCC mandated “Internet Essentials Program” that while not a complete win, has forced Comcast to modify and adopt many of our recommendations to make the program more successful
  • Contacted over 1000 families who are struggling with their mortgage to get them into the city’s foreclosure mediation program
  • Completed tax returns at a low cost for over 1500 low and moderate income families in 2014, delivering millions in Earned Income tax Credit (EITC) back to the community and are on pace to exceed that number in 2013.
  • A founding member of the Working Families Organization in Pennsylvania, which is leading the effort to put the issue of local control on the ballot in Philadelphia
  • In addition, ACTION United local chapters have won number victories on classic community issues: demolition or clean up of vacant buildings and lots; shutting down a nuisance bar, winning improvements to local parks.

ACTION United sits at numerous tables in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Statewide. These include the Philadelphia Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS), with partners that include labor and student organizations: Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, SEIU, UNITE-HERE, Philadelphia AFL-CIO, Philadelphia Student Union and Youth United for Change. In Pittsburgh, AU is a founding member of the Great Pittsburgh Schools(GPS) Table, along with SEIU, Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers, and Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network (PIIN). We are also a part of the PA America Votes table and the PA Voice table, with a wide variety of social service and community organizations that are involved in civic engagement in their communities, and a founding member of the Pittsburgh United table, which is leading the Clean Rivers Campaign. We are a governing board member of the Campaign for Fair Education Funding, an emerging statewide campaign with a wide variety of business, labor and school administrative organizations, some who have very different views than our own. These include the Philadelphia School Partnership, PennCAN, and the Pennsylvania Business Council. We have managed to put differences on other issues aside to focus specifically on winning a fair and equitable state funding formula for PA public schools. Finally, in Philadelphia we are working with a coalition of environmental organizations, including Clean Water Action, to win greater regulation and reforms around the issue of crude oil trains that are moving in growing numbers through Philadelphia.


ACTION United is organized at the local, regional and state level. The most basic level of organization is local neighborhood chapters. Members typically belong to a local group that meet regularly, decides on what local issues it will work on, and elects local group chairpeople. Those local chairpeople-usually a chair and co-chair, represent the local group on the Regional council. Currently, Regional Councils exist in Western PA and Southeastern PA. Regional councils meet bi-monthly and decides on and plans out some of the issue campaigns and local fundraising.