AA's 6th Tradition and the Pink Can

AA’s sixth tradition reads as follows:

“6. An A.A. Group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the A.A. name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.” (short or regular form)

“6. Problems of money, property, and authority may easily divert us from our primary spiritual aim. We think, therefore, that any considerable property of genuine use to A.A. should be separately incorporated and managed, thus dividing the material from the spiritual. An A.A. group, as such, should never go into business. Secondary aids to A.A., such as clubs or hospitals which require much property or administration, ought to be incorporated and so set apart that, if necessary, they can be freely discarded by the groups. Hence such facilities ought not to use the A.A. name. Their management should be the sole responsibility of those people who financially support them. For clubs, A.A. managers are usually preferred. But hospitals, as well as other places of recuperation, ought to be well outside A.A.—and medically supervised. While an A.A. group may cooperate with anyone, such cooperation ought never go so far as affiliation or endorsement, actual or implied. An A.A. group can bind itself to no one.” (long form)

Many years ago old-timers would refer to Tradition 6 when people would talk about an “AA Picnic” “AA potluck” or “AA Dance” and say AA has no such things, and we do not endorse such things. Same thing that we don’t have “AA treatment centers”, most treatment centers base (loosely) their programs on the AA’s 12 steps, but are not affiliated nor endorsed by AA.

Here in Arizona I’ve seen a “Pink Can” being passed around to help pay for materials for H&I (Hospitals and Institutions) to provide Big Books and other A.A. literature to those places. This seems, to me, to be financing those outside institutions. So I don’t contribute to those cans…. But I was curious about them and the traditions so I did a google search and found the following in Box 459 News and Notes from the General Service Office of A.A. (AA’s newsletter)

Pink Cans: Small Change Brings Big Results (2006)

A large number of inmates in correctional facilities in the U.S. and Canada are in prison because of alcohol, and the flip side is that many of these alcoholics have found the Fellowship in prison. But the quest for sobriety doesn’t come easily behind the walls. Most incarcerated alcoholics have just one meeting a week available to them, and many others are on waiting lists and can get to none at all. That reality underlines the need to send literature into prisons to carry the message in print through the Big Book, other A.A. books and pamphlets, and the A.A. Grapevine.

How to raise enough money to keep a supply of literature flowing? Corrections committees throughout the service structure make raising money for literature a priority, and one idea that has become popular in some areas is having a pink can (or perhaps a blue or green one) prominently displayed on group literature tables as a way of collecting money for literature for prisons.

The concept originated (as far as we know) in the Northern California Area in 1957. The area Hospital and Institutions committee (H&I) was rapidly expanding its work in prisons, and the need for literature was increasing by leaps and bounds, to the point where it could no longer be met by individual contributions. Someone came up with the idea of passing around a can at group meetings, explaining that the pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters dropped into the can were intended for alcoholics in pris- ons and hospitals. How to make the cans stand out? Paint them pink. The idea caught on, and eventually groups throughout North America began displaying pink cans on their literature tables. In Northern California, the original one-quart paint cans have been replaced by plastic con- tainers with screw-on, slotted tops. In the beginning, some members were afraid that donations to the pink cans would decrease group contributions, and mindful of that possibility, the committee has always emphasized the importance of providing clear information. They send each group a flyer explaining what the cans are for, print

information in local A.A. newsletters, and always suggest that the secretary emphasize the importance of contributing to group expenses first.

Some areas have come up with variations on the basic concept. Northern New Jersey, for example, implemented the idea of having jail boxes, and the area corrections committee sends each group a letter of introduction describing the need and the purpose.

In the Southern Minnesota area, one of many that have embraced the pink can plan, an article in the area newsletter summed it up: “The pink can is not intended to detract from your group’s normal Tradition Seven contributions. We look only to collect spare change from as many groups as possible. If your group already sponsors a facility with literature, your participation in the pink can insures that literature is reaching all facilities, not just one or two. Does your group have a pink can? What a positive way to turn pocket change into the promises of the A.A. message.”

Which suggests that the GSO (General Service Office) is alright with this idea and on board.

But I question if the multi-billion dollar prison industry and treatment centers need us to provide literature to their inmates – their ideas of A.A.’s twelve step program is not the A.A. but a treatment program that takes our steps out of the book and puts them on worksheets and in handouts (opinion).

I don’t know how others feel about this, but I’m a little on the fence about it and would love to hear what others think about it.

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