More than 100 activists, unions, community leaders, and housing groups from across the country joined the Bargaining for the Common Good (BCG) Housing Justice webinar on December 12, 2018 to discuss concerns and issues around affordable housing. The BCG webinar helped groups to learn and strategize about bargaining and fighting for affordable housing.
Across the country workers are being forced out of their homes by rising rents, gentrification and the growing corporate dominance of housing. There is an urgent need and opportunity for labor-community alliances to organize around and fight for affordable housing. The "rent is too damn high" and BCG can play a unique and critical role in breaking new ground in the housing fights.
Following opening and introductions by Marilyn Sneiderman, Executive Director of the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) at Rutgers University and Saqib Bhatti, Co-Executive Director of the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE), the webinar opened with an overview and theory of bargaining for housing justice campaigns was followed by reports from the field by:
- Christina Livingston, Executive Director of Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) in California.
- Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change (NYCC).
- Michael Laslett, Strategic Campaigns Director at SEIU Local 925 in Seattle.
- Bereket Kiros, board member of the Coalition of Immigrants Refugees and Communities of Color (CIRCC), and a Community Engagement Commissioner for the City of Seattle.
- Harry Lawson, Director of the National Education Association (NEA) Human and Civil Rights Department.
Participants were then divided into facilitated break-out sessions to discuss areas of concern, future actions, and strategies.
Affordability has emerged as one of the biggest issues around the country as raises haven’t kept up with skyrocketing rent. Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), said that teachers spend as much as half of their salaries on rent. After months of intensive internal organizing, organizing with the community, and a massive 6-day strike in January 2019, UTLA won an incredible set of contract victories. In addition to bread and butter wage and healthcare improvements, they won a series of ‘Common Good’ demands including smaller class size, improvements to the learning environment, support for immigrant community members, caps on charter schools, increased green spaces on campus, additional counselors and librarians, and end to random campus searches. In addition to winning for Los Angeles, the UTLA's strike provided inspiration for advocates of public education from across the country.
Follow up sessions are planned to share strategies and ideas. A Webinar entitled "Los Angeles Teachers: Lessons From their Bargaining for the Common Good Campaign and Strike Victory" is scheduled for February 22, 2019 and will feature Caputo-Pearl and MauriceBP-Weeks of the Action Center on Race and the Economy and other community leaders, parents and students. A discussion of strategies and lessons learned from the recent victorious United Teachers of Los Angeles strike will be covered.