May 1st is International Workers’ Day, and if not for the current COVID-19 crisis, labor councils and community groups would be in the streets this Friday celebrating May Day and pushing for labor rights. This year, while there will be no march or rally, here in San Diego and elsewhere in the country, a growing number of our fellow workers, those who have lost their jobs and can no longer afford to pay rent, will be organizing rent strikes.
Your AFT Guild, in solidarity with our community partners at ACCE, support the California Rent Strike Movement. Thus far, none of us have been forced out of a job, but we know that this is not the case for millions of our fellow American workers at present. As ACCE has pointed out: No one should have to choose between paying for food or housing. ALL of us deserve to have shelter from the storm, a permanent home, and food and medicine to keep us nourished and healthy.
Millions are losing income. Unless rent and mortgage payments coming due during this crisis are forgiven, we will see mass evictions and foreclosures the likes of which have not been seen before – at least not since the Great Depression. Across the country, people and groups are united to demand this kind of relief. The Center for Popular Democracy, Right to the City, and People’s Action, three large national networks of community groups, have taken up this demand.
The eviction moratoriums being passed help in the immediate term, but they kick the can down the road – the missed payments are still owed. Renters and homeowners are being saddled with new debt that, in so many cases, they have no ability to pay.
The government had no problem bailing out the big banks during the Great Recession caused by that housing crisis. The point of the emerging rent strike movement is to give voice to the large numbers of our neighbors who will not be able to afford their unpaid rents or mortgages even after the “stay at home” order is lifted and put political pressure on Governor Newsome and other elected leaders not just to stop evictions in the short term, but to put rent and mortgage forgiveness in place until the end of this crisis. In that spirit, we urge you to sign this petition from the Rent Strike Movement here: https://www.acceaction.org/rentstrike. Also, let any students or community members you know about this initiative. For more on the Rent Strike Movement go here: https://www.rentstrikemovement.org.
In this moment of historic crisis, it is important that we stick together to support each other and the community we serve. The American labor movement as we know it was forged in the fire of the Great Depression when workers found power by standing shoulder to shoulder with each other in the face of great economic hardship and with powerful economic forces lined up against them. Today, we need to rediscover that spirit.
Jim Mahler, President
AFT Guild, Local 1931