The Surreal Estate

Perspectives on Tenant Organizing from the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board

UHAB Organizing Stands with Striking Walmart Workers!

As you’ve probably heard, hundreds of Walmart employees in 28 stores across 12 states are striking and protesting Walmart’s poor labor practices.  While many of us have known about Walmart’s abhorrent labor practices and anti-union campaigning, these recent strikes are new and exciting.  Josh Eildelson, writer for Salon, was interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now yesterday regarding the historic importance about the recent actions:

Yesterday, when Wal-Mart store workers at multiple stores walked off the job, that was the first—the second time in five days. It was also the second time in 50 years of Wal-Mart that we’ve seen multiple U.S. store workers going out on strike together. It signifies that we’re in a new wave in this multi-decade struggle between U.S. labor and the world’s largest private employer. And it’s a wave that started, in many ways, this summer in June, when we saw eight workers go out on strike at a Wal-Mart supplier, CJ’s Seafood. It continued last month when workers in Wal-Mart’s supply chain, who get squeezed by Wal-Mart’s budget even though on paper they work for a contractor, went out on strike in California and then in Illinois. And it escalated last week and again yesterday with a combined 150 Wal-Mart store workers taking this unprecedented action.

One main objective of the strikes is to force Walmart to abandon retaliation practices against workers who complain about working conditions or attempt to organize.  Daniel Schlademan, the director of Making Change at Walmart, told reporter Claire Gordon from AOL Jobs that a “win” would include:

reinstating the people who were “illegally fired,” giving back hours to employees who had them taken away, and clarifying to management “people’s right to free speech.

We at UHAB stand in awe of tenants and all those in the labor movement, (particularly Walmart) who put themselves and their families at risk to uphold their rights.  Instead of campaigning against companies or politicians far away, both labor and tenant organizers are about organizing “at home.”  This fact makes the struggle both more important, but also much more frightening to participate in.

Currently, we are working in a building in Hunts Point, Bronx where tenants live in horrible and unsafe conditions.  With the cut-backs in federal programs for housing subsidy, tenants in the building have been steadily evicted.  While this community of tenants want to fight to improve conditions in their building, they are  scared of loosing their home — something they’ve seen happen to their neighbors.  As tenant organizers, we hope to build confidence and support tenants in their brave efforts.  And, as we illuminate the courage that organizing requires, we want to extend our solidarity to the workers striking against Wal-Mart as well as the tenants fighting in Hunts Points.

La lucha sigue!

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