Social and Economic Rights

Beyond Gay Marriage

“I absolutely think housing for poor, homeless, and low-income queer folks is a huge issue for us, as is doing anti-violence work...” —Kenyon Farrow,

Editors note: The June 26, 2015 Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage in all 50 States shifts the terms of the debate about where the gay rights movement should be putting organizing energy and money. This 2010 article and podcast by Lisa Dettmer looks beyond the issue of gay marriage and examines how homophobia intersects with racism and classism and suggest new directions for gay rights rooted in the history of queer liberation politics.

Phillipine Domestic Worker Rights. A primer on ILO CONVENTION No. 189

The Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (PMRW), with the support of the International Labour Organization’s ASEAN TRIANGLE project, has developed this educational booklet on Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers and RA 10361 otherwise known as Batas Kasambahay or Domestic Workers Law.

Often performed by family members, particularly women, domestic work is neither recognized as a formal component of the economy nor properly compensated. When done by hired labour, it is often not included in the labour laws of the country. Therefore, domestic workers do not enjoy the full protection of labour laws and they are often underpaid and asked to work extra time.

http://www.ilo.org

History of Exploitation: from Slavery to Domestic Work

An interview with Sheila Bapat
“The roots of domestic work are deeply connected to the history of slavery in the U.S. It’s no accident that a vast majority of domestic workers were African American women to begin with, and increasingly now, immigrant women of color.”

 

Interview by Preeti Shekar

Sheila Bapat, author of Part of the Family? Nannies, Housekeepers, Caregivers and the Battle for Domestic Workers’ Rights offers remarks on domestic workers' rights. Learn about the challenges and successes of South Asian worker organizing efforts in the United States.

Floodlines: Preserving Public Housing in New Orleans

Among the roughly 15,000 people gathered in Detroit for the U.S. Social Forum (USSF) this year were some 250 grassroots activists and organizers from New Orleans. They were seeking insight from activists in Detroit—the other U.S. city with the largest percentage of empty or unlivable housing—albeit the Rust Belt took several decades to achieve what Hurricane Katrina did overnight.

Of all the housing issues that New Orleans faced following Katrina, the battle over public housing developments stands out for its blatant bigotry and unfairness. Not long after Katrina, politicians, developers, and planners began talking about tearing down all the remaining public housing in New Orleans because, as Baton Rouge Congressman Richard Baker gloated, they had “finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans! We couldn’t do it, but God did.”[1] In truth, a lot of the public housing had made it through the storm in solid condition and with a few repairs could have been used for many years to come. But the decision-makers had their own agenda and chose to follow their prejudices and stereotypes with city council president Oliver Thomas (who later went to prison for a corruption scandal involving bribes related to a city contract for a parking lot) stating, “There’s just been a lot of pampering, and at some point you have to say, ‘No, no, no, no, no’!.. We don’t need soap opera watchers right now.”[2]

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Public Housing Residents Fight for their Homes

Charlotte Delgado is on a tear. “They have run public housing into the ground until it is so bad they cannot begin to fix it,” she tells her audience at the U.S. Social Forum. Delgado wound up in HUD multifamily subsidized housing after being diagnosed with cancer 25 years ago. She beat the disease seven times and now serves as vice president/west of the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT). From her toes to her carefully rolled blonde “do,” Delgado exudes indignation. “What they intend to do is give it to the banks, let the banks fix it up and rent it out—and in a maximum of 30 years, they can get out of the [public housing] program!” she says, stabbing the air with her finger.

“I live in Sacramento, eight blocks from the state capitol and my building was the first in the state taken over by a for-profit in 1998,” Delgado continues. “My rent went from $595 to $825 overnight. And out of the 103 families who lived in my complex, there are only 29 of us left.”
The supply of housing for low and very low income families in the U.S. is melting away, even as people lose jobs to the recession and homes to foreclosure. (Unemployment and foreclosure rates are even higher in communities of color.) The damage from decades of official neglect of the housing stock is piling up and still-solid structures will soon become unlivable if nothing is done to repair them.

Government contracts with landlords are expiring, as in Delgado’s case, which lets owners put tens of thousands of units back on the private market and out of the price range of low-income families. Plus, a new Obama administration proposal threatens to privatize the country’s remaining stock of government-owned housing. Faced with escalating threats, public housing residents are using every tool at their disposal—from lawsuits and lobbying to mobilization and direct action—to keep their homes.

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Federal Raids Against Immigrants on the Rise

By David Bacon

While the criminalization of undocumented people in Arizona continues to draw headlines, the actual punishment of workers because of their immigration status has become an increasingly bitter fact of life across the country. The number of workplace raids carried out by the Obama administration is staggering. Tens, maybe even hundreds of thousands of workers have been fired for not having papers. According to public records obtained by Syracuse University, the latest available data from the Justice Department show that criminal immigration enforcement by the two largest investigative agencies within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has increased to levels comparable to the highest seen during the Bush Administration.[1]

In a recent action the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) pressured one of San Francisco’s major building service companies, ABM, into firing hundreds of its own workers. Some 475 janitors have been told that unless they can show legal immigration status, they will lose their jobs in the near future.

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