Bargaining for the Common Good:  Educators, Organizers, and Activists Join Together for Housing Justice Gathering – July 2019

Over 200 organizers and activists from labor unions, housing justice organizations, worker centers and community organizing groups from across the country gathered in Chicago on July 28-30, 2019 to learn from the latest research and discuss important solutions to the nationwide housing crisis. The Bargaining for the Common Good (BCG) Housing Justice convening was a joint effort of the Center for Innovation in Worker Organization (CIWO) at the School of Management and Labor Relations (SMLR), Rutgers University, the Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE) and the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor (KI) at Georgetown University.  BCG activities were held at the Chicago Teachers Union and SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas.

Stacy Davis Gates, Vice President of the Chicago Teachers Union, kicked off the gathering by reminding participants: “This work is not for the timid, y’all. This work is for the impatient, those willing to fight for it.”  Davis Gates is also a fellow in the inaugural WILL Empower Executive Cohort, another CIWO/KI program that aims to support the leadership of and expand the community for women leaders at labor and economic justice organizations throughout the country.

A diverse group of leaders facilitated sessions.  Veronica Mendez-Moore of Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en la Lucha (CTUL) in the Twin Cities led a discussion around the impact of concentrated real estate wealth and power on our communities.  Carroll Fife from Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) in Oakland helped participants explore the history of racialized injustice in housing in the United States, explaining how those in power have consistently denied people of color in particular the ability to build wealth through homeownership. Carroll explained, “We need to take on the speculators, we need to pay attention to where our money is, we need to speak truth to power, but also speak truth to each other and call each other in when we’re not moving toward the right direction.” 

Unions and community groups spent hours building relationships, strategizing, and planning steps to be taken in fifteen geographies around the country. Leaders from Southern California and Seattle, to Colorado and Iowa, to Tennessee and Florida, to New York, Chicago and Puerto Rico met to explore opportunities to join together and transform what “home” looks like for millions of Americans, and build plans to challenge power and win housing justice. Participants shared stories about the impact of the housing crisis on their lives, their families and their communities. Participants delved into current research on housing, and learned about contemporary concepts (such as opportunity zones and funds) to build their acumen on housing justice.  Participants left feeling determined and energized by a weekend of innovative thinking about how to make housing in the United States more inclusive, fair and democratic. 

Many thanks to the Bargaining for the Common Good (BCG) Housing Steering Committee, a dynamic group of housing justice and labor leaders from around the country, and thank you to the BCG Advisory Committee for their support of this work.