RENT STRIKE IN OAKLAND IN THE COVID TIMES

A Photoessay © by David Bacon
Capital & Main, 7/20/20

OAKLAND, CA 7/9/20 – Tenants and supporters demonstrated at an Oakland apartment complex where tenants are mounting a rent strike against Mosser Capital, one of several apartment complexes where rent strikes are taking place. During the COVID-19 crisis the landlord is insisting on bringing investors to inspect the apartments despite the danger of contagion. Mosser bought over 20 buildings in Oakland in 2016, according to the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). Mosser received a Paycheck Protection Program loan between $2 million and $5 million during the pandemic.

OAKLAND, CA – 9JULY20 – Tenants and supporters demonstrate at an Oakland apartment complex where tenants are mounting a rent strike against Mosser Capital, one of several apartment complexes where the strike is going on. The tenants are organized by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). During the COVID-19 crisis the landlord is insisting on bringing investors into the apartments despite the danger of contagion.Copyright David Bacon

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment organized tenants from buildings across Oakland to come to the apartment house, to confront speculators brought by Mosser Capital, the building’s owners. Tenants, especially seniors, expressed fear that letting strangers into their homes during the pandemic would put them at risk for contamination from the coronavirus. They also believed that the investor tour might result in evictions and rent hikes.

Sabeena Shah (r) is a striker in the building and Sharena Diamond Thomas (l) is a striker in another building.Copyright David Bacon

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WAR AND OCCUPATION OPENED THE DOOR TO IRAQ’S VIRUS PANDEMIC

To fight COVID-19, Iraqi workers want political change
By David Bacon, © 2020
The Nation, 4/8/2020


Union leader Falah Alwan, president of the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions of Iraq, and leather goods factory workers argue with the plant manager about their union rights in 2003.

Solidarity, Then the Virus

Many U.S. union activists remember Falah Alwan. As the occupation of Iraq unfolded in the summer of 2005, he and several Iraqi union leaders traveled here to make clear the impact of sanctions and invasion on his country’s workers. From one union hall to another, on both coasts and through the Midwest, Alwan and his colleagues appealed for solidarity.

In the end, the war’s damage went virtually unhealed, but the ties forged between workers and unions of the two countries have remained undiminished. Last week, as both face the coronavirus pandemic, Alwan wrote to the friends he made in those years. “The news from New York is horrible,” he commiserated. “I believe the days to come will be much worse than they are now, not only in Iraq but for you also.”

In 2005 the Iraqis effectively dramatized the human cost of U.S. policy. Today, as both countries face the coronavirus, the devastating situation of Iraq’s people calls for revisiting that question of responsibility.

On paper, the virus’s toll in Iraq today stands at 1,031 officially confirmed cases, with 64 deaths. While Iraq’s per capita count is still much smaller than that in the U.S. – 22 cases per million people to the U.S.’ 910 – the numbers don’t tell the real story. In Iraq very few people can access medical treatment, and the number of infections and deaths is much higher than that given in official statements.

This past week Reuters reported that confirmed cases numbered instead between 3000 and 9000, quoting doctors and a health official – a report that led the Iraqi government to fine the agency and revoke its reporting license for three months. The higher figure would give Iraq a per capita infection rate higher than South Korea, one of the virus’ early concentrations.

Unions and civil society organizations must now try to make up for Iraq’s political paralysis and the partial dysfunction of its government. “Because of our ruined healthcare institutions,” Alwan explains, “the government hurried to impose a general curfew [a stay-at-home order] to stop the outbreak and a rapid collapse in the whole situation.”

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Philippine Banana Farmers:
Their Cooperatives and Struggle for Land Reform and Sustainable Agriculture

From FoodFirst,
by David Bacon, © 2020

PANABO, DAVAO, PHILIPPINES (8-31-19) – Workers harvest bananas in the field of the DARBCO cooperative in the Mindanao city of Panabo. Denmark Aguitas catches the bunnch of bananas on his shoulder as it’s cut from the tree, and carries it to the cableway where it’s hung from a hook and then pulled to the packing shed.
Copyright David Bacon

Thirty years ago many banana workers in the Philippines made a radical change in their work and lives. They transformed the militant unions they had organized to wrest a decent living from the multinational corporations that control much of the world’s food production. Instead of working for wages, they used the country’s land reform law to become the owners of the plantations where they had labored for generations.

It was not an easy process. They had to fight for market access and fair prices against the same companies that had been their employers. But they developed a unique organization to help them, that provided knowledge and resources for forming cooperatives. Twenty years ago FARMCOOP and these worker/grower cooperatives defeated the largest of the companies, Dole Fruit Company (in the Philippines called Stanfilco). As a result, today the standard of living for coop members has gone up, and workers have more control over how and what they produce.

FARMCOOP became the source of everything from financial planning and marketing skills to organic farming resources and political organizing strategy. FARMCOOP then developed an alliance with one of Mindanao’s indigenous communities, helping it start its own coops that combine the use of local traditions with organic and environmentally sustainable agriculture.

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