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We Have to Fight the Plutocrats to Build an Economy that Works

Americans have an opportunity to go on the offensive to transform the economy and politics of our country and create shared prosperity for all.

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•Stage sit-ins at banks and Wall Street offices and nonviolently block foreclosures and evictions to defend homeowners and taxpayers. This will both build momentum and excitement and also have a real impact on Wall Street’s ability to profit from people’s suffering.

•Move into politicians’ offices to hold them accountable for the actions of the corporations that fund their campaigns and challenge them not to be apologists for Wall Street. Moving families that have lost their homes, jobs or benefits into the offices of politicians who received contributions from the offending corporation will highlight how big business buys politicians.

•Use direct action and mass civil disobedience to occupy workplaces that are being shuttered and the corporate offices of companies that won’t invest in local communities to highlight what is wrong.

Working together

Conditions have never been riper for a campaign to protect and grow the middle class. Escalating actions and civil disobedience are already springing up at banks, in politician’s offices, at corporate franchises and at home evictions around the country. In Los Angeles, dozens of homeowners from the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment were recently arrested sitting in at JP Morgan’s offices to protest unfair foreclosures. In Washington, D.C., National People’s Action occupied the Bank of America opposite the Treasury Department. In Detroit, the United Autoworkers recently occupied a Bank of America branch by conducting a teach-in on the economy in the bank lobby. In Albany, N.Y., community groups and students occupied the capitol to protest budget cuts. In Philadelphia, a sheriff’s sale of a home was physically blocked. In Rochester, N.Y., Take Back the Land organized a two-week long eviction defense that resulted in multiple arrests of local activists. This is just the beginning of what is possible.

Progressives need to offer an analysis that gives citizens the confidence to challenge the economic policy of Wall Street. At the same time, we need to provide an inspirational vision of the kind of society we are working to create. And we need to seriously plan how to achieve that vision by fighting for and winning transformative economic change that redistributes wealth and power. We can restore an arc of history that bends toward justice, equality and greater opportunity for us all, if we have the courage to challenge the most powerful and together take a step closer to the promised land. Otherwise, we may soon watch 100 years of victories disappear. 


Stephen Lerner serves on the Service Employees International Union's International Executive Board and is the architect of the Justice for Janitors campaign. Lerner is a frequent contributor on national television and radio programs and has published numerous articles charting a path for a 21st-century labor movement.

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