Union Members Fight Foreclosure Evictions With Sit-Downs and Blockades
Ramon Suero fell behind on his mortgage payments after he got fired for organizing a union.
Suero, a hotel worker and UNITE HERE Local 26 member in Boston, got his job back after a year. But then his wife had to quit hers and travel to the Dominican Republic to care for her sick mother — and they fell further behind.
They applied to modify their home loan, but federally sponsored mortgage company Freddie Mac said no, foreclosed, and demanded the family get out by February 1.
The Sueros aren’t leaving.
“I want to send a message to the banks: we deserve a second chance,” Suero said. “That’s why I decided to fight — not only for my family, but for our community.”
Local 26 members and activists from the housing justice group City Life/Vida Urbana vow to thwart the eviction with a human blockade if necessary.
In the wake of Occupy, the tactic is spreading. Activists around the country are placing their bodies in the way of police doing the banks’ dirty work.
In the Twin Cities, supporters get text-message alerts from the grassroots group Occupy Homes MN and mobilize quickly to stop surprise evictions.
It took Minneapolis police four attempts — and 39 arrests — to evict the Cruz family last spring. When they showed up at 4 a.m. and attacked the front door with a battering ram, 60 volunteers held them off.
The whole effort cost the city $40,000, and activists carried the battered door down to city hall to shame elected officials for the misuse of public resources.
“It becomes really politically costly — both to the banks who are creating this kind of chaos, and also to city politicians,” said organizer Nick Espinosa.
Many foreclosure resisters his group works with are current or former union members — like Monique White of Service Employees (SEIU) Local 26, who lost her youth-counselor job to state budget cuts. White kept her house after she confronted the U.S. Bank CEO in front of 200 shareholders.