Thursday, June 12, 2008

Moratorium Now! Campaign to Hold Town Hall Meeting in Detroit, June 14; Labor, Left Responses to Foreclosure Crisis

For Immediate Release

Media Advisory
Wednesday, June 12, 2008

Events: Moratorium Now! Campaign Opens Office, Town Hall Meeting Planned for Sat., June 14 at UAW Local 7
Office: Central United Methodist Church, 4th Floor
23 East Adams, Downtown Detroit, MI 48226
Contact: Atty. Jerome Goldberg, Caleb Maupin, Intern
Phone: 313.319.0870

Moratorium Now! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions Supports Passage of Michigan Bill to Place Moratorium on Foreclosures; Organizer's Conference and Town Hall Planned June 14 in Detroit

Michigan is suffering the worst housing crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Every resident of this state, whether they own homes or not, are seriously affected by the economic downturn.

Over 70,000 households are facing eviction where entire communities are being devastated with abandoned and vandalized homes, apartments and commercial structures. SB 1306, the two-year moratorium legislation introduceed by State Senator Hansen Clarke, would allow homeowners to delay the Sheriff's sales. The court will set a reasonable repayment plan for two years based in part on the borrowers income and ability to pay.

The Moratorium Now! Coalition has opened an office in Detroit to work towards the passage of SB 1306. A series of events have taken place and are scheduled in the near future to build support for this ongoing campaign:

On Friday, June 6, a "March Against the Banks", demanding a Moratorium, gathered at the Spirit of Detroit Statue at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, Woodward at Jefferson, beginning at 4:00 p.m. The crowd marched through the financial district to demonstrate the impact of the banking industry on the foreclosure crisis in Detroit.

Coming up this Saturday, June 14, A "Statewide Organizers Planning Conference" along with an "Official Town Hall Meeting," entitled: "Why We Need a Moratorium on Foreclosures", will take place. The schedule for this event is as follows:

June 14 Location and Schedule:

Location of Event: UAW Local 7 Hall 2600 Connor Avenue, Detroit, (between Mack Ave. and Jefferson Ave.)

10:00 a.m.-Noon--Statewide Organizers Meeting to discuss strategy to mobilize a mass movement across Michigan to WIN passage of Senate Bill 1306 which calls for a 2-year moratorium on foreclosures.

1:00 p.m.--2:00 p.m. Lunch

2:00-4:00 p.m.--Official Town Meeting presenting testimony from the community on foreclosures, evictions, blight and its impact on the communities in Michigan. Chaired by State Senator Hansen Clarke, sponsor of SB 1306.

A Free Legal Clinic will be open from 2:00-4:00pm to give advice to those facing foreclosure and eviction.

Resolution of San Francisco Labor Council - adopted June 9, 2008

For a Moratorium on Foreclosures, Utility Shutoffs, Evictions & Public Housing Demolitions

Whereas, housing is a human right. Yet the nation's homeless population is large and increasing...thousands of units of public housing are being demolished....and millions may lose their homes to foreclosure and eviction -- all at a time when workers need the jobs at prevailing wages that building adequate housing for the people would provide; and

Whereas, a large number of Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure, many as a result of being victimized by the predatory practices of banks and mortgage companies. One in every four subprime mortgage victims are either in or near foreclosure. Soon, almost 10% of the homes of working families across the country could be in foreclosure; and

Whereas, the growing economic crisis has caused a big increase in the number of evictions of renters from their homes and apartments, and utility shutoffs facing those unable to pay their gas and electric bills; and

Whereas, during the Great Depression of the 1930s, 25 states adopted a moratorium (freeze) on foreclosures, and such moratoriums were upheld by the US Supreme Court; and

Whereas, Governors, State Legislatures, the President and Congress, as well as the Department of Housing & Urban Development, have the statutory authority to declare a moratorium on home foreclosures and evictions during a time of either natural or economic emergency disaster. In early 2007 the governor of Massachusetts decreed a 2-month moratorium on foreclosures;

Whereas, Michigan State Senator Hansen Clarke has introduced a bill calling for a 2-year moratorium on foreclosures, in a state that is suffering the worst housing crisis since the 1930s, with tens of thousands also facing eviction and entire communities being decimated by abandoned and often vandalized homes which drive down property values -- a situation also facing communities in other states as well; and

Whereas, 4,500 units of habitable or easily renovated public housing are being demolished or threatened with demolition in New Orleans, just as many thousands of public housing units in other cities have been demolished, leaving many residents without a home; therefore be it

Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council call on the President and elected representatives to implement a moratorium (freeze) on home foreclosures, utility shut-offs and evictions; and be it further

Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council call on the President and elected representatives to implement a moratorium on public housing demolitions, and that such demolitions shall not be allowed to proceed until all such public housing units have first been replaced with affordable units, on the basis of one-for-one replacement at comparable rents; and be it finally

Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council work together with housing advocates and the trade union movement in a joint effort to bring about these reforms, and to establish the principle and practice that housing is a right for every man, woman and child living in the United States.

Campaign to stop foreclosures reaches out

By Caleb T. Maupin
Published Jun 7, 2008 12:18 AM

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions has been undertaking a growing campaign over the past few weeks to win passage of SB1306. This bill, which would put a two-year moratorium on mortgage foreclosures, was introduced in the Michigan Legislature by state Sen. Hansen Clarke.

Activists have been doing phone banking, outreach and leaflet distributions from the coalition’s office located at Central United Methodist Church in downtown Detroit. They are holding almost daily street meetings and distributions at the nearby 36th District Court, the scene of many eviction and foreclosure proceedings.

At these street meetings, two organizers hold a banner as another member of the team agitates and gets the attention of those going into the court. Meanwhile the remaining activists distribute leaflets and engage people in a dialogue about the campaign and its goals. So far, they have distributed thousands of leaflets and many people have signed up for more information. Police harassment of the street meetings has gradually increased as the courts and bankers see that the campaign to challenge the free reign of the predatory lenders is picking up steam.

A job fair in downtown Detroit this week was also the site of the Moratorium Now! Campaign’s mass leafleting. As rows of unemployed workers dressed in their best clothes awaited a chance to get inside and try to get a job, moratorium activists distributed fliers and talked with some of the hundreds of people waiting in line.

The campaign is currently publicizing and preparing for a march through the banking district of Detroit on June 6 from 4 to 6 p.m. to highlight the crimes of predatory lenders. A statewide organizers’ meeting to discuss strategy for building a movement to pass SB1306 is scheduled on June 14 from 10 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the UAW Local 7 hall on Detroit’s east side.

Sen. Clarke will then chair an official town hall meeting from 2 to 4 p.m. Clarke will take testimony from community members about foreclosures, evictions, neighborhood blight, lowered property values, increased homelessness and other problems facing the community because of the mortgage foreclosure crisis. During the meeting, a simultaneous free legal clinic, hosted by the Coalition’s legal committee, will provide practical advice to those facing foreclosures and evictions.

Coalition organizers hope to rally support in cities and towns throughout Michigan in order to build the necessary movement that will force the politicians to put a halt to the foreclosure epidemic. Community activists in Benton Harbor and Battle Creek have already expressed interest in holding meetings on the moratorium in western Michigan. The campaign has been contacted by people as far away as Traverse City and Cheboygan in northern Michigan.

Direct action stops eviction

On every front, Coalition activists are committed to stopping foreclosures and evictions. These organizers rapidly switched gears one morning last week when the office received a call that an illegal eviction was about to take place. A woman who had paid her rent and done everything expected of her, awoke that morning to find a sheriff knocking on her door informing her that she had two hours before bailiffs would rip her belongings to shreds and dispose of them in a large dumpster, already waiting outside of her home that morning.

Several Coalition activists, including members of Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI), Michigan Welfare Rights and the Green Party, made their way across town to the property. Alan Pollock of MECAWI photographed the bailiffs assertively, much to their chagrin. As a woman from Michigan Welfare Rights stalled the bailiffs, several activists arranged themselves on the porch so that they blocked the entrance to the woman’s home.

Activists were able to stall the bailiffs long enough to contact a judge and get a stay placed on the eviction by the court. According to Coalition attorneys, landlords whose homes are foreclosed must still follow the law by giving tenants proper notice when preparing to evict them.

Readers wanting more information or to get involved can contact the Moratorium NOW! Coalition at 313-964-5813, e-mail, or visit the group’s Web site at . Donations can be sent to the Moratorium NOW! at 23 E. Adams, 4th Floor, Detroit, MI 48226.
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Freedom Socialist • Vol. 29, No. 3 • June-July 2008
Bail out workers, not banks!

by Henry Noble

In March, the U.S. government shoved billions of taxpayer dollars into already bulging Wall Street pockets. At least one trillion dollars that could have been used for Social Security and Medicare went instead to investment banks that had gambled in the market and lost.

This theft has been long in the making.

In 1999, the Clinton administration voided laws passed during the Great Depression that kept investment banks separate from commercial banks. This allowed the market players to get their hands on everybody’s loans and savings. In 2005, Congress passed the “Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act” to make it much harder for people to get out of debt. The sharks sharpened their teeth for the feeding frenzy.

While TV ads pushed subprime mortgage loans for little down to folks with poor credit, the Bank of America financed the biggest offerer of these loans, Countrywide. After two years, Countrywide doubled its mortgage interest rate, ballooned the amount of monthly payments, and seized the houses of people it set up for a fall — a disproportionate number of them Black and Hispanic.

Washington Mutual stole a different way. The bank forced the mortgage company it uses to deliberately inflate home prices. This earned higher profits for the bank, but left homeowners owing more than their houses are worth.

With bankers propagandizing that “property always increases in value,” purchasers believed that their houses would produce equity they could borrow on to pay bills. Since nearly half of all households spend more than they earn, this seemed a godsend. Instead, it was a deal with the devil: 80,000 families a month are being forced from their homes.

Meanwhile, the government is using tax income to buy up the unpayable debt the financial institutions are responsible for creating — bailing out the swindlers with the money of the swindled!

The AFL-CIO union federation has drafted emergency laws to stop foreclosures and evictions in some states. Good — but a national moratorium is needed. And, with prices for all necessities sky-high, labor and community groups should also fight for a rollback of rent costs and universal rent control.

In February, England rescued the giant Northern Rock bank by temporarily nationalizing it, with compensation to the shareholders. An excellent model, but with improvements — dropping the payoff and making the public ownership permanent.

This is what needs to happen in the U.S. The private sector has shown itself incapable of meeting people’s most basic needs. So let’s make banks public institutions run by unionized public workers!

Bail out the banks? You gotta be kidding! Better to put the CEOs in prison and turn over their wealth to the people they made homeless.

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