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Create A Crisis For The Super Rich

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Uploaded on Sep 15, 2011

History has shown that the only way you can get corporations to change their behavior is to create a crisis for them says SEIU Internationalapos;s Stephen Lerner. The self-described "friendly neighborhood union organizer" has some first hand experience creating crisis for corporations. He succesfully led the "Justice for Janitors" campaign and helped workers, many of them undocumented workers, organize a union. Lerner talks about how the same technique can be used to fight back and change the behavior of the nationapos;s super-rich, who have used their outsized influence to shape our government to their benefit and to the detriment of the poor and shrinking middle class. Transcript: Everybody said to me apos;well we keep hearing we need to do something, what is it that we need to do?apos; So people have said I need to talk about we need to go on the offense. Folks know what it means to go on the offense? That we have to stop being curled up in a fetal position, seeing how many body blows we can take and then we boast apos;well, they beat us but we could still stand up.apos; Thatapos;s called defense. That we need to go on the offense. That second, we need an urgency about what we do. And that we need to start marrying our rhetoric about the crisis in this country for workers with our action. We need to think about how we marry our action and our words and our deeds because part or the reason weapos;re not inspiring folks is what weapos;re proposing we do with the crisis sounds like exactly what we proposed before. That we actually need to think about how we are heroic, how we operate out of the highest moral place and do things that we were never able to do before. And that this is about building and creating power. Weapos;re not going to convince the other side that weapos;re right through intellectual argument. We need to create power, and in a way we need to talk about how we create a crisis for the super-rich. Our countryapos;s history has been that thereapos;s shared prosperity, shared growth. And I know that we may believe that for the future of the country we need a shared prosperity, we need shared growth, but I just think we need to be crystal clear: thatapos;s not what the super-rich and the big corporations believe. They think things are absolutely fine. I just want to say that again. Do you think any of them really worry that thereapos;s 10 percent unemployment or 25 percent unemployment in communities of color? Do you think? I mean as everybody went through theyapos;re sitting on trillions in cash. Theyapos;re the richest theyapos;ve been in history, and I feel weapos;re almost in a ? like a battered spouse, where weapos;re trying to convince them it would be good for them to help us. Weapos;re trying to intellectually convince them that itapos;s better for the country. Theyapos;re s saying this is working just great. So thereapos;s a crisis for us. Right? Is there a crisis for them? So letapos;s think about that. Thereapos;s a crisis for us and thereapos;s not for them. So what do we need to do? What would change their behavior? Audience: create a crisis Say it again. Audience: create a crisis. We have to create a crisis for them! If point one is we need to create a crisis for them, point two would be we can not do it by doing the same things we always do. And I sort of think thereapos;s three points I want to touch on here, which is, I think thereapos;s all sorts of good work going on in the country. But if you look about all those movements I referenced, If you look about the Arab Spring, what do all the things that change in the world have in common? Audience: People in the streets Say it again Audience: People in the streets. And when the people are in the streets are they always getting permits and getting permission and saying? do you think that like in Egypt they said to the police apos;oh could we have a permit to stay in this, this squareapos; and if they had said no they all would have gone home? So every country where thereapos;s transformational change, people are in the streets. And what do we not have in the U.S.? Audience: People in the streets. OK, this is a good crowd. Those people who left early? Theyapos;re missing it. (The reason) we won in Houston is because through escalating activity, through a really smart campaign that won public support, but through sitting in again and again, by blocking the biggest streets, by bringing Houston to a standstill we literally had a meeting with the biggest building owners and corporate guys and they said apos;lets get this over because this is not good for Houston.apos; So Iapos;m not talking about just randomly acting. That when we escalate, when we build in, we can actually change peopleapos;s behavior. So one is: it needs to be escalating day after day. Itapos;s the difference between, when youapos;re a union organizer having a rally at lunch and having a strike. We need to rediscover and reinve

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