as an important thread for many occupations,”Gradowski continues.On January 30, CLVU, the ChelseaCollaborative, Occupy Boston, Mass Uniting,and several local BTAs worked together to stage amarch on the Boston offices of Fannie Mae andBank of America. Protesters demanded principalreductions for homeowners whose mortgages were “underwater,” or have balances that are morethan the current value of the homes. The march’shigh turn-out suggests the great potential for massactions against housing injustice in the Boston area.Homeowners nationwide are $700 billion“underwater,” as a CLVU press release states. The$17 billion set aside for principal reduction in therecent fraud settlement is a mere drop in the bucket.Becky Bond at CREDO Action notes three otherimportant points:Financial institutions, including these five,received a $700 billion bailout to keep them afloat when they crashed the financial system in 2008 —not to mention $1.2 trillion in low-cost loans fromthe Federal Reserve.The federal government’s track record inenforcing “consent decrees,” like those found in thissettlement, is remarkably poor. A consent decree is acompany’s agreement, without admitting guilt, thatit will not engage in a specific illegal behavior in thefuture. In the current settlement, there is essentially no penalty for Countrywide Mortgage’s failure tocomply with a previous consent decree for similarly fraudulent practices. (Countrywide is now ownedby Bank of America.)This settlement was reached without a full inves-tigation of the fraud that occurred. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama announceda new federal task force to investigate the financialsector. It may well uncover more extensive or egre-gious fraud than is currently known.This foreclosure settlement is an exampleof corporations getting off easily, while peoplecontinue to suffer. No bankers are going to jail,and the banks still come out ahead. From theirperspective, the $5 billion financial penalty issimply the cost of doing business.“The only big losers are the taxpayers and, of course, the homeowners,” states the CommonDreams website. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalismobserves that the settlement is a “raw demonstrationof who wields power in America.”However, despite the inequalities of influenceand wealth, “we the people” must continue to takeaction to prevent foreclosures and the eviction of homeowners. We must demand accountability from banks and financial institutions. And we mustdemand that our government truly become agovernment of, by and for the people.
1,333 Massachusetts home-owners received foreclosurenotices and over 10% of all mortgage loans in thestate are in default.
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in 2004 and 2008-9. It was alsoout of synch with librarians’ sharedimpression that their facilities arecurrently understaffed. Just three days after the profferedbuy-out, picketers in support of Harvard’s library workers listenedoutside Lamont Library as one librar-ian’s open letter to the administration was read aloud. “We feel terrified andthreatened with losing our jobs,” theletter said. “This is a devastating timefor library staff. Please don’t sendus any more upbeat, jargon-filledemails.”Desiree Goodwin, also a Harvardlibrarian, says that a month lateralmost nothing has been clarified.The lack of information “has leftroom for rampant speculation aboutlikely scenarios, which the adminis-trators have still refused to confirm, deny,or clarify,” she states. “We need moreinformation about what these changesmean for staff.”“Historically, Harvard has neededa push to give fair conditions to its workers,” Giuliana Chamedes, a lecturerin the History and Literature program,told the Occupier. She cites the HarvardLiving Wage Campaign as an example.The campaign ran from 1998 to 2001and culminated in a three-week sit-in atthe president’s office, which at last spurredthe renegotiation of contracts for dininghall workers. Joshua Koritz, a library assistant andmember of the HUCTW, paints a similarimage of Harvard’s attitude toward itsemployees. “The university wants to puton a good facade, but behind that is anoverworked, underpaid, and generally terrified work staff,” Koritz says. He notesthat over 250 Harvard workers were laidoff in 2009, ostensibly because of therecessionary budget crisis. “The work of those people was forced onto the existing workers,” Koritz adds. “The expectationfrom management is that employees will work as many hours as necessary to finishtheir work, while only being paid for a35-hour work week.”The March 1st rally at HolyokeCenter was preceded by an “open forum” with Harvard Provost Alan Garber.Community members had hoped to ask questions and voice concerns about thelibrary’s restructuring and the university’streatment of workers.Unfortunately, the forum was anythingbut open: only questions submitted inadvance were considered, and these wereselected and read aloud by members of theadministration. The small audience wasconstituted almost exclusively of partici-pants in Occupy Harvard, on the onehand, and university administrators onthe other, who nodded as Provost Garber wiled away the hour with inconsequentialanecdotes. The voices of those who hadcome seeking dialog were effectively silenced, and the fate of library workers was barely mentioned. A similar strategy appears to havegoverned how the university addressedits library workers directly. “There werea number of public ‘town hall’ meetingsscheduled that were later canceled afterthe negative response to the first,” DesireeGoodwin told the Occupier. “These were replaced by online chats where thequestions could be carefully selected inadvance.” At the rally, however, students, unionmembers, and activists returned attentionto the university’s treatment of its workers.Geoff Carens, a library worker andUnion Representative for the HUCTW,manned the loudspeaker and led thecrowd into Harvard Yard. The marcherscircled administrative buildings, chanting“Shame on Harvard,” and paused on thesteps of Widener Library. Will, a Harvardundergraduate and part of the StudentLabor Action Movement (SLAM), spoketo the marchers and vowed to “keep onthe pressure” with weekly events.“Harvard has a surprising numberof pro-labor students, and the last few months have been a revelation in termsof how much support they’ve given us,”Carens commented. He called the helpof SLAM “invaluable” and also had highpraise for Occupy Harvard: “I’m very impressed with Occupy Harvard partici-pants and I’m proud to be working withthem.” What are the chances that this coalition will influence the university’s policies? Onthe optimistic side, protesters can counton Harvard’s squeamishness regardinganything that might tarnish its brand.There have been unofficial indicationsfrom the Director of Labor and EmployeeRelations, Bill Murphy, that managementis likely to revise its proposals based on thepush-back from students and workers.However, union leadership hasdone next to nothing to supportthe protests. Joshua Koritz worries:“Without real pressure from workers,students, and faculty, along withcommunity support, the Harvardadministration will do whatever they want. As long as the HUCTW refusesto reach out to those who are already acting in solidarity, it is unlikely ourdemonstrations will get much biggerthan about 200. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking.”Nonetheless, the Harvard community appears resolute in its fight againstthe university’s corporate interestsand practices. One of the next actionsplanned is a “speak out” on Tuesday,March 27th, at noon in Harvard’sScience Center. The event will exposethe damage already done to the librariesand attempt to put additional pressureon the administration.“We are going to force Harvard topay a price for any layoffs,” Carenspromises. “We’re going to give the 1%,in this case the Harvard Corporation,a major, major headache.”
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“The university wantsto put on a goodfacade, but behindthat is an overworked,underpaid, andgenerally terrified work staff.”
Students march through Harvard Yard in solidarity withthe Harvard Union o Clerical and echnical Workers(HUCW) on March 1, 2012. (Photo: Matthew J. Shochat)
Check out bostonoccupier.com for more greatcontent that couldn’t make it into our printedition:
Martial Law in Michigan by Josh Sager The Future of Black Politics by Ian Cornelius andDan SchneiderSanctions, Threats and Speculators: War Tax atthe Gas Pump by Jeff KleinPhotos from the Protest Chaplains’ Lent prayerservice in front of Bank of AmericaCartoons by Kip Lyall and John Jonik …and much more!