The financial institutions that created the current crisis are now using that crisis to get even richer, argues Stephen Lerner, the union leader who once conceived the Justice for Janitors campaign. Politicians cannot be relied upon to remedy this, given the degree to which they are tied to corporate interests. Instead, Lerner calls for a strategy of escalating and dramatic actions that will create ‘massive insecurity for Wall Street, corporations and the super-rich’.
Lerner’s plan was ‘exposed’ earlier this year by Tea Party leader Glen Beck, who has since adopted Lerner as one of his favourite targets and even called him a ‘mastermind worse than Osama bin Laden’.
Lerner argues for divesting public and pension money from institutions that do not operate responsibly; exposing special tax brakes for corporations; and a ‘growing campaign of nonviolent civil disobedience, sit-ins, office occupations and resistance to business-as-usual.’
According to Lerner, unions have an important role to play in such a campaign, but they cannot do it alone: “the reality is that these important institutions have just enough political access, financial assets and institutional interests to hinder and ultimately strangle a campaign of mass resistance strong enough to force fundamental changes in how the economy is organized. In order to succeed, the campaign can't be held in check by these institutions with too much to lose.” Previous social movements have shown that creating change requires a ‘vibrant independent activist flank’, Lerner argues.
Photo CC Jim West / AFL-CIO