Bills are Due and Payable: Workplace Strikes and Rent Strikes

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

In American political folklore, “kitchen table issues” are issues, generally involving — naturally — money, where the family sits down round the kitchen table and hashes out the famliy income statement: What’s coming in, and what’s going out, and are we the slightest bit ahead, or not?[1] It’s a warmly lit, sentimental picture of a vicious system where most of the population, the working class, sell their labor power to survive. Until they can’t. And don’t. So it’s no coincidence that there’s been an upsurge — power and consequences as yet unknown — of workplace strikes (the income side) and rent strikes (the expenses side). Kitchen table issues. In this post, I’ll aggregate some examples of each kind of strike — I’ll make no pretense to be exhaustive, since #COVID19 is drowning out everything and in any case, for some reason, collective action by the working class tends not to be covered — and then I’ll conclude with some brief remarks on the state of The Left.

Before I start, I want for what I hope is the final time to return to Peggy Noonan’s post,. “My Corona (or Is It Schmutz?).” Noonan concludes:

Here is a real-life moment. I mentioned running out to the bank. We’re all tipping $20s in Manhattan and I ran low. I walked over in full regalia—N95 mask, sanitary gloves, high-necked coat and scarf. As I walked home I passed by the 90th Street Pharmacy, looked in the shining windows, and saw Hamidou and Barbara at the counter. I felt so grateful for them. I knocked on the glass, they looked, and I drew myself up and threw them a full, formal military salute. At exactly that moment I thought: Oh no, the mask, the gloves, they won’t recognize me! But they did, immediately, and we laughed and applauded each other.

How fiercely we love people we don’t know we love.

How nice. Really. Nevertheless, I can’t help but think that Hamidou and Barbara would be better served by solidarity rather than sentimentality, and solidarity takes material form. Surely Hamidou and Barbara would be better served by higher wages, protective equipment, and a freeze on rents, than by any salute, no matter how smartly delivered? There are different definitions of “love,” I suppose. And now to the strikes, workplace first.

Workplace Strikes

Here is a good wrap-up on #COVID19 from the New York Times, “Is Your Grocery Delivery Worth a Worker’s Life?“:

Last Tuesday, after a mechanic tested positive for the coronavirus, more than half the workers at Bath Iron Works, the famous shipyard in Maine, stayed home from work to pressure their employer to thoroughly clean the shipyard. Workers walked out at a Fiat Chrysler truck plant in Warren, Mich., because there was no hot water for washing up. Bus drivers in Birmingham, Ala., went on strike because they felt not enough was being done to protect them from contracting Covid-19 from infected passengers, while bus drivers in Detroit staged a sudden sickout for the same reason. Sanitation workers in Pittsburgh engaged in a work stoppage over their coronavirus worries.

“We want better equipment, protective gear; we have no masks,” one of the sanitation workers told the television station WPXI. “We want hazard pay. Hazard pay is very important.”

At a Kroger warehouse in Memphis, 200 workers walked out after learning that a co-worker had the virus.

“The ones that is here, they so tense they scared to touch the equipment,” said Maurice Wiggins, a Kroger forklift driver and father of two. (He also complained about being forced to work a 97-hour, seven-day workweek [Holy Lord. “Also complained”].)

These workers are demanding what everyone else wants during the worst epidemic in a century — safety. They feel their companies are taking them and their safety for granted, and they don’t want to risk their lives for a paycheck, often a meager one.

Note that none of these examples are delivery or gig workers; I suspect the New York Times thought that headline was clever because gig workers are the only working class people they interact with. That said, strikes at InstaCart, Whole Foods, and Amazon are garnering the most press, and it is true they provide an essential supply chain during the pandemic. Let’s take each in turn; the grievances are very similar for each.

Instacart. From Vice, “Instacart’s Gig Workers Are Planning a Massive, Nationwide Strike“:

Instacart shoppers are planning a nationwide mass revolt over the grocery delivery app’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, workers say they will refuse to accept orders until Instacart provides hazard pay of an additional $5 an order, free safety gear (hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and soap) to workers, and expands its paid sick leave to include workers with pre-existing conditions who have been advised by their doctors not to work at this time. Workers say the strike will last until Instacart agrees to these terms.

Instacart is reacting, but stingily. From CNN:

Instacart said Sunday that it will soon begin making hand sanitizer available to its “full service shoppers,” who shop and deliver groceries for the company. It is also making it easier for customers to set their own default tipping percentage in the app.

(NC readers know that hand sanitizer is inadequate; what is required is soap and water, and facilities for washing one’s hands for a full twenty seconds.)

And from an Instacart worker:

The strike was organized by the newly formed Gig Workers Collective; here is their Medium post.

Whole Foods. Also from Vice (why Vice?), “Whole Foods Employees Are Staging a Nationwide ‘Sick-Out‘”

On March 31, Whole Foods employees will call in sick to demand paid leave for all workers who stay home or self-quarantine during the crisis, free coronavirus testing for all employees, and hazard pay of double the current hourly wage for employees who show up to work during the pandemic.

The sick-out follows reports that Whole Foods workers at numerous stores across the country, including locations in New York City, Chicago, Louisiana, and California have tested positive for Covid-19. In each of these locations, the stores have remained open, leading some employees to charge that Whole Foods has failed to prioritize their safety during a period of record sales for the company.

This strike is being organized by Whole Worker.

Amazon. Jacobin, in “Amazon Is a Breeding Ground,” has an interview with strike organizer Christian Smalls:

Christian Smalls, from Newark, New Jersey, is a thirty-one-year-old assistant manager at the Staten Island Amazon warehouse. The facility, called JFK8, employs nearly five thousand people — and more with each passing week, as mass layoffs send workers onto the job market and Amazon puts them to work delivering packages to those staying home during the economic shutdown….

Tomorrow, Smalls and his coworkers are walking off the job, hoping to bring operations to a halt and grab Governor Andrew Cuomo’s attention. They’re demanding that JFK8 be shut down for a minimum of two weeks and professionally sanitized. Workers, he says, should be paid during this quarantine, which should be long enough for the virus to induce symptoms in whoever’s currently infected.

From the interview:

Why are sick people coming into work?

Because Amazon is not offering paid sick leave. They’re offering unlimited unpaid time off, which is ridiculous because people shouldn’t be forced to sit at home without getting paid for choosing to be safe in quarantine. Since I’ve been off the job, I’ve been taking money out of my 401k just to get by. I shouldn’t have to do that.

The way the policy works is that you only get paid quarantine if you get tested and it comes back positive. But we know you can’t even get a test unless you’re really sick, and even then it takes a while to get the results. So you get people who are obviously sick as a dog coming into work.

My colleague I told you about before, she’d been to work for the last eight days in a row. There are about 150 people in that department daily. She’d been in contact with the whole entire department. I sent her home on Tuesday and she tested positive on Wednesday.

She’d been in contact with so many people, and the only person they ended up giving quarantine to was me.

Yikes.

Finally, UPS is not on strike, but their grievances are similar, too. From Popular Info, “https://popular.info/p/ups-not-delivering-on-promises-workers”:

A UPS driver in Tennessee reports the following:

UPS is not doing enhanced cleaning of its buildings or vehicles in my area. There aren’t any automatic hand sanitizer stations…The cleaning of vehicles has not changed from before coronavirus. So, the only thing that they say that is actually happening is the sick leave…It is not a job that lends itself to frequent hand washing and to my knowledge the company is not making allowance to accommodate hand washing. They are not providing gloves in my area due to cost concerns. Parts of the operation in the building do not lend themselves to social distancing. So I would say that 90% of what they say on their website is PR bs.

UPS workers across the country had similar experiences.

Bring the supply chain to a halt, and you bring the country to a halt (especially of the Teamsters and the Longshoremen got involved….).

Rental Strikes

Now let’s turn to rental strikes. I know even less about rental strikes than I know about working place strikes, but I understand that organizing building by building is hard. For example, from The New Enquiry’s “Rent Strike 2020: A Resource List“d

HOW TO FORM A TENANTS UNION

1. Find five people in your building or area willing to support future action

Not easy. For example, in Chicago:

Getting the word out to his neighbors has been “really exciting” but also a challenge, [tenant Theodore] Bourget said, given that social distancing guidelines prohibit physical meetings. As a result, door-knocking has been kept to a minimum, with flyering and social media outreach taking priority.

Tenant organizer Cea Weaver:

“A rent strike is a powerful tool that should always be on the table for any tenant union, but it’s not the same as not paying the rent,” she said. “How can we convert thousands of people being unable to pay the rent into thousands of people who are taking collective, intentional, political action together?”

Nevertheless, the fact that so many people are going to have trouble making rent at the same time and for the same reason might create opportunities to make organizing easier. It is to be hoped, because response at the Federal and State level (certainly in liberal Democrat enclaves New York and California).

Federal relief (not). From The Intercept, “Millions of People Will Struggle to Pay Rent in April, But Few in Congress Care“:

[E]ven with unemployment at a record high, major bill payments have barely factored into U.S. politicians’ response to the crisis.

While some states — namely New York — have taken steps to temporarily block evictions, congressional Democrats, with the exception of a handful of progressive lawmakers, have shown almost no interest in addressing the bills due in less than a week, one of the most pressing financial concerns ordinary people currently face. “It shows that Pelosi and Democratic leadership still have their eyes on protecting corporations and not the people,” said one House Democratic staffer.

No duh!

New York relief. From The Gothamist, “With Cuomo Silent On Relief, Some Desperate NYC Tenants Say “There’s No Choice” But To Rent Strike”:

As the global pandemic pushes unemployment to record levels, a desperate and potent tenants movement is taking shape across New York City. A petition calling on Governor Andrew Cuomo to cancel rent for struggling tenants has more than 75,000 backers — including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and NYC Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

With the federal help still at least weeks away for most Americans, housing experts predict that millions of tenants could soon be forced to choose between paying rent and other necessities. That calculus is particularly stark in New York City, where renters make up nearly two thirds of the population, and nearly half of all households are considered rent burdened.

(To be fair to the state of New York, Queens Democrat State Sen. Michael Gianaris has introduced a bill where “rent and mortgage payments would be forgiven rather than postponed.” It has garnered 21 co-sponsors.)

California relief. From the Los Angeles Times, “Newsom orders delay on evictions over coronavirus, while L.A. votes down a blanket ban”:

Through an executive order, Newsom announced a two-month delay on residential evictions for those who can’t pay their rent as a result of the virus — the first statewide action he has taken on evictions during the outbreak. But the order still allows renters to be removed from their apartments come June.

But Newsom’s order doesn’t prevent the legal process of being evicted from ultimately occurring and still requires renters affected by the coronavirus to jump through a number of hoops to qualify for the two-month delay. For instance, tenants must notify their landlords in writing within seven days of nonpayment, and a landlord could still file a case against a tenant for their removal.

Not looking forward to a return to normal where that’s defined as paying three months of rent owed because no money was coming in, when the money wasn’t enough to make paying one month easy.

Now let’s turn to the three examples of rent strikes I have been able to find. (Since so much rental property is now owned by private equity, it might make sense to attack the private equity firms, rather than go building by building; I’m not sure.) There are three. Chicago, Houston, and Richmond. I’m sure there are more.

Chicago. Once again, Vice, “‘We Were Out of Options’: Chicago Tenants Are Refusing to Pay April Rent“”:

[Tenant Theodore] Bourget is picking the last option available to him: Not paying his rent to his landlord, Mac Properties. He’s part of a group of tenants from several buildings, Mac Tenants United, that is calling upon the landlord to cancel rent in April and all months affected by the pandemic economic shutdowns.

Flyers in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood summarize the message many housing advocates are spreading: “Tenants, keep your rent. Landlords, keep your distance.”

Illinois is one of many states that has temporarily suspended evictions. But landlords are still asking for their money, which for most tenants is due on Wednesday, the first of the month. And some renters are preparing to refuse.

Houston. This Reddit thread:

Richmond. This is a property seizure rather than a rent strike, but they’re out there doing it:

Conclusion

It’s interesting to compare what the two campaigns are doing. First, Biden:

And here is the latest mail I got from Sanders. There’s no ask for the campaign at all. Instead, the ask is for the following worthy NGOs:

Restaurant Worker Disaster Relief Fund is providing direct financial support to restaurant workers in need. With restaurant closures happening in huge numbers, this fund provides small grants to workers who are out of work or with reduced hours.

The Workers Fund is providing direct aid to gig and low-earning contract workers, who have seen their income come to a halt and who don’t have a safety net.

National Bail Fund Network’s COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund is giving direct aid to organizations working during the crisis to free individuals in jails and immigration detention centers. Jails are potential hot spots for spreading the virus, and people who can be bailed out should be.

CERF+ COVID-19 Response Fund is offering a safety net and disaster aid for artists and artisans during the crisis. Protecting artists during this crisis is essential, as their income has disappeared, and sustaining the arts should always be a priority for our society.

Rent Zero Tenant Organizing Fund is supporting tenants across the country to organize and win demands for eviction moratorium and no rents during the crisis and recovery. With millions of people out of work, this is vital organizing work to protect people in need.

Amazonians United Mutual Aid Fund is organizing a mutual aid fund for Amazon warehouse workers who are putting themselves at risk during this crisis, focusing first on warehouses that have confirmed coronavirus cases but whose coworkers must still work without adequate safety protections.

Now more than ever it is important that we are willing to fight for people we do not know. With so many put out of work or put in harm’s way as a result of the coronavirus crisis, we must do all we can to help those impacted.

Now, there is much to like in this Sanders effort. For one thing, I far prefer Sanders’ definition of love — “we are willing to fight for people we do not know” — to Noonan’s. However, a political campaign is not about charity. A political campaign is about taking power. The Sanders campaign theory of change — expand the base by briniging in the disaffected working class — failed on its first try. Now there is an enormous opportunity to test that theory a second time, in conditions more favorable to success. Over here, we have the workplace and rent strikes arising spontaneously. They are bottom up, very fragmented, but all driven by the experience that a pandemic under the conditions of American capitalism cannot be borne. And over here, we have an enormous and unique political machine: A massive fundraising operation, a media operation, and an enormous canvassing operation. Surely it is not impossible to bring the Sanders political macnine and the organizing efforts of the workers together? Start by discarding that stupid “charity” framing. Replace it with “worker empowerment.” Why aren’t isn’t the Sanders campaign funding the Gig Workers’s Collective?[2] And be sure to raise money for strike funds and lawyers. The ultimate kitchen table issue is within the grasph of the Sanders campaign. Just a thought.

NOTES

[1] I was going to cite the “40% of Americans don’t have $400 for emergencies” factoid, but it’s debunked here (June 4, 2019). Unfortunately, reality is more cunning than any theory, and has debunked the debunking:

Why does the conventional wisdom about the $400 expense refuse to die? The easy answer is because it riles up voters and attracts readers. That raises a different question: Why is there an appetite for this finding?

I’d speculate, in part, that this faulty interpretation resonated during the slow and painful recovery from the Great Recession. The recession was traumatic, and affected how many people think about their personal finances, their employment relationships — their economic security.

Fortunately, the economic recovery is largely complete. But judging by the persistence of the myth that a broken washing machine would be a crisis for well over one-third of adults, the psychological recovery is continuing.

BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!! Here we are again.

[2] And [family blog] the FEC. It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission.

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

65 comments

  1. notabanktoadie

    Start by discarding that stupid “charity” framing. Lambert

    Indeed. It’s a matter of injustice that so many citizens are wage, rent and debt slaves in the first place as anyone who has read the entire Bible would know (e.g. Deuteronomy 23:19-20, Leviticus 25). Or anyone who understands banking.

    Reply
    1. Bsoder

      And came Jesus [sic]. And indeed a great multitude gathered to his side. And man asked “Master what of this command and others what of that?” Jesus listed for a great while and then said, “Before I came to live and dwell among you, there were indeed many commandments. But, know I say to you they are nothing, mean nothing, God asks but one thing and only one thing, and it is this “Love each other, love all, even those that give you cause to hate, hold nothing back of ourself, even if it should be your life.” I fear something was lost in what Jesus said, he spoke Aramaic, a very beautiful and nuisanced language. Which was converted to Greek, then to Roman (Latin), then to Church Latin, and to Thomas Cromwell’s english, and later to that of King Jame’s. Much has been lost in translation and much has been added that Jesus never would have said. But a Pope might. We all fail our oaths, it is painful, but to be good is to keep trying in ones thoughts and in ones heart. I believe every word of that one command. But, I’ll settle for kindness at this moment, in the hope we get to love. And yes I’d steal a loaf of bread to feed a child starved. That is love, is it not?

      Reply
      1. Hayek's Heelbiter

        Although a lapsed Christian, I was very happy to read this. I do believe you mean “nuanced” not “nuisanced.” Darn predictive text.

        Reply
      2. notabanktoadie

        But, I’ll settle for kindness at this moment, …

        What is DESIRED in a man is his kindness, Proverbs 19:22, etc. but what is REQUIRED is to do justice, Micah 6:8, etc.

        But who even knows what justice is when the Old Testament is so widely ignored or dismissed even among purported Christians?

        Reply
      3. anEnt

        “ Now, there is much to like in this Sanders effort. For one thing, I far prefer Sanders’ definition of love — “we are willing to fight for people we do not know””

        1 John 3:16
        “We have learned the meaning of love, because the Holy One laid down his life. Just as he did this for us, we too should lay down our lives for each other.”

        https://ruberad.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/syllabus.pdf

        From

        https://www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu/~knuth/316.html

        Which has lavish illuminations by the best typeface artists of his generation, including Herman Zapf of Zapf Chancery and other typeface fame. I’ve always found Knuth’s translations to be far more accessible and viscerally relevant than older texts, plus the context-driven approach he takes in presenting and analyzing them is amazing.

        Reply
  2. drumlin woodchuckles

    Does the Sanders campaign have any people regularly reading this site? Could they take this thought back to mid or upper-level intelligence-gatherers and strategists and planners in the Sanders campaign?

    Does Matt Stoller read this site? Does he have any actual meat-space analog contacts inside the Sanders campaign? Would he be able to get this idea into the mid-to-upper levels of the Sanders campaign for their due consideration?

    ( Meanwhile, it may be that Sanders was among those who “got the message” sent by the Kennedy-King-Kennedy assassinations. He may be instinctively unready to make the kind of drive to take power which would get himself targeted by the Kennedy-King-Kennedy assassins.)

    Reply
  3. JBird4049

    Not looking forward to a return to normal where that’s defined as paying three months of rent owed because no money was coming in, when the money wasn’t enough to make paying one month easy.

    To restate then, all the various eviction “bans’ are merely propaganda. Got it.

    Reply
    1. John

      It helps no one to suspend rent payments for 3 months.

      When it comes due who will have the money?

      Millions won’t. That’s for sure and out on the street they will go.

      Make the landlords take a rent cut!

      Reply
      1. kevin

        It helps by not creating more transient people in a time where people need to be staying in a home. Even if you get evicted eventually, 3 months free living is still 3 months.. and arguably a very important 3 months as manufacturing ramps up to increase medical capacity

        And yes, clearly landlords will be taking a rent cut if the tenants aren’t paying anythine

        Reply
        1. John

          Do you hear yourself?

          Maybe you should watch Dirty Money, Slumlord Millionaire episode.
          Landlords like Kushner have people’s wages garnished and if they can’t pay back rent that way they have them thrown in jail.

          Reply
            1. anEnt

              Exactly. Our elites have no idea about the scale of the problem they’ve caused by assuming this crisis is a simple one like they are used to gritting their ways to victory on. I fear for the very social fabric itself. For our ability to continue as a polis.

              Pro tip:
              When arch libertarians like Amash are to the left of the Democratic establishment on cutting people checks for living expenses, you should feel about like you might if you see predators and prey running next to each other inland- they know there’s a tsunami coming and you should run with them.

              Reply
          1. kevin

            You asked a question, and I answered. Either way, yes its horribly unfair to the tenants and poor people in general, but keeping them in their houses NOW unequivocally helps us flatten the curve

            Reply
  4. JBird4049

    Also, I should add that this pandemic may actually help Bernie Sanders get elected, if it continues, and is bad enough. Whatever one may dislike about his campaigning for office, his campaigning on dealing with the coronavirus has been both workmanlike and heroic. There is no comparison between him to the rest of the political establishment.

    Reply
    1. rosemerry

      All of the “primaries” should be re-voted with the DNC and its $18 million gift from Bloomberg denied any input. Democracy for a change, and Bernie would be the candidate to face and beat Trump (then try to bring in some of his plans!)

      Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Well, they should. But they won’t. So now what?

        Hopefully at least Sanders remains In The Campaign until the very day the nominee is picked and announced. Anything less would be uncivilized. And in that context, the SanderGroup and supporters will do what they can.

        Reply
        1. Grayce

          There is an additional opportunity in the November Senate races and in the election of Representatives to the House. There are 535 other people who should get to work for the American people. We are seeing the result of the “tradition” (not law or Constitutional mandate) of letting the last man standing have a single voice in making decisions for the entire country.
          Not Biden, not Bernie, not Mr. Trump calling the shots. Imagine that one hundred Senators voted predictably except Mitt Romney. For all the tax dollars paying salaries and retirements, four hundred and thirty-five Representatives’ actions come down to a handful of nonpartisan thinkers. The US deserves more. It is time to demand that the voice of the people is heard in a place where elected officials do not wear party hats to work.

          Reply
    2. Krystyn Podgajski

      Why is there still this focus on politicians? On idolatry? They are not gods! YOU are the god, as are your human brothers and sisters!

      Lift everyone up to lead and there will be no need for leaders. When the people lead the politicians will have no choice but to follow.

      Learn about, and focus on, solidarity, direct action and mutual aid. Stop worrying about Trump or Sanders or Pelosi, Fox News and MSNBC. These people have power because you give them power. You are the source of their power! You!

      But we must understand that human solidarity is the framework of our power.

      Politicians are only the representation of human collective power. We trusted politicians with that our power for too long. We became lazy, disengaged, and divided. The framework of solidarity crumbled and was replaced by gofundme and facebook. The fault of government does not lie with politicians, it lies with us.

      Reply
      1. Amfortas the hippie

        +100
        an unintentional general strike. millions cooped up at home with nothing to do but surf the news. the most extreme and shameless exhibition of hypocrisy, perfidy and corruption we’ve ever seen.
        people panic-buying livestock!
        the old lenses would appear to be broken.
        it’s up to Us to provide new lenses…and before the Machine can realise what’s happened, and trot out it’s “new lenses”.
        if ever there was a chance to actually change the course of history, this is it.

        Reply
        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          People who have just enough house-and-yard stability that they can enhance their robustly survivalist resiliency should do so. If they can move beyond that and create a “survivalism surplus” to assist a few proximate neighbors, then they will be seen by those neighbors to be successful at surviving and they may be accepted by those neighbors as providing new lens-building leadership along with surplus food and water they can provide to a few neighbors.

          ” Before there can be a revolution, there must first be a revolution between the ears.”
          –( who said that?) New-lens growing may be able to foster that process.

          Reply
          1. Amfortas the hippie

            “…create a “survivalism surplus”…”
            that’s what i hope to do…at least for my nearest neighbors.
            one of them has a 60 acre wheatfield right out the back of my house.
            and when i first mentioned bamboo TP to my cousin, he immediately wanted to “capitalise it!”,lol.
            I said no…we’re gonna give the technique away to whomever wants it.
            ( looks like arundus donax(“river cane”-an invasive weed, 30 feet high, found in bar ditches everywhere) will be an easier stock than bamboo.)

            Reply
            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              Those with a big enough survivalism surplus to keep their immediate neighbors feed and maybe watered and peaceful or at least determined to defend against strangers the source of the survivalism surplus might later be looked to as sources of leadership and teaching for when little micro-societies try reconstituting themselves in place.

              So perhaps people will after the corona itself is mainly over will start asking you how you diddit. And you ( or any surplus survivalist) can show them how you diddit.

              Reply
  5. a different chris

    >This is my SOLE source of income

    Whereas all his/her renters are independently wealthy and just did the waitressing/babysitting thing for kicks.

    Jesus.

    Reply
    1. kevin

      That’s not really fair. While yes he could have been born independently wealthy, he could have diligently squirled money away, house hacked and/or used leverage to 1031 exchange his way up to his current standing. And assuming he self manages, managing a 32 unit building is a job in and of it self. Think of the landscaping, cleaning, and repairs not to mention accounting and managing turnover and showing units to tenants etc.

      I’m not saying he deserves any more sympathy than any of his tenants, but I’m also refraining for calling for his head

      Reply
      1. HotFlash

        Well, ya know, he/she could just

        1.) get a real job
        2.) apply for social security.

        depending on her/his age group.

        Distillation: we were all promised that this would last forever. Unfortunately, next!

        Reply
        1. kevin

          Why are you drawing a distinction between the two? the non-paying tenants could also

          1.) get a real job
          2.) apply for social security.

          depending on her/his age group.

          Again, I’m not saying he deserves any more sympathy than any of his tenants, but I’m also refraining for calling for his head

          Reply
      2. Bsoder

        If any belief is worth having it’s one worth acting on. My god. I don’t care how he got whatever he has. And no disrespect to you. Look right now the SBA is granting up to $200 million in loans (1%, some at 4%) to cover lost rents with in addition tax credits for loan forgiveness in return for rent forgiveness. Per usual lotta paper work. I’ve been helping so far 2 local business get their apps in. No immediate verification with $5 million, in both cases have been verified by Friday. We’ll see.

        Reply
      3. Krystyn Podgajski

        No no no. You will not get away with this. He has a choice. He could have made the building a coop. There is no reason but for his greed that he structured the apartment complex the way he did.

        Read his response; “I mean if I am earning money I have the right to spend it.” Gross!

        Reply
  6. richard

    That Houston landlord reddit is framed as a joke, but I think I could take that character on the road in a performance art piece
    Not sure what to call it
    My Rich Guy Problems Are So Problems is a little wordy
    I love the complete obliviousness toward using some of your retirement savings in an emergency
    But that’s what precarious people do!

    Reply
  7. Billy

    Don’t forget this:
    Posted on February 2, 2018 by Yves Smith
    https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/02/whole-foods-becomes-amazon-hell-foods-employees-managers-quit-cry-job-people-want-run-healthcare.html

    A General Strike 512020, that doesn’ endanger anyone’s personal safety or health, is in order.

    More importantly, IMHO, a Tax Strike, starting ASAP, is more important. If you think your federal and state government is providing something valuable and protecting you for your money, stop reading here.

    File an exemption from withholding. One has to sincerely, cross your heart, believe that they will not earn enough to pay taxes this year….Boy, that’s a tough one!. That way, at the end of the tax year, April of 2021, paperwork needs to be filed to let the feds know how much you owe them, plus a check…yeah, right.

    If they owe you a refund this year, well then, step right up and do your duty.

    Reply
  8. WheresOurTeddy

    Dear Owners: You thought Bernie was the revolutionary?
    Bernie was the compromise to save capitalism. And even that was too “extreme”.
    Sorry about what Joe & The Neoliberal SuperFriends sold you, there will be no “back to normal”.

    Reply
  9. Watt4Bob

    “…the psychological recovery is continuing.”

    The largest mass of potential “psychological recovery” required in the near future, will be among the PMC, the 10%, who are about to find out how strong are the emotional accounts, the ones they’ve maintained with the people who support their privileged life-style.

    The careless-class’s cheerleaders, a**kissers and minions don’t understand how many people there are, and how poor.

    Those poor people will never find your bosses, but they know where to find you.

    Reply
    1. JBird4049

      Although I am becoming radicalized myself, I do not think an American emulation of the French Reign of Terror would be a good idea.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Alas, if I have understood my history aright, every revolution has to go through a “Terror” stage. Be not deceived, this present situation can only be ‘adjusted’ through some sort of revolution. It is long past the time for mediation and compromise. Now, said revolution can be either Right wing or Left wing. So, the real care to be taken is with the precursor ingredients to the social upheaval. Secondly, I must admonish my fellow “notional revolutionaries” that the Organs of State Security have a track record of using maximum force to preserve the status quo. Think Zuccotti Park or the Move bombings in Philadelphia.
        MOVE wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOVE

        Reply
        1. JBird4049

          I was thinking about the violence level of the American Revolution, which was bad enough, particularly in the clan and family fights in the southern colonies. They devolved into blood feuds, but mostly there was nothing like the levels of death of the French Revolution.

          The American Civil War is also notable for its lack of post war violent retribution. But then, the combined senior military leadership as well as higher ups in the Federal government worked really hard to not have that happen. The cliche “by the skin of their teeth” is an appropriate remark.

          Reply
          1. ambrit

            Uh, I do see your point, but, I would consider the post American War Between the States Reconstruction phase and subsequent Jim Crow revanchist movement to be parts of the North American early capitalist corporatist revolution. Also, the killing of President Lincoln just after the formal cessation of hostilities would qualify as “violent retribution.” To try and conform somewhat to the site’s economics theme, I would describe the aforementioned Civil War extensions as “lagging indicators.”
            The levels of ‘retribution’ seen in the French Revolution were generally aimed at a particular class, the Aristocrats and their enablers. One possible defining feature of this would be the ease with which the Aristocrats could be differentiated from the Commons. Today’s class divisions may not be as starkly delineated as those in force during the French Revolution, but have become much clearer and easily ‘targeted’ in America than in decades past.
            As an example; it would be efficacious to declare that all small private ‘executive’ type aircraft are “fair game.” The same could apply to limousines.
            “Things” could get really ugly really quickly, and be roughly targeted at a specific group or class of people.
            Finally, the beastie known as a Mob is infamous for being mindless, savage, and impossible to control. As I mentioned a few days ago, said Mob is not something I would want to attempt to run in front of and pretend to lead.
            They have a tendency to eat their own young.

            Reply
            1. JBird4049

              Yes, the racist, murdering, terroristic Southern slime and the Democratic Party did brutally kill their way back into power.

              However, I look at it as somewhat separate from the Civil War. I see it as the betrayal by Republican Party of its Black supporters. I think of the deal whereby the Republicans got the Presidency and in exchange the Democratic Party promised (hah) to guarantee the rights of Blacks; they also got the end of Reconstruction (and Federal troops were removed); just as the Democratic Party threw Blacks, unions, manufacturing, and the poor in exchange for the financial support of Big Finance and the Oval Office thirty years ago.

              The leadership of the Evangelical churches threw their followers in exchange for political power in an alliance with the business interests that the Republican Party represents. Social conservatives have often in the past been allied with moderate to leftist economic interests. Strong families and communities requires a way to support their needs like food, clothing, and housing.

              Reply
        2. xkeyscored

          “the Organs of State Security have a track record of using maximum force to preserve the status quo.”

          True enough, but this virus will make the Organs’ goons less willing to do their jobs. They might switch sides, another important factor in many revolutions.

          Reply
      2. Jeremy Grimm

        Who wrote the history of the Reign of Terror? We judge the past as portrayed by the victor. I don’t know much about the Reign of Terror past “Tale of Two Cities” and the execution of Antoine Lavoisier. But I do know how different U.S. history is from what I was taught in High School after reading a little Howard Zinn.

        Reply
  10. drumlin woodchuckles

    If indeed large chunks of the Sanders Small-Donor base decide to keep funding and the SanderGroup re-targets the money to striking-worker-support, that would be very good. Hopefully enough money would keep coming in to keep the striking workers supported to the level where they never have to come back to work until their targets meet their terms. If their targets decide to commit mass firings and new-mass-hirings, let us hope the SanderBase would KEEP funding the newly-mass-fired striking workers at the very same viable survival level. That would show that mass-firing was no longer the Economic Capital Punishment that the targets thought it was.

    If any of the striking workers under this “support the strikers’s finances” scenario show signs of resenting being organized for “political purposes”, better to not force that issue. Let the supported striking workers get back to safety and survival one way or another, and then the forces of gratitude will take slow but deep hold. That way eventual striker-support for Sanderism would be so deep as to make up for only partial broadness.

    These are just thoughts, though. Hopefully Sanders has an Intelligence Operation bringing all putatively creative thoughts to the SanderGroup’s attention for consideration and adoption or dismissal.

    Reply
  11. Mark

    Viva la revolution!

    I must say out of all the developed countries facing this crisis the US is certainly going to be the most interesting to watch. This is a event that will change life forever especially in developed countries because they have been so insulated from trauma since WW2.

    As an Australian I’m not sure what emotions I should be feeling regarding the crisis in the US.
    -Dispair? : There is enough of that going around.
    -Smugness?: Nobody likes that, and it is not productive.
    -Hope?: Maybe, just maybe, this could be the start of change the US needs. These grassroots movements give me some hope…..

    Reply
  12. drumlin woodchuckles

    As one of the default-fearful, let me just say that this only works if too many people do it all at once for the authorities to be able to punish anybody or force anybody to pay.

    Reply
    1. ambrit

      I assume that someone, probably chosen at random, will be made to be a “Poster Child” for bowing down to Mammon. Like the plot of Kubrick’s film, “Paths of Glory,” a small group is punished for the ‘sins’ of the many. This method tries to enforce conformity through the mechanism of fear.
      Usually, I observe that “real” revolutionary action does not happen until the great mass of the people have nothing left to lose. Another event like the 2008 debacle, and America may well reach that event horizon.

      Reply
  13. Billy

    This is the spirit!
    Walked into Whole Foods and there was a sign encouraging the shoppers to buy food and put it in the donation barrel for the poor. Incensed by this because we are retired and live month to month on what little we have. Bezos is a billionaire. Grab a bunch of food off the shelf and go by the donation bin and put it in there. Then down another isle and more in the bin for the poor. Then bought groceries and left feeling much better.

    Reply
    1. cnchal

      > Jacobin, in “Amazon Is a Breeding Ground,”

      So at or around the beginning of March, we had some managers that returned back from Seattle. Seattle is where Amazon has its headquarters, and it was one of the first hot spots in America for the coronavirus outbreak. One of the managers came back, and shortly after that she left because she was sick.
      ——————————
      What is the purpose? What is it that we’re doing that’s worth the risk? Jeff Bezos is saying we’re like the Red Cross, but we still have a large amount of inventory that is being sold to the public that is non-essential. Even on essential items, if we’re all carrying the virus while we’re handling all these packages, I’m not really sure we’re helping people. We’re touching metal, plastic, and cardboard all day long, all things we know the virus can survive on, and shipping out packages to thousands and thousands of people.

      Jeff Bezos says we’re helping the community. We’re keeping business going, but that’s all. We’re putting our lives on the line for that. My job description says have a high school diploma and lift fifty pounds. It doesn’t say risk my life working during a pandemic.
      ——————————-
      We’re hoping to get the attention of Governor Cuomo. We’re demanding that he shut this building down for a minimum of two weeks and professionally sanitize it. We want to give every worker that time off to stop carrying the virus, because we don’t even know who has it now. And we want everybody to be paid during that quarantine, but we also want back pay for everybody who chose to stay home this past month.

      They’re replacing people who are choosing to stay home unpaid in order to be safe with these new hires who need the money. These new people, we’ve never seen them before. We have no way of knowing if they’re sick. The company is dumping forty or fifty new people on the floor in my department at once, and it puts loyal employees who’ve been there for a long time at risk. It shows us that we’re worth nothing to them.

      We should have a national shutdown. Instead we’re keeping certain businesses open, claiming they’re essential when they aren’t, and putting people’s lives at risk. As a result this virus is going to take a lot longer to die down than it needs to. Wuhan did it the right way. That’s why they don’t have any new cases. We’re doing it the wrong way. And it’s not going to stop anytime soon if we keep warehouses full of thousands of people open. Amazon is a breeding ground.

      Tied to the whipping post, unable to escape the new plague, because rent.

      Bezos is a criminal. If you buy from Amazon you are an accessory to the criminal and it could kill you or someone in your family. Shut these warehouses down. All of them. Now, for the duration of this pandemic.

      I can already hear the protest, but how will I get my Oreos? With a side dish of coronavirus, as long as they are open.

      Reply
      1. JBird4049

        Thanks for the clip. That series of Blackadder was my favorite. Too bad that our current leadership generally can be compared to General Melchett and we’re their troops.

        Reply
  14. Lambert Strether Post author

    Just to underline the key point of the post, since I may have been too subtle, and either it’s too obvious to be remarked upon, or readers aren’t focusing on it:

    However, a political campaign is not about charity. A political campaign is about taking power. The Sanders campaign theory of change — expand the base by briniging in the disaffected working class — failed on its first try. Now there is an enormous opportunity to test that theory a second time, in conditions more favorable to success.

    Already the idpol types are saying: “[my identity] is being hit worse” (= give my NGO money). No, no, no, no, no. It’s the entire working class. Lifting them all up is the only way to lift any of them up.

    Reply
    1. Steve H.

      The critical thing unions did was give support while the workers did non-activities. That was a step up from “If you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose.”

      I do not want guillotines. Killing people is a positive feedback loop that lasts generations.

      Nowak’s work shows that it is an absolute, that elites want to keep the other people separated. “And, you know, there’s no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families.” DIVIDE ET IMPERA.

      No-eviction is a sluice gate to avoid direct conflict. Neighborhoods preventing police from evicting is not allowable.

      How to stop Wall Street from extracting the vital fluids is the key question. Simon says…

      Reply
    2. Noone from Nowheresville

      A political campaign which has power generally has a coalition. Sanders is in the Senate and has been a member of the Federal legislature since 1991. Which legislators in the House or the Senate are currently part of his coalition? Which governors? mayors?

      Reply
    3. Krystyn Podgajski

      Yes, all of them. This is what frustrated me locally. All the “solidarity” was about helping restaurants. But this is a very neoliberal town so this was more about them being worried about where they will buy their $13 hamburger when everything is over and less about the workers.

      Reply
    4. Jeremy Grimm

      I remain puzzled by the rise of Joe Bidden and I am still trying to fathom why Sanders voted for the CARES Act — the cover story doesn’t cover for me.

      As far as ” … expand the base by bringing in the disaffected working class — failed on its first try. Now there is an enormous opportunity to test that theory a second time …” What has changed so much that you believe portends “conditions more favorable to success”? The conditions for people who work for an employer were very bad before and now they are worse — but worse in the future when the foreclosures and evictions start, and when the layoffs begin after the CARES 10% rule expires, and the jobs lost in the service industries fail to return. I believe the Populace is stunned for the present — transfixed by near term worries. The change Sanders needs for his campaign to succeed will come after the elections. [I doubt the corona flu will have subsided until after the nominations are a fait accompli.]

      Reply
  15. aletheia33

    dear lambert,

    thank you so much for this excellent piece–this roundup of developments nationally and your usual incisive interpretations, here on a topic of tremendous importance right now. not available anywhere else but here/from you.

    please blush modestly and take a bow.

    Reply

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