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Local 1199 demands: ‘Don’t kick Grace Alexander out of her home!’

By David Hungerford

Jersey City, NJ – Organized labor took a direct hand in the struggle against predatory lending here, on Jan. 24, at a Bank of America branch in the Harborside Financial Center.

Local 1199 of the SEIU organized a protest on behalf of Grace Alexander, one of its members and activists. Like millions of others she has been getting a runaround for years in her efforts to modify her mortgage to something she can pay. Now she is close to foreclosure.

She has a lot of company. Local 1199 has more than 800 members whose mortgages are under water.

Scores of union members and activist supporters rallied outside the Harborside Financial Center mall. The protesters were introduced to a delegation of local elected officials who had agreed to talk to the bank for Grace Alexander. Security people tried to intimidate the protesters. They tried to stop the crowd from coming in the mall. They demanded, “no pictures.” No one paid them any mind. The protesters chanted, carried signs, and walked in a circle in front of the bank as the delegation went in. Security called the police, who declined to intervene.

The crowd went outside to continue the rally. Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who is up for re-election, promised to hold citizens’ hearings on predatory lending. His challenger, Stephen Fulop, said the same.

The mortgage disaster is the responsibility of the banks, which drove the economy into crisis and were rewarded for it with huge bailouts. It is high time elected officials took notice of what this is doing to communities.

Government ‘homeowner assistance’ programs time and again turn out to be bank bailouts in disguise. They are worse than useless. The protest showed the only way to get out of the mortgage mess.

The right approach is to go right after the banks: the source of the problems. Grace Alexander’s brave act of breaking the ‘veil of silence’ helps other distressed homeowners, who tend to keep their problems to themselves. The event inspired rank-and-file members to see their union as an effective organization in the fight for many causes of social justice. Hopefully many other unions will follow 1199’s example.

#JerseyCityNJ #HousingStruggles #HomeForeclosures #SEIULocal1199 #MayorJerramiahHealy