If you thought Occupy Wall Street was just a New York thing, think again. Today, a week-long action will start, highlighting some of Chicago's major problems: high unemployment, lack of affordable housing, and a poor public school system. Stand Up Chicago will bring together thousands of protesters this afternoon, converging on a meeting of the Mortgage Bankers of America, to demand changes in the city.
But unlike Occupy Wall Street, this group has a plan. On Friday, they released their own plan to bring jobs back to Chicago--40,000 of them, in fact. How? By putting at $0.25 cent contract speculation fee, collected from traders who engage in speculation on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Board Options Exchange. The group says the tax would create $1.4 billion in annual revenue, enough to pay 40,000 living-wage salaries.
The central theme of these actions? The idea that banks and financial institutions caused the recession, leading to millions of foreclosures, layoffs and budget crises. Stand Up Chicago, a coalition of approximately 20 progressive groups around the city, including labor, education and housing groups, says those who are responsible for the recession need to be responsible for fixing the mess it made.
"When there was a Chicago fire, the city leaders rebuilt the South and West Sides,” Madeline Talbott, lead organizer for Action Now, told the Chicago News Cooperative. “We’ve been hit by a second Chicago fire, the foreclosure crisis, but none of the politicians have a plan to rebuild. We can’t wait any longer. We have to act. We’re losing whole neighborhoods.”
Chicago hosts plenty of protests most every week on one topic or another--Tax Increment Financing District funding, homelessness, wage theft, minimum wage laws, foreclosures, evictions, layoffs, labor disputes, etc. But in the four years I've been reporting here, I can't remember another protest this big, covering as many issues or laying out a specific plan to fix the problem at hand. The plan isn't just put together by the protesting organizations but was written by the Chicago Political Economy Group, an organization of economists, academics and organizers from around the city.
What is the plan? Well, the plan puts a $0.25 cent speculation fee to be paid by both buyers and sellers of derivatives contracts. An average of 12.2 million of these contracts are traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange each day, the report says. The potential revenue--$1.4 billion--takes into account a 15 percent reduction in trading volume due to the tax.
Its report analyzes who is jobless--by education, by industry, by age--and propose a jobs plan that wouldn't require additional training for those unemployed workers. In addition, they would only provide jobs to the unemployed, targeting the long term unemployed. Where would the money go? To five places, according to the report:
• A Community Schools Corps that would rehire laid off teachers, janitors and traffic aides, create teacher aide positions and hire workers to rehab neighborhood schools.
• A Community Health Corps that would hire health care workers to provide services in under-served communities
• A Child Care Corps to create jobs in early childhood care and education and youth summer programs
• A Youth Corps that would creates jobs for youth ages 16 to 25 in parks and public lands improvement, landscaping, community garden and community recycling projects
• And a Neighborhood Improvement Corps, that would hire workers to clean up and maintain vacant properties, as well as energy retrofits and repair streets and sidewalks.
What do you think of this plan? Is it fair? Would it help?
And what are your thoughts on the protest? Will it go anywhere, or like Occupy Wall Street, will it take weeks of action like this for the protesters to even be taken seriously?
Check back early tomorrow for pictures of this afternoon's protest. Until then, share your thought on how we can turn the economy around.
Photo credit: David Shankbone
© Community Renewal Society 2011