The People’s Assembly demands corporate responsibility

July 10, 2008

Yesterday the Secure Jobs, Secure Communities campaign of Community Labor United (CLU) hosted a People’s Assembly at the First Church of Roxbury. Partner organizations include ACORN, Boston Worker’s Alliance, City Life/Vida Urbana, District 7 Roundtable, Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance (MAHA), SEIU Local 615, Union of Minority Neighborhoods and the United Youth and Youth Workers of Boston. The campaign committee tackles issues in working class communities in Boston such as foreclosure, eviction, youth violence, youth opportunities, CORI reform, job access and unemployment.

Kalila Barnett of CLU speaks to the assembly

The committee is calling on The Blackstone Group, the largest land owner in the city of Boston, to contribute $1 for every square foot of property they own back into the community. If this goal is met, Blackstone will provide over $11 million for a community fund.

This assembly included a panel of spiritual, political and community leaders as well as community speakers. REEP Youth Organizer Handel Dixon pointed out the correlation between the rise in homicide rates among youth in Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan and decrease in youth jobs and programs. He recommended creating more opportunities for youth, like sports and arts programs. Other community speakers included Terri Hinton from the Boston Workers Alliance, Paula Taylor from City Life/Vida Urbana, and James White representing SEIU Local 615.

The assembly is targeting the Blackstone Group to be a responsible corporate citizen due to its unfair advantages and exploitation of local communities. This corporation controls over $100 billion of assets in the city of Boston, 40 times Boston’s entire budget, and receives much of its profits through tax. However, managers of this multibillion dollar corporation are taxed 15 percent on their buyouts while residents are taxed at rates of up to 35 percent.

While Blackstone collects $750 million each year in rental income, hundreds of tenants are being evicted and displaced every month due to foreclosures. The CEO of Blackstone, Stephen Schwarzman, owns five houses (none of which are in foreclosure) and is worth $8 to $10 billion, equaling $45,000 an hour. In contrast, almost 80 percent of Bostonians make less than they did 20 years ago. The Secure Jobs, Secure Communities campaign aims to lessen the disparity of this increasing gap between the rich and poor in the Greater Boston area.

The next campaign meeting will be on July 16 at noon in front of the Wendy’s at 71 Summer Street, Boston. If you would like more information or would like to get involved check out the campaign blog or contact Kalila Barnett.