We need to take agency and free ourselves from debt, by creating alternate structures with the debt we owe.
A union is simply a group of people making demands for better conditions. Working in a labor union and working on campaigns, doing grievance work and collectively bargaining with people from different walks of life has shown me that people want things that are fair, and they are willing to go to measures beyond what is considered safe to reach them.
By collecting dues, we create a space where money can go to fund the organization. It also gives the people the ability to craft it in the way the see it. No one person owns it.
Some Major points to think about:
- It is important that the correct IRS structure is created. A union is not a charity non-profit (501© 3). Unions are 501© 5’s. This organization could also take numerous shapes, but it is an distinction from the beginning that would shape the nature of the organization.
- Our overall goal is to cancel all types of debt. In order to do that, we must create the systems ourselves from the dues that we collect. We must build our own schools, hospitals, banks, cell phone companies, legal services, etc. as a service to the members and for the members who are a part of our union.
- Asking for all debt to be cancelled is the North Star, but not all people see it that way. If we are to build a large coalition of debtors, we must find campaign strategies that can reach a mass amount of people. Asking for a lower interest rate on student debt and having debtors sign on to that could be an entry point. We could ask people to do more, pay dues, join other campaigns but this could be the entry point.
- Debt traps people in different ways, and what people can do to deal with their debt burden looks different. Some people can pay $500/mo and some cannot pay anything and some are in between. Asking people to pay $10-20/month in dues does not seem to be a reach.
- Unions are decentralized, but most of them have a form of centralization of messaging. There are locals (who serve local area/regions) and the International (which all locals fund) who puts together national campaigns. It is important to think about the structure of how a debtors union could collect dues and distribute funds. Would it come from the local or from the International?
- Once you figure out a structure, the work begins. There are local campaigns to do debt education, local debt relief, legal assistance, & starting co-operatives from the dues monies, and there are national campaigns for lowering of interest rates, national debt strikes, etc.
This is a very brief summary of what I have been thinking about for 10 years around Student Debtors Unionism and I feel that this is one of the few chances we as a people have left to create the world we want to see, for ourselves.
What does a Student debtors Union look like to you?