What a Student Debtors Union *could* look like!

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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?
  6. 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?


i love the idea of collective influence with other debtors.

However, $10 to $20 a month for me IS a stretch.

Imo, having monthly dues for a DEBTORS collective makes absolutely no sense. We’re in DEBT.

I can see making it voluntary, but to be sustainable there needs to be some additional sources of funding.

Also: Reduce/eliminate expenses.

Everything you said here is fine… We and US and all people with student debt ought to know that this was Government money created with a keystroke… meaning it did not come out of anybody’s pocket. It could be converted to a grant by a keystroke, or forgiven completely by a keystroke. We do not owe anything to anybody.

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Nobody faulted Edison because he lit his laboratory with oil lamps while he worked to invent the lightbulb. It takes money to do anything within the current system. If my $20/month could help fund an office, a staff, and a lobbyist that can help us all improve our condition, then please send me a union application. Let’s draft legislation citing biblical prohibitions against charging interest and force the conservatives to tell us all why we shouldn’t follow the teachings in the Bible. Let’s pay people to create debtor solidarity, craft a message, create online advertising; hell, buy an ad on Faux News and state uncomfortable truths. If people want to join but can’t afford monthly dues, let them in permanently for one dollar. If they can contribute in other ways, make it possible. There are 45 million student loan slaves in the United States. A few thousand of us could make this happen. Isn’t it about time we formed ranks and give the banksters our collective middle finger rather than continuing our economic servitude?


@Ocham, you stated this so eloquently! Would love to see what you would come up with if you recorded a short video about why we need a debtors union, or why we should join debt strikes. I LOVED the part about asking conservatives why we shouldn’t follow the teachings in the Bible about not exploiting each other.

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Hey Thomas-

Thanks for the kind words. I was actually on the Debt Collective conference call a couple of weeks ago; Dawn had invited me. My name is Scott Rennie. As for the video, doubtless there are those far more suited than I. I would love to take part in crafting public messaging and strategy, though.