Getting Organized Locally: Next Steps to Bigger Victories
In February 2015, fifteen former Corinthian students launched a debt strike and a legal campaign called Defense to Repayment. As the movement grew to include students from across the for-profit sector, we met together in summer 2015 to discuss local and regional organizing.
We brainstormed and shared ideas! Those conversations were shared between groups both large -
Throughout the fall, we continued the Corinthian strike and Defense to Repayment campaign and won debt relief for some. Those who have received relief have this group organizing effort to thank. It never would have happened otherwise! Everyone who has participated in the effort to date should feel proud.
To date, however, many have not seen relief, and more student debtors are joining the movement for justice for ALL defrauded borrowers.
We are escalating the fight and launching another campaign in the fall. If you think the Corinthian campaign made waves, we're here to tell you that we are just getting started.
In order to build a powerful campaign we will need all hands on deck through the summer months. It is critical that we organize in our local areas to base build. Without this step, we will not succeed.
Some of you have not been sure how to get a local effort off the ground. That's okay! We have a few suggestions. And Debt Collective organizers are always here to talk if these ideas still seem unclear.
You don't need a big group or action to make it count. In fact, those one-on-one moments are crucial. When you take time to talk to someone about their financial situation and share your experience along with what the Debt Collective is doing then you are beginning to organize locally.
Gathering in small groups so people can meet one another and talk about their financial lives is all it takes to begin. This is sometimes hard for people to do because it can make people feel vulnerable. It's important to be respectful, patient, listen to others and be mindful that initially people may feel uncomfortable.
As you discuss your various debts you can share what we are doing at the Debt Collective. We are building a platform for people to come together from all over the country and challenge different creditors and debts.
You can hold this meeting anywhere a coffee shop, restaurant, bar, backyard or park. You just want to make sure there is enough room and that the space isn't too loud so everyone can hear each other. At the meeting, it's important to emphasize that everyone should do outreach to their friends and family.
We know that student debt is a huge problem but for most it doesn't stop there. Many of us struggle with payday loans, court fees and fines, title loans, housing debt, medical debt.
In Debt Collective organizing meetings, people should be invited to open up about their general financial hardship. They should know that the problems they face are bigger than any one person. Usually people see their problems as unique and unsolvable. But teaching people to look at their debt as a potential bargaining tool and as a source of leverage allows them to understand that if they act together they can make gains against creditors.
The sooner people understand they have real power in numbers, the sooner we can get to work and build a better life for all of us.
We are IN IT TO WIN IT! But we won't win if we do not spread the word and get others to understand why they should join the movement to get organized.
STEPS TO LOCAL ORGANIZING
- One-on-one conversations about our fall campaign to demand debt cancellation for student debtors defrauded by their schools and by the Department of Education.
- Meetings in small groups about our upcoming campaign.
- Neighborhood meetings to find out what kinds of debt your neighbors struggle with. The Debt Collective can help you cover the costs for your event.
NEXT UP. How to Organize a Debtors Assembly! Stay Tuned.