The morning of December 14th, I woke up and right away my mom was visibly upset, talking about the $350 million dollar deal that the state had brokered with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and Sears. It felt as if someone had just punched us in the gut and run. Instantly I began to block out everything she was angrily stammering on about.
You see, I had been waiting for this for months -- since June to be exact. I am a community organizer with the Grassroots Collaborative, a community-labor coalition, whose job it is in part to keep up with local politics. So I was the one and only person to give testimony out of concern for working families against these tax cuts in July during a little publicized Senate Revenue Committee and the House Revenue & Finance Committee on the Business Tax Structure.
However, my family is also one of the millions fighting foreclosure. $350 million for the CME and Sears, while millions of us are fighting just to keep our homes. What a slap in the face. Giant corporations are holding our states and countries hostage, shaking us down for more and more money. When will our legislators join us in the Occupy movement and stand up to these bullies?
Last month I moved in with my mother to help her while she fights foreclosure. I grew up in an immigrant, single-mother home. When I was younger we would move around from neighborhood to neighborhood, whenever the rent was raised. All her life she slept on a couch in the living room to give me and my brother separate rooms. Sleeping on the couch, actually, was no problem for her, because any sleep at all was a treat.
My mother never went to college, but she knew she had to go back to school in order to move up in the world. So somehow she managed to raise two rambunctious children while working two jobs and studying towards a degree in design. Did I mention she attended all of my school plays, park district dance recitals and soccer games?
So to buy a house was a big thing for my mom. After years of saving, she'd finally bought her first condo in 1999. It was the tiniest place I'd ever imagined, but it was ours. Then in 2004 after years of hard work as a real estate agent, she bought our current house -- a big two-flat in a nice neighborhood -- just blocks from Mayor Emanuel's in fact. Things were good, our tougher years seemingly behind us, but then the housing market crashed. And so here we are, fighting for our homes and essentially our very lives. You must understand: this house is not just a building, and we are not just a statistic. This house represents the current foundation of our collective lives and decades of our struggles and hard-work.
This is why the Occupy movement has taken to the streets. Every day our legislators make choices about where they place their priorities. So what does it mean in a place like Illinois, like Chicago, when our legislators continue to allow poor and working families to be kicked out of their homes, while they broker a deal to give over $80 million in relief to the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which made billions of dollars in profit last year?