Public control over public goods is the only way to ensure that everyone has their fundamental needs met, and that our communities can thrive. But anti-democratic political and economic interests cook up stories about supposed market “efficiency” in think tanks, peddle myths in the media, and stoke racist fears in order to bend public policy into an instrument for private profit. This isn’t just a matter of money: it’s also about democracy and power. When politicians cut funding for what we need and pursue rampant deregulation, they transfer power over our lives to unaccountable corporations and weaken our ability to take collective public action to meet our common needs. But the tide is turning. P4DR and our partners and allies have been pushing back against the privatization of public goods including health care, housing, schools and protection of workers’ rights, and are building new models of public, community and worker control. We can win this fight.
Fighting corporations’ power to deny care and advancing the human right to health care in Pennsylvania: Partners for Dignity & Rights’ partner Put People First! Pennsylvania (PPF-PA) has been fighting insurance-company decisions to deny coverage and care to patients, challenging the ability of hospital companies to shut down hospitals on the basis of profit potential rather than medical need, calling out medical neglect and understaffing by nursing-home companies, and organizing to hold Pennsylvania’s state government accountable for regulating health insurance premiums. PPF-PA won public hearings to give everyday people a say in State approval of private insurance premiums, and are now organizing to create a new state office, a Public Healthcare Advocate, to help protect health care as a universal, democratically controlled public good.
Challenging for-profit forces driving development, and advancing city support for non-speculative housing models such as community land trusts in Baltimore. In almost all localities, policy makers allow for-profit forces to drive development, and take little responsibility when poor communities of color are displaced by speculators. Partners for Dignity & Rights has teamed up with the Baltimore Housing Roundtable and the United Workers to advance a proactive human rights based development vision and policy framework to publicly ensure development without displacement. By refocusing city policy to promote community control of land using non-speculative housing models such as community land trusts (CLTs), the Roundtable, in five years, has been able to force Baltimore to create an Affordable Housing Trust Fund, fill it with tax revenue by targeting above-market-rate developers, and establish CLTs as the Trust Fund priority.
Protecting education as a public good while advocating for parent, teacher and student participation in decision making. The Dignity in Schools Campaign has been fighting the encroachment of private interests in public schools – in the guise of charter schools and school vouchers – while working to replace the school-to-prison pipeline with transformative justice models that bring teachers, students, parents and administrators together to build safe, supportive and accountable school climates and protect education as a public good for Black and brown students who would otherwise be pushed out of school. DSC members across the country have won campaigns to limit school suspensions, expulsions and policing in schools; to increase investment in counselors, social workers, peacebuilders and trauma-informed services for students; and to implement restorative justice practices and culturally relevant curriculum.
Partners for Dignity & Rights and our partners are working to build the power and participation of workers to enforce their right to work with dignity, and to fight unchecked corporate greed that puts worker’s safety and well-being at risk. Strengthening public goods means using public authority to empower workers to hold employers accountable for their safety and fundamental rights. But it also means creating worker-driven enforcement models that protect good, safe jobs and end abuse. Based on a successful, long-term partnership with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and development of the Fair Food Program, which has dramatically transformed conditions for workers throughout the U.S. tomato industry, Partners for Dignity & Rights now anchors the transnational Worker-driven Social Responsibility Network. Through the Network, we are advancing enforcement models for farmworkers, garment workers,construction workers and more that effectively ensure the human rights of workers at the bottom of product supply and labor contracting chains.