Bancos de los Trabajadores

Community Organizing Immigration Reform

P1010108Tegucigalpa and Mexico City Early on Sunday morning walking through the centro in Tegucigalpa I noticed a branch of the Bancos de los Trabajadores, the Bank of the Workers.  I had heard about them repeatedly the day before while meeting with the women in the colonias Ramon Amalia Amador, and we found ourselves discussing them at length in the morning before I left for Mexico.  The Banco de los Trabajodores was until recently what the name implies, a Bank of the Workers, had had financed many of the home improvements and loans in the colonias when it was a public entity.  Ten percent of the families now were behind on their payments and having difficulty with the bank, and like so many questions about Honduran institutions, the answer was now todos privado or all private.

It was a little more complicated than that from what I could tell.  The bank  had been swept up in a public/private takeover which was going to require ACORN International to do a fair amount of research and figure out, but especially since the golpe de estadio, it was no longer a worker and poor family friendly institution.  Even with the political  turmoil which only exacerbated the worldwide Great Recession, the bank had now become unwilling to meet and was maintaining interest rates that were way out of whack in these times.

What about the unions?  Had they moved their money out of the bank and stopped endorsing the bank once the private interests took over?  The answer according to the organizers seemed to be “No.”  How could  they not be ashamed of what was being done with their money now?  They would be according to the people I talked to but no one had looked hard enough at their practices yet.

This might be some leverage in moving forward to improve living conditions in the colonias with an active campaign and care to avoid the political repression that seemed to weigh so heavily on every sentence and each part of every conversation.  Yes, the organizers were saying, it could be done, si se puede, but we would have to be very, very careful.  People could be killed.

This is not the normal nature of an organizing and campaign conversation obviously!

Walking around the colonias, the huge towers for TIGO, the telecommunications giant were everywhere in the middle of the barrio?  What were they doing?

Looking at the waste water runoff, I found myself looking down the mountain at a runway of the international airport.  I talked to the organizers about a giant banner that we could put up and take down and spread around to sent our message clearly and carefully:  Beinvenidos Turistas!  You are drinking our shit!  In Spanish of course, but powerfully making the point that without potable water or any sewerage facility, the runoff from the colonias was going right down to the airport grounds.

Even with the government paralyzed, the Banco de Los Trabajadores could put up the loans for housing improvements needed in the colonias and TIGO and the Airport, managed by the Swiss incidentally, could guarantee them.

It would take careful planning, lots of work, and great care, but there were many ways to skin this cat!  And, that’s what community organizing is all about!