The Right to a Job, Food & Water, and Housing

Nowadays, a lot of the things many people took for granted are suddenly no longer there. Like their job, their steady income, their home; enough food to keep body and soul together.

So the question comes: Are these basic human rights, which the society is obligated to provide? Or is it a matter of “I’ve got mine, buddy. What’s wrong with you?”

The right to a job

What if the way the economy is structured means there will always be a lot of unemployed people, as has always been the case since the dawn of capitalism 200-some years ago? What if the recent high-tech revolution creates a larger and larger pool of people without any job or realistic hope of finding one? Are we doomed to see more and more of our fine young people hanging around in the wasteland with no job and nothing to do?

Obviously, the big business owners and the government they control don’t give a rat’s ass about there not being enough jobs to go around – or they would have long since done something about it! The truth is, they need to have a pool of unemployed to keep the wages down [and profits up]!

And yet – as we watch our children growing up, isn’t every one of them entitled to a useful role and place in society, and a way to support themselves and their families? Of course they are! Do they have a right to a job and education back home, so they don’t wind up in prison, so they don’t have to join the military to kill and be killed in a war for oil halfway around the world? Of course they have that right!

So we need to find a way to reorganize society to make sure this happens. We could start by cutting the work week to 30 hours (with no cut in pay). Hire more people. Organize public works construction like the WPA in the 1930s. Put people to work. Pass laws to require union wages and conditions in industry and agriculture, which will put money in people’s hands.

Clearly, a “quick fix” will not solve as intractable a problem as unemployment. But come on, this is not rocket science either. A job should be a right for everyone who wants one. Give everyone a job, and together we can build this country back up again.

The right to housing

Housing is another human right. Yet the nation’s homeless population is large and increasing. Thousands of units of public housing are being demolished, and millions may lose their homes to foreclosure and eviction — all at a time when workers need the jobs at prevailing wages that building adequate housing for the people would provide.

  • 4,500 units of habitable or easily renovated public housing are being demolished or threatened with demolition in New Orleans, just as many thousands of public housing units in other cities have been demolished, leaving many residents without a home.
  • For the last hundred years, greedy real estate interests and others have moved in on long-established Black communities in city after city, forcing people out [documented in the new historical film, Banished]. And this process — whether you call it urban renewal, ‘gentrification’ or just plain people removal — is still going on today, as residents of New Orleans, San Francisco and many other cities can attest.
  • A large number of Americans are losing their homes to foreclosure, many victimized by predatory banks and mortgage companies. The growing economic crisis has caused more evictions of renters, and utility shutoffs for those unable to pay their gas and electric bills.
  • The author is a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, which on June 9, 2008 adopted a resolution calling for a Moratorium on Foreclosures, Utility Shutoffs, Evictions, and Public Housing Demolitions. The resolution deals with the issue of the Right to Housing.

    We need a moratorium (freeze) on home foreclosures, utility shut-offs, evictions and public housing demolitions. These housing demolitions should not be allowed until they have first been replaced with affordable units in the community — one-for-one replacement at comparable rents.

    The trade union movement needs to work with housing advocates in a joint effort to bring about these reforms, and establish the principle and practice that housing is a right for every man, woman and child living in the United States.

    The right to food and water

    Food riots in Haiti, Egypt. All over the world, millions don’t have food to eat. Countries like Indonesia that used to feed themselves and export food, are now importing it.

    Why is this happening? One reason is the intervention of the US government, acting on behalf of agribusiness giants. “Free trade” agreements like NAFTA are destroying subsistence agriculture in countries like Mexico. Cheap US-taxpayer-subsidized corn has flooded the market, putting Mexican subsistence farmers out of business. That in turn has been one impetus for the migration northward of millions of jobless Mexican and Central American workers looking for work.

    US ‘experts’ went to Haiti and arranged the extermination of almost the entire population of Haitian Creole pigs, a principal source of protein for the people. Haitian rice farmers were put out of business by an influx of cheap US rice. Now the price of rice has skyrocketed and people can’t afford to buy it.

    Agribusiness is now diverting acres and acres of corn to making ethanol for fuel, raising the price of corn beyond what people can afford. These greedy trans-national corporations are in effect taking away the people’s right to food in many poor countries, trampling on their “food sovereignty.”

    The same applies to the right to clean drinking water. In Bolivia, a private US company, Bechtel, tried to privatize the water supply in Cochabamba and then sell it back to the people – but the people said “Hands off our water” and threw Bechtel out. In India, Coca-Cola has drained huge amounts of water from local water supplies, putting the supply of real drinking water in jeopardy.

    The erosion of our basic human rights

    These and many other fundamental human rights are under attack. We, as working people in many countries, need to organize to throw off the corporate and political parasites – who grab everything for themselves and leave the people without the rights and resources that are our birthright.

    Why can’t we transform society so that the ‘right’ to a job, the ‘right’ to housing and the ‘right’ to food and water become realities for everyone?

    And what about our right to live in peace with our neighbors in the world [without the US military setting up bases in 130 countries, invading sovereign nations and bombing civilian populations, using up all the people’s money]? What about our right to affordable health care for all? Our right to privacy and to be free of government and corporate surveillance?

    What about our right to live peacefully in our communities without regular occurrences of police brutality, racial profiling, police killings of unarmed civilians? — and without some communities repeatedly being subjected to unconstitutional stop-and-frisk, home invasion, workplace invasion or prolonged detention by police or immigration authorities? What about our disappearing right to free, quality public education for all?

    We need to step up and defend our basic human rights, before they are all gone.

    Dave Welsh is a delegate to the San Francisco Labor Council, which on June 9, 2008 adopted a resolution calling for a Moratorium on Foreclosures, Utility Shutoffs, Evictions, and Public Housing Demolitions. The resolution deals with the issue of the Right to Housing. Read other articles by Dave, or visit Dave's website.

24 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on June 21st, 2008 at 6:27am #

    This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career. I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by a educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilised in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow-men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society. (Albert Einstein, 1949,

  2. bozhidar balkas said on June 21st, 2008 at 7:11am #

    d hawkins,
    well said.
    i’d like to aver that there always had been work for all; there is work for all now; there will always be work for all.
    people love to work.thank u

  3. John Greenwood said on June 21st, 2008 at 8:05am #

    The problem with the solutionsto the ills of society presented here is that they lead to outcomes like Zimbabwe or North Korea. I say no thank you.

  4. John Greenwood said on June 21st, 2008 at 8:05am #

    The problem with the solutions to the ills of society presented here is that they lead to outcomes like Zimbabwe or North Korea. I say no thank you.

  5. hp said on June 21st, 2008 at 10:42am #

    A little perspective to this dilemma may be achieved by reading the article below……”Little Waste in Shantytown.”
    If not anything else, it is inspiring in its collective example of human spirit and tolerance.

    I wrote the editor(s) asking why no comments. I’ve yet to hear from them.
    Very curious…

  6. joed said on June 21st, 2008 at 1:21pm #

    you amerikans let it happen to you. you got no complaint. if you really care about the commonwealth why don’t you have a general strike, why not a boycott. Anything?! no, you got what you deserved. you have reaped what you have (allowed to be) sewn.
    sacrifice and hardship are in order now. but you wont sacrifice anything. too bad about the children, isn’t it! the best you can do is complain and whine on DV. this is the “FREE SPEECH ZONE” of the internet.

  7. Jeremy Wells said on June 21st, 2008 at 2:06pm #

    Some comments to this progressive article that reaches the limit of current trade union thinking. Dan Hawkins post (with a little help from Albert Einstein) logically concludes by answering the unanswered questions in the article.

    The article has several serious errors that reflect upon the profoundly inadequate trade union consciousness dominent in the unions. Official trade union ideology in the U.S. is that trade unions are “business partners” of corporate capitalism. This philosophy is still operative, even when the unions are being systematically destroyed. (Recent defeated strike of American Axle workers, the massive loss of “living wage” jobs to China, the defeat of the “employee fair rights bill” by Bush, the end of employer paid health care, etc.etc.)

    Until the organized labor movement understand that corpoate, global capitalism is
    the enemy of all working people, including it’s employees, will the labor movement be able to chart a new path. Thus there is no need to create a political party to represent the economic interests of working people, nor is there any need to great a national mass media to educate working people to the reality.

    Nerly every sentence of this perhaps well-meaning article, reveals vast areas of mis-understanding if not factual error. A few examples;

    “The right to a job” There is no such right in a capitalist economy. Corporate capitalism does not recognize the needs or even existence of human beings. Human beings are referred to as “human resources” and their paycheck comes from the “Human Resources Department”.

    Human beings are a cost of doing business, to be minimized or eliminated where possible because the humans and their needs forever undermine the maximization of profit. Thus employer paid health care is minimized or deleted, health insurance is eliminated, and taxes (to support public education, health care, etc) are minimized or eliminated.

    “What if the way the economy is structured means there will always be a lot of unemployed people,…”

    Capitalism instrinsically “structures” the economy to it’s inherant need to maximize profit for the owners of capital.

    “…as has always been the case since the dawn of capitalism 200-some years ago?”
    According to “A History of Capitalism 1500-2000 new edition” by Michel Beud,
    capitalism has been around some 500 years! Also check out the classic
    “Capitalism and Slavery” by Eric Williams. Slavery turned an ancient practise into a globalized big business.

    All labor “leaders” such as David Walsh need to breakout of the “business partner” mentality (“frame”) common in trade unions today. The solution to today’s many economic crises is to to beg for not existent “rights” from capitalists, but to end the global system of gangster capitalism that promotes war, mass starvation, global warming, resource crises (oil, food, water, etc.) as it seeks out massive profits.

    Best source of daily news and info from a socialist perspective:
    World Socialist Web Site

  8. Lloyd Rowsey said on June 22nd, 2008 at 3:05am #

    Hasn’t the United Nations declared a “job, food & water, and housing” to be the right of every human on the planet? Not in exactly those words, but in effect? Apparently Dave Welsh knows that the UN has, because if I am not mistaken, the UN calls these necessities “basic human rights.”

    In reply, we DV posters quote Einstein. Make our usual obeisances, in our familiar phrasing. Rattle our little socialist sabres.

    God, it gets tedious reading DV articles and the patented posts that follow them. Consider the state of “leftist” awareness in this country that John Birch in the 1950’s obviously knew more about what was the daily business and concerns of the United Nations than lefties in America in 2008 know. Sheeeeeit.

    For a more pertinent quotation than Einstein’s, there’s a Pope couplet that goes something like:

    “By telling them things of which they know not
    As if they were new, men may be taught.”

  9. Don Hawkins said on June 22nd, 2008 at 6:16am #

    U.S. Government: Extreme Weather Probably Caused by Global Warming
    A new Bush administration report on recent extreme weather, such as flooding in the Midwest, says that human-caused climate change is making storms more intense, with downpours that used to occur every two decades likely to increase in frequency.
    Thomas Karl, co-editor of the report, said, “As greenhouse gasses increase, the faster they increase, the more extreme weather and climate events we’ll be seeing.” The report is the administration’s first major compilation of climate change data.
    The report says extreme weather will be the most challenging aspect of climate change, noting that days in the upper Midwest when it has rained more than 4 inches have increased by 50 percent. Karl said the hotter atmosphere holds more moisture.

    So Karl thinks hotter atmosphere holds more moisture, brilliant and again I must say and we thought all the thinkers were gone.

  10. bozhidar balkas said on June 22nd, 2008 at 6:34am #

    having finished last in my class and not finishing even elementary school (thus the crooks never got to me) and having no face to lose, i can make following prediction.
    if plutocratic rule continues to oppress members of nonruling classes, second class citizens will turn to terrorism against the ruling class.
    thank u

  11. Edwin Pell said on June 22nd, 2008 at 9:47am #

    Socialism seem to work fine for the roads which are all government owned and operated.

    Bozhidar, why do you think CONgress passed the home grown terrorist act. Why do you think the federal government spends 200 billion dollars per year spying on Americans? They are way ahead of you (pro-active). Since the working class has no money or resources to use they are easy to pick off. Most are so stupid they profess their anti-government leaning on the internet that makes them extra easy to tag and track.

  12. zhann said on June 22nd, 2008 at 11:32am #

    As most here, I am a fan of Socialism. In my honest opinion, however, I do not believe the world is ready for Socialism nor will it be any time soon. The unfortunate thing with socialism is that it breeds laziness and corruption, as could be seen in the former Soviet Union, currently in China, and anywhere where people are taken care of regardless of their contribution. In concept, Socialism is ideal … everyone is guaranteed a relatively comfortable life. In practice, however, it is a bit different.

    In response to the article, I can’t see how guaranteeing a Job, a House or even food is possible. I think it is important for society to help individuals attain these items, but guaranteeing it is a bit much. As mentioned, there are far too many people today that will take advantage of the situation. A simple example in the USA is the welfare system. Welfare attempts to provide everyone with at least Housing and Food, but its abuse is so rampant that it is uncontrollable.

    Nothing in this world is ideal. There will always be jobless, there will always be hungry, there will always be homeless and there will always be the elite. Trying to minimize the negative is attainable, trying to eliminate it is unrealistic.

  13. Al said on June 22nd, 2008 at 12:05pm #

    I think every human being on our planet has a right to clean air, water, food & shelter. The easiest way to attain these objectives in modern society is through employment, so every human being has a right to a job that pays a living wage.

    Unfortunately, that’s not how Capitalism works; unemployment is good for Capitalism, it keeps wages down & keeps labor under control of the Capitalist vermin.

    When will the American sheeple realize that Capitalism is their greatest & most dangerous enemy? Wake up people; it’s NOT Communism, Islamofacism or terrorism, it’s Capitalism.

  14. AaronG said on June 22nd, 2008 at 7:06pm #

    Thanks for the article Dave.

    In regards to the three problems addressed in your article, I think I found some answers:

    The right to a job/The right to housing

    “And they will certainly build houses and have occupancy; and they will certainly plant vineyards and eat [their] fruitage. They will not build and someone else have occupancy; they will not plant and someone else do the eating” (Isaiah 65-21-23) These verses are interesting because they spell the end of expropriation of other people’s labor. The work that you do directly benefits you and the people around you. No more toiling to build skyscrapers in Riyadh for others while getting very little in return. However, with no worker grievances, this will mean the end of labor unions……

    The right to food and water

    “There will come to be plenty of grain on the earth;
    On the top of the mountains there will be an overflow.” (Psalm 72:16)
    These verses are not talking about food PRODUCTION, but food DISTRIBUTION, since capitalism is soon to be crushed.

    Obviously, before the above-mentioned future benefits can occur, the current gangsters/rulers have to be dealt with………

    “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite” (Dan 2:44)

  15. Edwin Pell said on June 23rd, 2008 at 8:57am #

    If people do not have jobs that provide them with food, water, and shelter then they must seek these by other means. Like theft or war (theft on a bigger and bloodier scale). So if a society wants internal peace it needs to have and/or provide jobs. This is of course at odds with the owners of the means of production that want cheap labor. Who desire the reserve army of the unemployed. I guess this is why the prison population is so large in the U.S..

  16. bozhidar balkas said on June 23rd, 2008 at 11:35am #

    edwin pell,
    yes, i was aware that the US ruling class fears domestic terrorism.
    but US congress is not ahead of me.
    decades ago i sent letters to eds saying such things as, What is preventing US to go fascist?
    and if amers refuse to fight for the plutocrats, plutocrats can hire aliens to fight their wars and at fraction of costs.
    unfortunately, my letters were never published.

    issaiah omits to say that there was then and is now land, housing, work, food, water, peace, etc., for each human being.
    and i do not know how many people who evaluate torah as words of yahweh now deny palestinians land, food, peace, housing, work, water, etc.
    it seems millinos of ashkenazic, mizrahic, and sephardic peoples do that daily to palestinians.
    religions r dangerous. none of the ones i know stand for things i just enumerated. it’s sad but true.
    thank u

  17. AaronG said on June 23rd, 2008 at 6:27pm #

    bozhidar balkas,
    Yes, religions r dangerous, very bloody and dangerous. Big Religion, as cooked up by Constantine as a religio-politico way of controlling the people, is no different to Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Military and Big Corporations…………..except they don’t pay a cent of tax.

    The Bible has nothing to do with the above-mentioned corporations, except when it mentions their downfall in the final book, Revelation. Ironically, this downfall is to begin with religion (at the hands of the UN), which the Bible holds to account as the most hypocritical and bloodthirsty organisation on the planet.

    With religion gone, humanity can then attain the basic necessities of food, land, water, jobs and housing without the history of religious conflict and a mistaken belief in a god-given piece of land holding us back.

    Israeli leaders need to heed some of my parenting advice that I give to my two pre-school kids at home – “share it or go to your room”!

  18. hp said on June 23rd, 2008 at 8:19pm #

    Once again, it’s lack of religion which is the big problem.
    All these false religious institutions and the people who man them are irreligious.
    Kinda like John McCain is a war hero. Yea, right..
    Kinda like all the liars and thieves everywhere.
    They are not religious.
    They are liars, thieves and worse.
    AaronG, with all your anti religion talk, it’s ironic that you are no doubt more ‘religious’ than 99% of these pretenders by virtue of your behavior, intentions and compassion.

  19. AaronG said on June 23rd, 2008 at 9:24pm #

    hp, the trick is to never associate the terms ‘faith’ with ‘religion’. Faith is based on knowledge, reason and research. Religion Pty Ltd is not. You think I’m anti-religion? There’s Someone much more powerful who also thinks religion stinks……………and can do something about it.

    Now go to bed up there. Some of us Downunder (little southern colony of America, the bit of land that surrounds Pine Gap) are working hard to pay off your sub-prime debts – 3 hours till I jump on the bike and ride home 🙂

  20. bozhidar balkas said on June 24th, 2008 at 7:04am #

    aarong, hp,
    i agree that faith differs significantly from organized religions and what these teach.
    but a faith w. shelter, food, a feeling that one belongs, peace, clean water, work, etc. is vastly better than anyone’s faith w.o. all or some of these needs or must haves.
    in fact, bns of people cannot posibly have faith (perhaps some hope/wishful thinking, etc) in so many lands.
    torah and bible were writtten mostly by men; men who knew much less than what we know now and still much, much less what people might know in millennia to come.
    the two books teem w. misteachings, rage, intolerance, commandments, contradiction, rationalization.
    political discourse to us compares well w. religious discourse. i do not know whether politicians learned to ‘talk’ to us like that from priests or the other way around, but bns evaluate the ‘discourse’ as talk. sad, but true.
    and one doesn’tt blame a blind horse for eating some dung along w. some weeds and straw; corollary being, one can’t blame people for eating dung along tainted meat, and few vegs for millennia.
    in add’n, to me, all of our feelings, including faith, r inseparable from one another and from reality.
    all these r parts of unified reality. and we only have one. thank u

  21. hp said on June 24th, 2008 at 8:30am #

    AaronG, I see you all are getting a ‘new’ Yankee base out there in your area?

    bozhidar, that you always equate Torah and Bible with religion, faith, God, is understandable.

  22. bozhidar balkas said on June 24th, 2008 at 3:01pm #

    yes, on general level, i equate the 2 books. but as u probably know, on descriptive level the two books cannot be equated.
    there r numerous commands in the bible that differ from the ones in torah.
    eg, jesus had been (mis)quoted as saying , u shall always have poor among us.
    this statement, to me, is a horrible one. we can see that the rich people rejoice over it.
    what jesus meant is that there will always be stupid, incapable people among us, etc.
    another galling statement attributed to him is, Treat others as u wd have them treat u.
    but in life this dictum often leads to disappointment.
    eg, u greet s’mone and that s’mone is actually annoyed. it happans often.
    how about helping s’mone w. money? i think we all know the answer to that one.

  23. mjismynameo said on June 26th, 2008 at 6:15pm #

    The right to a job? What if a human does not WANT a job? Then what?
    The right to housing? So we should PROVIDE free housing to all of those humans who don’t want to work?
    Is that social justice? Or just demoralizing ?

    “being tired at the end of the day is better than all the riches” grandmother sarah 1991

  24. Matt Ryan said on July 28th, 2008 at 9:54am #

    i am a 19 year old college student in chicago and i had an idea related to the right to a job, but i don’t know if i am correct. on job applications it says that it is illegal for the employer to discriminate when hiring. i saw an add up for a position and applied. it has been nearly a month and i have not had any response to my application. if the employer had hired someone else i would have no qualms, but instead i find the employer has yet to hire anyone, and that the add for the position remains up.

    does this not imply a discrimination?

    if i apply for a job a don’t get the job that is ok. what seems discriminatory though is that for some unspecified reason i was not hired and the employer is still waiting for another candidate. what are they looking for in that candidate that i do not have? age? experience? perhaps they want a female for the position? whatever the reason, it is a discrimination, and a violation of my rights as an american citizen, is it not?