Stolen Wages, Stolen Dreams – Sueldos Robados, Sueños Robados

[Español Abajo]

wage theft

Stolen Wages, Stolen Dreams

A personal account of Dallas’ valet industry highlighted through a workers’ experience at RP Valet. We hope that through retelling this experience we can expose horrible abuses in the valet industry, bring attention (if not punishment) to the employers who are getting rich off of theft, and make a connection to the state of the economy as a whole. RP Valet has contracts with numerous popular restaurants and bars including — Abacus, Eddie V’s, Lark in the Park, Mattito’s, Meddlesome Moth, Steel, The Rustic, among others.

The story-teller continues to fight his case and still seeks avenues for justice for himself and his co-workers in the valet industry. He wishes to remain anonymous.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Austin TX. I came to Dallas when I was 19 years old in 2005. I just needed to try something new. I had a difficult upbringing with my father and wanted to create some space

When did you start working as a valet? What plans did you have?

I became a valet driver right away. My plans were just to pay my rent and take care of myself. Just to survive at first. I had some interest in science and physics and biology so thought about exploring that maybe later when I had more money and more time to study.

What was it like working as a valet then?

Back then, the company I was working for, RP Valet, wouldn’t pay us anything on our check and they would allow us to keep about 50–70% of our tips and they would keep the rest for themselves. They would call that the management fee. They claimed that they did that as part of their business model. They were very open about it.

That was 2005. In 2007 they tried a new system where they would take a certain amount per car—like a $1.00 per car or $2.00 per car—regardless of what the customer tipped. They actually started paying $2.13/hr at that point but we were making about the same. I suspect that they came up with that system because they had some kind of tax audit but they didn’t want to talk about it because they were a multi-million dollar company that wasn’t paying anybody anything which probably looked weird.

And actually you were paying them for the privilege of working for them.

Exactly. We would pay them about 30-45% of our tips and then we wouldn’t get paid anything. Sometimes up to 50% or more. Certain places where people would tip more, nightclubs, trendy places, they would take over 60% at those places.

So you must have noticed something was wrong pretty quickly, no?

I didn’t know until 2012 because unfortunately most valet companies do this. They take a portion of the tips for themselves from the employees. So I didn’t really have a good example to go by. The companies that don’t are smaller, residential companies and they struggled because the larger companies cheat in this way, so they don’t necessarily have the ability to compete.

When did you first find out that this was illegal?

In 2012, there was a robbery at our office in the middle of the night at gunpoint. What we would do at the end of the night is report to the manager. They were cash tips so they had to take physical possession of them to take the ‘management fee’ as they called it and put it in the safe. This created a dangerous situation where thousands of dollars are kept in one location every night. So at some point some people robbed it. They held several valets at gunpoint as well as the manager. They took what they could and they left. It was traumatizing for everyone that was there.

I had worked with one of those valets for years and he was pretty upset about it. I talked to him the next day and that’s when he told me, “Hey did you know we’re not even supposed to be turning in our tips like that at the end of the night? Those tips are supposed to be ours,”

He had known this for a while and kept it to himself. Before he had been too afraid to tell me.

I was good with numbers and was able immediately to calculate how much money it was, and it was substantial, like 50%. And that was over the 8 years that I had worked there almost. There were some people who were there for twenty years. That’s like for every two years that you work that’s one year that you’re not getting paid for.

What were your first steps to stop it?

I read about the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and the history behind that and the protections that it gives us. I understood the reasoning that tips are the property of the employee—because the customer, they think they’ve already paid for the service, they think that they’re giving something to the employee.

The first step I took was to contact the department of labor. I talked to an agent there and he asked me dozens of questions over the course of an hour and I learned that it wasn’t just the tips—he wasn’t supposed to charge us for uniforms, he was supposed to pay us overtime, he was not supposed to charge people for damage to vehicles—often valets would get blamed for damage that they weren’t responsible for, so they would actually take money out of people’s check for that or they would take a larger portion of the tips. I was pretty angry because I wasn’t expecting all that and at the end of the conversation the agent asked me if I wanted to pursue a case. I told him, ‘Give me a second to think about it.’

During the very lunch I talked to the agent, I went and talked to my boss. I sat down and I said, ‘I spoke to some people in the government and they said you’re not supposed to take a management fee that comes from our tips. They said that the tips are the property of the employee. I was wondering what you think about that.’ It seemed like he already knew and he just kind of gave me this smile and said that I’d be suspended and he threatened me. He said ‘I want you to know that if you’re ever out there on that parking lot one night and someone wanted to hurt you I would be the one to stop them.’ He was threatening to have someone attack me. Not attack me himself, ya know, cause businessmen delegate that kind of thing. He walked me to the door and as I walked out he demanded that I not talk to anybody—don’t approach any of the accounts, and that was the last time that I talked to him.

And then I called the Department of Labor back and said ‘Yeah let’s start that investigation.’ Later, I found out that my employer told my co-workers that anybody who talked to me or any investigators would be fired.

What were the results of the investigation?

Some people received checks for overtime but nobody received checks for their tips which was strange. This was like a year later.

So I got in touch with the Department of Labor again and told them that whatever the results of the investigation the company is still doing this. They put me in touch with one of the community outreach guys and I gave him information on that company and several other companies and he opened up investigations against all those companies. So the case against RP Valet was reopened because of my agitation of the Department of Labor.

But the one thing they changed is from charging per car they charged per night. Instead of calling it a ticket price you pay a booth fee. It’s a lump sum regardless of how many cars you park. But generally it came out to the same, about 50 bucks a night per valet.

That case has been opened and closed, opened and closed, opened and closed and they’re still doing it, [stealing tips]. I suspect that the investigators know, they have the witness statements but they don’t want to pursue it for whatever reason. I think that it’s just not a priority for them. I mean, they’re not going to lose their jobs over it.

How did having your wages stolen affect you?

Well it was about 50% and it came out to about ten bucks an hour. So it was substantial to me. Depending on what your pay rate is you might not think ten bucks an hour is a lot but it is a lot to somebody like me. That was the difference—it would have made my life a lot easier, I would have had been able to work part-time instead of full-time, with the extra twenty hours or so a week I could have studied, I could have maybe pursued something in science or physics. Maybe I could have done that higher education thing. I could have had those opportunities and that’s what really upset me.

Or say I didn’t have those aptitudes; I could have gotten a living wage, started to settle, maybe gotten a down payment on a house and started to plan for retirement. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to have a career as a valet. All they have to do is pay us $2.13/hr. and then let the customers pay what they feel is appropriate in tips and if that leads to a livable wage then that’s okay—but instead they denied us that. They left us just barely enough money to survive, just barely enough money to show up for work the next week. So that upset me too. So no matter what route I wanted for my future I feel like that was stolen from me. Whether I wanted higher education or to work towards retirement that was stolen from me.

And I saw that—I saw people struggling to go through school as valets, I saw people struggling to take care of children, to take care of medical bills, I saw people struggling to retire, like 50 year old men still valeting. It’s a physical job, you hit 50 and it’s not for everyone. There are a lot of people who are like twenty years old in great shape who can’t do it. You can’t be doing it at like 65 waiting for social security that’s for sure.

So it affected me. It upset me for the opportunities it took from me and the opportunities it took from my friends, from my coworkers.

So what message do you have for other workers who are in similar situations?

Don’t let fear rule you. You’ve only lost when you’ve quit fighting. And know that you have allies—there are allies out there. I’m out there; I know there are other people out there. Don’t let fear rule you—if you’re angry about it then act, don’t just hold that anger to yourself.

I know it’s not just valets, its other industries. What happened here shouldn’t be seen as just these particular people that had this particular job are being robbed. I think people should also think about this community, these guys are valets but they’re also residents of Dallas, they’re people, so we have this in common. There’s a good chance that if you’re a low-income person that you’re experiencing something similar. I think we can find commonality.


Sueldos Robados, Sueños Robados

Una historia personal de la industria de valet en Dallas contada por la experiencia de un trabajador en RP Valet. Esperamos que por contar esta experiencia podamos exponer los abusos horribles en la industria de valet, traer atención (si no castigo) a los empleadores que se están haciendo ricos por el robo, y hacer una conexión a el estado de la economía en total. RP Valet tiene contratos con numerosos restaurantes y bares populares incluyendo — Abacus, Eddie V’s, Lark in the Park, Mattito’s, Meddlesome Moth, Steel, The Rustic, among others.                                                                                          

El que cuenta esta historia continúa a luchar su caso y todavía sigue avenidas para la justicia por sí mismo y por sus colegas en la industria valet. Él desea quedarse anónimo.

¿Dónde creciste?

Yo crecí en Austin, TX. Yo vine a Dallas cuando tenía 19 anos en el 2005. Yo necesitaba que tratar algo nuevo. Tuve una niñez dificultosa con mi padre y quería crear un espacio

¿Cuándo empezaste trabajando de valet? ¿Cuáles planes tenías?

Yo me convertí en valet derecha mente. Mis planes solo eran a pagar mi renta cuidar de mi mismo. Solo a sobrevivir al principio.Tenía un interés en ciencia y fisica y biologia entonces pense en explorar eso mas después cuando tendria mas dinero y más tiempo para estudiar.

¿Cómo era trabajar de valet entonces?

En ese tiempo la compañía para quien trabajaba, RP Valet, no nos pagaba nada en nuestros cheques y nos y nos dejaban quedarnos con 50-70% de nuestras propinas  y se quedaban con el resto ellos mismos. Eso lo llamaban su cuota de gestión. Decían que eso era parte de modelo de negocio. Eran muy abiertos sobre eso.

Eso fue en 2005. En 2007 trataron un nuevo sistema en que tomaba una cierta cantidad por cada carro como $1 o $2 por carro, sin importar lo que el cliente dejará de propina. En ese tiempo empezaron a pagar $2.13 por hora pero seguimos ganando lo mismo. Sospecho que inventaron ese sistema por que tuvieron una auditoría de taxes pero no querían hablar de eso porque eran una compañía multimillonaria que no pagaba nada a nadie que probablemente se miraba raro.

Y tu les estabas pagando por el privilegio de trabajar para ellos.

Exactamente. Nosotros les pagábamos 30-45%  de nuestras propinas y lo luego no nos pagaban nada. A veces hasta 50% y hasta más. Ciertos lugares donde la gente daba más en propina, clubs, lugares de moda, ellos tomaban más de 60% en esos lugares.

¿Entonces notaste que algo estaba mal de pronto, no?                                  

No sabía hasta 2012 porque desafortunadamente la mayoría de compañías de valet hacen esto. Toman una porción de propinas para ellos de los empleados. Así que no tenía un buen ejemplo que notar. Las compañías que son más pequeñas, compañías residenciales, usualmente no lo hacen y es un esfuerzo para ellas por que las compañías más grandes engañan así. Entonces no necesariamente tienen la habilidad de competir.

¿Cuándo aprendiste que esto era ilegal por primera vez?

En 2012, hubo un robo con pistola en nuestra oficina en la media noche. Lo que hacíamos al fin de la noche reportar al gerente. Eran propinas en efectivo así que tomaban posesión de las propinas para tomar su ‘’cuota de gerente’’  como lo llamaban y lo ponían en el seguro. Esto creó una situación peligrosa donde había miles de dólares en una locación cada noche.  Así  que a un punto unas personas lo robaron. Le apuntaron una pistola a unos cuantos valets y también al gerente. Tomaron lo que pudieron y se fueron. Fue traumatizante para todos que estaban ahí. Yo había trabajado con uno de esos valets por anos y el estaba muy molesto por esto. Hablamos el dia siguiente y es cuando me dijo “Oye tu sabias que ni debemos que entregar nuestras propinas al fin de la noche? Esas propinas son deben de ser nuestras”

Él había sabido esto por un tiempo y no lo había compartido. Antes tenía demasiado miedo para decirme. Yo era bueno con números y pude inmediatamente calculó cuánto dinero era, y era sustancial, como 50% y eso era por los 8 años que había trabajado allí casi. Había unas personas que estaban allí por veinte años. Eso es como por cada dos años que trabajas es un ano por que no te pagan.

¿Cuáles fueron tus primeros pasos por parar esto?        

Yo leí sobre El Acto de Normas Justas de Labor de 1938 y la historia detrás de eso y las protecciones que nos da. Entendí las razones  por que las propinas son propiedad del empleado- porque el cliente, ellos piensan que ya pagaron por el servicio, Ellos piensan que están dando algo extra al empleado.

El primer paso que tome fue contactar el departamento de labor. Hable con un agente allí y el me pregunto docenas de preguntas sobre el curso de una hora y yo aprendí que no solo eran las propinas- él no nos debía de cargar por uniformes, él nos debía que pagar tiempo extra, el no debía que cobrarnos por daño a vehículos- muchas veces valets tomaban la culpa por daños por que no eran responsable, entonces tomaban dinero de los cheques de gente por eso o tomaban una porción más grande de sus propinas. Yo estaba muy enojado porque no estaba esperando todo esto y al fine de la conversación me preguntó si quería perseguir un caso. Yo le dije, ’dame un segundo para pensar’

Durante el mismo lonche en que le hable al agente, fui y le hable a mi jefe. Me senté y le dije ‘Yo le hable a alguien en el gobierno y ellos dijeron que no debes tomar un cargo de gerente de nuestras propinas. Ellos dijeron que propinas son propiedad del empleado. Yo estaba pensando que piensas de eso’ Parecía que ya sabía de eso y solo me dio un tipo de sonrisa y me dijo que sería suspendido y me amenazó. Él dijo ‘Yo quiero que sepas que si estarías allá en ese parqueadero una noche y alguien te quería lastimar yo sería el que los hiciera parar’ Él me estaba amenazando con que alguien me atacaría. No atacar me él miso, sabes, por hombres de negocio delegan ese tipo de cosas. Me camino a la puerta y cuando camine para fuera demandó que no le hablara a nadie- que no le hablara a ninguna de las cuentas, y esa es la última vez que hable con él.

Entonces le hable p’atras al Departamento de Labor y les dije “Si hay que empezar esa investigación’ Después, Yo descubrí que mi empleador les dijo a mis compañeros de trabajo que cualquiera que me hablara sería despedido.

¿Cuáles fueron los resultados de la investigación?

Algunas personas recibieron cheques  por tiempo extra pero nadie recibe cheques por las propinas que fue raro. Esto fue como un año después. Entonces me puse en contacto con el Departamento de Labor  otra vez que cualquiera el resultado de la investigación la compañía todavía está haciendo esto. Así que me pusieron en contacto uno de las personas de alcance comunitario y le di información sobre esa compañía y varias otras y el abrió investigaciones contra todas esas compañías. Así que el caso contra RP Valet fue reabierto por mi agitación del Departamento de Labor.

Pero la única cosa que cambiaron fue cambiar por cada carro lo cambiaron a por cada noche. Envés de llamarlo un precio de ticket pagas un cobro de cabina. Es una suma independientemente de cuantos carros estaciones. Pero en general salía lo mismo como 50 dólares por la noche por cada valet.

Ese caso ha sido abierto y cerrado, abierto y cerrado y abierto y cerrado y todavía lo están haciendo (robando propinas). Yo sospecho que los investigadores lo saben, Ellos tienen los testimonios de testigos pero no lo quieren perseguir por cualquier razón. Yo creo que es solo que no es una prioridad para ellos. Quiero decir no van a perder sus trabajos sobre esto.

¿Cómo te afecto tener tu sueldo robado?

Pues fue como 50% y salió como 10 dólares por hora. Fue sustancial para mí. Dependiendo de que tu tarifa de pago sea podrás pensar que diez dólares no es mucho pero si es mucho para alguien como yo. Eso es la diferencia- Podría haber hecho mi vida mucho más fácil, Yo podría haber trabajado medio tiempo en vez de tiempo completo, con esas extra veinte horas más o menos a la semana podría haber estudiado, podría haber perseguido algo en ciencia o física. A lo mejor yo podría haber hecho esa cosa de alta educación. Yo podría haber tenido esas oportunidades y eso es lo que deberás me enojo.

O por decir que no tenía esas aptitudes; Yo podría haber agarrado un sueldo para vivir, empezado a poner raíces, a lo mejor  agarrado un depósito en una casa y empezar a planear para retiro. No hay ni una razón por que no debería poder tener una carrera como valet. Todo lo que tienen que hacer es pagarnos $2.13/hr y dejar que los clientes pagan lo que ellos sienten es apropiado en propinas y se eso es un sueldo para vivir eso está bien- pero en vez nos negaron eso. Nos dejaron apenas suficiente dinero para sobrevivir, no más apenas dinero para ir al trabajo la semana siguiente. Así que eso me molesto también. Así que no importa que quisiera para mi futuro, ciento que eso fue robado de mí. Si quería una educación alta o trabajar hacia el retiro eso fue robado de mí.

Y yo vi eso- Yo vi personas luchando por ir a la escuela como valets, yo vi gente luchando por cuidar niños, pagar costos médicos, yo vi gente luchando para retirarse, como hombres de 50 todavía trabajando de valet. Es un trabajo físico, cumples 50 y nos para todos. Hay muchas personas que tienen como 20 y están en buena condición y no lo pueden hacer. No lo puedes estar haciendo a como 65 y esperando a la seguridad de seguro eso es por cierto. Así que me afectó. Me molesto por las oportunidades que les quitó de mis amigos, de mis compañeros de trabajo.

¿Entonces qué mensaje tienes para otros trabajadores en situaciones similares?

No dejes que el miedo te domine. Solo pierdes cuando paras de luchar. Y sé que tienes aliados- hay aliados por ahí. Yo estoy aquí; yo sé que hay otras personas por ahí. No dejes que el miedo te domine- si estás enojado por eso entonces actúa, no solo dejes ese coraje en ti mismo.

Yo sé que no es solo valets, es otras industrias. Lo que paso ahí no debería ser visto como solo estas personas en este trabajo particular están siendo robadas. Yo pienso que gente también tienen que pensar en esta comunidad, estas personas son valets pero también son residentes de Dallas, son gente, así que tenemos esto en común. Hay una buena posibilidad que si eres una persona de bajo sueldo estás experimentando algo similar. yo pienso que podemos encontrar comunidad.

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What is Gentrification? Part I: the Rent Gap

This article is the first in a two-part series explaining what gentrification is and how it works. This first part explains what the late urban geographer Neil Smith called the “rent gap,” an essential condition for gentrification to occur. Part 2 will discuss the multiple phases of the gentrification process from disinvestment to displacement.

Imagine a large working-class family, who’ve been renting a home for decades. Its a few rooms too small for them to live comfortably but they try to respect each other’s privacy. The parents work 40 hours a week, sometimes putting in a few hours of overtime, and still they struggle to live a respectable existence, capable of only making ends meet, trying to provide a good life for their children.

Now imagine a developer who is looking to make profit from the same community, a community that has been disinvested from and ignored for decades by landlords and the City of Dallas, as well as the majority of the affluent class–but not by its residents.

So the investor purchases the lot that this family and similar families with similar stories have been living in and decides to demolish their homes to build a luxury apartment complex that the current residents will never be able to afford. Now they have no place to stay or at least afford in the neighborhood  they’ve called home, forcing them to move further away from what they know, only to deal with further economic and social obstacles.

This is Gentrification. For the wealthy gentrification may look more like wine glasses, elegant patios, boutique stores and cappuccinos, but for us it is the loss of our cultural spaces, a higher cost of living and eventually eviction by one means or another.

1

Why is it happening in major cities around the country and the world?

Gentrification occurs when property developers suddenly reverse their neglect of poor, people of color and working class neighborhoods. Investors begin supporting businesses that seek to attract wealthier outsiders to the neighborhood, turning a “scary” place into an “edgy” area for adventurous consumers to discover.

As popularity and investments increase, the “edgy” place becomes “hip” and “safe,” and over a period of some years the previous neighborhood is entirely displaced by the new “gentry”—upper income professionals, homeowners, higher-earning individuals and families.

Urban geographer Neil Smith argued that an essential condition for a neighborhood to be gentrified is the existence of a “rent gap.” The rent gap and gentrification are as much a part of capitalist urbanization as are income segregation and poverty.

Rent gap terms

If a poor neighborhood can be made attractive to higher income consumers and tenants, then there is potential to make more money on the property than landlords are currently earning. The rent gap is the difference between the current rent and that potential rent. That “potential” can only be fully realized by removing the current tenants and replacing them with new businesses and a new “gentry”—members of more affluent classes, often mostly Whites. Developers speak of this as converting property to its “highest and best use,” by which they mean the most profitable use.

This will only happen if the rent gap is large enough that property owners are fairly certain that the returns on investment will be greater than the cost of converting the property to a new use whether through a serious rehab or demolition and reconstruction.

As Daniel Kay Hertz puts it in a blog post on gentrification in Chicago, “If you earn $10,000 from a building you own, and could make $15,000 if you rebuilt/rehabbed it, but rebuilding/rehabbing costs $10,000, you won’t do it. Because, you know, you’d lose money.” This is a simplification of how profits are realized in the property market but you get the idea.

The rent gap is generally largest and most ripe for gentrification where inner city property has been most thoroughly devalued. Because landlords are profit oriented businesses, they don’t make investments in maintaining properties in working-class and poor neighborhoods where rental income is limited. Instead, that capital gets invested elsewhere.

Over time, structures increasingly fall into disrepair and incrementally lose their value. Property owners eventually become eager to sell and speculators will buy up whole neighborhoods on the cheap—if they think they can entice in a new class of tenants. The closer the area is to downtown, to white areas or to other wealthy neighborhoods the more likely it is to be targeted for gentrification.

rent gap chart

Source: Eric Clark, “Environmental Conflicts.”

La Original Michoacana paletería is one example of how landlords in Oak Cliff are seeking to close the rent gap. After refusing to perform basic and even essential repairs and maintenance on the property for at least as long as the ice cream shop has been there, the landlord suddenly raised the rent of the tiny shop to $6,000, which was essentially an eviction notice. Now the landlord is free to rent or sell for the highest price.

(Potential Rent) minus (Capitalized Rent) equals (Rent Gap of $x/monthly)

$6,000          –            $1,600              =        $5,400/monthly

By raising rent as high as they can, even doubling or tripling rent, landlords force existing tenants out. They then either find another tenant who can afford the new, higher cost, or sell to a developer who will rebuild for a luxury market.

Gentrification is the colonization of our neighborhoods by powerful developers and affluent consumers who claim to be building something valuable on land that was “empty” and “wasted” before they came. Colonizers invoked the notion of terra nullius–– “the racist legal fiction that declared Indigenous peoples too “primitive” to bear rights to land and sovereignty when they first encountered European powers on the continent, thus rendering their territories legally empty and thus open for colonial settlement and development.”

Today the land that Latinos, American Indians and Blacks are living on is deemed too valuable to be left to us. But those who celebrate gentrification ignore the violence of eviction, growing poverty and broken communities. The noise of demolition is muffled out by the same colonial mantra of “improvement” and the clanking of wine glasses.

The success of development should be measured by its ability to meet the needs and desires of the existing residents—ultimately to meet the needs of all people, not just those with money. When “improvements” are only providing services and resources to encourage affluent people to move in, this creates cultural and financial barriers that exclude and alienate working-class residents from our own neighborhoods and cities. Over and over again patrons of Bishop Arts mention their attraction to the area because of its “cultural diversity” (i.e., code for the presence of people of color) and low costs to purchase land or residences. But if the expansion of Bishop Arts continues as planned the area will be neither diverse nor affordable.

Oak Cliff Drowned Out by Bishop Arts – Oak Cliff Esta Ahogandose por Bishop Arts

1-story apartment complex (5 buildings, 15 units) and eight (8) homes have been completely destroyed on the 300 blocks of Melba and W. Ninth.

(Español abajo)

Update: Since the posting of this article the last residential home left standing on the 300 block of Melba St. has been demolished.

In the place that business owners, real estate agents and affluent homeowners are now calling “North Oak Cliff,” the working-class and mostly Latin@ residents of the area are being pushed out of their homes to be replaced by a new class of more affluent renters and homeowners. Rising rents, predatory real estate agents, and multi-million dollar new developments are displacing the community that has called Oak Cliff its home for generations.

For decades landlords and the City of Dallas have disinvested from Oak Cliff. As the housing stock aged, landlords continued collecting rent but without keeping up on maintenance and improvements while homeowners remained stretched thin by low incomes and property taxes.  Youth struggle through substandard schools, insecure futures, and a hostile police department.

While continuing to neglect the needs of Oak Cliff residents for quality public education, a living wage, youth programs and other alternatives to drugs and street crews, the City has been investing millions of dollars into “revitalizing” “North Oak Cliff.” But “revitalization” isn’t for the working-class of Oak Cliff. The money, including $2.5 million in street and sidewalk improvements, is going to support new businesses and developers in the Bishop Arts District who are serving and attracting a new, more affluent demographic to the area.

“North Oak Cliff” is less a fixed location than simply where the affluent gentrifiers live and shop–and it’s rapidly expanding further south.

Where will the existing community go after being displaced? And what happened to the low-income renters who were evicted from the buildings being torn down to make way for Michael Nazerian’s new development? No one seems to have asked, but the City of Dallas and Councilman Griggs have made their concerns clear: the City granted Nazerian $2 million to help purchase those properties then promised him $5 million more in tax reimbursements to support his Bishop Arts Village project. It will be surprising if he doesn’t receive the next $2 million economic development grant he’s requesting as well.

The City of Dallas is spending millions of dollars on the destruction of low-income housing even as its own Poverty Task Force reports a crisis of growing poverty throughout the city.

Google Map

Only 1 house left standing.

Of much more concern to the media and new residents has been the planned eviction of Ten Bells Tavern, the Local Oak, Zoli’s and Sonic to make way for a massive development project by Alamo Manhattan, a multi-billion dollar property investment firm asking for $11 million from the City’s Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) District program. The new “North Oak Cliff” community now faces the threat of outsiders making decisions about their neighborhood and drawing plans to replace their businesses with a development project that will feel more like Uptown than their trendy new community.

Whatever the personal feelings some may hold over the ongoing eviction and displacement of their Latin@ neighbors, the struggle against Alamo Manhattan is not a struggle against gentrification. It’s a struggle of first wave gentrifiers against the next wave of displacement. As their change.org petition states,

We do not oppose development.  We reject monolithic, unimaginative, oversized architecture that would replace the very authenticity that is the source of our popularity.  We feel this type of development would have a destabilizing negative impact on our area.

The fact is the entire Bishop Arts district has a “destabilizing negative” impact on the area’s poor, working-class, and immigrant residents including the artists among them. The Alamo Manhattan project is a gentrification bomb that will displace far more than just a few businesses, but stopping it won’t save working-class Oak Cliff from displacement by the ‘popular’ new gentry, regardless of their taste in architecture.

Gentrification has brought some nice things to Oak Cliff and promises more. The problem is those amenities are for the gentrifiers, not working-class Oak Cliff. Over the past decade, poverty has increased in Oak Cliff, including in the areas surrounding Bishop Arts, even as more Whites move in. More expensive housing, higher property taxes, boutique stores, coffee shops, hip bars and high-end restaurants make Oak Cliff a nice place to be if you have money and—if it continues—an impossible place to be poor.

That was the message of demonstrators who held signs protesting gentrification at the Bastille on Bishop themed block party this week. The party is a major annual event promoting the growth of Bishop Arts. Signs read “Bishop Arts: una communidad para gente que no viven aquí” (a community for people who don’t live here) and “Housing Yes! Displacement No!” Yet the media coverage would only report that the protestors opposed the event due to opposition to the potential displacement of small businesses by Alamo Manhattan, an event sponsor. Voices of Oak Cliff were displaced by those of “North Oak Cliff.”

By contrast, over the coming months Our Streets, Our Stories will be walking the community to gather stories from Oak Cliff, personalizing gentrification and amplifying voices from the community, highlighting their needs, history and vision for the area.

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Oak Cliff Esta Ahogandose por Bishop Arts

Actualización: Desde la publicación de este artículo la última residencia en la cuadra 300 de Melba Santa ha sido demolida.

En el lugar que dueños de negocios, agentes inmobiliarios y propietarios prósperos están llamando “North Oak Cliff,” los residentes Latin@s y otros de clase trabajadora del área están siendo empujado de sus casas y recolocados por residentes nuevos y más ricos. Rentas aumentadas, agentes de inmobiliario predatorios y proyectos de urbanización son desplazando a la comunidad que ha llamada Oak Cliff su casa por generaciones.

Desde hace décadas propietarios y la Ciudad de Dallas han desinvertido en Oak Cliff. Mientras las estructuras envejecieron, los propietarios colectaron la renta sin manteniendo ni mejorando las casas y apartamentos. Asimismo muchos dueños de casa han sido limitados por sueldos bajos y impuestos sobre la propiedad. Mientras tanto, las escuelas empobrecidas, sueldos deplorables y policía hostil prueban la juventud.

Mientras la Ciudad de Dallas continúa descuidando a las necesidades de los residentes de Oak Cliff como la educación pública de calidad, un salario digno, programas para la juventud y otras alternativas a las drogas y las pandillas, la Ciudad ahorita está invirtiendo millones de dólares para “revitalizar” “North Oak Cliff.”

Pero la “revitalización” no es para la clase trabajadora de Oak Cliff. El dinero, incluyendo $2.5 millones para reconstruir calles y aceras, apoya a los nuevos negocios en el distrito de Bishop Arts y también a los desarrolladores como Michael Nazerian, el hombre responsable por la demolición de una cuadra entero de casas de bajo ingreso.

“North Oak Cliff” es menos un lugar fijo sino simplemente donde las aburguesadores viven y hacen compras y está en expansión rápidamente al sur.

¿Adónde va a ir la comunidad existente después que los desplacen? ¿Y qué paso con los arrendatarios que fueron desahuciados de los edificios que fueron demolidos para dejar espacio para las apartamentos de Nazerian? Parece como nadie le ha preguntado. La Ciudad y Concejal Griggs han mostrado quien los importa: La Ciudad dieron a Nazerian una beca de $2 millones para ayudarlo a comprar las propiedades y lo han prometido que van a darle $5 millones más en reembolsos de impuestos para apoyar su proyecto “Bishop Arts Village.”

La Ciudad de Dallas esta gastando millones de dollares para la destrucción de casas y apartamientos para personas de bajos ingresos aunque su propio “Poverty Task Force” reporta una crisis creciendo de pobreza a través de la ciudad.

Lo más importante para la media y las nuevas residentes es la desahucio planeados de Ten Bells Tavern, el Local Oak, Zoli’s, y Sonic para dejar espacio por un proyecto de desarrollo masivo hecho por Alamo Manhattan, un compañía multi-billonario que está solicitando $11 million al gobierno. La comunidad nueva de “North Oak Cliff” ahora enfrenta la amenaza de forasteros determinando su futuro y haciendo planes para reemplazar algunos de sus negocios con un proyecto de desarrollo que va a parecer más como Uptown que su comunidad única.

Algunos, tal vez muchos, de los nuevos residentes se sienten ciertos emociones sobre la desahucio de sus vecinos más pobre y Latin@. Pero la lucha contra Alamo Manhattan no está en contra de la aburguesamiento. Las aburguesadores está tratando de mantener control del proceso en contra de su propio desahucio por una segunda etapa del aburguesamiento. Como dice su petición de change.org,

No estamos en contra del desarrollo. Rechazamos arquitectura monolítico, sin imaginación, demasiado grande que recolocaría la misma autenticidad que es la fuente de nuestro popularidad. Nosotros sentimos que este tipo de desarrollo tendría un impacto desestabilizando y negativo en nuestra área.

El hecho es que el distrito de Bishop Arts en su totalidad tiene un impacto “desestabilizando y negativo” para los residentes pobres y de clase obrera, incluyendo los artistas. El proyecto de Alamo va a dañar más que unos negocios en Bishop Arts, pero parar el Alamo no va a poner fin al desplazamiento de Oak Cliff por la gente bien. Desde este punto de visto no importa mucho su gusto en la arquitectura.

La aburguesamiento ha traído algunas cosas muy buenas a este parte de Oak Cliff y se promete más.  El problema es que estas comodidades son para las aburguesadores, no para la clase obrera de Oak Cliff. Durante la década pasada la pobreza ha aumentada en Oak Cliff, incluyendo los áreas alrededor de Bishop Arts, aunque más Blancos prósperos están comprando casas.

La vivienda más cara, altos impuestos sobre la propiedad, tiendas de moda, una café en cada esquina y restaurantes de calidad superior hacen Oak Cliff un lugar muy buena si tiene dinero y–si todo esto ‘desarrollo” continúa–un lugar imposible ser pobre.

Eso fue el mensaje de los manifestantes del evento Bastille en Bishop este semana. La fiesta del barrio es un evento annual promoviendo el crecimiento de Bishop Arts. Letreros dijeron “Bishop Arts: una comunidad para gente que no viven aquí” y “Housing Yes! Displacement No! (“¡Vivienda Si! ¡Desplazamiento no!”) Sin embargo, la cobertura de los medios solo diria que los  manifestantes estan en contra del evento por su oposición a la desplazamiento potencial de unos negocitos por Alamo Manhattan, un patrocinador del evento. Voces de Oak Cliff eran ahogados por los de “North Oak Cliff.”

En contraste, durante las mesas siguientes organizadores de Nuestras Vecindarios, Nuestros Cuentos caminarán la comunidad recogiendo historias de Oak Cliff, personalizando la aburguesamiento y amplificando las voces de la comunidad.

Our Vision – Nuestra Vision

SOL (Streets Organizing for Liberation) would like to introduce a new media project – Our Streets, Our Stories: Learn to Listen Media Project. We’ll be utilizing wordpress as a medium for this project. It will consist of stories from the people most unheard in our streets via pictures and video. It will also provide SOL’s analysis on the various issues facing working class and poor Dallas residents. A detailed description of the media project will remain in the about section of the wordpress and is as follows:

Our Streets, Our Stories: Learn to Listen Media Project, by SOL (Streets Organizing for Liberation), is the digital and written documentation of the personal experiences and perspectives of Dallas residents.

This project aims to capture a rich, real-world context for the lived experiences of residents who have been neglected, marginalized and unrecognized. It offers an opportunity to value, appreciate, and learn to listen to our neighbors, those on the hard-end of gentrification, displacement, police brutality, deportation, poverty, and exploitation.

The project is designed to provide a platform that amplifies unheard voices while providing critical and alternative explanations and insights into the social transformations affecting Dallas residents.

SOL would also like to use this first post to share the vision of the organization:

 SOL’s Vision:

The struggles we engage in and every demand we raise are guided by our long-term vision and values.

SOL, streets organizing for liberation, works towards a socialist world and the liberation of our peoples from capitalism, imperialism, settler-colonialism, white supremacy and all forms of gender oppression and patriarchy.

Capitalism, our current economic system, creates surplus-value and profit by exploiting and oppressing the planet and people’s labor, needs and difference. Since people in need are forced to sell their labor to someone more powerful in order to survive, it creates class separations and an extreme inequality of wealth. This allows for a rich class to form that can exert its’ will on the working classes it exploits in all arenas of life, not just the workplace. Exploitation, oppression, and income inequality are Capitalism.

For these reasons, SOL does not entertain the possibility that we can reform capitalism into a socially just and ecologically sound society or believe it can exist without the tools it uses to oppress and divide.

Rather, SOL believes in the need to build the political capacities of all those who are exploited and oppressed in order to fight for an alternative to capitalism and an end to its’ oppressive tools. We seek an alternative fundamentally based on the opposite of capitalist principles—one that sees investment in human potential and dignity and respect for our world and its resources as its’ main purpose. Because our task today is tied to the efforts of millions before us who have struggled to bring about this new society, we call this 21st century Socialism.

Many say that fighting for this alternative society is “impossible” or “impractical,” that instead baby steps are necessary and that we should limit political struggle to that which is already possible.

Rather than submit to the status quo, SOL seeks to use our struggles for improved conditions as a means to build working and oppressed peoples’ consciousness, organization and power. When we build our power, we create new possibilities. We need organizations and mass movements capable of confronting them and taking away the power they use to make decisions about our streets, our schools, our labor and our lives—power derived from our exploitation.

SOL recognizes that as long as the few who are exploiting us remain in power and the system they use remains intact, we will never have true liberation for our peoples. Therefore, our aim is to advance towards building an alternative, socialist society.

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SOL (Solidarios Organizando por la Liberación) quisiera introducir una nueva Proyecto de media Nuestras Vecindarios, Nuestras Historias: Aprender a Escuchar Proyecto de Media. Usaremos el wordpress como un medio para este proyecto. Lo va a tener historias de gente que son el menos escuchado en nuestros vecindarios vía fotos y video y también proveerá una análisis del SOL sobre los varios asuntos que enfrenta los residentes de Dallas de la clase trabajador y pobres.

Nuestras Vecindarios, Nuestra Historias: Aprender a Escuchar Proyecto de Media, de SOL (Solidarios Organizando por la Liberación), es la documentación digital y escrito de las experiencias personales y las perspectivas de las residentes de Dallas.

Este proyecto pretende a capturar un contexto profundo y  de vida-real de las experiencias vividos de los residentes que han sido abandonados, marginalizados, y no valorados. Se ofrece una oportunidad a valorar, apreciar, y aprender a escuchar a nuestras vecinos, los quien han sido en el lado difícil de la gentrificación, desplazamiento, brutalidad de policía, deportación, pobreza, y explotación.

Este Proyecto esta designado a proveer una plataforma que amplifica las voces no escuchados mientras proveyendo una explicación y percepción  crítica y alternativa sobre las transformaciones sociales afectando las residentes de Dallas.

SOL también querría usar este primer post a compartir la visión de la organización:

La Vision de SOL:

Las luchas que nos enfrentamos y cada demanda que nos presentamos están guiadas por nuestra visión de largo plazo y nuestros valores.

SOL, Solidarios Organizando para la Liberación, trabaja hacia un mundo socialista y la liberación de  nuestra gente del capitalismo, imperialismo, colonialismo, la opresión de los indígenas, la supremacía blanca y todas las formas de opresión de género y patriarcado.

Capitalismo, nuestra sistema económico actual, crea plusvalía y beneficio por explotando y oprimiendo la planeta y el labor, las necesidad, y las diferencias de la gente. Aunque la gente necesitada están forcados a vender su labor a alguien más poderoso para sobrevivir, este crea separación de clase y una disparidad extremo de riqueza. Este permite una clase rica a formar y exigir sus deseos sobre las clases trabajadores que se explotan en todo las área de la vida, no solo en el sito de trabajo. Explotación, opresión, y disparidad de sueldo son el Capitalismo.

Por estas razones, SOL no contempla la posibilidad que nos podemos reformar el capitalismo a ser transformado en una sociedad justa socialmente e un buen estado ecológicamente ni crea que lo podría existir sin las herramientas que lo usa para oprimir y dividir.

En lado, SOL crea en la necesidad de construir las capacidades políticos de todos que están explotados y oprimidos para luchar para una alternativa al capitalismo y para terminar sus herramientas oprimidas. Nos buscan una alternativa que está basado fundamentalmente en el opuesto de los principios capitalistas—uno que mira la inversión al potencial human(@) y la dignidad y respeto para nuestro mundo y sus recursos como su propósito principal. Aunque nuestra tarea hoy en día está conectado a las esfuerzos de los millones que han venido antes de nosotros quien han luchado a traer este nuevo sociedad, nos llamaos Socialismo de la 21 siglo.

Muchos digan que luchando para este sociedad alternativa es “imposible” o “impráctica,” que en lado los pasos de bebe son necesarios y que nos deberíamos limitar nuestra lucha política a lo que ya es posible.

En lado de rendirnos al statu quo, SOL busca a usar nuestras luchas a mejorar condiciones como una manera de construir la consciencia, organización y poder de la gente trabajador y oprimido. Cuando nos construimos nuestro poder, nos creamos nuevas posibilidades. Necesitamos organizaciones y movimientos de masa capaz de confrontar los que están en poder y tomar el poder que los usan a tomar decisiones sobre nuestras calles, nuestras escuelas, nuestra labor y nuestras vidas—poder que se derive de nuestra explotación.

SOL reconozca que mientras que los pocos que nos están explotándonos queda en poder y el sistema que los usan queda intacto, nunca nos vamos a tener liberación verdadera para nuestros pueblos. Por eso, nuestra meta es de avanzar hacia construyendo una sociedad alternativa, socialista.