What’s the Parasite Economy?
When we say “parasite economy,” we are talking about how the wages a worker brings home are further stolen through forced interactions with private scumbag businesses sanctioned by the local government. Milwaukee’s parasite economy contains a group of landlords, towing companies, eviction movers, and other ventures that steal people’s wages and belongings.
Milwaukee lost most of its manufacturing jobs from the 1950s and 60s while its population shrunk from 741,324 in 1960 to 577,222 in 2020. The poverty rate also increased from 10% to 30% in the same period. With a smaller, poorer population, Milwaukee capitalists have had to concoct different ways to continue to steal from working people. This is where the parasite economy comes in. Instead of only stealing workers’ wages during work, capitalists further extract from these wages through rents, fines, and theft of personal belongings.
Robbing the Poor
Milwaukee is a majority renter city with over 50% of the population renting, so rent charged by landlords is a huge portion of the parasite economy. Landlords are parasites because they don’t actually provide a service or create any value for tenants.
Landlords do not provide housing, they gate-keep already existing housing and extract rent from tenants’ wages for access to this housing. Berrada Property Management owner Joe Berrada is the fattest parasite, extracting millions of dollars in rents from the poorest people in Milwaukee. His fortune comes from the wages of people who actually work.
Fines and other fees are extracted from people by private companies when they feel their private property rights are violated. Businesses often hire contractors to enforce their private property rights and give them massive power to steal from supposed violators.
A Legal Racket
Towing companies, like Always Towing & Recovery (ATR), are a major part of the parasite economy because they are given the power to tow vehicles from private property and hold them for ransom until the owner pays hundreds of dollars or it is put up for auction. Any reason is fabricated by ATR to take vehicles even if they are permitted to park where they are. This doesn’t create any value for working people and functions only to extract wages from them by stealing their cars.
Another parasite is the eviction-moving company Eagle Moving & Storage. They are contracted by Milwaukee County and landlords to remove renter’s belongings from their homes when they get evicted. During an eviction, renters have a choice of “on the curb or in the truck” for their belongings. If they choose the curb, their items can be damaged, stolen, or entirely ruined. If they choose the truck, Eagle Moving takes their belongings to a warehouse and charges them a storage fee that increases every day, adding up to hundreds of dollars.
If you can’t pay or wait too long, they sell what is valuable and throw away the rest, making a quick profit without actually contributing anything of value to Milwaukee. Similar to the other parasites, Eagle Movers target people who are in desperate situations and use this desperation to steal people’s personal belongings, knowing that many of them will never be able to pay the fee to get them back.
Community Organizing to Crush Parasites
The parasite economy must be destroyed. This can only happen through collective effort and organization. No individual can stand up to these forces alone. We encourage readers to contact the Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union about forming tenant councils to level the playing field and correct the massive power imbalance between working-class Milwaukeeans and parasite capitalists.