MTST organises urban workers who are driven to live in poor conditions on the periphery of cities across 13 states in Brazil. With more than 1,000 activist organisers mobilising over 50,000 families across the country, MTST’s campaigns have achieved decent housing for more than 10,000 families and created jobs at the same time.

When workers have no right to a decent home, their rights to education, health care, public transport and basic infrastructure are not respected either. By occupying huge, abandoned urban areas, MTST links with thousands of workers to raise awareness around social rights, the need for a profound transformation in the way cities are organised, and far-reaching, people-centred urban reform.

MTST believes that cities today are used as a way to make a profit, and are run like private companies by those who govern them. By expelling the poorest people from the city centre, land speculators and contractors see the value of their luxury apartments and office blocks rise. While keeping public health services precarious, private health companies increase their profits, and by keeping public education under-resourced, private education providers win out. MTST’s occupation of abandoned spaces enables the movement to denounce and draw attention to the real situation of these homeless workers who have to choose every month between paying rent and feeding their families, using public transport or buying clothes.

Photo credit: Brigada de Comunicação do MTST

Through its occupations and communities, MTST works to identify self-managing solutions that improve conditions in the community. MTST has established restaurants in communities to put an end to hunger, and has set up some experiences of urban vegetable gardens in partnership with local organizations from the neighbourhood, other social movements and university students.

Through the occupations, MTST puts direct pressure on large landowners and the government, lobbying for solutions to housing problems and organising marches and occupations of public buildings to drive their demands home. As a result, thousands of houses and apartments have been built with dedicated state and municipal funds, with 50% of the workers in building projects being the housing beneficiaries themselves – thus achieving not just a home but also employment.

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