Tenants, Unionize

There really isn’t a “housing crisis” in the sense that houses themselves are not in crisis. People without housing are in crisis, and tenants in constant fear of retaliation, harassment, rent hikes, and eviction are in crisis. It’s about people, but more importantly it’s about power. This isn’t straightforwardly acknowledged by most well-meaning liberals around here, unless it’s in some reactive hashtag internet post or lawn sign — but such “actions” are often transient parts of someone’s mood for as long as it makes them look good.

Here’s reality. Those who seized the land of this continent by genocidal force developed a system of power based on ownership of property. They designed judicial and political structures to give them permanent power as a class, in subjugation over those of us in dispossession of land and property. This divide of who has and who has not was strategically racialized, and while this tactic is finally being addressed at an appropriate fever pitch by many of the “newly awakened,” a strictly racialized lens can lose sight of common situations such as this.

A Latino immigrant threatens to have her Latino immigrant tenant killed by a hitman for advocating for “tenants’ rights,” and the police and city officials do nothing about it when told. This is a common example where the one in possession of property has all the power, and the surrounding institutions know it and back down once they realize it.

We as tenants can’t take on blind faith that our existing institutions have our interests in mind — they were not built with us in mind.

Do you think we need more tenants building and exercising collective power to fight back in the unjust war against us? Do you think that you as a tenant deserve a fighting organization? Then join the Santa Barbara Tenants Union at sbtu.org.


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