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The following proposal was submitted with signatures from 36 Members in Good Standing in order to be considered at the DSA-LA Convention, taking place on July 16th, 2022. A full list of proposals can be found here.

We Are Tenants, Let’s Organize Like It!

Priority Resolution for consideration at DSA-LA Local Convention 2022

Co-authors: Kristina M, Leah C, Harrison L

Lead Contact: Kristina M. To submit comments and amendments, please email: kmeshelski@gmail.com

Component 1:

Be it resolved that DSA-LA will work to expand members’ participation in tenant union organizing through Emergency Tenant Organizing Committee (ETOC) (a newly formed project of the DSA Housing Justice Commission with a mandate to build an outward-facing tenant unionization effort through the training & mentorship of DSA members and their comrades, nationwide) and Street Watch.

Be it resolved that part of this work will include integrating our Street Watch work into DSA’s tenant organizing work. We recognize anyone who doesn’t control their own housing as a tenant, and we believe that both housed and unhoused tenants deserve inclusion in the struggle against private property.

The chapter will:

  1. utilize the already existing ETOC program to train DSA-LA members on how to form, create, maintain, and reproduce politicized tenant union formations such as those found in LA Tenants Union (LATU), as well as the mentorship aspect of ETOC in ongoing support of these organizing efforts. We will form and maintain internal spaces for these members to strategize and connect their efforts to chapter recruitment.
  2. use our existing branch infrastructure to identify members’ landlords, find strategic buildings to organize, and develop a minimum of 10 members to become skilled and politicized tenant union organizers.
  3. support ETOC trained DSA-LA members in starting up a minimum of three (3) Tenant Associations in their own buildings. Where possible, these TAs will be affiliated with their local autonomous tenant’s union, e.g. LATU, or Pasadena Tenants Union (PTU).
  4. develop and expand the existing Street Watch new member orientations into a series of trainings for DSA-LA members. These trainings will develop our member capacity to monitor sweeps, defend against evictions, support the organizing of unhoused tenants, and understand the difference between charity and mutual aid.
  5. where possible, mobilize our membership to support future reclaiming and eviction defense efforts. This includes continuing our relationship with the Reclaiming our Homes organizing committee, as well as contributing to new efforts.

The chapter will work to strengthen our existing relationship with LATU by encouraging DSA-LA members to become active and contributing members of their LATU locals. We affirm here that we fully support the existence of autonomous tenant unions and do not seek to duplicate their important work. Instead we seek to be true partners, and we aspire to contribute to developing the tenant movement in Los Angeles. The chapter’s internal tenant groups will connect the tenant movement to our socialist goals, they do not replace tenant unions, in the same way our internal labor formations do not replace workers unions.

TIMELINE

August-October

Form WAT (We Are Tenants) Working Group
Begin to identify and initiate ETOC training of DSA-LA tenant union organizers
Begin planning Street Watch training modules

November-January

Continue to identify and initiate ETOC training of DSA-LA tenant union organizers
Begin SW trainer recruitment program
Soft launch SW training modules
Begin to identify members’ landlords and strategic buildings to organize

February-March

Launch three (3) Tenant Associations: Fight! Fight! Fight!
Workshop SW training modules: start regular rotation!

Component 2:

DSA-LA aspires to be an organization of the working class fighting to shift power from capital to the people. Our previous forays into tenant struggles have yielded some of the most high profile and material wins of the chapter since our growth in 2016. Our action for the Boyle Heights mariachis resulted in their landlord agreeing to a limit on rent increases, our statement on state level upzoning went viral and introduced PHIMBYism to the local lexicon, our Street Watch project has resulted in a lawsuit the forced the city to change their policy during encampment sweeps, and our support of direct actions to take back public parks (Echo Park) and housing (Reclaiming our Homes in El Sereno) for the people have been nationally recognized as important movement victories. However, this successful organizing cannot continue without support from the rest of the chapter beyond the Housing & Homelessness committee.

Throughout 2021, members of Street Watch lost significant trust in the rest of the DSA-LA when the previous treasurer refused to fulfill reimbursement requests and the previous steering committee did nothing to stop this. The issue with reimbursements has been resolved under current leadership, but the loss of trust remains. Making things right requires positive action on behalf of the chapter to support Street Watch’s work. With this resolution DSA-LA affirms our commitment to Street Watch and invites substantial collaboration. Besides the need to repair this harm, this resolution would align with our chapter’s commitment to strategic partnerships with organizations that share our goals. Many of DSA-LA’s most important coalition partners in the past have come from our work in tenant organizing. We have partnered with LATU, LA CAN, Crenshaw Subway Coalition, ACCE, and the Eastside Cafe to name a few. Because of our past organizing, we have been invited into more actions and deeper partnerships with these groups in the last six months, but our relationships will falter if we are not able to commit more chapter resources to these projects.

It cannot be denied that even our victories face strong resistance from organized reactionaries, and while they were great successes many are now being undermined. We must create and nurture militant, politicized formations that continue to organize with ambitious and emancipatory ends in mind, that push for more and more concrete material wins and outcomes at every opportunity.

Component 3:

This resolution is directly oriented towards expanding our membership and building our base, as it will involve recruiting tenants, including the most marginalized tenants, into our organization. It will also focus on training our existing membership to better organize with and alongside poor and working class tenants in Los Angeles. Given that ETOC is a national level program, we will have access to a nationwide resource of knowledge that will serve to make sure that our chapter’s tenant organizing is not overly burdened by developing trainings from scratch. We will avoid duplicating existing work and be empowered to strategically connect our chapter to tenant organizing in other chapters. This will allow us to focus on local organizing, as well as building and restoring local relationships. This resolution will involve working closely with aligned organizations that also organize tenants in Los Angeles, and thus it will strengthen and deepen the connections we have begun with organizations that primarily have a base in areas in which we have fewer members, such as South LA and East LA.

Component 4:

Climate Justice Committee
Tenant organizing is a necessary component of an ecosocialist future. Furthermore, our climate goals will be impossible to achieve without halting and reversing the displacement of poor and working class tenants from the city centers, which makes them even more dependent on cars.

Electoral Committee
The electoral committee seeks to use the existing power of the state as channeled through elected office. The chapter’s tenant organizing has already been integrated in some ways with our electoral work, but in broad strokes organized tenants can be part of a strong electoral base, even when tenant organizing does not directly ask them to vote for something. In particular, we have endorsed the Pasadena rent control ballot measure campaign that the Pasadena Tenants Union is participating in, so tenant organizing in Pasadena can work hand in hand with this project.

Healthcare Justice
Organized tenants fighting for housing as a human right will also be inclined to see the necessity of healthcare as a human right. Lack of housing or substandard housing is also a significant determiner of poor health, and tenants often use the unhealthy conditions of their buildings as the basis for successful organizing campaigns against slumlords.

Housing & Homelessness
Achieving housing as a human right requires that tenants be organized.

Immigration Justice
Immigration Justice committee supports the self-organization of immigrant communities, and organizing at the level of a building in Los Angeles almost always brings together tenants that are also immigrants. The skills used in supporting the self-organization of immigrant communities are often the same as the skills used in supporting the self-organization of tenants.

Labor Committee
Some aspects of tenant organizing are similar to labor organizing and developing trainings in our chapter for tenant organizing can be usefully repurposed for training members to organize their workplace. Most tenants are also workers ; a well-trained tenant organizer will also make a more effective organizer in the sphere of labor. (And vice versa!)

Mutual Aid Committee
The existing work of the mutual aid committee is already very similar to the mutual aid work being done within Street Watch. But in particular, all tenant organizing requires that people come together as equals, and do not rely only on non-profits or foundations to fight their landlords for them.

Political Education
Tenant organizing offers ongoing opportunities to expand our collective understanding of socialist concepts, histories, and strategies – which is a stated goal of the Political Education committee. Politicization is essential to a truly long term tenant union organizing strategy.

Prison Abolition Committee
Organizing unhoused tenants is deeply linked to the goal of abolishing the police, as unhoused tenants do not have a landlord beyond the city itself, and this puts them directly into contact with police on a daily basis. Housed tenants as well often need to challenge the police directly, and this experience can often be radicalizing. Tenant organizing itself can help neighbors experience directly the way that working out their conflicts among themselves is something they must do – rather than call the police or rely on the penal system. Adequate housing is itself an important human need that must be prioritized above carceral systems.

NOlympics Working Group
The goals of NOlympics are deeply intertwined with tenant organizing and we hope to continue this tradition, which includes bringing tenants into the international struggle against the privatization of public space for mega sports events.