Americans Are Forming Tenant Unions In Backlash Against Corporate Landlords
The resurgent American labor movement is coming for America’s landlords.
Perhaps taking a cue from the warehouse workers, digital-media employees and Starbucks baristas who have waged high-profile unionization drives over the past year or so, it appears tenants across the nation are forming “tenant unions” to gain leverage over their landlords, with many rebelling against corporate landlords in particular, according to a report from WSJ.
That’s a problem for Blackstone and the other private equity giants that found an opportunity in the pandemic-inspired housing market frenzy. While tenant unions have existed in some form for over a century, WSJ says that – particularly in high-cost cities like NYC and San Francisco – the organizations are seeing a resurgence.
Hundreds of new tenant unions have been formed during the pandemic, estimated Katie Goldstein, director of housing campaigns for the Center for Popular Democracy. The progressive organization with 50 affiliate groups across the country is one of a handful of activist networks advising tenant unions.
WSJ’s reporter even confirmed that the increase was indeed happening with landlord trade organizations, which responded that many of the new organizations only have a few members.
But before mom-and-pop landlords start to panic, these tenant ‘associations’ actually have little legal power or standing. Unfortunately (for landlords), some progressive lawmakers are talking about maybe trying to change that.
Some lawmakers in San Francisco, responding in part to tenant complaints, said they plan to consider this year a proposal to force city landlords to meet with tenant unions. The proposal would impose temporary rent reductions on landlords that fail to do so.
Then again, some people who spoke with WSJ shared stories about how tenants unions did help them avoid an eviction when a new corporate landlord took over.
Alicia Roberts spent years living at the Paradise Apartments in St. Petersburg, Fla. When Paradise sold to a new landlord in April, she expected a new stove. Instead, she missed a rent payment and got an eviction notice.
Not long after she was told to leave, she joined the St. Petersburg Tenants Union…
If it wasn’t for the union, Ms. Roberts said, “I’d probably be gone.”
If nothing else, the trend is a symptom of a hard fact of life. Because the reality is, even before the latest inflationary wave, many American workers have been struggling with the consequences of stagnant wages and rising rents, health-care costs and tuition inflation, much of which amazingly escaped the notice of the CPI numbers for years.
Sat, 01/22/2022 – 19:00