Coronavirus Catalyzes Tenant Organizing Across California


KQED - It started with a message Jason Krueger taped to the laundry room wall: “Tenant mutual aid and support!”

It was late March, and Krueger, who uses they/them pronouns, was looking for ways neighbors in their eight-unit Alameda apartment building could help each other during the pandemic. California’s shelter-in-place order had been in effect for a little over a week, but Krueger was already thinking of the recession that was sure to follow.

Millions would soon be out of work, so Krueger thought the next step would be to organize a rent strike — withholding rent as a form of protest.

“Here, of all the places, it seemed like rent strikes would be a life-preserving measure,” Krueger said. “I just don’t see how else you would get property owners to respond without that large level of collective action and solidarity.”

So, to start, Krueger decided to try to form a tenants' council, an organization representing residents in a single building, or who share the same landlord, to bargain collectively.

Krueger's not alone. Tenants' rights organizers say they are seeing more tenants, like Krueger, turn to collective action. And on Friday, hundreds of protests are planned across the country to decry high rents, mounting debt due to the pandemic and growing income inequality.

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