We started on a porch… some socialist renters were sick of the way landlords treated the tenants of this city. We decided to start an organization and pick some fights.
“A group of us were aware of housing issues like tenant mistreatment and gentrification, and were inspired by other socialist organizations that help tenants, like those in Seattle or Philadelphia. From initial meetings where we discussed housing issues and read the state tenant-landlord statute, we came up with potential items to organize around. We began to focus particularly around the issue of “slumlords,” or low-rent, low-maintenance landlords who skirt legality and mistreat tenants…”
The first fight was with notorious slumlord Dave Paladino. He and his company were denying a tenant hot water. OTU talked with this tenant and together we took a direct path. Instead of calling a city inspector or just hoping for things to change, we wrote a letter and went to Paladino’s office together, demanding a solution. And guess what? We won!
It’s not always that easy, but it shows the truth at the heart of our organization:
— Tenants have power in numbers, we just have to use it. —
We want to work with tenants to support them in doing what they are already capable of doing. Through this process, we hope that the tenants will learn more about their own power — the power of an organized working-class community.
We built our approach on this experience. We try to establish contacts among the working-class people in our neighborhoods, and learn from them about the situation of tenants in the city, particularly tenants of slumlords. Through this process we identify situations we can help resolve through forming demands of landlords, and stepping in to back the tenant up in a confrontation or meeting. It’s important to our mission that we serve to empower the tenant themselves.
Since that first fight we’ve met dozens more tenants and fought alongside them for issues large and small. We don’t always win, but when we take on a case we do everything we can to build tenant power. And that means fighting! We look forward to the future of tenant power in Omaha, in the US, and around the world.