The "how" of collective social action
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Principles of Tenant Advocacy and Organizing

Tenant advocacy is based on 3 concepts: 
  • a tenant is different than resident because tenants have rights;
  • tenants and owners have structural (not personal) conflicts of interests, and;
  • collective action by tenants can balance socio-economic advantages of landlords
Tenants have rights
A resident is a person who occupies a space...could be squatter, guest or passer by.  A tenant occupies a residential premises subject to a rental agreement that is covered by the Ohio Landlord Tenant Law.  

Landlord is not just "owner"...Ohio Revised Code says: "Landlord" means the owner, lessor, or sublessor of residential premises, the agent of the owner, lessor, or sublessor, or any person authorized by the owner, lessor, or sublessor to manage the premises or to receive rent from a tenant under a rental agreement.

Tenants and Landlords have structural (not personal) conflicts of interest.
For a landlord a rental property is a business.  For a tenant a rental property is home. The law is an attempt to create a framework that balances these potentially conflicting interests.  It is important to remember that these differences are not personal.  Your landlord may be a nice guy or gal; your manager may be a good mom or dad.  They may be churchgoers, and civic boosters.  But structural differences mostly trump personal characteristics when it is time for big decisions.
The fact that these are structural differences means that you don't need to "hate" your landlord...only to understand him or her.

Collective action by tenants can balance the socio economic advantages of landlords.  
Because of the tradition of private property rights in our society, landlords have certain legal advantages.  There is also an economic imbalance between landlords and tenants.  These structureal advantages of landlords can be offset when tenants act collectively (as a group).  As Fannie M. Lewis said: "There is only politics and money.  They have the money so we need the power in numbers."

Using your citizenship to bring about change is the essence of advocacy. As citizens each of us has a voice, but learning to use that voice to make a change takes time and practice...and some knowledge. For starters you need to be familiar with some basic organizing principles (LINK) 

What's the difference between advocacy and lobbying?
In the first State of the Union address in 1790, George Washington wrote "The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed, and I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you in the pleasing though arduous task of insuring to our fellow citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, and equal government."

Understand the system

Find and nurture leaders
Characteristics of social change leaders
Coping with anger or disgust.
Voter disgust is a right wing strategy (don't succumb yourself, offer leadership instead) After WWI Germans were nostalgic for their past glory and unwilling to embrace the changes brought about by the failures of militarism and imperialism. Politician urged Germans to blame others (the Allies) for all their problems, and Progressive leaders squabbled among themselves instead of coalescing around a progressive agenda of issues that would objectively make things better. LINK to voter disgust

Use local opinion leaders to shape the change message
Saul Alinsky argued that all communities were organized, most not organized for change.  Here's some more evidence of the need to work with familiar local leaders and institutions to increase a community's capacity for change.

Actors, not spectators

Engagement starts every morning and doesn't end until late at night.

Tenants Right to Organize
  • Ohio Landlord Tenant Law forbids retaliation against tenants for joining together to collectively bargain the terms and conditions of the rental agreement.
  • HUD regulations provide wide ranging protections for tenants living in HUD subsidized properties. HUD regs attached at the bottom of this page.
  • Oher Federal programs have "some" protections for tenant organizing.

Some basic definitions
  • mobilize-inspiring people to become active (campaigns, networks, organizations)
  • organize-forming an organization (tenants organization, organizing committee, coalition/federation)
  • Network - a loose association of organizations and individuals around a common interests or themes.
  • Coalition - a formal organization or organizations and individuals around a common goal. Also known as an Alliance, Association or Collaboration.
  • Movement - has no structure or membership but a common theme that gives people a sense of affiliation. The US Civil Rights movement (~1950-1980) is an example of a movement.
  • Leader-takes responsibility for a collective action
  • Member-participates in a collective action
  • Organizer-manages the process in a collective action
  • Activist-Inspires, informs and initiates change that benefits other.

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Spencer Wells,
Mar 4, 2016, 5:54 AM