Welcome to the fourteenth issue of The Tenant! Each issue features updates from LATU locals about recent goings-on in their neighborhood. We hope this will foster solidarity and communication across LATU citywide. If you’d like your local represented in the next issue, please send a 100-word blurb describing what you’ve been up to for the past month as a local to firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Los Angeles Tenants Union media committee
Inspired by the actions taken by the South Central local, our local is working in collaboration with the North Hollywood local and Streetwatch SFV to create a Rapid Response to Eviction Defense Network to defend our housed and unhoused tenants in the valley from illegal sweeps, lock outs, and evictions. Through know-your-rights training, tenants have successfully fended off 3-day pay-or-quit notices, which in one case, resulted in the landlord apologizing to the tenant. Other members have become involved in supporting direct mutual aid efforts to deliver free groceries, supplies, and cash aid to tenants impacted by the crisis.
Last week, the Hollywood and East Hollywood chapters demonstrated an excellent response time when a member of the community experienced an emergency. A tenant had been locked out of her building without warning. The following day, the landlord claimed the tenant had vacated the unit and that her belongings were not in the unit when she’d been locked out of the previous evening. The community, including a 6-member LATU response team, was able to rally around the tenant and ultimately transported all of her belongings in three separate cars. The tenant is now staying safely with a friend.
We are excited to report that since just before the Food Not Rent campaign launched, we have increased our membership by just over 100 people, around 40%. We estimate around 60 of our members were not able to pay rent in April or May. Though it is challenging to organize buildings when we can’t physically go in person to have tenants’ rights workshops and generate excitement, we do what we can in our weekly ZOOM meetings and phone calls. Big organizing projects are coming up; one of our newest members wants to organize 32 buildings, owned by the same landlord.
Our local has adopted a set of expanded community agreements that reinforce and elaborate on our commitment to fighting white supremacy culture as it manifests within our organizing spaces. We have started to build out a rapid response team, to prepare for the coming avalanche of evictions over the next year. Our unhoused tenant working group and mutual aid committee have teamed up to prep and distribute over 100 meals to those experiencing housing insecurity over the course of two weeks. At the end of April, we had a two-part action to amplify our presence in the neighbourhood: an outreach party at a busy intersection, and a sunset cruise, our cars decorated with signs promoting LATU and the Food Not Rent campaign.
North Hollywood continues to build its member base and its organizing strategy. NoHo member Stephanie T has begun to organize their building which is in a neighborhood under threat of gentrification very close to the Gilmore Tenants Association’s homes. NoHo member Hanna M has also started to organize her building along with her roommates. NoHo organizers continue to prove that “organizers are essential” by way of outreach actions seeking to bring our message to the working folks: we are here, you are not alone, we will work together to protect and exercise our rights and send the gentry and landlords home! As one of our main organizers prepares to leave LA, new blood has come forth to fill that void with energy and excitement. The future is a struggle in NoHo, but each day it gets brighter!
The South Central Local has been continuing to support tenants on rent strike through the month of May. We have set up a rapid response team to respond to landlord violence and have already successfully stopped three illegal lock-out evictions. Two of these eviction blockades were highly publicized on social media and through the press. The Local also teamed up with the Lennox / Inglewood Tenants Union and Justice for Alex Flores for a successful May Day Motorcade all the way from SoFi stadium to 28th and Central. We made our presence known throughout South Central, emphasizing that the rent strike is growing, and protesting the murder of Alex Flores by the LAPD. Tenants across South Central responded with broad support and raised fists throughout the motorcade.
VyBe Local has grown to nearly 200 members. How do we mobilize so many people? Our local decided to organize an action on Thursday, May 14 that involved the distribution of food, supplies, and flyers to unhoused tenants in Echo Park Lake. For the next part of the action we went to CD13 Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell’s office on Sunset Blvd, to show how easy it is to provide real relief for our neighbors, while he votes against tenant protections again and again. We ended the action at Congressmember Jimmy Gomez’s home. We left a letter for him as he traveled to Washington DC to cast yes-or-no vote to cancel rents and mortgages. We say, Fuck the banks! Bail us out!
The Westwood Local is a new local and so we’re still in the process of growing and building capacity. Our primary focuses have been around helping students and tenants in the Westwood community address immediate concerns that have come up in the wake of COVID-19, supporting more people to go on rent strike, and spreading knowledge within the community. We recently started a project to survey those in housing owned by University of California to get a sense of their situation and better understand how we can organize around the unique context of UCLA’s role as a central landlord in our area.
LATU Outreach Committee held the second Escuelita (Saturday School) on May 9 with 65 attendees, half of whom joined the union in the last month. The LATU Outreach Committee launched a new affinity group with labor union members, labor lawyers, and worker center organizers. The affinity group is building support for the rent strike and rent cancellation within organized labor and autonomous workers organizations. Members of LATU have begun giving presentations to worker center members, connecting day laborers, garment workers, and domestic workers to their local chapter of LATU. Meanwhile, the Autonomous Tenants Union Network held a training on May 16 for 100 organizers from across the U.S. and Canada on eviction court support and eviction blockades. Any LATU member interested in participating in the ATUN inter-union exchange program contact us at email@example.com.
Your friendly local Language Justice Committee has been BUSYBUSYBUSY from our homes and virtual spaces! Now that most LATU locals meet weekly to support new and long-term members during this crisis, our union needs equitable communication more than ever, so everyone can access the same information, learn critical organizing skills, and build community with our neighbors even from a safe social distance. Solidarity and mutual support are flourishing among members of the Language Justice Committee and interpreters and translators across LATU. We are supporting each other by practicing together regularly and working very closely with facilitators to establish the most equitable communication practices possible given our current virtual constraints. Please write us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you speak English and (an)other language(s) and want to join our crew!
The latest in tenant legislation—
ANTI-TENANT HARASSMENT ORDINANCES / TEMPORARY AND PERMANENT: The LA City Council passed an emergency tenant protection measure that allows tenants to sue their landlord for violations of COVID-19 emergency tenant protection measures passed since March 27th. The new measure is temporary and designed to address only those violations that deal with COVID-19 related issues. If a violation occurs, the tenant has to notify the landlord in writing describing the specific violation, and the landlord has 15 days to rescind the violation or the tenant can pursue a lawsuit against the landlord.
A permanent Anti-Tenant Harassment Ordinance was brought to Councilmember Huizar by LATU and has been pending in City Council committees and HCID for the past 3 years. Tenant harassments are increasing and a greater lobbying is needed to make this Ordinance law. A number of tenant orgs are involved to push the City Council to agendize this Motion and finally pass it so that tenants have protections against harassment. Tenants need to call their City Council members and urge them to vote YES on this ATHO. Under both Ordinances, temporary and permanent, the landlord will be slapped with a fine plus attorneys fees.
People’s City Council
As an affinity network of members of LATU, Sunrise LA, Streetwatch LA, NOlympics, DefendNELA, CCED, and other grassroots orgs, we’ve continued to hold direct actions in support of rent cancelation and the #NoVacancyCA campaign. On May Day, we organized a raucous rally in front of Garcetti’s house, accompanied by rent-striking Mariachis. We also held a die-in at Garcetti’s with speeches by members of Los Angeles Community Action Network (LACAN), Streetwatch, and others to uplift the work our communities are doing to empower unhoused tenants while electeds are letting 3 unhoused Angelenos die every day. We also collaborated with Black Lives Matter and White People for Black Lives on the #PeoplesCityBudget, a campaign to block Garcetti’s 2020–21 city budget proposal, which allocates 54% (or $3.15 BILLION) of the total budget to the LAPD, the most murderous police force in the nation.