Statement from Saoirse G. IN FAVOR of Stomp Out Slumlords
Vote YES for DSA to prioritize building working-class power through tenant organizing - Saoirse G.
In order to win power for the working class, we must first build a genuine, organized base of working-class people engaged in class struggle. One of the crucial struggles in the modern day is the struggle of working-class tenants against landlords, real estate capital and the housing market.
Stomp Out Slumlords is one of Metro DC DSA’s crowning achievements. Our chapter’s tenant organizing project developed out of an anti-eviction canvassing effort into a permanent, militant, and mass-oriented tenant organization supporting hundreds of tenants on rent strike and maintaining tenant associations in dozens of buildings around the District. SOS has organized mass, militant protests against local and federal targets and mobilized hundreds of tenants from outside the usual protest subcultures of the DC area to actions.
While credit is almost always denied to militant, socialist sections of social movements, it would not be an exaggeration to note that DC is one of the few jurisdictions to have maintained a universal eviction and rent increase ban for the entirety of the pandemic so far, and has introduced a number of relief programs soon after mass actions taken by DSA tenant organizers and the buildings they organize. Stomp Out Slumlords is fighting to cancel rent, which would provide relief from crushing debts that have accumulated during the pandemic as households prioritize food over paying their landlords.
Our chapter’s tenant organizing work has built ties to, and learned lessons from, crucial partners in organized labor. The partnership with Unite Here Local 23 has been incredibly fruitful, not just for our own chapter but in providing a model for cooperation and solidarity between the labor and tenant movements and transferring skills in relationship building and interpersonal organizing that have been learned through labor struggles to DSA organizers.
Throughout all the project’s efforts, Stomp Out Slumlords organizers have constantly engaged in detailed reportbacks and self-criticism which, as a steering committee member of the national Housing Justice Commission, I see the benefits of on a regular basis in hearing of chapters that have avoided pitfalls and developed programs based on the lessons conveyed through these reports. These reports are a gold standard that all our chapter’s organizing projects should seek to emulate.
The project is seeking to become a priority campaign in part to obtain chapter resources to secure professional simultaneous interpretation for its biweekly regional tenant leader calls, which is a clear rationale for seeking priority status that has a clear potential benefit in terms of building power among the multiracial working class of the chapter’s jurisdiction. Language justice - developing high-quality Spanish and, hopefully eventually also Amharic accessibility at our meetings with tenant leaders - is crucial to ensuring that linguistic communities which are acutely affected by the brutality of the housing market are able to fully participate in our struggles, and is also a visible material commitment to ensuring that our tenant organizing is for the whole working class, not just a subsection.
DSA has a unique role to play in connecting various class struggles together through a socialist and materialist analysis and a strategic focus on building working-class power wherever it is most strategic to do so. The potential contribution of militant tenant leaders to our common struggle cannot be overstated. I hope that we will build pathways to expand the number of chapter-wide leaders who were engaged directly by the chapter through their own material struggles rather than self-selection; and that we will move more of our members who initially self-selected into DSA moving themselves and their neighbors into struggle through the tenant organizing resources provided by Stomp Out Slumlords.
Our tenant organizing is one of our most valuable current and potential contributions to working class struggle. I urge all members of Metro DC DSA to vote in favor of this priority.