Early in September members of the Los Angeles chapter of UNDM reached out to a tenant struggling against her eviction in the Los Feliz neighborhood of the city on Russell Avenue. The neighborhood is a mix of poor and well-off residents but with the constant redevelopment of Los Feliz and the larger city it’s the former that are mostly facing eviction and displacement.
Activists with UNDM helped the tenant bring in her personal property, which management had ordered to be thrown out. The building’s snitch called the Los Angeles Police Department on the tenant and activists. The cops warned the tenant that if she continued to retake her apartment, they would arrest her for trespassing. A tenant denounced the cops aggression toward the tenant and complicity with management’s eviction. After LAPD left, activists with the aid of tenants were able to get back into the tenants’ apartment, change the locks and make some light repairs to the damaged door frame and door.
Management, West Properties LA, tricked the tenant into a verbal agreement allegedly waiving the eviction for non-payment against her. Shortly after, she was served an eviction notice.
The management is popularly distrusted, even hated by some of the tenants on Russell Avenue, for their blatant negligence, shoddy repairs and harassment from the manager who hounds people for their rent even if only a few days after the first of the month. Tenants have been dealing with leaky pipes, water damage, black mold, and so on, for years. Even with some tenants under Section 8 government-subsidized housing, management has been negligent. So much so, that the building is on the verge of losing the government funding. It is so bad that even the City of Los Angeles stepped in to temporarily halt the owners from collecting rent through a program called the Rent Escrow Account Program, which is riddled with bureaucracy. But the city government stepping in has not solved their problems, and rent is still due. New landlord, same problems!
With the redevelopment of the remaining working-class pockets of Hollywood/East Hollywood and Los Feliz neighborhoods, landlords know – especially big property owners – they have the upper hand, they own the housing people need, even if the original residents can’t afford it, others will.
Tenants have been organizing against West Properties LA for years now, even organizing a class action lawsuit, way before UNDM stepped in. The LA chapter initially made some modest progress. Word got around the building that the tenants had reached out to a housing struggle organization and management stopped breaking into the tenants’ apartment, although she still ended up moving out. We canvassed several of the buildings managed by the same company and slowly created relationships with some tenants. But we fell short of turning into action.
The LA chapter has held meetings with the tenants in efforts to move the struggle forward but we have taken many missteps along the way. We failed to strike while the iron was hot. We failed to mobilize the tenants into confronting West Properties LA offices. We overly-emphasized meetings “to get to know the tenants” but we didn’t take militant action as the order of the day. In general, we have struggled and stumbled to be good leaders. These errors are rooted in liberalism (avoiding tasks due to messy mismanagement of time and not prioritizing struggle) and bureaucratism (meetings for the sake of meetings that end up boring both organizers and the tenants!).
The people deserve better and we aim to become better through more criticism and self-criticism, and reflecting hard on our work since the very beginning of the organization. We also aim to help in steering our involvement in the housing struggle closer to local workers struggles, especially as the deepening economic crisis worsens and the wave of workers strikes grow. In LA, we must pay special attention to the workers struggles at the ports, warehouses, healthcare, education, energy and big manufacturing. Because the housing movement must firmly realize and take its place of support for the workers struggle on the job site against the capitalists, for more control and better wages. The workers struggle demands that we become better and more militant fighters in the housing struggle!
Defend working-class neighborhoods in the fight to support the workers struggle!
Our work must be done within the class struggle, not at its margins!