The following is a transcript of the video above from our webinar “Remaking the Economy: Tenant Organizing in Unexpected Places.” View the full webinar here.

Josh Poe: I think there are two parts of this question: One, how do we organize? Then, how does our organizing build power? We really try to organize around self-interest as opposed to ideology. In this country, when you organize around ideology, you end up with a room full of people who have the same ideology as you, and we don’t necessarily have enough of those people to win.

When we go into trailer parks, a lot of people in trailer parks [are seeing] their rents increase. Their trailer park’s now owned by a corporate landlord. They see Brown people moving into their neighborhood and they tend to blame them because we don’t have the best public education system in this country. People don’t really have a way of explaining what’s happening to them politically, but they are outraged. We try to connect directly to that outrage, bring them into a base of people who don’t necessarily look like them, and uncover their self-interest and get them to understand that they actually share the same self-interest [with] these people that they’ve been told that they’re actually segregated from. Understanding that self-interest is really key in the South.…We’ve been trained to be selfless. We’ve been trained to give up our power over and over again, and it’s important to understand that we’re not really doing that in and of ourselves. That’s a tactic of the ruling class. Getting people to understand what their self-interest is and then getting them to act in that self-interest and declare that publicly is a real key part.

The way we build power on top of that is getting [tenants] to behave as a collective. There are two things we have that [are] real: our rent and our labor. The real potential of the tenant movement is that if we can build a large enough base across this country, there’s a day when we can make the call for a national rent strike and bring this entire system crashing down—then dictate the demands that we actually want. If you’re interested in environmental justice, if you’re interested in carceral justice, tenant organizing, to me, is really the thing that’s going to win and build the power in this country to shift the power dynamic that we currently have.