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.
BASTA [Building and Strengthening Tenant Action] has funding restrictions that don’t allow us to really engage in policy work, but I can tell you in general what’s happened here in Austin, TX, being the wacky place that it is. Because of all the work that’s going on citywide, tenant associations and our city council decided to make a local ordinance that protected the right to organize, and it passed through our city council. And now in the legislature, they’ve become so much more hostile. You all may have heard on the news—there was an HB 2127 rule, nicknamed the “Death Star Bill,” which preemptively took away [power from] localities [so they] couldn’t make laws like [the one we worked on]. It was on the news a lot because one of the things that it impacted was rest breaks for construction workers. You all have seen the heat wave, you know how hot it is out here. [They can’t have] something so simple as being able to take a 15-minute break.…
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Working in the South…it’s like a forever war, right? We won this small thing locally just to get it repealed, and the consequences are so harsh for that small win. That’s really difficult, not only on a larger level but for the specific campaigns that are going on at each [housing] complex. The tenants might win one of their campaigns, and things are going fine for a little while. And then a few months later, management changes, and you have to start all over again. That’s a really hard thing because tenants just want this to be over. They want to be able to move on with their lives. And part of our jobs as organizers is to make a tenant association something that doesn’t just spring up when there is an emergency but something that’s always there and ready to jump into action. That’s a hard thing to sell. It’s hard for organizers, too. It’s exhausting to think that you’re fighting that forever war.