The following is a transcript of the video above, from our webinar on “Remaking the Economy: Tenant Organizing in Unexpected Places.” View the full webinar here.
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As an attorney, I am often talking to organizers about the limitations of the law. I think that’s a really important conversation to always be having. I know that the law can exert a lot of power over folks’ lives, and it is also so not powerful for supporting the causes of tenants. I often describe the law as a tool for moving resources and moving resources only. It’s not a tool for justice. It’s rarely a tool for justice for the folks that are most marginalized, folks who are undocumented, Black folks, anybody who is not a wealthy, White, male landowner from 1756. Those are the folks that most laws were written for, and we try to pass better laws. We try to pass better policies that can cabin [fit within] the foundational laws of this nation. But these tools are very imperfect for that purpose.
The thing that will actually shift the balance of power—shift the balance of resources, move resources, [and] redistribute resources into the communities that have been historically marginalized and excluded—it’s going to happen through organizing. So, what I try to offer when I’m bringing the legal tools, where it is my job to be good at executing the legal tools, I always want to make it in support of a legal strategy, in support of a group of people coming together and knocking on each other’s doors and talking to each other. [I try to] bring that tool in in the least disruptive way possible so that people can keep building power, because the law’s never going to do that.