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Mar 30, 20

#RENTSTRIKE757: Tidewater, VA Joins the National Rent Strike

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Announcing #RentStrike initiatives in Tidewater, Virginia.

We are locked down in an unprecedented medical crisis. We teeter on the precipice of an economic crisis. Millions of workers who live paycheck to paycheck have already been furloughed, laid off, had hours drastically cut, or had their workplaces shut down shop permanently. Many of us who continue to have the option to work face a choice between refusing to work and putting ourselves in economic peril, or continuing to work and putting ourselves in medical peril.

Our lives, families, and communities are in danger. From one direction, we are implored to take every precaution necessary to keep ourselves and our families, friends, neighborhoods, and communities safe; from another, we are compelled to constantly put ourselves at risk of infection to pay our bills. We refuse to choose between medical security and economic security. We refuse to bleed out of our pockets for the right to shelter in our homes. We refuse to pay rent during a life-threatening pandemic.

More than 46,000 workers in Virginia have already lost their jobs due to the pandemic. Let’s be realistic — whether or not we organize a rent strike, we can’t pay rent. The choice is not whether the working class pays rent or does not pay on April 1st; the choice is whether we fail to pay rent as individual workers and struggle to defend ourselves alone, or we collectively refuse to pay rent and organize to defend ourselves together.

Cities from coast to coast and as close as Richmond are calling for mass rent and mortgage strikes on April 1st in light of the impossible economic challenges we face. Tidewater Workers Union is calling for the tenants of Tidewater to join this national movement and collectively refuse to pay rent in April.

What is a rent strike?

A rent strike is a collective refusal by tenants of a building, housing project, or dwelling to pay rent to their landlord. Throughout history, rent strikes have been a tactic utilized by renters to combat slumlords, racism and attacks on civil rights, high rents, and also secure and defend housing for poor and working people in times of crisis, pandemic, and economic depression.

What if I have enough money to pay rent this month?

Even if you’re not out of work, you have savings, or you can otherwise afford your rent, you can and should still participate in the rent strike. A rent strike only works in numbers, so we need to act together.

It shows landlords, property management companies and the government that we will not allow anyone in our community to struggle or be burdened by rent-related financial difficulties during this crisis.

Solidarity is the key to surviving this crisis.

What if I own my home?

If you own your own home, and have a mortgage, we encourage you to join us with a mortgage strike. This would be a strike against the banks – banks who should absolutely not own people’s home in the first place.

Shouldn’t we wait for the government to formally issue a rent suspension?

The government might eventually issue a rent suspension, they might not. By striking, we are autonomously deciding to ensure our own and our families’ safety. Rent day is rapidly approaching, and we can make this decision now, without putting ourselves in further financial jeopardy while the government stalls with half measures like temporary eviction moratoriums wherein your landlord can still file for eviction, and one-time $1,200 checks that will never arrive for independent contractors, gig workers, undocumented workers, and millions of other precaritized people who fall through the cracks

A rent strike will put pressure not only on landlords, banks and property management companies, but also on the government itself. It makes a stronger and more direct statement than any petition or letter can make.

What about my landlord? Won’t this hurt them?

Landlords have resources that will allow them to withstand this crisis better than any of us. We have to ensure our own survival, that our families and those we care about. We are in the midst of a life-threatening pandemic, and your most important duty is to yourself and your community.

The government and others have a number of options available for some businesses and mortgage moratoriums are being considered and fought for. If landlords would like relief during this pandemic, it’s up to them to fight for that, but that’s not your problem.

What do I do with the money for rent? Can I spend it? Should I save it?

The point is that rent is unaffordable and that this money is needed to ensure our safety and survival. Groceries, health services, medication, supplies, security and more are essential during this time. It’s up to you if you want to spend it or save it. What that money goes toward is your choice.

We can’t promise that you will never have to pay this rent. The aim is to organize and ensure everyone has access to what they need during this time. We need to support each other in doing this, and be prepared to support each other if landlords fight back.

With that in mind, the immediate health and safety of yourself, your family, and your community is the first priority right now.

My landlord is offering me a payment plan, rent deferral or similar program.

In many cases, large housing companies and corporations will do this in an attempt to undermine a rent strike and our collective unity. In the long term, these plans and programs will not benefit you as a tenant, and it weakens the collective strength of a rent strike

What are the legal repercussions?

Let’s be clear: the Virginia eviction moratorium means that if your landlord files a case for your eviction, it will not be heard until after April 26th (for now – this has already been extended from April 6th). If your landlord files for eviction, you can and should contest it in court. If you win, you stay. If you lose, the court has 30 days to serve a writ of possession. After the writ is served, a tenant has 72 days to evacuate.

It is clear that the legal and governmental measures currently in place do not suffice to protect us from the pressures of this crisis. We must act together, with a clear head and knowledge of the risks we are taking, to protect each other.

Ok, I’m convinced. How do I go on rent strike?

Awesome!

First, perhaps obviously, don’t pay your rent. Cancel your automatic payments, void any checks you’ve written, whatever you need to do to make sure that money does not leave your bank account.

Second, send a letter to your landlord explaining why you’re not paying. Check out these letter templates to get started.

Third, get others involved! Start organizing in your building, in your community, with your neighbors. We have some resources to help with this!

Finally, reach out to us for support! Get connected to a network of tenants striking across Tidewater and access to a solidarity fund to support workers getting hit the hardest by this crisis. We will stand with you in this fight and do whatever it takes to make sure we win.

I seriously can’t go on rent strike.

Not going on rent strike because of continued financial and medical security? Circle back to “solidarity” and take another moment to consider. If you’re still sure, contribute our solidarity fund to support those among us who have no choice but to strike. Help push this call on social media. Sign up to the union to help organize, spread, and support the strike.

Not going on rent strike because of extreme financial or medical precarity? Sign up to the union to request financial and logistical support. Check out Corona Aid 757 to request material aid for yourself and your family. We’re all we got. Everything for everyone!

Yours in solidarity and hope,

Tidewater Workers Union

Special thanks to PDX Rent Strike and It’s Going Down, whose work is quoted in many of the core points of this document. 

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