Filed under: Action, Housing, Midwest
A group of tenants and community supporters in the Twin Cities Solidarity Network are claiming victory in a fight with their landlord in Saint Paul, Minnesota.
The Twin Cities Solidarity Network (TC SolNet) is a mutual defense organization for workers and tenants, which uses direct action to confront bosses and tenants, in the model shared by other solidarity networks.
The tenants, residents of a house in the Saint Anthony Park neighborhood, recently saw their landlord sell their home to Rental Management Guys (RMG), a company that has been buying up houses and taking over management from landlords across the Twin Cities. After RMG bought up their house, the tenants say that utility bills started piling up that their old landlord had paid for under their leases. They also reported a number of un-repaired fire code violations, and a breakdown of their heating system. With the cold November that Minnesota had, these conditions soon made the house almost unlivable.
The tenants contacted TC SolNet when a friend recommended them. Tenants and the Solidarity Network met, and came up with a plan to confront RMG. On December 3rd, around one dozen community members descended on the RMG offices in Northeast Minneapolis to deliver a set of demands. The tenants demanded repairs to the heating systems, a written plan to repair fire code violations, and the payment of utility bills that the rental management company was liable for. The tenants and the Solidarity Network laid out the consequences of not meeting these demands, including the rent being held in escrow, and a series of direct actions by the Solidarity Network to name and shame RMG.
A tenant and a Solidarity Network supporter read demands to Rental Management Guys in their NE Minneapolis office.
The Solidarity Network also canvassed a number of RMG properties, making connections between tenants and talking with them about other grievances. Members say that beyond the repairs made at the house, they hope this victory will help build tenant power and militant, working class organizations in the Twin Cities.
“Most of the tenants we talked to had grievances with RMG,” said ‘Eddy,’ a SolNet member. “But, a lot of them were afraid of retaliation if they spoke up. We hope we can set an example and build trust between tenants and the Solidarity Network, so more people will feel supported coming forward.”
In the days after the march on RMG, the company immediately began listening to tenant complaints they had previously ignored. The tenants in St Anthony Park were visited by repair crews shortly after the march to get their heating working. A little over one week after the march on RMG, the tenants reported to the Solidarity Network that the bills had been paid and a written plan submitted to make full repairs on their homes.
“The building shortfalls have been addressed, our heat and internet are working, and the code violations have been committed to be addressed in writing,” said ‘JV,’ one of the tenants. “ I think we can consider the initiative surrounding the property a success.”
The Twin Cities Solidarity Network is taking calls from workers or tenants who need help fighting back against their boss or landlord or organizing, as well as from organized workers looking for backup in actions, strikes, and grievances. Workers interested in helping or joining the Solidarity Network are welcome to reach out. TC SolNet can be contacted at [email protected]
– TC SolNet