3 – Tenants Fight Back


Formed in 2016, Tenant and Neighborhood Councils (TANC) is a member-run, member-funded tenant union in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our area-based Locals organize tenants of particular landlords into councils or associations, and as a union we pressure landlords directly to meet our demands. We are an anticapitalist organization aligned with abolitionist and internationalist struggles, and a founding member of the country-wide Autonomous Tenant Union Network (ATUN). Since the pandemic, membership has grown to more than 600, and our councils have organized rent strikes and other direct-actions against slumlords to win rent reductions and repairs. Recently, local politicians lifted pandemic-era eviction restrictions, prompting a union action in Berkeley. 

On Tuesday, September 12, TANC mobilized more than 100 tenants to disrupt an obscene celebration, where Berkeley landlords organized through the Berkeley Property Owners Association (BPOA) gathered to celebrate the end of the local eviction moratorium and thus the renewal of their rights to evict people from their homes in order to profit.

With less than a day’s notice, TANC members rallied with banners and signs outside Freehouse pub, where the BPOA hoped to celebrate. We carried into the party a cake decorated with the words, “Hey landlords! Get a real job!” and chanted, among other things, “Eat the cake.”

As widely reported in local and international news, BPOA members were quick to anger, attacking tenants unprovoked. We stand with our members who were assaulted by landlords, just as we stand with any tenant facing eviction. 

We are not surprised by BPOA’s behavior. The landlords’ cocktail party was a celebration of the violent process of eviction. Systematic violence and interpersonal violence go hand in hand. This is why TANC intervened.

As a Bay Area-wide tenant union building power through tenant organizing, we are preparing for a long-haul fight. 

The Bay Area’s double crises of extreme rent profiteering and homelessness stem from the landlords’ business model. Landlords are structurally invested in skyrocketing rents, extracting money from working-class people under threat of eviction. Real-estate capital’s unchecked profits have corroded the Bay Area’s culture and life. It must be stopped.

We reject the notion that landlords have a right to a return on their investment. Rents should be immediately rolled back regardless of how this impacts landlords’ balance sheets. Tenants deserve a high quality of life, dignity in our housing, and a life free from landlord exploitation and harassment.

By disrupting the Berkeley landlord group’s cruel party, we have proved that tenants aren’t passive. Tenants will fight back! We call on tenants across the Bay Area to join the tenant union. We will beat back the forces of gentrification together. The union makes us strong!

Evictions spike as politicians lift ‘moratorium’

Summer of 2023 saw COVID cases rising across the East Bay, yet the pandemic-era eviction restrictions began ending all across the region. 

These restrictions started during an increase in tenant militancy in 2020, which dramatically changed our organizing terrain, including increasing the viability of the rent strike. To stabilize tenant-landlord relations, politicians then implemented the massive landlord bailout known as “rent relief.” This was government money that helped landlords pay their mortgages while tenants were out of work, but offered nothing to tenants beyond the ability to (temporarily) stay in their homes.

While the restrictions lasted longer in the East Bay than most of the country, politicians are now bending to the will of landlords and actively facilitating the resumption of mass evictions. 

After county restrictions lapsed, evictions skyrocketed to more than 500 in May, followed by more than 700 in June — more than twice the monthly average pre-pandemic. Now, with restrictions ending in Oakland and Berkeley, the number is expected to continue climbing. 

What this means is landlords and landlord lawyers and landlord associations are preparing their legal notices and scary letters in the hopes of pressuring tenants to self-evict. A little rights knowledge goes a long way for tenants facing these threats. While it is important to respond promptly and formally to initial notices, everyone should know that eviction is a long legal process. 

Don’t move, fight! If you think you’re facing eviction, or you have issues with your landlord, find an affiliate of the Autonomous Tenant Union Network in your area (atun-rsia.org), and get in touch! 

We look towards the end of rent, a time when categories of ‘landlord’ and ‘tenant’ recede into historical memory. We move forward as an organized base of militant tenants. Our organizing develops the collective power we need in order to take control of our own homes and neighborhoods.