reposted from Newsletter #11 10/19/23 (bed-isms are bi-weekly explorations into some words, phrases, concepts, and dreams that our Union has cultivated for a few years.)
The worker-tenant is both the Tenant Union’s unit of analysis and its historical protagonist. A worker-tenant is a worker who is a tenant and a tenant who is a worker. Most workers are tenants and most tenants are workers. A worker, here, is not only one who labors for a wage but also the unemployed, the underemployed, the wageless worker, the uncompensated, the super-exploited; importantly a worker is not a boss. A tenant, in our understanding, is not only one who rents but anyone who does not control their or anyone else’s housing. This includes the renter but also the houseless (and the in-between and back-and-forth), the precarious mortgage-payers, those in shelters, the subletter, the public housing tenant, the private market tenant, the co-op tenant.
Worker-tenant connects the site of home to the site of labor. We understand the home as a site of labor, a site of the reproduction of labor, and a site of the production of value: the home being where those forced to sell their labor for a wage go to rest, eat, and raise families, but also where we bring in our community, where we share experience, where we catalog cultural memory, where we store value in every fixed fixture or tinkered trinket. Worker-tenant understands control (over our homes, our movement, our labors) and actual democracy over the sites that we produce value as our project.
Worker-tenancy is a class and an identity, a badge to be worn and the motion of a movement. The BED Tenant Union is home to worker-tenants, is led by worker-tenants, and becomes itself through the self-organization of worker-tenants.