INSIGHT: Tenant Chemistry
With unorthodox advocacy and organizing tools, the Connecticut Tenants Union is paving the way for a national movement to shift the power balance of American housing. But can they build the community necessary to succeed?
From Yale Daily News TYLER JAGER 12:42 PM, OCT 31, 2022
In late August, 2021, in an eight-sided gazebo at the corner of New Haven’s Edgewood Park, 41-year-old Alex Speiser joined a new organizing drive in what he described as a “leap of faith.” It was early evening, humid, and the weather was soupy. Speiser, a high school English teacher in Darien, Connecticut, walked from his home through New Haven’s Westville neighborhood, where he was due to meet three tenant organizers. They belonged to the Central Connecticut branch of the Democratic Socialists of America, and they intended to prepare a half-dozen novices, Speiser included, for a “deep canvass.” Instead of a pitch to join a cause, the organizers wanted to knock doors, hear residents’ anger about poor housing conditions, and identify potential leaders among the tenants who could join future organizing efforts. “We tried some role-play by acting out scenarios between tenants and canvassers,” one of the organizers, Luke Melonakos-Harrison, recalled later. “I think we’ve refined our talking points since then.”