It is not a secret to anyone that oppressed and working class people in Lexington are living through an affordable housing crisis. Rising rents and gentrification of Lexington’s historically Black neighborhoods are the order of the day. Working class tenants like KWL’s members cannot reliably find safe, clean, and affordable housing.
KWL first became involved in housing work in April of 2015, when we used our bodies to protect our comrade Alex from an illegal eviction and the demolition of her home by sleazy developer Benjamin “Rock” Daniels. We were able to help Alex in a small way and get her the time she needed to get safely moved, but because the other tenants on her block were disorganized, we were not able to prevent people who had lived on the block for decades from being run out of their homes so they could be flipped and sold to whiter, more affluent homebuyers. (Although, to our knowledge, Rock’s business endeavor has failed miserably, and the houses he ran people out of are mostly sitting empty…)
Unfortunately, we’re not alone in our inability to stop what is happening to Lexington tenants. Despite the sometimes comical attempts by some members of liberal non-profit community, we believe there is presently no effective force in Lexington that can stand up for working class tenants. We believe we cannot rely on liberal non-profits because the system is so totally stacked against working class people. We believe that we the tenants must organize ourselves!
The on-going housing crisis (elucidated greatly by our comrades in Lexington Housing Studies), butting up against the limits of our success on Rand Avenue, and the tenants union organizing work our comrades in Philly Socialists have been doing over the past six months all came together to inspire us to adopt the Lexington Tenant Organizing Project (LexTOP) as a major feature of our work in 2016.
Using data from Lexington Housing Studies comrades, we are surveying the tenants of all of Lexington’s biggest property owners in order to determine who the worst actors are and where tenants are best poised to engage in collective action to improve our situation. Once we are through the data-gathering phase of LexTOP, we are going to enter a phase of organizing mass meetings and tenants unions. Our goal is to build independent working class organizations that can beat the worst excesses of the capitalist system.
We’re doing this work openly as Socialists for two reasons: (1) that’s who we are, and it would be dishonest and insulting to our fellow workers’ intelligence for us to pretend to be otherwise; and (2) we believe that safe, affordable housing can only ever be temporarily achieved under capitalism. We know that we need a new system where workers are in the drivers’ seat that provides housing based on people’s needs, not based on landlords and developers’ ability to turn a profit on it.
Because we are going to the people, meeting with them where they are, and spending the time to really listen to their concerns and explain what our goals are, this is a very labor intensive project. We hope to learn from our fellow tenants as well as teach, and this will require a lot of ears. KWL needs your help to make it a success. If you’re interested in surveying tenants or helping us manage data collected, or even if you’re just curious, please contact us at kentuckyworkersleague at gmail dot com or shoot us a message on Facebook.