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Emanuel Garrett

Landlords Start Drive to Break Rent Controls!

(11 November 1946)

From Labor Action, Vol. 10 No. 45, 11 November 1946, pp. 1 & 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.

On this page of Labor Action you will read a story from Chicago revealing the plan of a group of Chicago landlords to raise rents. The same story also reports the activity of the Workers Party branch in Chicago which served to compel the landlords to postpone a meeting they had scheduled.

We ask you to turn to this story, for it is one of extreme significance. The scheme of the little group of Chicago landlords is one that will be repeated, and is already being repeated, on a national scale under various guises and with all kinds of devices. If we are not to suffer the final price swindle of uncontrolled rents, it will be necessary that we duplicate the action of the Chicago WP, but on a much grander scale.

Let us not be deceived. Rent controls are presumably still in effect. We have been deluged with assurances during the election campaign that the government will not yield controls on rent. But it is a pretty feeble-minded child who will put his reliance on the government in this matter, any more than in the matter of meat prices.

It is a dead certainty that the landlord section of the capitalist class is going to demand the same favors given the industrial monopolists. After all, the government is equally well the government of landlords and industrialists. All informed opinion agrees that rent controls are the next to go – and in the not too distant future.

Unless we act now, we will shortly be paying double and, yes, in some cases triple, the rent we are paying now. Some of our readers may consider it a simple matter for Labor Action to call for action, the doing of which is something far more difficult. But the pattern of action is not so difficult as it may appear. Of course, it will require something more elaborate and intensive than the action of the Workers Party in Chicago. Yet, that is an indication of what can be done.

Last week in this corner of Labor Action we discussed the necessity of organizing Popular Price Control Committees composed of housewives and union representatives. We cited the formation of one such body in Seattle. We tried to explain how the people in any neighborhood can get together to start the machinery of genuine price control, combining it with wage actions by the unions. Tenants’ committees, as a function of the general Popular Price Control Committee in the given city or neighborhood, or as separate bodies, can be as easily constituted.

Tenants’ committees are not a new thing. During the thirties there were many of them, preventing evictions and otherwise protecting the interests of tenants. There are reports today of tenants’ committees in many localities organized for various special reasons. However, Seattle housewives bucking the milk gouge, and a scattered tenant or price committee here and there cannot do the whole job, though . they can do much of it even on a local scale. It is the kind of thing that must have its counterpart in every community – organized exactly as it was in Seattle: a few housewives getting together, soliciting and getting the support of the local unions.

Nor should we wait until the rent swindle hits us with full force. Rents have been going up despite control! The dodges used by landlords have been elaborately documented in newspapers, without a thing being done except the occasional, very occasional arrest, of some picayune chiseller. There is the dodge of renting at ceiling price, but charging some outlandish sum for a few battered sticks of furniture. There is the dodge of putting a broken-down cot in an apartment, and renting it as a furnished apartment. There is the dodge of demanding a side payment, sized according to what the landlord or renting agent thinks he can extort. And there is the outright steal of compelling the tenant, desperate for an apartment, to agree to more than the ceiling price.

To all of which can be added: poor service, refusal to paint and repair and a million other things with which every tenant in the United States is fully acquainted. Well, not every tenant. The wealthy may find it difficult to find the exact duplex swank apartment to fit their idle selves, but a few dollars more or less for rent or meat or clothes is of little concern to them. We’ve yet to read of one of them spending the night in a park, though the newspapers have reported more than one veteran, among others, doing just that.

Obviously, the problem of rent is intimately linked with the housing problem in general. The housing crisis has not improved materially in the last year, it has in fact grown worse in many instances. Here, however, we wish to concern ourselves only with rents.

It is not something we can delay, lay aside until rent controls, such as they are, actually come off. The meat monopolists had their way. The landlords will have theirs. Now is the time to block them – by organizing NOW, by involving our unions, by getting together in committees that can make it clear to the real estate interests that a boost in rent will not be tolerated. Unorganized buyers’ resistance is beginning to have an effect on prices. Organized action can accomplish infinitely more!

And, specifically in the case of rent, a threat to refuse to pay higher rents, BACKED UP BY SOLID ORGANIZATION, will go a long way toward cutting the ground from under the real estate profiteers. It will do more to impress the government with the urgency of keeping rent controls than a million vain appeals to Congressmen, Senators or Cabinet officials !

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