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Research Process: Tenant Unions

a collage of newspaper clippings about tenant rights and tenant power.

A collage of news headlines and cartoons from the 1970s and 1980s. Clippings courtesy of John Atlas.

Outline your research process so far. What is your topic? What are some of the keywords you have used to search for information on your topic?

I looked up tenant unions- I put it in the google (& One Search) search bar and I found information about tenant unions in other US states like California and I realized that I wanted to specify location so I added “NYC” and found general information about tenant rights and the right to join a union in nyc but then I wanted to narrow it down even further so I added “Brooklyn” and found tenant unions that were active in my area. 

Provide one of the sources you found and what you learned. What are some things about it that makes you believe it is a reliable source?

I found a lot of great information about tenant unions and how to start one from the “The Metropolitan Council on Housing”. They have been advocating for tenant rights and fair housing for over 60 years. They explicitly state their ethics in their “about us” page and say that their motto is “housing for people, not profit”. This aligns with my foundational values and ethics on social justice. This source is very relevant to my topic and they have been active in the material fight for housing and organizing tenants which helps me to trust in their expertise. 

Provide another source you found. What did it teach you about your topic?

I wanted to find an actual tenant union website in Brooklyn. I found several! I found the Crown Heights Tenant Union, the Southwest Brooklyn Tenant Union, and the Flatbush Tenant Union. Each of them are organizations of tenants that fight for their own rights with their collective power. Many of them talk about when they formed and provide a template and resources to start your own tenant union. I learned that it is so important to talk to your neighbors about issues in the building and to work together to address them. 

Share any challenges you encountered with researching your topic. Do you find research difficult or simple? Explain.

I find research intimidating before I start but it’s important to remember that it is experimental and is based on trial and error. It is important to be organized while you are researching- this is something that took me a long time to develop. I like to keep a google doc where I copy and paste my sources and some of the text as well as descriptions, questions, or things it makes me think about. 

Discuss how your perspective on the topic evolved throughout the research. What have you discovered about your topic so far?

I was thinking about tenant unions in an abstract way that made them sort of an intimidating undertaking but in the process of research, I learned that they start with conversations. Conversations with your neighbors are the foundation of building collective power- it doesnt require someone with any sort of authority or credentials. The only real requirement is that you rent in and live in the same building. Lived experience is the authority and the source!

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