ATUN West Coast Conference

This past weekend, we were invited to attend the Autonomous Tenants Union Network’s West Coast Conference in Oakland, CA. I attended along with @Turcotte and @Robert_H. It was a great conference and we learned a ton from the other tenant union’s that were there. We’re going to use this thread to compile notes from group sessions along with scans of the material that the other tenant unions had brought to share.

Here’s an album of some of the panels and actions.

ATUN is having another meeting to distill/synthesize lessons learned from the convention. Their meeting is 2023-06-28T01:00:00Z. Here is the Zoom link.

ATUN said they would share notes from all the other unions, I’ll post them there once we get a link.

I made a folder in the Membership drive that has some of the handouts that we were able to pick up. I haven’t had a chance to organize the files and run OCR on them, but I wanted to share them in case somebody wanted to get an early look.

Many people there referenced this work by Paulo Freire.

Freire - 2000 - Pedagogy of the oppressed.pdf (5.7 MB)

We had a discussion section on a passage of this book (see below). I’ll type up my notes. Personally, it helped put into words how I think we need to be organizing. I’m looking forward to reading the book in full. Perhaps we should add it to Book Club or Resource List and have it as our first non-Socialism 101 book club, where it’s more discussion focused and less of a presentation?

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ATUN is having a training event on July 16th. I think I’m going to be out of town. Can someone sign up to attend and share notes after?


Thanks for posting this! Im definitely hoping to attend

I may be able to attend as well.

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How was it? I didn’t get a chance to go.

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I couldn’t make it! :frowning: I’m in the thick of finals right now. Hopefully someone was able to go!

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It was pretty good.
They talked about Community Development and how to get people interested and involved.
How the Union needs to be intersectional.
Avoiding Paper Members, and ensuring that the people who are involved have good political education and leadership skills.

After the initial talk they broke everyone up into discussion groups to talk about their experiences, and their ideas for how to deal with the issues their community comes up against.

Then they brought everyone back together to summarize the discussion groups.

It was a pretty diverse group of individuals and everyone had a Radical attitude which was nice.

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I attended the ATUN Tenant Inquiry & Movement Strategy Workshop.

Here are my notes from Session 1:

-there were about 55 people who attended the Zoom meeting
-moderator shared a link for Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union; they asked the groups to please share in solidarity; they are facing a defamation lawsuit; a conservative lawyer who used to work for the late-Antonin Scalia is involved in the case; Youssef Berrada is the landlord; he owns a lot of properties on the north side which is majority black; he has like over 100 LLCs; a kid died in one of his properties; the properties are not well-maintained, described as slum conditions

-In June 2022, tenants from across North America held the first ATUN Conference in Los Angeles.
-ATUN Convention Priorities (**these were identified as priorities at the ATUN conference):
~Develop Leadership (**create a shared sense of community; embrace it as an animating concern and source; move from neighborliness toward a community that can change the world)
~Develop Political Education
~Develop Community
-we broke off into groups to discuss the priorities and then re-grouped to go over what was said
-SHERRI: spoke about how a community room, where she lived, was turned into a police substation
-LINDA GLENDALE: mentioned the use of Know Your Rights Workshops
-ASANTEWAA NKRUMAH-TUNE: talked about how the 76ers are trying to get a new stadium built across from historic Chinatown
-nicolas (BED-TU): tenant unions are often seen as a service or social work, like the NGO service model
-via Rose (LA Tenants Union) in the chat box: “TA = tenant association (in a building, whereas we use ‘union’ to mean regional, especially city-wide)”
-via nicolas (BED-TU) in the chat box: “For NYC: TA = tenant association based on building; TC = tenant council based on landlords portfolio; TU = tenant union based on shared geography”
-via Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture in the chat box: “Here in Philly, Univ. of Penn is a major gentrifier of West Philly, i.e., U.C. Townhomes struggles this pass year.”; “Some major gentrifier are grads of Univ. of Penn”
-Joshua (MATU): brought up clothing swaps as a way to build community
-Vivian (POWR): described Rhode Island as a city-state; has seen an influx of people from LA, NYC, Boston during the pandemic; organizing their is mostly based on portfolio; one of the biggest slum lords their is actually the state… section 8; one way of showing support for fellow members would be being with them on the day they’re having their unit inspected by their landlord
-Evan (Hamilton ACORN): from Onatrio; lead organizer should ideally be someone from the building; the loudest person shouldn’t necessarily be the leader, and they should be doing it for the right reasons; advice: when asking for volunteers, have roles clearly defined. people may be more willing to step up if they know what will be expected of them.
-Session 2: Why And How To Tenant Inquiry will be on Sunday, July 30th, 5pm

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Thanks @HipGnosis and @collectivestruggle for attending and taking notes!!

Someone from TANC also had a short thread on the event here:

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Tenant Inquiry & Movement Strategy workshop for tenant organizers

Sunday, August 13
5pm Pacific / 8pm Eastern

Dang I 100% missed this.
Did anyone else attend?

NOTES from the ATUN Town Hall on Tenant Inquiry:

-They shared a quote from a comrade; “Nothing worse can happen to us. We’re already in this boat. So, we better learn how to steer it.”
-They played 3 short clips from previous tenant inquiries and had attendees very simply repeat back some of the points they heard in each
~Clip #1: A woman talked about how there’s power in naming (i.e., calling your group a tenant union) because it creates a group identity and helps communicate to people what you’re about
~Clip #2: A woman described her experience with her tenant association. At one point she had an issue that she was really scared/tearful about. She was nervous about reporting it. Her fellow tenants were really supportive & encouraging (“You can do it!”; “No one can report it better than you.”) and helped her work through that fear.
-A tenant inquiry is when a tenant union conducts an interview with a small group of people from a tenants association. They have found this to be the best approach because 1-on-1 interviews would be impractical/time-consuming/potentially intimidating for the interviewee and large group interviews (i.e., interviews with the entire tenants association) would be too hard to facilitate. Small groups are easier to manage. The knowledge gained from a tenant inquiry helps inform the work & direction of a tenant union and helps build power.
-They divided a tenant inquiry into five phases
~Phase 1: Organize a Team

  • This is a team of researchers; they should be people embedded in the work, not detached academic researchers

~Phase 2: Orient the Co-researchers

  • Co-research team convenes an orientation session
  • What are the questions we want to ask?
  • Facilitators made it a point to say that nobody taught them how to do this. They had to learn through practice, through trial & error how to formulate questions and word them in a way that would elicit a response? (Ex: Describe a specific time when you realized your group had power. Why did you decide to take that action?)

~Phase 3: Conduct the Interviews

  • The sweet spot for duration is anywhere from 20 minutes to 1 hour because, if you’re recording, you have to keep in mind that this is something you’ll have to review later. You don’t want to put your group in a position where you’re having to go back through multiple 3-hour recordings.

~Phase 4: Study the Recordings

  • look for themes

  • listen for contradictions

~Phase 5: Union Assembly

  • play sound objects (1-5 minute clips); shorter is better because things that are too long are hard to process

  • articulate the fundamental principles in our strategy and how to put that into action


Criticisms of the NGO/nonprofit service model aside, it would probably be good for us to find out what other organizations know, so leaving this here in case anyone is interested.


When you call to register for this event, they will ask you for your name, phone number and email.

The person who took the call would only let me sign up for one of the workshops. I picked the tenants workshop from 3:30pm-5pm.

If someone is free to attend the landlords workshop from 1:30pm-3pm, you can contact the San Joaquin Fair Housing office at (209) 451-3471 to register.

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I’m gonna sign up but since it’s right in the middle of work I might not be able to actually hear the whole thing

Unfortunately, I missed the workshop. They moved it from 3:30pm to 1:30pm, and I didn’t find out until it was too late.