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Friday May 17th: College Court Phone Zap

On May 2nd, Olympia Solidarity Network (OlySol) launched a campaign with tenants at College Court Apartments. Tenants and OlySol are calling upon College Court owner and manager, Junryo Miyashita, to meet demands for a rent freeze, professionally and timely executed repairs, a commitment to follow Washington state tenant privacy laws and affordable and functional laundry facilities. We encourage supporters to extend solidarity to the campaign by participating in a phone zap against College Court.

 

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Please Call:

360-867-4068

360-250-1108

360-970-1923

(Use script for all numbers above)

Phone Script:

 

“Hello Junryo Miyashita and College Court Apartments. It has come to my attention that tenants at College Court routinely experience exorbitant rent hikes, delayed and poorly executed repairs, harassment and invasions of privacy on your behalf. This behavior violates numerous landlord-tenant laws in Washington state and defies the basic ethical principle that tenants ought to be afforded decent and livable housing. To rectify this situation, please meet the clear demands of your tenants and the Olympia Solidarity Network: a 2 year rent freeze, improved laundry services at lower cost, adherence to privacy laws and the hiring of professional labor to execute all further repairs.”

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OlySol Response to Recent Comments on New Campaign

Our recent post announcing the start of a new campaign received significant backlash, much of it rehashing familiar complaints and arguments. Supporters also made their voices heard—we appreciate these commenters, and thank all those who challenged and contrasted the histrionic rhetoric pervading the thread, with composure and humanity.
We’d like to address some of the most egregious and recurrent accusations. The decision to do this in a singular post rather than in direct comment replies has mainly to do with avoiding unnecessary repetition and our intent to reach those who may agree with grievances against OlySol or question our politics/actions generally, but have not engaged with us explicitly.

Should tenants just ‘move out’? Moving out can be a fine solution to housing problems if a tenant is capable of doing so. Tenants who are capable of moving out of poor housing generally tend to do that instead of working with OlySol—commenters are correct in their assumption that moving to a better location is the easiest and most immediate resolution to housing disputes. So if tenants aren’t moving out, it stands to reason that this is because leaving is not an option. Moving is a particular hurdle for disabled tenants or tenants with children or elderly dependents. It is only those without a significant degree of individual power who must opt for collective bargaining instead. Olympia is actively undergoing rapid gentrification, leading to increasingly less affordable housing for low income residents to choose from. Without countermeasures like rent control policies or public housing availability, the ability of long term community members to maintain a minimum consistency and quality of life becomes ever more unstable and uncertain.

In regard to the notion that this complex’s rent/conditions are not so egregiously unbearable as to warrant this campaign: we are sorry that you and/or people you know are experiencing worse situations than the tenants we are currently working with. OlySol’s main mission is to improve the lives of all tenants who are experiencing harassment, are vulnerable to being priced out of their homes, and lack basic necessities which are minimally functional and accessible. It is unfortunate that our capacity to help those in the worst situations, in order of need, is limited according to who contacts us and by the relatively modest scope of our personnel and resource availability. Thus far we have only been able to take on one campaign at a time, and without being in contact with every renter in Olympia, it is almost certainly always going to be the case that there are tenants facing more drastic rent hikes, poorer quality conditions, and/or crueler landlords, who we are not actively working with. We don’t disagree that our current campaign may not be addressing the most exploitative, neglectful, unpleasant slumlord in Olympia—it is more or less regrettable that we are unable to do so, but nevertheless we firmly assert the justifiability of the current campaign and the fairness of our demands to address legitimate grievances by tenants who are subject to lower quality housing and at a greater risk of houselessness than the majority of Olympians.

The assumption that OlySol “votes Democrat” is totally baseless and irrelevant. Nothing about the work we do is on behalf or in support of the Democratic party. We don’t endorse them as an organization and it is incorrect to associate us with the party. It’s almost hard to really even take issue with the complaints about the Democrats on our page because they are so unrelated and inconsequential.

Our right to make demands comes firstly from the material necessity for tenants’ collective action in order to secure, minimally, conditions and affordability constant with standards previously adhered to over the duration of tenancy, promised in lease agreements, and guaranteed by state and federal law. Unfortunately, it is the case that this minimum may be met and yet living circumstances by no means constitute much more than abject squalor. It is because of this reality that landlords may be directly challenged by and on behalf of their tenants who are otherwise at their mercy, defenseless not only to indignities and inhumanities permitted by law, but also illegal transgressions which tenants circumstantially cannot afford to battle in the expensive and time consuming arena of court. A person without money and without time nonetheless has a moral and legal right to not be exploited or forced to live in slum conditions.

Are we ‘ignorant of the law’ or ’terrorists’? OlySol and the tenants we work with cannot afford to have legal action taken against us, while the landlords we confront have significant advantages, legally and financially, at their disposal to pursue that course of action against us. Thus OlySol must and does work meticulously within the boundaries of the law—which in Washington state are already relatively more stacked against us. Such claims that we are criminals or legally oblivious are plainly absurd.

To those genuinely fantasizing about OlySol members or the tenants we work with becoming victims of homelessness or worse: your cruelty and spite speaks for itself. It is never surprising, but always disappointing, to witness this magnitude of vitriol directed at one’s own neighbors. Even if the harshest accusations leveled against us were true, to wish such violence and/or destitution upon any human being is still appalling and unwarranted. We don’t direct or desire violence toward our opponents, whether spectator, landlord or boss. We only demand basic decency and respect.

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OlySol Launches New Campaign

On May 2nd, Olympia Solidarity Network (OlySol) launched a new campaign for improved living conditions at a west Olympia apartment complex. OlySol members and supporters delivered a demand letter en masse to the landlord, demanding repairs, an end to tenant harassment and a freeze on rents for the next two years. The letter stipulated that the demands must be executed within the next 14 days, or further action would taken.

The landlord in question has skyrocketed monthly rents from approximately $650 to $895 over the last 3 years, stretching the budgets of working class tenants. Repairs are often delayed or refused. When repairs are made, they are executed incompetently and without professional labor, exacerbating the already poor living conditions of tenants. Tenants are subject to invasive surveillance, needless inconveniences, and abuses—with harassment particularly directed towards women and queer people. 

The demand letter also guaranteed that if the demands are not met in 14 days, that the apartment complex’s name will be published by OlySol. It is hoped that this promise will convince the landlord to execute the demands quickly and efficiently.

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To stop gentrification, support homeless rights

In the past two months, the City of Olympia has conducted sweeps of most of downtown Olympia’s homeless encampments. Some dislocated residents moved to the city-sanctioned camp but many were forced to the peripheries of downtown or other parts of Olympia, far from vital services and resources. Immediately following the eviction of the Smart Lot camp, Olympia Police Dept. officers have reportedly intensified efforts to intimidate and harass homeless people on sidewalks in an apparent attempt to expel them from downtown.

These aggressive anti-homeless practices create the conditions in which gentrification can proceed. In an era of real estate sector dominance, city governments everywhere (Olympia included) are compelled to stimulate gentrification to ensure economic stability and secure sources of municipal revenue, displacing working-class people in the process. Removing homeless people and policing the behaviors they exhibit in public spaces makes urban cores more attractive to high-end real estate and commercial investors, precipitating the rental and price increases that characterize gentrification.

Millions of Americans (including many Olympians) are a mere one or two paychecks away from experiencing homelessness and millions more are at risk of displacement if gentrification continues unabated. Whether homeowner, renter or unhoused, to guarantee a livable Olympia for all, a city for ordinary people and not a playground for the rich, we must extend solidarity and support to our homeless neighbors who are time and again gentrification’s first victims.

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Small businesses and the rhetoric of “community”

In Olympia, the sanctity of small business prevails. The narrative holds that small businesses are community-oriented and less exploitative than their corporate competitors. Business owners are frequently lumped together with workers, consumers and even homeless people in composing an illusory “downtown community.” How do small businesses relate to other constituents in this “community?”

Claims that small businesses are less exploitative are demonstrably false. Data from the Quarterly Census on Employment and Wages shows that small businesses pay far lower wages than larger employers. Smaller firms also perform dismally in regards to employee benefits, with only a minority nationwide offering retirement and health plans, a LIMRA study suggests.

Working-class consumers and small businesses weren’t always seen as belonging to the same community. In the early 1900s, neighborhood shopkeepers were often viewed as price-gougers, profiting off the desperation of poor people in need of basic goods. Tensions periodically erupted in class struggle, resulting in protests and riots against high prices.

As downtown Olympia gentrifies, the prospect of altered market conditions will compel business owners to raise prices, actively harming the other elements of this “downtown community.” To cleanse downtown and attract real estate and commercial investment, homeless people are criminalized and expelled. Small businesses have participated in this anti-homeless assault, from supporting the Downtown Safety Team to advocating against more services downtown.

A “downtown community” doesn’t exist, but such rhetoric is effective in masking exploitation and exclusion perpetrated by small businesses – whether against downtown’s workers, consumers or homeless residents.

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Spring 2019 General Assembly

You’re invited to Olympia Assembly’s upcoming general assembly on May 4th at 1:00pm @ Sylvester Park.
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Olympia Assembly is a libertarian socialist organization, connecting people from a variety of backgrounds and political perspectives around the principles of participatory democracy, direct action, collective liberation and solidarity, cooperative economics and mutual aid, and ecological stewardship. We seek to advance a platform to transform our city, region and the world along horizontal and cooperative lines and to provide a practical and revolutionary structure for non-ruling class people to resist systems of domination and hierarchy. We will work in solidarity with other regional and global efforts working towards a new politics of participatory democracy, ecology, freedom and socialism.

Our general assemblies occur four times per year and are a place for community members and radicals to come together to discuss the essential social, political and economic issues pertinent to the community at large & brainstorm radical, direct action and mutual aid based solutions to them. The discussions at these general assemblies helps to determine the focus of Olympia Assembly as an organization for the next several months.

The agenda will be popularly generated by participants, so bring ideas and discussion topics that are important to you and the community at large.

“Doors” will open at 1:00 pm for a potluck and the assembly will be from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm.