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.