Let's be realistic. Over the past few weeks in Austin, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to the cancellation of SXSW and near shutdown of the service industry, cutting off most of the workers of this city from their means of survival. Most of these precarious service industry and gig-economy jobs offer few benefits, and few people can access social services like unemployment benefits. While the courts have put a stay on evictions until May, they have failed to suspend rent payments. If things continue as they are, a catastrophe is coming--one where masses of residents who typically live paycheck-to-paycheck are suddenly staring down massive back payments of rent for months in which they had no income. One way or another, rent won't be paid. The question at hand is whether Austinites will be left to fend from themselves against eviction and dispossession, or whether this non-payment can take the form of a collective refusal that gestures towards a different reality--a Rent Strike.
This is a declaration and an invitation. We will not be paying our rents or our mortgages. Whether its the payments in April, after the end of the eviction moratorium in May, or the demands for backpayments once the pandemic has passed, we will not pay. The landlords and the governments which protect them can either suspend rent and mortgage payments, or face a rent strike. We invite those already in the position of being unable to pay their rent to join in this collective refusal, and find power and hope in each other. We invite those who do have the privilege of having savings to float on, working from home, or paying their rents to participate in solidarity with folks who are not as priveledged as you and are going through very difficult times. Together, we hold power.
This demand--an end to rent and mortgage payments--is only a small piece of what we need in this moment. While the force of a rent strike coalesces around our ability to stay sheltered, our desires point to the need for all 5--and not one less--of the following demands to be met.
1. FREE HEALTHCARE
Free testing, treatment and healthcare for all.
2. NO WORK
Suspend work obligations. Guarantee food stamps and sick pay for all.
3. NO PAYING - NO DEBT
Suspend all rent, mortgage, utilities, loans, foreclosures, evictions and parking enforcement.
4. FREE THE PRISONERS
End bail for jails, deactivate ICE, release detainees, and stop all sweeps of homeless camps.
5. HOMES FOR ALL
Open up unoccupied homes to anyone who needs one.
Please share this Jotform link publicly on social media! Feel free to share with friends who might be interested in commiting to the Rent Strike 2020! (via text, List Serv, email, etc.)