Renters won’t find it easier to organize tenant unions

illustration of a key and door

A bill that would have prevented landlords from evicting tenants who organized a renters union within their building failed to make it out of the state Senate by one vote.

Pushed by a growing tenants rights movement that has struggled to advance legislation in the Capitol, SB 529 in its original form would have allowed renters to “strike” by collectively withholding rent. That provision was stripped before the bill’s failure on the Senate floor.

Landlords, realtors and the California Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill, arguing it was a de facto form of “just cause eviction” and would limit landlords’ ability to remove problematic tenants. Opposing interest groups also argued state laws already protects tenants from landlord retaliation.

It was no coincidence that Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, Democrat from Los Angeles and a veteran of California labor unions, authored the bill. Tenant groups have been trying to strengthen their relationship with powerful labor unions to help their odds of getting bills through Sacramento, and tenants unions often model their organizing tactics after those deployed by organized labor.

—Matt Levin