Welcoming New Commissioner Jezamil Arroyo-Vega

The Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union awaits to see how the new commissioner, Jezamil Arroyo-Vega, will navigate the unacceptable housing situation in Milwaukee. The Department of Neighborhood Services (DNS) has repeatedly shown that it is toothless in the face of real estate capital. Slumlords like Berrada continue to leech from the Black and Brown working class of Milwaukee in the form of hefty rents, inhospitable buildings, alleged illegal lease provisions, and more. While this is happening, the DNS has done no more than hand him a fine that is easily paid with the thousands of dollars he leeches from his tenants. They are powerless to stop him from buying up more buildings in the city and refuse to force him to provide tenants with livable, well-managed buildings!

This is hardly due to any one faulty commissioner. Through political manipulation, the bureaucracies of Milwaukee and Wisconsin have purposely undermined any power the DNS held over landlords and their ilk. With their department understaffed and budget cut year after year by landlord-politicians, the DNS is left as a flimsy facade of protection for tenants in Milwaukee.

We call on the new commissioner to work with the Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union to improve conditions for tenants. Specifically, we request Ms. Arroya-Vega to support our Right to Organize campaign in Milwaukee. The Right To Organize (RTO) Ordinance establishes detailed protections for the right of Milwaukee citizens to be recognized as collectives (called Tenant Councils), and the formation of a city Rent Board. The Rent Board, made up primarily of tenants, will investigate tenant complaints of violations under this new law. It will also be tasked with proactively remedying the negligence and abuse of landlords wherever such evidence is found, regardless of whether the tenant has sought such remedy. This ordinance is an important step toward rectifying the power imbalance between landlords and tenants in Milwaukee.

Additionally, we request that Ms. Arroya-Vega lend support to Assembly Bill 694 in whatever way she can, as it would provide Right to Organize protections at the state level if passed.   

Ms. Arroya-Vega has various accreditations that should point her toward the path of supporting tenants, but this problem goes beyond her, beyond Milwaukee, and beyond Wisconsin. The entire capitalist system has stacked the deck against tenants through deference to landlords using the legal system and bureaucracy deference to landlords. The people we look towards who can solve this problem are the tenants and workers themselves. Through collective action, we know we will see the changes we need. The Milwaukee Autonomous Tenants Union will continue standing with the tenants of Milwaukee and working to ensure safe, comfortable housing for all.

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