News Release

Organizing can give tenants power to effect change

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Cornell University

ITHACA, N.Y. – A renter doesn’t generally hold much sway with a landlord or management company, but when tenants organize, their power can be formidable.

Jamila Michener, associate professor of government and public policy, who has spent years researching tenant organizing, asserts that tenants acting collectively can wield power in “Racism, Power, And Health Equity: The Case Of Tenant Organizing,” which published Oct. 2 in Health Affairs.

“It can feel like these families are so helpless and we need government agencies and political leaders to intervene in order for anything to be changed,” Michener said. “That’s not untrue, but one thing that was striking to me was that tenants, when they work collectively, can actually get an immediate resolution to a direct problem.”

Michener interviewed 79 tenants for her research, which appears in Health Affairs’ October issue, dedicated to “Tackling Structural Racism in Health.” She chose tenants across two critical dimensions: geography and race. Interviewees hailed from 25 states, from large metro areas and rural farm country. Interviewees were 50% white, 40% Black, 6% Asian, 3% Latino and 1% mixed race.

Michener used information gleaned from the interviewees to illustrate that it’s possible for organized tenants to wield power in ways that help advance health equity in the face of structural racism.

“It gives me hope,” Michener said. “When you focus on how people can build and exercise power, that’s part of the path to solutions.”

For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

Cornell University has dedicated television and audio studios available for media interviews.


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