JPNC backs tenant union proposal

March 16, 2007
By

LOU MANCINELLI

At-Large City Councilor Sam Yoon thanked the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Council (JPNC) for endorsing his tenant collective bargaining proposal at the council’s meeting Feb. 27.

At its January meeting, after a presentation from a representative from Yoon’s office, and a representative from City Life/Vida Urbana, the JPNC voted 9-1 to support the resolution.

The proposal would not require agreement, only that both sides participated in “good-faith” bargaining. Basically, according to Yoon, that means evidence must show both sides were informed about the other side’s position and recognize the need for balance between landlord profit and rent affordability.

“The idea behind the legislation is to require landlords and tenants to talk to each other,” said Yoon. “What I’ve found is, on a larger scale, [as of now] they’re not talking to each other.”

“This would have an impact in JP, for instance, on large landlords who are refusing to sit down with tenants at the table,” said Cheryl Lawrence of City Life/Vida Urbana.

A hearing was held on the proposal by the City Council last September. However, a date was never set for a vote and the proposal has not yet been re-filed this year. According to Mary Grissom, the councilor’s chief of staff, Councilors Michael Flaherty and Rob Consalvo remain in support of the bill, as was the case in September.

According to Yoon, the process has dragged because he wants to create dialogue between the landlords’ interests and the tenant unions before starting the legislative process.

“I think this honors the spirit of the legislation, which is about bringing people together to talk,” said Yoon. “Not to force them to agree, but to talk.”

Yoon said he is committed to bringing the legislation to vote this year. “But timing is everything,” he said. “I hope it is earlier, rather than later.”

The proposal only applies to buildings of 10 or more units or landlords who manage 20 or more individual units. The City of Boston’s Rental Housing Resource Center would serve as mediator between landlords and the tenant unions. It would also certify tenant unions.

The tenant union would have to be comprised of at least one or more
adult representatives from more than 50 percent of the units, or, in the case of a number of buildings owned by one landlord, one or more adult representatives from more than 50 percent of the tenant households currently residing in each building.

“If a decision is made to oppose something, each side should be able to say why,” said Yoon. “It could get ugly, which could detract from the issue we are doing this for, which is struggling low- to modest-income people.”

“When public debate about this happens, I’m hoping both sides’ rhetoric will be a little bit more informed about the other side’s goals and interests,” said Yoon. “You can bring horses to the water… but you can’t make them agree.”

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