Rent Strikes And Workers Unite On May Day

Frederic Aurelien/Staff Writer

The bubbling conflicts of class interest have been made hideously visible to us in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic. The destruction of the most vulnerable and the words of the most powerful have together cast a violently bright light on the conditions of those who have continually lived within the shadows of this country’s mind.

Friday, May 1st marked the globally celebrated public holiday International Workers Day‚ better known as May Day. If you’re a landlord on the other hand, then the first of the month probably marks a different kind of special holiday on your yearly calendar—international rent collection day, better known as payday. Payday looked very different this month though, as instead of cash payments and online transfers, it was filled with megaphones and protest signs.

Robert Crohan/PantherNOW

Tens of millions of Americans are currently unemployed and aren’t receiving enough financial assistance to pay their monthly rent while providing food for their families. As a result, working-class people all around the country are banding together to organize strikes with the aim to #CancelRent

In the past month, organizers have been able to coordinate nearly 200,000 tenants to voice their demands and stop paying rent in solidarity. In major cities from Los Angeles, California to New York City, workers are demanding not only rent cancellations, but also mortgage cancelations for homeowners as well as a temporary ban on all evictions and foreclosures for the remainder of this global health crisis. 

If you assumed for one second that under the extremity of these circumstances our government would have already created some form of federal protection that would responsibly save the everyday citizen from homelessness, then you wouldn’t be completely wrong. Unfortunately, you wouldn’t be completely right either. 

Eviction moratoriums have already been put in place, but the enforcement of these rules has not been implemented effectively. Because of this, we are still seeing cases of tenants being kicked out of their homes illegally across multiple states.

Here’s another fun fact: in the state of Florida, only 34,000 of the 850,000 pending claims for unemployment have actually been processed and paid. This means that at least 816,000 Floridians that lost their jobs are being forced to live purely on whatever amount of money they received from the stimulus check (if they received anything at all), combined with whatever earnings they had left in their savings.

People don’t just have three to four months’ worth of rent money stocked up somewhere for a rainy day. Whether you’re a college student or a working-class parent, many of us struggle to pay our monthly rent as is. With the extreme economic crisis we are now experiencing, a lot more American citizens have entered survival mode in order to secure and maintain food and shelter—when they should be at home staying safe from the virus.

It’s scary outside, and it’s easy to read headlines and go into a frenzy because of alarming tweets or dangerously stupid health advice. When we are made aware of staggering developments like what happened on May first, however, we have to hold on to them. This year’s May Day was unique because we haven’t seen a general strike like this in decades.

If this country doesn’t end up eating itself trying to ensure its current bodies’ survival, then we may be able to transform ourselves into a greater society, capable of so much more. We would be remiss not to seize the energy of this moment!

Featured photo by Studio Incendio on Flickr.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.Have questions or comments for our writers? Send an email to with your name and the name of the column in the subject line.

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