Vol. LXXX, No. ]
Ann Arbor, Michigan-Wednesday, August 27, 1969
Rent strike takes hold in Ann Arbor
Mayor Robert Harris: A victory for students?
By JUDY SARASOHN
INCENSED BY the high price and "unsafe living condi-
tions" of Ann Arbor housing, over 1000 students have or-
ganized a Tenants Union and are withholding more than
$100,000 in rent payments in what has become one of the
largest rent strikes in U.S. history.
And with favorable court decisions, widespread public-
ity, financial support from the United Auto Workers and
endorsements from many city officials, the strike appears
to be gaining momentum.
The major goal of the strike is to gain formal recogni-
tion for the Tenants Union as the collective bargaining
agent for local tenants.
The union is also demanding significant reductions in
rent, elimination of damage deposits-which the union
claims are often not returned-elimination of advance pay-
ment of the last month's rent, and immediate handling of
TrHE LAST point is one of the main reasons given by strik-
ers for initiating the strike. The Department of Build-
ing and Safety is presently overburdened with charges of
building code violations. Many tenants have serious com-
plaints of overflowing garbage, broken or incomplete tiling
in bathrooms, broken down stairways, and no fire escapes.
The major thrust of the strike is aimed at the tight-
knit association of several local management firms, the
Ann Arbor Property Managers' Association. The Tenants
Union claims the association has "tight control over the
The landlords being struck are Ann Arbor Trust
Co., Apartments Limited; Arbor Management; B.M.R.;
Campus Management, Inc.; Charter Realty; Dahlmann
Apartments; Misco Management Service; Patrick Pulte,
Inc.; Post Realty and Investment Co.; Summit Associates;
Walden Management Co.; and Wilson-White, Inc. Apart-
ments owned by these firms house an estimated 6,000
IN ADDITION to the strike against these major realty
firms, some students are withholding rent from landlords
with lesser holdings in sympathy with the Tenants Union.
Tenants began organizing last December by securing
assurances from students that they would withhold rent
when the strike began. On Feb. 15, after a poll of the 1,500
students who had signed pledges, the Tenants Union began
Instead of paying rent as usual, the strikers paid their
money into an escrow, fund set up by the Tenants Union.
Back in January, it would be safe to say that everyone
except for a few idealistic, completely frustrated students
were skeptical of a successful rent strike.
EVEN WHEN students joined the union and signed pledges
to withhold rent, the landlords refused to believe the
strike would materialize. And when the strike did begin, the
landlords said, as was to be expected, that they will never
recognize the Tenants Union.
"It's ridiculous,"said Patrick Pulte, head of one of the
firms. "I don't know of any management company in the
country that would recognize a tenants union."
Kenneth Barnhill, manager of Apartments Limited,
also refused to recognize the union as the bargaining agent
for Ann Arbor tenants.
"Until this small minority of activists (the Tenants
Union) can prove they can help me more effectively oper-
ate my business and provide better services to my tenants
and owners, I will continue a policy of nonrecognition," he
Rent strike steering - committee members were, un-
daunted, however. "The Tenants Union doesn't exist to
serve the interests of th6 landlords, but of the tenants,"
said a steering committee member.
And now, the pressure on the realty firms to recognize
the Tenants Union appears to be mounting.
AT THE BEGINNING of the strike, most landlords main-
tained an air of indifference. But there were a number
of reports of landlords turning off heat, towing away cars,
making phone calls to parents and threatening tenants
with eviction in the middle of exam week.
See TENANTS, Page 2
Tenants Union: Pushing for bargaining rights
Studen t vo tng power
Iiberali'zes city hal
Sheriff Douglas Harvey: 'One dumb cop'
By NADINE COHOpAS
WHEN THE DEMOCRATS swept the city
elections last April, taking control of
the government for the first time in Ann
Arbor history, one disappointed Republi-
can blamed his party's defeat on the stu-
Indeed more students turned out for this
election than ever before, but they clearly
do not form the majority of Ann Arbor vot-
ers. Many long - time residents clearly
wanted a change in municipal government
as evidenced by the election of two Demo-
cratic councilmen from traditionally Re-
publican wards. Nonetheless the student
vote appeared to give t h e Democrats at
least their margin of victory.
The Democratic sweep - which elected
liberal Robert Harris, a law professor at
the University, as mayor, and four Demo-
cratic councilmen - gave the party an
8-3 majority on City Council.
AND ALTHOUGH Harris has emphasized
developing programs to help lower-in-
come residents, both he and council have
also demonstrated a willingness to d e a l
with important matters concerning Uni-
The Democrats' acknowledgement of
student needs is most clearly exemplified-
by council's recent action to approve suit-
able arrangements for the Sunday after-
noon summer rock concerts which the Re-
publican council had banned in July, 1968.
Before last summer, the concerts had al-
wavs hen held in the citv's West Park, a
And on May 17 council h e 1 d a special
session to reinstate the events if park per-
mits are obtained from the city park di-
rector each week.
Since then, the city has made further ar,-
rangements with concert sponsors to ro-
tate the events each w e e k to different
parks. The city now also provides a portable
stage, electricity, traffic patrolmen, park-
ing facilities, water, garbage cans, and ev-
en portable Johns where needed.
Council has also kept student interests
in mind throughout several discussions
concerning proposed city parking and
traffic changes. A moratorium on install-
ing any new parking m e t e r s in certain
campus areas was put into effect until
council can hold open hearings in the fall
with University students to find the best
solution to the Ann Arbor parking prob-
HARRIS HAS SET a precedent in appoint-
ing the first student ever to a boarded
commission. On May 12, with council; ap-
proval, the mayor appointed John Evans,
a graduate student and doctoral candidate
in social psychology, to the Human Rela-
Students have, indeed, shown their po-
tential power in city affairs. In the June
school board elections, the student vote in
five precincts helped pass a 6.67 mill pro-
posal necessary to operate the public
schools. The surprise victory came by a
mere 300 vote margin.
And in backing Harris, student voters
have demonstrat' teheir nnistent sn-