Miami Workers Center is a frontline strategy and action center that builds power with working-class tenants, workers, women, and families in Miami-Dade County. Through leadership development and grassroots campaigns, they seek to transform their workplaces and neighborhoods to win the respect, rights, and resources we all deserve. Miami Workers Center led the successful grassroots organizing campaign to enact a Tenant’s Bill of Rights in Miami-Dade County.

“Miami is the epicenter of the U.S. housing crisis with tenants experiencing illegal evictions, substandard housing, and landlord price gouging, with little to no protections and nowhere safe and affordable to go. That’s why the Miami Workers Center remain committed to building the base, canvassing, and speaking to as many renters as possible to educate, inform, and invite them to join the movement for housing justice in Miami,” said Santra Denis, executive director of the Miami Workers Center. “We know and have seen what is possible when we organize. Our members, working-class tenants, stood up, fought back, and won a Miami Tenant Bill of Rights and a $2.9 million budget allocation for increased legal assistance. We’re just getting started!”

Photo courtesy of Santra Denis, Miami Workers Center

In late 2020 and early 2021, Miami Workers Center launched a listening campaign to better understand the challenges that tenants were facing during the pandemic. Organizers convened legal clinics and trainings, knocked on thousands of doors, and collectively spoke with a little under one thousand tenants. Organizers and impacted tenants organized meetings in their communities, which created a space to exchange stories, identify similar concerns, and propose solutions. Lack of landlord accountability was a common theme that arose in these conversations. Tenants shared stories of flooding, rodent infestation, mold, broken plumbing, and other dangerous conditions that threatened residents’ health and safety. Many tenants had nowhere to turn when their landlords ignored requests for repairs, or put themselves at risk of retaliation if they pressed for a safer, more dignified living environment. 

Tenants’ stories and ideas were synthesized into a set of demands for the Miami-Dade County Tenant’s Bill of Rights. Miami Workers Center developed a handbook that explains each of the campaign’s six demands. The handbook features tenants’ stories, which powerfully illustrate the transformative impact that the Tenant’s Bill of Rights would have. When the campaign launched publicly in summer 2021, organizers identified two County Commissioners that co-sponsored and championed the tenant bill of rights package. 

For months, organizers kept media attention on the campaign with public press conferences and building-level actions against mass displacement. Skyrocketing rent increases in late 2021 and early 2022 also increased public awareness of housing instability. The personal stories of women workers, tenants, and families were at the heart of the campaign. Miami Workers Center organizers prepared dozens of tenants to speak at rallies, testify at county commission meetings, and spread the campaign’s message in the media. 

Photo courtesy of Santra Denis, Miami Workers Center

The Miami-Dade County Commission was set to vote on the Tenant’s Bill of Rights on May 3, 2022. Tenants and organizers spent all day at the county commission’s office, demonstrating the strength of the movement. After a full day of debate and some negotiations over amendments, the County Commission voted unanimously to adopt the Tenant’s Bill of Rights. 

The final package contained many of the Miami Workers Center’s core demands. The Tenant’s Bill of Rights allows tenants to have repairs done and deduct the cost from their rent if landlords do not respond to requests within seven days. It requires tenants to receive 60 days’ notice before a building changes ownership, requires landlords to provide tenants with a Notice of Tenant Rights within 10 days of starting or renewing their tenancy, and bars landlords from requiring disclosure of previous evictions on an initial application. In addition, the County Commission formally established an Office of Housing Advocacy that will act as a clearinghouse for tenant rights and housing-related resources. This office was a top priority for tenants.  Going forward, the Miami Workers Center and its partners will continue to push for the right to counsel for all tenants in eviction court—a campaign demand that was not included in the final package. 

The campaign for the Tenant’s Bill of Rights not only achieved an important policy victory, but also laid the groundwork for future efforts to advance housing justice in Miami-Dade County and in Florida. This ongoing effort will benefit from the strong base of support, increased public awareness, and powerful tenant leadership cultivated in the campaign for the Tenant’s Bill of Rights. 

Photo courtesy of Santra Denis, Miami Workers Center

In recognition of this transformative policy victory, achieved through the leadership of Black and brown women workers and tenants, NLIHC honors the Miami Workers Center with the 2023 Local Organizing Award. The annual NLIHC Organizing Awards recognize outstanding achievements in state, local, or residential organizing that further NLIHC’s mission of achieving racially and socially equitable public policy that ensures people with the lowest incomes have quality homes that are accessible and affordable in communities of their choice.

The organizing awards will be presented at the NLIHC Housing Policy Forum 2023: Onward to Housing Justice, that will take place on March 21-23. To hear directly from organizers with the Miami Workers Center and celebrate their victories, join us at the “Best Practices in Organizing” session on Wednesday, March 22, at 11am. Registration for the Forum can be found here.

Photo courtesy of Santra Denis, Miami Workers Center