By Daniel Engels
November 6, 2019
SAINT LOUIS: On Monday, November 4, 2019, about ten employees of Southwest Crossing Apartments confronted owner Eliam Rabin about their wages that he and his company, TEH Realty, stole. All the employees, now on strike, have not received their pay for the period, and many more were laid off recently. Southwest Crossing Apartments is on 7851 Bandero Drive, a low income apartment unit deep in industrialized south St. Louis close to the Mississippi. Rabin and TEH Realty (a firm with roots in Israel) own about ten apartment units in the St. Louis area, all low income, and all very poorly maintained. Reports from employees and residents alike confirm that the units are nowhere close to livable.
This complex recently advanced struggle on the part of tenants by declaring the formation of a tenants’ union led by Homes for All – STL. While this is a good thing from the perspective of class struggle, it remains to be seen whether this union is a militant and red organization or is susceptible to economist pitfalls that happen when organizations of this type are not guided by disciplined, revolutionary party cadres steeled in Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and its application.
“Trash. Rats. Mice…unsecured buildings. Mold. All of that is here” said the property manager, Leilani Liddell. She was one of the employees that showed up on Monday to attempt to collect the wages that were rightfully owed to her. She also mentioned that the owners neglected to pay for trash pickup, and that dumpsters were overflowing onto the ground.
Resident Amanda Jackson said her one-year-old son has had breathing problems since moving in. She tries to keep him anywhere else but the apartment (her home which she is paying to live in) because of the health risks. Renters in Saint Louis are exploited mercilessly by slumlords such as TEH (which has tendrils that reach nationwide), Lipton Group, and Nathan Cooper who is a specialist at exploiting this city’s most vulnerable renters. Only through organizing tenants on a militant, MLM guided basis can slumlords be combated and struggled against. The work done by Omaha Tenants United sets the standard for the type of tenant movement needed in Saint Louis.
Because of the inhumane conditions, St. Louis County Housing Authority has halted all section 8 funding to TEH Realty. St Louis County also has several unresolved legal citations against TEH. Despite this, the slumlords of TEH have not hesitated to file numerous lawsuits against the tenants who were unable to pay to live in their pathetic excuse for housing.
On Monday, Rabin came to the property to collect rent and show it off to potential investors. The employees confronted Rabin, who did not speak to them or give them answers, but called the police to defend him and his capitalist friends. When one of the employees tried to block Rabin’s car from leaving, the police stopped it, saying about TEH’s wage theft “that’s a civil matter.” One brave employee chased Rabin’s vehicle down the highway, demanding his wages. This is a demonstration that the masses of Saint Louis are militant and capable of bravery in the face of their oppressors and exploiters. What is needed is Communist leadership and ironclad discipline. The goal of a tenants’ movement and organization is to build class struggle organizations and conquer gains through organization and militancy.
Between unapologetic wage theft, hellish living conditions, and the rapid gentrification of affordable housing, Rabin and TEH Realty are committing abhorrent crimes against the nationally oppressed and working class/lumpen/proletariat of St. Louis. Situations like this highlight the increasingly desperate need for tenants’ unions wielding revolutionary theory and practice as their unbreakable weapons, and the conquest of political power by the masses and their Party.