Tenants Union Drawn into Co-op War

Part of the upsurge in grassroots organizing on Minneapolis’ West Bank in the 1970s was the West Bank Tenants Union. As a respected institution among you West Bankers, they were, at times, called on to mediate in the Co-op Wars. In Storefront Revolution, Craig Cox relates an incident when the CO tried to enlist their support after workers at North Country Co-op called the cops when the CO tried to occupy the store in March of 1976:

“That evening, at a meeting of the West Bank Tenants’ Union, a group of CO members demanded that the co-op’s use of police force as a weapon to thwart political discussion be put on the agenda. The Union was a widely respected organization in Cedar Riverside, much applauded for its struggles against a local developer named Keith Heller and his grand plan to level the housing in the neighborhood and replace it with high-rises. The Union, in fact, was in the middle of a bitter rent strike against Heller and had collected a quarter of a million dollars in withheld rent. The Union board listened to the CO request and agreed to place it at the end of that evening’s agenda.

Most of those board members, of course, were not only aware of the threat the CO posed to North Country (and, by extension, the close-knit counterculture community of the West Bank) but also knew that the cadre had been leafleting the high-rises with papers accusing the Tenants’ Union of working on the side of the corporate landlords. The board adjourned just before the CO’s agenda item came up for discussion.”

In this video clip from Mike Rivard, the Minnesota Tenants Union stage a protest of evictions in the high-rises of Cedar Riverside in the late 1970s. We don’t know the relationship, if any, between the West Bank Tenants’ Union and the Minnesota Tenants Union, but I bet someone out there could enlighten us.

Help us finish Radical Roots and tell the story of how the co-ops became what they are today by donating at Seed & Spark, liking us on Facebook, and following us on Twitter.