NYC-DSA Constitution

Preface

This is the interim Constitution of the NYC-DSA Local, adopted in May 2016. It can be amended by unanimous vote of the Steering Committee or by majority vote at a Constitutional Convention to be held in 2017 in February, March, or April; the specific date will be set by the Steering Committee. At that 2017 Convention the Constitution will be put to a majority vote to make it the official Constitution of the NYC Local, and further amendments will follow the rules set out in Article IX.

Article I. Name and Purpose

The name of this organization shall be the New York City Democratic Socialists of America (“the Local”). Its jurisdiction shall be the five boroughs of New York City, or such other jurisdiction as may be conferred by National DSA. Its purposes shall be consistent with those of National DSA.

Article II. Membership

Section 1: Definition. The Membership of New York City DSA shall be composed of all DSA members residing within the jurisdiction of the Local. DSA members shall be defined to include all people who have paid dues to the National organization within the last two years or who have paid lifetime dues. Members in good standing will include all DSA members who have paid dues within the last year or who have paid lifetime dues. All Local members in good standing shall have full and equal rights of membership.

Section 2: Suspension or expulsion. Pursuant to Article III, Section 4 of the National DSA constitution, the Steering Committee shall have the power to suspend or expel members from the Local. Members can be suspended or expelled if they are found to have harassed or acted violently against another member; if they are found to be in substantial disagreement with the principles or policies of the organization; if they consistently engage in undemocratic, disruptive behavior; or if they are under the discipline of any self-defined democratic-centralist organization. Members facing suspension or expulsion must receive written notice of charges against them at least fifteen days before a meeting of the Steering Committee and must be given the opportunity to be heard before the Steering Committee. A two-thirds vote is required to suspend or expel a member. The Steering Committee will only have the power to suspend or expel a member from the Local. Only the National organization shall have the power to suspend or expel a member from the National organization. Decisions on suspension or expulsion may be appealed at the Local Convention or by Special Meeting.

Section 3: Dues. The Steering Committee shall have the authority to decide to raise annual dues from members of the Local. Dues shall be specified in the Bylaws, and require a two-thirds vote of the Steering Committee or a majority vote of those at the Local Convention to be changed.

Article III. Basic Organization and Conventions

Section 1: General Membership. Conventions and Special Meetings of the Local, at which the General Membership shall be represented by elected delegates, shall be the highest body of the organization; providing that Special Meetings shall have the authority to deal with only those matters for which they may be called. The Steering Committee shall be the highest body of the organization between Conventions and Special Meetings, and shall be responsible for the administration of the organization and the implementation of policies formulated by the General Membership.

Section 2: Conventions. The Local shall meet in Convention annually during the first six months of the year, with at least thirty days notice given to all members. The Convention shall meet to elect officers and to debate and decide primarily, but not exclusively, Local issues, the political orientation of the organization, and program direction.

Section 3: Special Meetings. By call of forty percent of the Steering Committee or ten percent of members, a Special Meeting shall be called, with notice given to all members at least thirty days prior to the meeting. The call to the Special Meeting shall specify the matters to be discussed therein and no other matter may be brought to the floor.

Section 4: Voting. Every member of the Local shall have the right to vote for and run to be a delegate to Conventions or Special Meetings of the Local. Elected delegates must be members in good standing at the time of the Convention. Members shall have the ability to renew DSA dues at the start of the Convention.

Section 5: Rules. All resolutions and officer reports presented to the Local’s membership at the Convention will allow for a question and answer period to be followed by speakers wishing to voice their opinions. Number of speakers and speaking time will be limited to fit within the Convention’s time constraints. Otherwise, all rules covering the conduct of a Convention or Special Meeting shall be set by the Steering Committee or a committee it appoints for that purpose, and shall be subject to modification and approval by the membership at the meeting.

Section 6: Quorum. A quorum of sixty percent of elected delegates shall be required for the start of valid meetings of the Convention or Special Meeting.

Article IV. Steering Committee

Section 1: Definition. The Steering Committee shall consist of:

a) The officers of the Local: the two Co-chairs, the Treasurer, and the Secretary.

b) One representative elected from each Branch of the Local.

c) At-large members, to be appointed at the discretion of the Steering Committee. The Steering Committee may not appoint more than three at-large members.

Section 2: Responsibilities. 

a) The Steering Committee shall meet as a whole at least six times annually (in person or by conference call). It shall concern itself primarily with the development of political strategy and plans to be presented annually at the Local Convention for debate and vote. The Steering Committee will also be responsible for staffing, office space, and major Local financial expenses.

b) The Steering Committee will coordinate and direct all Local-wide activities in New York City, as well as oversee the Local’s communications and media. It may delegate any of these activities to subcommittees or groups of NYC-DSA.

c) The Steering Committee will be responsible for carrying out National DSA’s priorities in New York City.

d) The Steering Committee, working with relevant committees, must publish or deliver an annual report describing the accomplishments of the previous year and setting forth the plans and goals for the Local in the coming year.

Section 3: Officers. The officers of the Local shall be two Co-chairs, a Treasurer, and a Secretary.

a) The Co-chairs shall be the chief spokespeople of the organization. They shall preside over all Conventions and Special Meetings of the Local and the Steering Committee, shall have responsibility for overall direction and management of the organization, and shall interpret the Constitution and Bylaws, subject to appeal to the Steering Committee. At least one of the Co-chairs must be a woman.

b) The Treasurer shall have custody of all funds of the organization and shall be responsible for the financial management of the organization. They shall be responsible for authorizing all expenditures in accordance with the wishes of the Steering Committee (in the case of expenditures over $500, prior approval must be sought from the Steering or Administrative Committee), and shall organize fundraising and dues collection, should the Local decide to collect dues.

d) The Secretary shall be responsible for maintaining accurate membership lists, and for keeping minutes and records of all Conventions and Special Meetings of the Local. They shall also be responsible for informing the Steering Committee and the membership of all Conventions and Special Meetings.

Section 4: Administrative Committee. The two Co-chairs, Treasurer, and Secretary will serve as an Administrative Committee between meetings of the Steering Committee and have the power to make any necessary decisions.

Section 5: Diversity. At least two officers of the Local must be women, and at least two officers of the Local must be people of color. If the elected officers of the Local do not meet these requirements, the Steering Committee must appoint additional at-large members of the Steering Committee as soon as possible to fulfill these requirements. The Steering Committee should also consider appointing at-large members to increase its diversity if the elected Branch representatives are overwhelmingly of one identity.

Section 6: Vacancies. In the event that there is a vacancy in an officer position, the Steering Committee will have the power to fill the vacancy by majority vote.

Section 7: Removal. Any member of the Steering Committee who misses two consecutive meetings without an acceptable excuse shall be dropped from the committee and their position declared vacant. Members of the Steering Committee may also be removed for gross incompetence or conduct contrary to the best interests of the Local. A three-quarters majority vote of the Steering Committee is required to remove a member of the Steering Committee.

Section 8: Quorum. A quorum of fifty percent shall be required for a valid meeting of the Administrative Committee, and a quorum of three members or fifty percent, whichever is higher,  required for a valid meeting of the Steering Committee.

Article V. Election of Officers        

Section 1: Nominations. All Officers of the Steering Committee shall be elected at the Local’s annual Convention. Nominations to run for the Steering Committee must be submitted to the outgoing Steering Committee in advance of the Convention. Any member may nominate another member in good standing for elected position in the Local.

Section 2: Process. There shall be a separate vote for each contested office at the Local Convention in the order that the offices are listed in Article IV. The Steering Committee will be responsible for ensuring that elections are held and for fulfilling the diversity requirements spelled out in Article IV, Section 5.

Section 3. Election of Branch representatives. Representatives from Branches will be elected no later than one month after the Local Convention. They will serve for a year. Branches shall have the right to recall their representative and replace them, and will also be responsible for replacing their representative should they no longer be able to serve on the Steering Committee.

Article VI. Branches

Section 1: Definition. The Local may subdivide its jurisdiction into Branches for the purpose of creating smaller membership bodies that meet regularly. The purpose of a Branch will be to carry out the Local’s campaigns and to debate and discuss the organization’s political strategy. Any group of eight or more Local members of NYC-DSA, in good standing, may be recognized by the Steering Committee as a Branch. A Branch can define itself by geography, shared interest, or membership in an institution. A group of members seeking to establish itself as a Branch must apply to the Local’s Steering Committee in writing, including the names of its members; a description of purposes, functions, and membership criteria; and other information deemed necessary by the Steering Committee. A majority vote of the Steering Committee will be required to establish a Branch.

Section 2: Responsibilities. Each Branch shall maintain an official membership list. The Steering Committee will, from time to time, review the status of Branches to insure that they are in minimum compliance with the Constitution.

Section 3: Membership. A Branch shall define its own rules for membership in its bylaws. A Branch’s definition of its membership must be approved by the Steering Committee.

Section 4: Representatives. Every Branch shall elect one of its members to a seat on the Local’s Steering Committee. Every Local member may vote in only two Branch elections for Steering Committee representatives, although they may be a member of as many Branches as they wish. Young Democratic Socialists chapters in New York City may jointly elect one representative.

Section 5: Revoking status. A Branch may have its status revoked by a majority plus one vote of the Steering Committee following a hearing open to all Local members.

Article VII: Electoral Endorsements

Section 1: Endorsement Meetings. Candidates running for local, state, and national political office may only be endorsed by the Local as a whole at specified Endorsement Meetings. A sixty percent majority of the delegates attending an Endorsement Meeting will be required to endorse any candidate.

Section 2: Special circumstances. The Steering Committee may endorse candidates by three-quarters vote in exceptional situations where time constraints forbid holding an Endorsement Meeting.

Section 3: Quorum. A quorum of sixty percent of elected delegates shall be required for the start of valid Endorsement Meetings.

Article VIII: General Provisions

Section 1: Interpretation. This Constitution shall be interpreted by the Steering Committee, subject only to appeal to the Local Convention or a Special Meeting. The interpretation of the Local Convention or Special Meeting shall be final.

Section 2: Rules. Unless otherwise voted upon by a meeting, Robert’s Rules, newly revised (referred to also as “Robert’s Rules”) shall govern the conduct of all Conventions and Special Meetings.

Section 3: Notifications. All requirements for giving notice to the membership can be met by both sending emails and posting to social media.

Article IX: Amendments and Bylaws

Section 1: Amendments. This Constitution may be amended by a sixty percent majority of those present at the Local Convention or Special Meeting called for that purpose, provided that notice of such amendments must be given no less than fifteen days prior.

Section 2: Bylaws***. The Bylaws may be amended by a majority of those present at the Local Convention or Special Meeting or by a two-thirds vote of the Steering Committee.

***Bylaws to be developed at a future date.

Approved by NYC-DSA Convention with edits, May 12, 2016
Edits recommended at Convention approved by NYC-DSA Steering Committee, June 22 2016
Amended by NYC-DSA Steering Committee, February 1 2017 and March 19 2017