Sex Work is Work, Stop Criminalizing It.

By Charlotte A


Sex workers have spent decades fighting for decriminalization of their livelihood. Recently, their demands have moved into the limelight in New York. Decrim NY, a coalition of sex workers, allies, and partner organizations, is leading the push for New York to become the first state to decriminalize sex work. NYC-DSA has joined the battle and played a key role in the Cabán primary campaign, a recent victory for the movement.

Decriminalization is the removal of criminal penalties for provision of sexual services, performances, or products in return for material compensation; it’s a step towards full legalization and regulation, and a key demand for advocates.

NYC-DSA’s Queer Caucus and Socialist Feminist Working Group have both joined Decrim NY, a grassroots group formed by sex workers in February to keep their communities safe. The coalition seeks to shape policy and public opinion around people in the sex trades, in order to “decriminalize, decarcerate, and destigmatize” their work and “improve the lives of people who perform sexual labor, whether by choice, circumstance, or coercion,” as well as communities impacted by the criminalization of sex work.

Sex workers rights gained national media attention in April 2018, when Congress passed the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) and Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA), sparking their highly visible and organized opposition. While proponents claimed the law was intended to “protect” victims of sex trafficking, SESTA/FOSTA further criminalized and endangered sex workers themselves, as NYC-DSA’s Steering Committee noted in a statement released on June 28. 

The Steering Committee’s statement calls for the full decriminalization of sex work and repeal of SESTA/FOSTA. It also urges Bernie Sanders, the candidate our chapter has endorsed for president, to disavow his previous position on the bill and support decriminalization. “SESTA/FOSTA has made sex work tremendously more dangerous by shutting down websites sex workers use to connect with and screen clients,” the statement reads. Without an online system to advertise and choose clients, sex workers are forced into unsafe conditions, with fewer advance precautions in place and no way to ensure that they work in safe locations.

Tiffany Cabán was the only candidate for Queens DA who promised not to prosecute sex workers for loitering and other offenses, and who supported decriminalization of both selling and buying sex. If her narrow margin of victory in the June 25 Democratic primary survives the counting of mail and affidavit ballots, the queer, Latinx public defender and DSA member will almost certainly become the next Queens DA in January. Sex work could in effect be decriminalized in Queens. Her decarceral mindset and commitment to harm reduction is why many sex workers strongly supported Cabán’s candidacy and one reason NYC-DSA endorsed Cabán and campaigned for her vigorously.

State Senator Julia Salazar, a DSA member, alongside Assembly Member Richard Gottfried, introduced the Stop Violence in the Sex Trades Act in June. In addition to removing criminal penalties for adults buying and selling sex, the bill would amend other statues that punish or endanger sex workers. “This actually speaks to exactly how pervasive the criminalization of the sex industry is,” said Sen. Salazar, “that it touches so many parts of the law the average person doesn’t think about when they think about prostitution being illegal.” Another bill introduced this year would allow survivors of sex trafficking to vacate criminal convictions for crimes committed while being trafficked. A third would repeal a “loitering-for-prostitution” law. 

“Decrim NY’s policy team had a big role in developing the package,” said Noah Z, a member of the Socialist Feminist Working Group's Organizing Committee who coordinates the working group’s efforts to support the campaign. “SocFem's role right now is helping with the public outreach side of the campaign, specifically canvassing,” Noah said. So far, there have been two canvasses focused on combating myths about the sex trade and gathering signatures from people expressing support for the proposed legislation. “I also think that the electoral work people have done for candidates like Salazar and Cabán, and AOC's stance against SESTA/FOSTA, have helped build the groundwork for us to be involved with this,” Noah added.

Decriminalization is an important demand for socialists in part because it’s a labor issue. “Sex workers are workers,” Noah said. Like other workers, sex workers need wage and hour protections, the right to a union, and freedom from violence or harassment on the job. “We say ‘sex work is work’ not because we want to valorize wage labor, but because we recognize that workers' rights and safety are always won through struggle, and this struggle is no exception.” 

Sex work also exists at the intersection of many struggles important to our movement. Queer and trans people, people of color, undocumented people and migrants, poor people, and disabled people are all more likely to do sex work, often because they are shut out of other kinds of work, Noah added. “Capitalism isn't identity-neutral, and our fight against it can't ignore the particular experiences of marginalized workers, or the labor struggles present in gendered, racialized, and frequently precarious sectors, such as the sex industry.”

“Right now, the number one threat to sex workers is criminalization and police violence, so that's where we’re starting.” But as Noah points out, “freedom is more than ‘freedom from.’ It’s also being able to freely access housing, healthcare, education, and other services.” Sex workers need positive rights, not “rescue,” forced “services,” or restriction from the things they need to make a living. Criminalization and stigma make it difficult for sex workers to access the resources all of us need to survive. 

The next SocFem canvass for Decrim NY is July 13 from 2 to 5 pm in Jackson Heights. If you’d like to get involved, sign up for updates here!  


Feeling the Bern for 2020: the NYC-DSA’s Efforts to Drive Turnout and Activate Workers and Poor People

By Jack C


When NYC-DSA endorses a candidate, we really go ALL IN. That’s why the endorsement process is so rigorous. So when it looked like Bernie Sanders was going to run for the Democratic Party nomination for the 2020 election, it was natural that NYC-DSA members would have strong feelings about it (both for and against). When the pro-endorsement contingent ultimately won out in February in, anticipation of DSA’s national endorsement, the question of how we would support the campaign naturally became one of vital importance. 

That’s when Nina Svirsky and Oren Schweitzer, both from NYC-DSA’s YDSA branch, cosponsored the convention resolution entitled “Committing NYC-DSA’s Bernie 2020 Priority Campaign to Voter Registration through October 11th.” The title says it all, but more specifically, the focus of the resolution is that “NYC-DSA’s Bernie 2020 priority campaign will prioritize voter registration initiatives on CUNY campuses and high traffic public spaces in low income or predominantly black, Latinx, and immigrant neighborhoods.” For this look into our chapter’s strategy and goals for Bernie 2020, I got on the phone with Nina to discuss the resolution. I also followed up with a variety of NYC-DSA organizers from different branches to see how their work tied in the broader goals of the DSA.


Feeling the Resolve

That both Nina and Oren are from the YDSA should come as no surprise. While Bernie has fans of all ages, he’s found a special place in the hearts of young people, many of whom are feeling especially crushed by our present hyper-capitalist era and have never had a political figure they could genuinely feel good about and be inspired by. Disillusioned with the political system in the wake of the 2016 election, Nina joined the YDSA in the fall of 2017. 

“Unlike most other YDSA chapters, which can be confined to campus issues,” Nina notes, “the NYC-YDSA chapters work very closely with the NYC-DSA proper, which made me really feel like we were a part of the larger organization.”

The reasoning behind the wording and direction of the resolution is simple, Nina explains. The goal is to reach poor and working-class New Yorkers where they live: at CUNY colleges and in high-traffic areas. This tactic works on a variety of levels. First, it engages a large segment of the population who has never voted and tries to get them behind a progressive candidate whose policies would actually benefit the poorest Americans. Getting more voters for Bernie on the rolls is great, but it’s just the beginning of what this work can do, Nina says. It’s also about political education, class consciousness, and inviting these workers into the struggle for their own liberation:

“What Socialists want and what Bernie wants is fundamentally different from what mainstream liberal voters and politicians want and are offering… It’s not just about registering people to vote, it’s about building an independent class-struggle movement around a broader set of ideas—Democratic Socialism.”

It’s only through struggle, solidarity, and mutual aid that we can hope to overcome capitalism’s death-grip on working people and the world. Reaching people where they live, registering them to vote, and helping them gain perhaps the first inkling of class consciousness, are powerful steps towards realizing our liberation. This same approach has taken form in the other branches of the NYC-DSA.


Labor

Labor for Bernie is an independent group within the DSA, but a lot of DSA activists have been involved, both in NYC and around the country. Tying the Sanders campaign’s efforts to help poor and working people to the struggle of labor against the capitalist class is important to building the larger movement that many see as the only path forward if we are to overcome the crushing pressures of our present economic situation. There have been two general Labor for Bernie meetings, with over 50 attendees in total. Dozens of union members have signed “Labor for Bernie” lists and pledge cards at NYSNA strike rallies, the Michael Lighty Medicare 4 All town hall, the TDU fundraiser, the Bernie rally in March, CWA retiree meetings, and other events.

Nationally, several locals have passed resolutions calling for democratic endorsement processes that actually poll the membership instead of jumping in on an early endorsement for, one might guess, Joe Biden. The first outright union local endorsement for Sanders has been the Roofers Local 36 in Los Angeles. NY Labor for Bernie is actively looking for unionists and labor movement fellow travelers to join up and bring the political revolution to our workplaces, our unions, and our workers centers. If you're interested, email nylaborforbernie@gmail.com!


Brooklyn Electoral Comms

The Brooklyn Electoral Comms committee has decided to focus on cultivating media liaisons within every geographic branch. The liaisons would maintain a list of media outlets interested in their location and contact these newspapers, websites, etc, in advance of a newsworthy event or action, in order to increase coverage. They would also be trained to act as spokespeople and help guide the media story to explicitly tie Sanders-related actions directly to DSA's larger efforts and vice versa. Committee co-coordinator Paul Swartz says of the media liaison project:

"We're looking to link our Bernie work to our other efforts around the city, demonstrating that they're all part of a larger political struggle. We want to use each to draw attention to the other."

Trainings are currently being scheduled for the coming weeks and all interested parties should email Paul at paul.swartz1@gmail.com.


Geographic Branches

The geographic branches of NYC-DSA have been busy as well! South Brooklyn DSA For Bernie has run voter registration drives at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park, at the Puerto Rican Day Parade in Sunset Park, the 5th Avenue Street Fair in Bay Ridge, and in Coney Island. The goal of these actions has been to reach poor and working-class New Yorkers in their communities, explain the ways that a Sanders presidency would positively impact them, and differentiate Bernie from the Democractic field. North Brooklyn DSA for Bernie has held several voter registration meetings so far, focused on registering voters ahead of primary registration deadline.

They’ve already registered 50 voters and brought 30 new comrades into the DSA. Bronx/Upper Manhattan’s Bernie-related activity so far has included a campaign organizing meeting and a voter registration event in Harlem.


Turning Up the Heat

As the Democratic primary begins to dominate mainstream media coverage  and the already superfluous crowd of interchangeable candidates continues to grow, NYC-DSA for Bernie has to remain focused on playing our own game and sticking with the fundamentals. Reaching poor and working-class people where they live, registering new voters, increasing class consciousness, and tying theses efforts (and the Sanders campaign in general) to DSA goals and projects can help build the sweeping, large-scale movement that is needed to transform politics and this country and give all of us a fighting chance against our capitalist oppressors. 




Branches

Bronx/Upper Manhattan

This month, Bronx/Upper Manhattan branch members continued canvassing for the Save Allen Psych campaign in Inwood and working on the Universal Rent Control campaign, which scored a huge victory with the new rent laws. The branch canvassed, phone-banked, and made buttons for Tiffany Cabán, and registered voters in Harlem with the NYC-DSA Bernie Sanders campaign. Members also helped with the Socialist Feminist Swap Meet in Harlem and the Red Sprouts Family Picnic in Central Park. Their newest branch working group, the B/UM Ecosocialist Working Group, held its first meeting. B/UM also held another successful new member orientation on the 15th, followed by a happy hour. And at their branch meeting on June 22, there was a panel discussion on canvassing, where people who've worked on various campaigns talked to the branch about their canvassing experiences and gave tips on best practices.


Lower Manhattan

The Lower Manhattan branch has had a very busy month and doesn’t intend to slow down the pace in the coming weeks. Their local housing group has been very busy between its twin roles as part of the coalition that won greatly improved rent regulations for NY State residents and the coalition opposing the construction of the Two Bridges development. The LoMan healthcare committee recently hosted a canvass in Stuytown asking the residents to contact their representatives about supporting nothing less than real Single Payer. The branch also turned out huge support for the Cabán campaign, hosting multiple canvasses and regular phonebanks. The branch is also reading the Socialist Manifesto throughout July--reach out to the OC for a pdf. 


NYC-YDSA

City College YDSA and NYU YDSA have 14 elected delegates and alternates for the YDSA National Convention in Atlanta, to be held July 30th to August 1st. They also have 4 dual delegates attending the DSA National Convention. Currently the branch is fundraising to cover the costs of traveling, housing, and registration for the conventions. Please donate here if you’re able: https://www.gofundme.com/nyu-ydsa


Central Brooklyn

Central Brooklyn branch members actively participated in the statewide Universal Rent Control campaign, which saw a huge victory last week when a majority of said platform was passed and signed into law. Now vacancy decontrol and the vacancy bonus will be illegal, MCI and IAI rent increases are significantly reduced, and cities across the state can opt in to rent stabilization (among other things). Plus the new laws are permanent! This is a huge victory for the tenant movement and CBK is thrilled that DSA played a role in it.

The branch has also been continuing political education efforts by reading and discussing “The ABCs of Capitalism,” a joint pamphlet from Jacobin and Catalyst. The pamphlet touches on questions like: How does class structure society? What hope can socialists have to fight for and build an alternative economy? And what is the relationship between capitalism and racial and gender oppression? Upcoming discussions will take place on June 25, July 9, and July 23 from 7-9pm at the Brooklyn Free School (372 Clinton Avenue).


South Brooklyn

South Brooklyn DSA For Bernie ran voter registration drives at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park, at the Puerto Rico Day Parade in Sunset Park, the 5th Avenue Street Fair in Bay Ridge, and in Coney Island. 

SBK-DSA is electing new officers as June ends. Their June meeting focused on hearing candidate statements with ballots released electronically afterwards. SBK has two events planned for July, both at the Carroll Gardens Library, 396 Clinton St, Brooklyn, NY 11231: A New Member Orientation on Saturday July 6th, from 2-4 PM, and an ABC’s of Socialism Reading Group, on Saturday July 13th, from 2-4 PM.

Staten Island

The Staten Island branch ran its first Medicare for All canvass in the first week of June—quite possibly the first explicitly socialist door-knocking event ever done in the borough! The branch reports some very good responses and is prepared and pumped for the next canvass on Saturday, June 29th.

This month’s branch meeting will be at CWA Local 1102 in Great Kills from 7-9 PM. The focus will be on political education, covering the first 3 chapters of “The Meaning of Marxism” by Paul D’Amato, the rest of which will be covered in future political education reading groups.

Working Groups

Debt & Finance Working Group

This month, the Debt & Finance Working Group held an Organizing Committee election. Four members will be continuing on the committee and one new member will be joining. 

Debt & Finance has been very focused on its public banking campaign. Currently, New York City and New York State funnel substantial amounts of New Yorkers' money through private banks, which use those funds for socially destructive purposes such as private prisons, oil pipelines, and so on. Debt & Finance has been campaigning for New York to divest from these private banks, which are notoriously difficult to reign in, and instead create a system of public banks that strengthen our communities. A fuller statement on the public banking campaign can be found here

As part of the public banking campaign, Debt & Finance has worked closely with the Public Bank NYC coalition, and conducted internal political education programs within DSA. 

Additionally, the working group has been in contact with similar movement leaders in California, West Virginia, Washington, and Germany (among other places). They have lead outreach events in North Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, and have held teach-in events covering the history of the movement within New York (including how DSA founder Michael Harrington almost got a public banking initiative passed in the 1970s), the history of the movement in other areas, and how this issue intersects with worker co-ops. 

Currently, Debt & Finance is developing potential legislation that would bring public banking to New York. While still in the planning stages, they hope to hold a public banking meeting in July, which will focus on the intersections between this movement and the fight for housing justice.

For scheduling and further information, reach them at: debtors@socialists.nyc

Healthcare Working Group

Since launching the citywide working group in January, the decades-long fight for single payer at the state and federal levels has been simultaneously marked by moments of progress and disappointment this year. 

With respect to the New York Health Act, which would guarantee healthcare free at the point of service to all New York State residents (including undocumented residents): the bill enjoyed a historic first-ever hearing in the State Legislature this year since being introduced three decades ago, signaling a substantial increase in visibility. However, despite a newly progressive Democratic majority and a number of wins for lefty activists in the state, the State Senate yet again refused to put the New York Health Act to a vote. 

The Healthcare working group, in tandem with its coalition partners, focused on targeting the last two Democratic holdouts for this bill in the five boroughs - State Senators Andrew Gounardes and Diane Savino, the latter formerly a member of the notorious IDC. While we succeeded in getting Gounardes to cosponsor, Savino refused to cosponsor, leaving us one vote short of a Senate majority. With the legislative session now over, Healthcare is now strategizing around the question of what lessons to learn from this year's campaign as we set the groundwork for activism around next year's State legislative budget session.

In the meantime, on the federal level, momentum continues to build for Medicare for All. The first-ever Congressional hearing for Medicare for All took place back in April, and a number of House Reps have signed onto the bill, thanks in part to organizing pressure from DSA chapters throughout the country. Earlier this month, the bill also enjoyed its first hearing in the House’s Ways and Means Committee, which has significant jurisdiction over healthcare policy. In New York City, the healthcare working group is focused on targeting Reps Hakeem Jeffries and Max Rose in Staten Island to pressure them to cosponsor Medicare for All. Staten Island DSA just launched a long stretch of summer canvassing focused on Max Rose, following a lobby meeting with his office back in May. Central Brooklyn DSA has also launched a canvassing operation in Crown Heights targeting Jeffries and has been birddogging him at town halls. 

Throughout the rest of the summer, we look forward to increased organizing in NYC around Medicare for All and a renewed strategy for the New York Health Act going into 2020.

Immigrant Justice Working Group

Congratulations to the new members of the Immigrant Justice Working Group Committee: Britt Stern, Cody Carlson, Dan La Botz, Dinah Foley, and Robert Espinosa!

With few days remaining for the state legislative session, the working group’s ICE Out of the Courts campaign was focused on getting the Protect Our Courts Act up for a vote before the Assembly and Senate adjourn. The bill remains in committee for both houses.

In good news, The Open Borders resolution passed the NYC-DSA convention!

People interested in joining or working with the Immigrant Justice Working Group can email them at: immigrant.justice@socialists.nyc

Ecosocialist Working Group

This month, New York State passed the most ambitious climate legislation in the country! New York will now aim for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040 and economy-wide, net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. For years, activists from across the state, including the Ecosocialist working group, have been working in coalition through NY Renews to pass this legislation. While select areas were watered down at the last minute (for example, the Climate and Communities Protection Act that NY Renews had been pushing for stipulated that 40 percent of all state investments in climate and clean energy go to disadvantaged/frontline communities, but the final legislation allotted "no less than 35 percent"; also, zero emissions economy-wide become net-zero emissions while allowing for a small percentage of carbon offsets for certain industries), this is still a major win and may prompt action from other states.

Following this win, The Ecosocialist working group continues to make headway in their Public Power NYC campaign. At the end of May, they picketed outside of Con Edison's annual shareholders meeting to demand an end to closed-door decisionmaking and the beginning of democratic control over our major energy systems and resources. Photos from the action can be found here, and the press release about the action can be read here.

On June 26, the working group held a direct confrontation with the Public Service Commission by delivering testimony at the public hearings for Con Edison's current rate case. This was related to Con Edison’s desire to raise rates in order to build more fossil fuel infrastructure. Currently, the company has no plan for renewables. 

On July 22, at 7:00pm, the working group will be holding another public hearing to collect testimony for the rate case in Astoria, co-hosted by Council Member Constantinides.

At our June general body meeting, the working group revived its Food Justice subcommittee.

Contact the Ecosocialist Working Group here: dsa.climate.justice@gmail.com

Religion and Socialism Working Group

On July 28th, The Religion and Socialism Working Group is sponsoring a panel at the Left Forum exploring the relationship between religion and socialism. Find out more about the panel and register here. 

Contact the working group here: religious.socialism@socialists.nyc


Passing the Hat for Cross-Chapter Solidarity

By Roxanne Palmer

I visited the NYC-DSA Media Working Group one slushy winter night, and left feeling a little bit jealous. The room was crowded with more than 50 socialists, which is easily more than five times the regular attendance of the monthly meetings in Central Florida DSA in Gainesville, FL.

When it comes to organizing, we have some conditions in Gainesville that are actually pretty favorable: the nexus of our chapter is a fairly dense liberal college town, and our public officials have even been known to talk about the influence of capital in county meetings. Hell, we even got rid of our Confederate soldier statue two whole years ago. 

But even in Gainesville, organizing is difficult. There is no reliable public transit for long distances, let alone within the municipal area. Our union organizing network is much weaker than that in urban centers, and we have a state government that can exercise preemption to torpedo local legislative wins. 

That said, I don’t think there is any substantial difference in the enthusiasm or thoughtfulness of comrades in cities or small towns; I think both our smallness and the smallness of many other chapters is a consequence of material conditions, and that a bold measure like Pass the Hat will give a very much needed hand up to all of us.

The experience of organizing a small chapter is difficult. Burnout and precarity are familiar problems for most active organizers, but when one person leaves in NYC-DSA, the organization can absorb the hit. If I quit, my chapter will probably die. I’ve seen it happen to other dedicated organizers in rural and suburban areas across the country: burnout happens or resources dwindle, and their fledgling efforts die quiet, unnoticed deaths.

It’s not that $100 a month will fix everything, but it would relieve many things that hamper us, for which we have a limited number of pockets to draw from and time to coordinate. Pass the Hat could pay for our gas to drive to nearby counties to table, run a brake light clinic, or canvass. It could pay for secure meeting spaces for chapters that have been threatened by right-wingers. It could even help us incorporate, which we have not done because the filing fees would empty our coffee can of cash, and seriously threaten our Meeting Pizza supply.

I know our comrades in Socialist Majority have another proposal for supporting us,

and while I think doubling the dues share and the other remedies outlined will certainly give some boost to chapters like mine, I don’t think it’s quite enough to make a meaningful difference. We have fewer members to pay dues, and our membership tends to be poorer and less able to contribute than might be expected.

Down here, it does not feel like the National DSA playbook is working. A couple more trainings, another campaign in a box, another brief visit from an overworked national organizer every year aren’t helping. We need to rewrite our strategy entirely, based on the successes and the failures (particularly the failures). We have already seen too many small chapters wither, and business as usual, even if it’s adjusted slightly in our favor, just won’t do.

Our NYC comrades have been extraordinarily generous to us in the past (sending thousands of dollars to the Florida chapters for hurricane relief, for example), but I’d prefer a more organized and reliable source of funds. We fundraise a lot in small chapters and will get better at it as we go, but it’s just plain harder to raise a decent amount of money, whether through GoFundMe, t-shirt sales and parties when you’ve got a baker’s dozen or fewer in membership, working with less to start.

None of this is to imply that I think my comrades organizing in the big cities have it easier than we do. Far from it. In many ways, I think your struggle is harder: you’ve started threatening the powers that be, and made the right kinds of enemies. But in smaller chapters, we’re still working on finding our feet. I hope that when Pass the Hat is adopted at our convention this August, we can find steady ground, and stand and fight alongside you.. 

Solidarity!


Roxanne Palmer is on the steering committee of Central Florida DSA and a member of Build DSA. You can reach out to her about Pass the Hat, small chapters, or birdwatching at roxannedpalmer@gmail.com


Politely Passing on Pass the Hat

By David Duhalde, (DC Chapter and soon-to-be B/UM)

The “Pass the Hat” proposal, while incredibly well-meaning, could create as many problems as it would hope to solve. 

Recently, I chatted with Nick Bunce, former Co-Chair of Houston DSA. When Hurricane Harvey hit two years ago, DSA members in Houston rose to the occasion to show how socialists take care of our neighbors in crisis. Inspired by this, DSAers around the country donated nearly $125,000 to Houston’s effort. He explained, however, lacking the proper bank account and our national staff being overwhelmed, a significant portion of Houston DSA’s volunteer time ended up being dedicated to overhead and paperwork instead of direct service. 

Nick told me that if he could do it again, he’d want national to have more resources to help set up a bank account and administrative work. He also noted direct relief actions were delayed because of misunderstandings about IRS rules to allow chapters to use uniform bylaws to incorporate with national’s legal tax status. For me, it exemplifies two points: 1) for our local chapters to continue to amplify our message, we need a strong national body 2) for National to even exist, it needs to build trust and understanding about critical but often obtuse bureaucratic rules. In the case of Harvey relief, distrust and a small staff just exacerbated burdens and multiplied work that wasn’t directly serving the needy. 

None of us want to make this harder than it has to be. The vast majority of DSA comrades want to grow and strengthen DSA, and by extension, our respective communities, and yet serious problems can arise in the implementation and execution of the means we choose to do this. Therefore, we need to seriously consider unintended consequences of every proposal.

Pass the Hat sets out a clear plan: providing $100 a month to all chapters with an appropriate bank account. It is a standard method that would redistribute national dues back to DSA groups in addition to an existing dues-sharing program of monthly dues. In theory, a simple and fair process to give smaller chapters extra funding and alleviate burdens on DSA employees to determine how much to send and where.

Its proponents argue that in addition to easing financial constraints for smaller chapters, this would help demonstrate to chapters a clear way that national direct helps them, which would build trust that has been lost. Speaking from personal experience as a former national staffer and member, there are many legitimate reasons membership’s faith in National has been hurt. Still, I remain unconvinced a uniform distribution system can ease financial burdens or heal the lack of trust. Simply rechanneling money back to the chapters in a faceless way doesn’t actually do the emotional work needed for genuine respect and trust. 

The plan to equally distribute funding has several other potential snags. First is equity: equally sharing the money ignores the principle “to each according to their needs.” Why should we give large chapters with big bank accounts the same as small chapters with no money? Furthermore, mirroring structural issues in capitalism of the unbanked vs. those with access to financial institutions, chapters currently without bank accounts wouldn’t benefit at all. Only roughly 50 of nearly 200 chapters have bank accounts. Second, a bylaw would make this program incredibly hard to change. Even DSA faces a revenue drop due to an economic recession, the estimated $180,000 (which may go up as chapters get accounts) could mean cuts to staffing and programming well beyond the value at the local level. It’s not strategic to put such an untested program into our constitution. The 2017 dues sharing program has been an experiment worth trying that can be reserved easily by the membership at any time.

With such unpredictability, it is easy to see how one economic downturn could bring about the aforementioned unforeseen consequences. An economic crisis is not the only potential financial problem. The potential of a 50/50 dues split could provide tremendous unfunded mandates. If we want National to do more for us, including less expensive conferences, more legal resources to combat fascists, and trainings then we have to give ourselves the resources for such possibilities. Otherwise, we would be robbing Peter to pay Paul. Defunding our major collective body will reduce options as we become a more visible force across the country and world.

The choice is also not binary as there is no singular pool of money for DSA. I fear we are drifting away from the hard, in-person asks in search of easy, bureaucratic solutions. We’re becoming too reliant on shifting dues money around instead of engaging our members and friends about DSA. 

And direct asks work! Chicago DSA solicits my donations more than my own chapter. For the past two years, I have bought ads on our Windy City’s annual dinner book. In that time I have never been asked to donate to my chapter. Therefore, I often forget to give except when it is for a specific campaign such as our convention delegation.

The Grassroots Fundraising proposal that will be considered at the convention offers a better approach, based in an organizing model. The resolution calls for a DSA dues drive to increase the number of monthly donors to DSA, improving the financial stability of both the national organization and locals. It offers financial support to newer, smaller locals by doubling their rate of dues sharing from those monthly donors. Most importantly, it directs the national organization to provide materials to locals to support this drive, to restart the chapter mentorship program between smaller and larger chapters, and to support locals with the necessary logistics. Instead of a proposal that embeds an inflexible and costly outlay into our constitution, the Grassroots Fundraising proposal seeks to orient the entire organization towards a fundraising model that is consistent with our principles and will put us on sound financial footing to weather whatever may come, with special attention, support, and resources directed to our newest and smallest locals.


What a June! A review of our wins in 2019.

By Cea Weaver

Over the last year, NYC-DSA has had three priority campaigns: #UniversalRentControl, Health Care for All, and Defeat Amazon. In addition, our working groups fought to end school suspensions, protect our courts and pass the Climate and Community Protection Act -- the strongest climate justice bill in the nation. And of course we also worked on Tiffany Cabán borough-wide campaign for District Attorney.

We didn’t win everything we fought for, but this year demonstrated the power of the socialist movement that strengthened our ability to organize and win reach victories for people, not profit. 

The election of Senator Julia Salazar in 2018 sent the first socialist to Albany in decades. Albany is a notoriously corrupt Statehouse, where real estate money has long ruled the day. But this year, NYC-DSA was there too. Not just in the office of State Senator, but also on every #TenantTuesday, on climate days of action, fighting for ICE out of the Courts, and demanding healthcare justice.

As the legislative session wrapped up in the State Capitol, real estate lobbyist Jay Martin told the New York Times: “It seems to be that the democratic socialist wing of the Democratic Party is in full control of the state government.

Here’s our take:

#UniversalRentControl

This year, state legislators passed a landmark rent reform package, confronting decades of real estate control over politics in Albany. The legislation will make major changes to the state’s tenant protections: it ends deregulation of rent stabilized apartments; it limits rent increases for building and apartment renovations; and perhaps most significantly, it expands the regulatory framework so that any locality in New York State can opt into rent stabilization. 

It has driven the real estate industry into hysterics.

Tenant protections in New York are stronger than they have been in generations. The law passed this spring will not only help people stay in their homes, undermine the hold the financial industry has on our neighborhoods, and fight speculation-driven displacement; it will bring tenants new freedom to organize and to fight for even more radical reforms. Tenant organizing to build socialist power across New York State is more achievable than it has ever been before.

NYC-DSA was part of a diverse coalition of tenants and homeless New Yorkers, the Upstate Downstate Housing Alliance, which marched in the streets, organized in their buildings, spoke out at hearings and town halls, and even faced arrest in the halls of the State Capitol. Together, we have worked tirelessly to defend renters’ rights and challenge one of New York’s most powerful industries. 

But despite the historic progress this law represents, we have much more to win. The most notable absence from the package is Julia Salazar’s good cause eviction bill, which would have extended protections to millions of unregulated tenants. This, along with the watered-down reforms to Major Capital Improvements and Individual Apartment Improvements, and the lack of a reregulation mechanism for already deregulated units, are a testament to the enormous powers of capital we are up against.

Amazon

We can’t not remind you about this important win. They tried to come to New York! We built coalition with working class residents in Queens, we canvassed, we protested. They were dragged through the press. They changed their mind and didn’t come to New York! 

New York Health Act

Despite majority support in the State Legislature, the New York Health Act -- a single payer system for New York -- did not pass this legislative session. 

The failure of this legislation demonstrates some of the challenges facing socialists as we pursue profound social transformation. While progressive legislators are willing to commit to healthcare-as-human-right in principle, when it comes to legislation that would abolish a major industry (and major employer) in the State of New York, they balk at the task. 

The New York Health Act was primarily a budget demand; during the budget process Governor Cuomo has an outsized influence. The State Legislature, despite its support of the bill, was reluctant to pass a major spending item without the Governor weighing in. The governor, needless to say, is not a supporter. 

Not just overcoming but actually eliminating a major industry would be a tremendous challenge under the best of circumstances, but with New York’s labor movement almost unanimously opposed to this legislation, progress was impossible.

This fight highlights the continued need for vocal, principled socialists within and outside of the labor movement. Winning Medicare for All, in New York and across the nation, will require all the tools at our disposal: direct action, electoral victories, and cohering the broadest possible coalition around a transformational demand.

A Green New Deal for New York?

The state legislature passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act: a watered-down version of the Climate and Community Protection Act -- a bill that NYRenews, a coalition of which NYC-DSA is a member, fought for years. This represents a missed opportunity for New York to be a ground-breaking climate leader. “While taking action on energy for the first time in decades, the legislature largely just put into law the Governor’s existing climate policies,” said Mark Dunlea, chair of the Green Education and Legal Fund (GELF).

The final deal struck out provisions added by the Senate for short-term targets as the state seeks to get to 70% of its state’s electricity from renewables by 2030 — the demands by the NYRenews coalition included 100% by 2030 and currently the electric grid is at only 5% wind and solar. Also struck were strong, high-road labor standards to maximize good, union jobs and community-level hiring, as well as large investments into low-income and communities of color. Not only was the target of 40% investments into impacted communities reduced to 35%, but the scope of funds covered was reduced, limited to only future funds not already committed, and the communities eligible for such funding was significantly expanded.

Furthermore, large new fracked gas power plants and pipelines are still under construction or on the drawing board and the CLCPA did not make it clear that we have to halt any new fossil fuel infrastructure or end the use of fossil fuels as soon as possible. While the campaign to stop the Williams pipeline saw a temporary victory, the company, which has direct ties to Cuomo’s administration, has already reapplied for a permit to continue transporting fracked gas through the state of New York. And despite the 2017 announcement that New York City will be divesting its pension funds from fossil fuels, the legislature also failed this session to divest the state’s pension funds from fossil fuel.

In looking ahead, state divestment with reinvestment into low-income communities of color, stopping all fossil fuel projects, and for NYC-DSA’s Ecosocialist working group, public ownership of energy will be the top priorities of the New York climate movement. 

Cabán for District Attorney

Much more will be written about the work that we did on this campaign, but what we will say here is that we won this race with skill and a something that is foreign in the corrupt land of machine politics, people-power. Up against a democratic machine that was on alert after the stinging bruise of the Ocasio-Cortez victory, this race was always going to be hard-won. Hundreds strong, we turned out to knock on tens of thousands of doors to get the word out about Cabán. The campaign’s message against mass incarceration and prosecution of poverty resonated with the people we talked to. It appears as though our people-driven politics can beat the hundreds of thousands they spent on TV ads. This work is not over yet, however. As our members are, at this very moment, observing the recanvass of the votes to make sure that our victory is protected.

Next Steps and Lessons:

In the past year, we learned lessons about issue-based pressure campaigns, coalition building, organizing neighbors in our buildings, and more. 

A good example of response to our targeted pressure is our work to protect our courts from ICE. While the Protect our Courts Act didn’t pass, the Office of Courts Administration (OCA) announced in April they would prohibit ICE from arresting people in courts without a warrant. This was after a campaign specifically targeting the OCA with a petition and public petition deliveries.

Beyond the work that we did at the state level, our Racial Justice Working Group had an enormous victory: working with the Organizing for Equity NY campaign, we pressured decision-makers in the Department of Education to address the school-to-prison pipeline by implementing a 20-day cap on school suspensions. We won! Prior to this victory, New York had the longest allowable suspension days in the nation. We will continue to fight to eliminate suspensions, period, and to win comprehensive funding for implementing alternative de-escalation practices that support teachers and students, rather than asking teachers to criminalize students.

We have a long way to go until every tenant in the state can live free from the fear of a rent hike or an eviction. Private insurance companies are still extracting wealth from and refusing care to millions of New Yorkers. People are isolated in solitary confinement and ICE is still terrorizing people outside our courts. If we don’t take swift action, our city will flood. 

To all who helped us in these efforts—thank you! Whether you’re new to this campaign or have been part of it for months, however, the fight is not over. These reforms will significantly change the terrain on which we organize. But they will not change our need to organize. In fact, they will make our work more urgent and important than ever. We stand ready to seize and build upon this political moment. There is still a world to win!


NYSNA Part II: Bargaining, Backsliding, and Bravery

By Tre K

What is your occupation?

I’m a nurse working night shift in a medical intensive care unit at The Mount Sinai Hospital located in East Harlem.

What union are you a member of?

I’m a rank and file member of the New York State Nurses’ Association (NYSNA), a 42,000-member union.

How long have you been a member? How would you characterize your involvement with the union?

I became a member in 2016, when I started working at Kings County Hospital, a public sector Trauma I hospital in Brooklyn. I’ve been a shop steward since 2018 and was part of the Contract Action Team (CAT) during our recent contract fight.

In February’s column we covered the problematic working conditions that led NYSNA nurses to the picket lines. Can you talk about how negotiations have progressed since then?

A lot has happened. After six months of negotiations by executive committees representing over 10,000 nurses at NewYork Presbyterian, Mount Sinai Hospital, Mount Sinai West/St. Luke’s, and Montefiore, we had made little progress on our key demands for safe staffing ratios, improvements in retiree health coverage, wage increases, and a safer environment for patients and workers. Finally, with a powerful 97% strike authorization vote, NYSNA leadership announced plans to strike. DSA members, PSC $7K or Strike activists, community groups, and labor allies mobilized to the pickets and rallied with us. The DSA Labor Branch later held a fundraiser, collecting over $1,000 in strike funds.

Solidarity poured in from other organizations and community groups, building rank-and-file confidence and serving as an antidote against the fear of going out alone. But most significantly, there was a change in the way we talked about our power in the workplace. It was incredible to see how a massive, heterogeneous and formerly passive workforce was readying itself to strike.

I don’t mean to overstate things – nurses weren’t discussing the overthrow of capitalism – but, we were discussing the strike as the best available tool for the working class. We saw ourselves as part of a larger movement, along with the striking LA and West Virginia teachers, that could disrupt the status quo, transform our working conditions, and maybe upend the organizing logic of our healthcare system.

But on March 22, the bargaining committees decided to withdraw our strike notice. They later explained that the bosses offered new bargaining terms for staffing and retiree health – contingent upon the removal of the strike date. At the same time, the nurses’ committees were told that a $15 million deposit for replacement workers (scabs) was due that evening. The threat was raised that the deposit would be taken away (the mediator used the words, “pissed away”) from the same funds that would otherwise satisfy our staffing demands. Somehow, the bosses were able to use our own strike date to twist the bargaining committee’s arms and convince them to lift the strike.

While some nurses were undoubtedly relieved that the impending strike was called off, many rank-and-file nurses, shop stewards, and leaders expressed confusion and in some cases open opposition and anger. The day after the strike was canceled, I rounded multiple units with another shop steward at Mount Sinai. We spoke with dozens of nurses. One almost kicked us off the unit, yelling, “We don’t want to see NYSNA here. We don’t want to hear from NYSNA. You took away my strike.” After explaining that we did not have any say in the decision, the nurses were vehement that management would no longer feel pressured to give in to our demands for staffing. Some nurses said, “They should have asked us what we thought, instead of making the decision on their own. We voted to strike, how can you back down without another vote?” The feeling that “someone else” was calling the shots began to emerge. However, the majority of officers in the bargaining committees stood by what they called a mere postponement of the strike.

A petition was written and circulated by rank and file members, including dozens of shop stewards and contract action team members, urging bargaining committee members to put in the strike notice again and not give in to management’s tactics.

Two weeks later, the committees and employers arrived at a tentative agreement (TA) that they brought back to members for ratification. The official message from NYSNA leadership was loud and clear: the agreement was a “breakthrough,” a historic victory for nurses, and included unprecedented terms for the enforcement of nurse-to-patient ratios. This was echoed in mass mailings, mainstream press, the union’s website, and Facebook and Instagram posts.

However, another perspective percolated broadly among members. In the closed membership Facebook groups – with NYP being the exception – there was a deluge of comments, questions, and skepticism about the contract. At Mount Sinai Hospital, nurses working in all areas of the hospital felt that the contract was far from a victory. At town hall meetings, on social media, and in face-to-face meetings among shop stewards and active leaders, nurses criticized the TA for falling severely short on staffing. They balked at the enforcement process outlined in the agreement, where specific staffing guidelines would be determined only after ratification. Many felt the final deal failed their aspirations for real change.

The discussion between rank and file members, shop stewards, and the executive committee heated up, and in some cases got ugly. Some comments were strikingly personal, and executive committee members came off defensive and resentful. There was an increasing tension between executive committees and NYSNA staff on the one hand, and rank-and-file members on the other. Many undemocratic measures were implemented to influence the outcome of the contract ratification. The independently organized rank-and-file opposition to the TA was labelled conspiratorial, irresponsible, and “disrespectful” by staff rounding units and executive committee members on social media. Staff from other facilities were brought in and in some cases took over the ratification process, urging members to vote “yes,” rounding all hours of the night, and phonebanking. I think this further widened the divide between leadership and members.

In the end, three hospitals voted a majority to ratify the contract and Montefiore nurses voted it down by a slim margin (51%-49%). About a week later, Monte nurses voted to ratify a second, slightly altered version of the TA.

Are there issues you feel your union should organize around that are not currently being addressed?

A year ago, I would have answered this question very differently. I might have said the primary challenge for our union was to engage more members in general union activism, in the collective fight against the boss. I would have said that we need to form a network of shop stewards and organic leaders who can serve as guiding lights, mobilizers, coordinators for their coworkers. This is still a major focus. But in some ways, at Mount Sinai, we were able to accomplish these objectives. Just weeks ago we were strike ready.

Now, other contradictions have come to the fore. Many nurses are feeling discontented with the leadership’s top-down methods; there’s a strong feeling that the union capitulated to management. There is a nascent, yet hardened current of rank-and-file nurses who have come out of this fight as they should: with higher expectations, confidence, tactical skills, organizing capacity, and a more nuanced understanding of the union and the bureaucracy. I think nurses are doing what they can to fight back and strengthen their ability to fight the bosses by challenging and expressing desire for members to control their union.

What should socialists in unions/labor organize around that might bridge the distance between socialists and millions of workers?

I’d point to two necessary aspects: 1) the fight against the union bureaucracy (even the ones that look progressive on paper), modeling the tactics of workers’ democracy and self-organization, and 2) the concrete battle for political independence of the working class. This is essential for workers to make the leap beyond economic battles, trade unionism, and reformism – to become “a class for itself.”

Unions look and act like they do today because the role they have generally played is not to overthrow capitalism, but to negotiate the terms of capitalist exploitation. This has resulted in the bureaucratic nature of almost all unions, the hegemony of the Democratic Party among union officialdom, and the preference for electoral/legislative strategies over workplace militancy, mobilization and direct action. Union officialdom’s alignment with Democrats (NYSNA being no exception, having placed its bets on Cuomo and the bourgeois political machinery) subordinates our mass power to the will of the bosses and capitalists.

In the past, left militants and socialists have fought to go beyond these limits to make unions, strikes, and workers’ organizations “schools of war” for the class to develop politically, tactically, and ideologically. We need to hone our own tools, build our own political organizations and parties – not delude ourselves with fantasies of sharing a home with exploiters, developers, oppressors and imperialists.

When workers participate in class struggle, they can become more class conscious and open to socialist ideas. We should stand with them and support them, not shy away from the problems. Let’s borrow from the past, from other unions, and other countries where workers have fought and won, where rank-and-file workers and even socialists, anarchists, and communists led massive strikes and changed history. I invite DSA members and socialists everywhere to critically examine this experience and stand with the rank-and-file nurses and militant minority who are fighting for a democratic, combative, member-controlled union.

Tre Kwon is a shop steward and ICU nurse. She's a member of the NYC DSA Labor Branch and a founding editor/writer for Left Voice.


Branches

Lower Manhattan

The month of May has been a busy month for campaign work!

Every Monday night until the primary on June 25th, the LoMan Electoral WG will be holding a phone bank for Tiffany Cabán. More info here.

The Lower Manhattan Healthcare committee will be canvassing in Stuyvesant Town for Medicare for All and the NYHA on June 2nd. More info here.

The branch’s political education committee will be doing a reading series on Terry Eagleton’s Why Marx Was Right to answer some of the most common questions asked of socialists like, ‘Is socialism inherently violent?’ or ‘Do socialists believe in human nature?’ People new to the left are encouraged to attend, but members of all knowledge levels are welcome to brush up on the basics. The reading group will meet on Tuesday nights in May, as well as the first Tuesday in June. More info here.

The next branch meeting will most likely be on May 30, where, among other things, there’ll be a discussion of proposals for the upcoming convention and candidate statements from those running for citywide leadership positions (CLC and SC). Hope to see you there! More info here.

North Brooklyn

North Brooklyn held its monthly branch meeting on May 15, with updates from comrades in the ongoing campaign for Universal Rent Control and in the Queer Caucus on the Reclaim Pride campaign. The branch discussed the proposals and amendments that will be coming up for a vote in the upcoming citywide convention.

NBK partnered with State Senator Julia Salazar to hold a Day of Action for universal rent control at Maria Hernandez Park on May 11. North Brooklyn neighbors gathered for a rally and canvass in support of the nine bills currently before the senate.

The branch also partnered with the Brooklyn Electoral Working Group for a voter registration drive in Maria Hernandez Park on May 18.

North Brooklyn Night School continues through July 1, with upcoming sessions on Climate Change, The Russian Revolution, and the Lenin Controversy. All are welcome to come and learn with every second Monday at Mayday Space!


Central Brooklyn

At the last branch meeting, Central Brooklyn members voted to expand the size of the Organizing Committee from 6 to 7-9 members, just in time for new OC elections this month.  Submissions were received from a lot of great candidates, so even with the larger number of seats, it is looking to be a competitive election! The current members of the OC held an open meeting with candidates to discuss the inner workings of the branch and talk about ideas for the upcoming year.

On May 15th, CBK members partnered with the Healthcare Working Group to canvass for Medicare for All and the New York Health Act.

The next Central Brooklyn branch meeting will be on May 29th 7:00-9:00 PM at the 1st Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Brooklyn. There’ll be statements from candidates for the branch Organizing Committee and a section about the history of Pride and how to get involved with the NYC-DSA endorsed Queer Liberation March at the end of June. There’ll also be breakout groups to discuss a number of the proposals for the upcoming citywide convention. More info here.

Our working group campaigns are the foundation of NYC-DSA and they need direct representation on the CLC

By Erin N, Madi M, and Charlotte A

If you’re in NYC-DSA, you’ve probably heard “Working Groups are the core of the DSA,” “Working Groups are where the work happens, or “they’re the lifeblood of the organization!!!!” We agree! Central to this proposal is the question: should working groups—organizing bodies deeply involved in issue-specific projects and campaigns, coalition work, and leadership development—have a dedicated representative, elected by their membership, with a voice and a vote on the Citywide Leadership Committee, the highest citywide political decision making body outside of convention?

Our answer is yes. In order to fulfill DSA’s political responsibility of being a holistic and intersectional political body, representing a complex of interrelated perspectives (housing issues are ecosocialist issues are immigration justice issues are socialist feminist issues, etc.), we must amend our constitution to add one representative from each working group to the CLC. This representative will be elected by and accountable to their group, giving it a voice and a vote on our chapter’s highest political decision-making body.

While some delegates to our present CLC are also members of working groups, currently there is no way to guarantee that every group is represented on the body. Further, because CLC delegates are not elected by the working groups themselves, they may not be the best advocates for working group needs. Perhaps they are less active members, who are not as fully informed about the group’s work. Further, delegates are not beholden to their working group—they are beholden to their branch. Ultimately, there is no requirement or structure in place for CLC delegates to get input from or report back to the working groups the way that they do with branches. This is a problem.

Because CLC elections happen solely on the Branch level, and because working groups are distinct, even often siloed off, from the Branches, comrades who are active predominantly in the Working Groups are at a disadvantage in chapter politics. Working Groups currently do not have official city-wide representation anywhere within NYC-DSA, meaning that our political bodies often make decisions that greatly affect working groups without their input. This proposal seeks to remedy that error. Lack of working group representation is a problem for many reasons, but two that strike us as particularly important are:

This structure makes it difficult for budding working group leaders to take the jump into citywide leadership roles. By selecting CLC representatives only at the branch level, we are restricting a powerful flow of leadership, which disrupts organizational development across the chapter. Those who are most active in a working group are less likely to be active in their branch, making it difficult to be elected for citywide leadership. This undermines a core value in the DSA, which holds that our job as organizers should be to facilitate learning and leadership opportunities throughout the organization. Creating a dozen additional leadership roles that are largely political and have a low level of administrative burden compared to the responsibilities of active working group membership, and are thus feasible dual-positions for a motivated member, will sharpen our collective politics.

Exclusively electing delegates at the branch level puts the CLC at a disadvantage when it comes to issue-based expertise. Because CLC membership is not structured to ensure a diversity of issue-based knowledge and perspectives, smaller but no less important working groups are often without representation on the body. For example, in a time of impending climate doom, to vote against electing a dedicated representative from the Ecosocialist Working Group, or a representative dedicated to the Immigration Justice Working Group given the heightened and escalating border crisis, would be unacceptable-- we should work to ensure both a voice and a vote from each Working Group. Ensuring representation is also particularly important when we vote on political endorsements where the candidate takes a stance on issues that affect multiple working groups or when we debate a campaign, such as Stop Amazon, that also affects the work of multiple working groups.

***

We want to acknowledge and respond to some of the thoughtful criticism and questions we’ve received about the proposal, including:

  1. How do we determine if a working group is active enough to justify having a seat on the CLC?

    The CLC passed a Working Group Census proposal at our last meeting, setting up a process for the Steering Committee to determine whether working groups are functional or not. This proposal understands that process to be a sufficient way to determine whether or not a working group should be considered “active.”

  2. Doesn’t having representation from working groups on the CLC incentivize/ disincentivize the steering committee to dissolve working groups?

    It is not our perspective that the steering committee would have any reason to dissolve a working group for the sake of one vote on the CLC. Additionally, if a working group is dissolved, they have the ability to appeal that decision to the CLC, undermining the ability to dissolve working groups for political reasons.

  3. Won’t 12 extra seats make the CLC unwieldy?

    No! More people at the table, more voices in the room, more hands on deck... more democracy! Working Group representation gives the CLC a more holistic perspective, a good thing for the chapter. Logistically, larger bodies can be difficult to accommodate, but because the CLC meets at UAW, and UAW can easily fit a larger body, we see no reason why an additional 12 members on the CLC would make the body unwieldy.

  4. Shouldn’t representation from working groups be proportional?

    This proposal is more concerned with establishing minimum requirements for working group representation on the CLC. Currently, there is no minimum requirement. Because this proposal is the first step towards ensuring representation on the CLC, we do not want to over-dictate the process. Instead, if we start with one representative per working group, we can use our experience with this process to inform whether or not we should ensure proportional representation in the future, and how.

  5. How do you define membership in a Working Group?

    This proposal does not seek to dictate how a working group should conduct elections. Working Groups already conduct elections to determine their organizing committees, endorsements, and priorities. They should continue to to conduct their elections for a CLC representative similarly-- using the democratically decided upon methods they have been using.

***

In conclusion, if we are to take our political project seriously, we must prioritize weaving together distinct but interrelated struggles. A step towards accomplishing this is ensuring that the comrades most involved in this issue-based work have a dedicated representative on our highest political body. We must understand that no one knows everything, but together we know a lot. Our collective knowledge and experience is a source of great power--- and we should work to ensure that our political bodies can fully harness that power in the pursuit of democracy and socialism for all. A vote for working group representation on the CLC is a vote to enable the cohesion and prioritize the politics of this sprawling and vital work.


Working group representation could undermine democratic decision-making on the CLC

By Sam L

Over the last two years, many of NYC-DSA’s most successful campaigns have been conducted through the various working groups. Working group projects have pushed forward important issue campaigns, provided the foundation for key coalition building efforts, and produced NYC-DSA’s notable election victories. Working groups that haven’t actively initiated campaigns have served key administrative functions in NYC-DSA, as sites of political education, or as social spaces for members united by a specific interest or concern. Overall, forming fifteen different working groups to perform a diverse array of functions has been a successful model for NYC-DSA that it is common sense we should continue to invest in.

As one of the founders of the Brooklyn Electoral Working Group, I know first hand how hard we have worked to ensure that we remained part the larger organization and accountable to NYC-DSA’s membership. The December 2016 founding resolution stated that the goal was to build “the electoral wing of a grassroots democratic socialist movement,” that “committee members should recognize that we are part of a national organization whose members embrace a diverse range of political strategies,” and that the working group was “not meant to set a particular political strategy for DSA or necessarily be the exclusive electoral work of the Brooklyn branch.” Although members voted overwhelmingly to form a body to initiate a particular organizing project, the understanding from the beginning was that it would be guided by a strategy democratically decided by the membership. We have generally stuck to this approach. While the working group makes recommendations, all endorsements must go through geographic branch votes as well as the Central Leadership Committee (CLC), which is DSA’s highest democratic body, elected proportionally by geographic branch. Both the CLC and Convention have also considered or passed resolutions to guide our electoral strategy as an organization.

The proposal to add voting representatives of the working groups to the CLC is well intentioned, because it seeks to bring the campaigns the organization undertakes and the democratic decision making structure closer together. But the result will substantially change the nature of the CLC, undermining its nature as a representative body without doing anything to enhance the ability of the working groups to conduct their campaigns and other functions. Instead of being a directly representative body where strategic decisions can be hashed out democratically, the CLC will transform into a body where working groups of dramatically varying sizes and functions (some purely administrative) all have a voice, not as individual members of the organization, but as mini-organizational constituencies.

It’s not hard to imagine how this could quickly become challenging in a volunteer organization. If a working group were to become so dysfunctional or mismanaged that only two or three people remained active in it, that small group would have a dramatically outsized influence compared to potentially hundreds of members in a well functioning one. We are blessed not to be facing that situation at the moment, but we should do our best to ensure that any dramatic changes to our structure make our elected bodies more accountable to the general membership.

The proposal will not guarantee that our internal decision making improves, and in fact it carries the risk of badly undermining the democratic nature of our most representative citywide body. Adding an additional 15 representatives who represent varied organizational constituencies without clearly defined memberships to the 30 directly, proportionally elected branch representatives on the CLC would dramatically change the character of the CLC, and shift it away from being a representative body accountable to the whole membership. Instead of a major structural change, we should focus on the hard work of building an organization that is unified, democratic, flexible and effective.

Over the last two years, NYC-DSA has made major strides in that direction, developing its capacities to consider, adopt, and execute political decisions as a cohesive organization. The organization recently approved its seventh geographic branch, and the formation of the CLC itself as a larger, directly elected, representative deliberative body has created a successful forum for citywide debate.

The campaigns that many working groups engage in ebb and flow with the news cycle and the social movement activity in NYC and across the world. We need to maintain working groups as flexible, effective bodies for connecting with allies and executing these campaigns. Our growing capacity for this type of strategic flexibility was on display with the recent organizing against Amazon. During a key period of social movement activity against one of the nation’s largest corporations, NYC-DSA was able to interject itself into the relevant coalitions on the left, form a committee of working group and branch representatives to coordinate across geographic and issue areas, and play a key role in the quick resolution of the campaign. This ability to flexibly form and dissolve campaigns based on new political developments is a sign of an increasingly robust democratic culture as well as the impressive degree to which our campaigns and working groups have rooted our organization in the broader ecosystem of progressive and working class organizing in NYC.  

Had the campaign continued, it would have been completely appropriate to have members of that Amazon committee presenting to the CLC regularly and proposing adjustments to the strategic direction of the campaign. But nothing about that process would have benefited from the creation of a new CLC rep just because a new area of work was being initiated. The individuals participating are already represented in DSA — through democratically elected representatives.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t strive to meet the goal of bringing working group activity and DSA’s democratic structures even closer together. We should improve on many things that have already been working; the CLC should continue to consider proposals and invite presentations from members of working groups, members should consider strategic proposals at the convention, and we should build on the flexible approach on the Amazon campaign to intervene in working class struggles where they arise. We should continue the conversation about the role and function of DSA’s geographic branches, which will also come up at the convention. Most importantly, we should do the hard organizing work that has made NYC-DSA so successful — ensuring that any member can join the organization through a campaign or area of interest, quickly step into a leadership role, and have an equal voice in the organization’s democratic decision-making process.


Working Groups

Healthcare

In partnership with the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), Physicians for National Health Program (PNHP), Chinese American Planning Council (CPC), Campaign for NY Health (C4NYH), and Metro NY Healthcare for All (MNYHA), the Healthcare Working Group has been making strides in the fight for Healthcare for all. Recently, another state senator co-sponsored the NY Health Act, leaving only one signature away from a majority of senate co sponsorship (32 is needed).

On May 28th, the working group along with organizations around the city and state will be attending the joint Senate Assembly hearing in Albany on May 28th. Additionally, they will be canvassing Staten Island canvass on June 8th, and holding a  pole-ed event on June 15 to educate people about the various types of Healthcare for All plans clouting the political arena.

The working group has also begun developing a plan to address the new abortion laws passing state legislatures across the country.

For more information and to become involved, email the working group at healthcare.nyc.dsa@gmail.com

Religion and Socialism

Last month, the Religion and Socialism working group held a successful event at Union Theological Seminary on the religious roots of democratic socialism.

They will be sponsoring another panel with a similar theme at the Left Forum.

The next working group meeting will be June 11.

Check out the working group’s Facebook page or email at religious.socialism@socialists.nyc to participate.


A Bold First Step Toward a Green New Deal for New York City

By Christine P and Aaron E

The New York City Council passed the Climate Mobilization Act last month, with a 45 to 2 vote. Environmental Protection Committee Chair Costa Constantinides called it “the single largest carbon reduction effort in any city.”

He’s right! As Alexander Kaufman of HuffPost reported, “the effort demonstrates one of the clearest examples yet of ... a municipal version of the Green New Deal.” (More on this framing later.)

The Act is actually a package of bills, listed below. Other laws in the package lay out specifications for wind turbines in the city, set up a financing mechanism for green projects, and recommend or require “green roofs,” which provide a building insulation, slow water run off during heavy storms, and clean pollutants from the air. But the cornerstone bill is Intro 1253, formerly known as the “Dirty Buildings Bill,” prior to a rebrand as the #GreenNewDeal4NYC. Buildings are responsible for approximately 70 percent of New York City’s greenhouse gas emissions. Intro 1253 confronts these emissions head-on while forecasted to create thousands of jobs meeting good labor standards.

Intro 1253 targets buildings over 25,000 square feet, which make up just 2 percent of the city’s buildings but account for about half of all building emissions. These large buildings will have to reach mandated greenhouse gas emissions levels per square foot, reaching emission reduction goals of 40% by 2030 (and over 80% by 2050) by retrofitting their heating and cooling systems and improving their operations and maintenance strategies.

The strategies required for compliance will vary by building type, use, and current emissions levels. Massive, luxury developments with energy-sucking amenities and inefficient designs (such as Trump Tower) will have to work the hardest to reach the energy targets, or pay millions of dollars in annual fines. Rent-regulated housing and places of public worship are exempt from compliance. Prescriptive greenhouse gas reducing upgrades that do not trigger Major Capital Improvement rent increases must suffice for rent-regulated housing until our housing laws are updated properly.

The Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY) had been fighting against comprehensive energy efficiency legislation for the past decade behind the scenes, while publicly forming unlikely partnerships with “green” groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council. When REBNY came out against this Act, we pushed even harder to pass it.

DSA’s Ecosocialist Working Group is proud to have worked with a broad-based, diverse, and people-powered coalition to pass the Act. We beat the real estate lobby, and we passed groundbreaking climate legislation!

The Act puts avoiding climate disaster and creating good jobs ahead of the short-term profits of private real estate developers. Greenhouse gas emissions know no borders, and thus reducing emissions here reduces the risk of floods and violent storms both locally and globally. When other cities follow our lead, conditions will continue to improve.

But we don’t necessarily believe the Act represents a “Green New Deal” for New York City. Even REBNY calls energy efficiency “the best, fastest, and cheapest way to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction goals.” As HuffPost’s Kaufman also wrote, the Act picks the “low-hanging fruit.”

Far more must be done to address the climate crisis, and the Act doesn’t embody all the principles we demand of a Green New Deal.

Inspired by the work of Providence DSA and in collaboration with DSA chapters across the country, our working group has pivoted toward a priority campaign centered around one of the critical Green New Deal principles: democratizing control over major energy systems and resources. Our Public Power NYC campaign is directly confronting our energy landlords, Con Edison and National Grid, and their Cuomo-appointed rubber stamp, the New York Public Service Commission, to call for democratization, decarbonization, decommodification, and decolonization.

climate package.JPG

For more information and to get involved in current campaigns, contact climate@socialists.nyc.


A Big Tent with 30 Pages of Agreement?

By Annalisa W


You may have seen mention in emails from the Steering Committee, or seen events on the calendar, or — if you’re a DSA super-nerd like me — in the Citywide Leadership Committee (CLC) bulletins for the last two CLC meetings, but for those who haven’t been following: over the last four months, our 5,000+ person citywide chapter has put a policy platform on paper (a lot of paper)  that outlines what direction NYC-DSA would like city and state policy to take. I took some time last week to talk to some, to use Tascha V’s most hated term, “supervols” who were behind the enormous effort involved in capturing our big tent on 30 pages: Evan G, an SBK CLC rep; and Justin C, an NBK CLC rep.

A resolution proposing a similar effort but without a detailed creation process was defeated at the last citywide convention. I asked Evan where this renewed effort came from. He reminded me of the first 2018-2019 CLC cohort’s meeting which was light on resolutions and long on discussion time. Coming out of that discussion, some CLC and Steering Committee (SC) members strongly felt that there was a need for a policy platform like this. Fast-forward to February 2019, when the ad hoc committee for the policy platform submitted a resolution to the CLC. The proposal outlined a process for drafting the 12 planks with working groups, and 3 town halls and google forms for feedback. For approval it would go through a CLC referral vote, followed by a convention approval vote. Both bodies would have a chance to amend the platform as well. It passed the CLC unanimously in February and set the clock ticking on the countdown to the Citywide Convention the first weekend of June. Could this all happen in time?

The initial committee was joined by some new volunteers and gave everyone 2 policy planks to draft.  They reached out to the working groups and people in the organization with policy expertise where applicable. Both Justin and Evan agreed that the hardest part were the planks without a corollary working group, like Taxing the Rich, where the authors had to take on a lot of responsibility for learning and developing the content themselves.

The committee knew they had to have the 12 planks ready for a CLC meeting that would happen the first week of May at the latest. That meant that the town halls needed to be scheduled throughout the month of April at the latest. We all know how hard finding affordable space for 50+ people in Manhattan is, let alone planning three events in one month. Even four weeks advance notice is not a lot of time. Evan credits “savior” Andrea G, SC Rep for Queens, with working out an arrangement with the Sixth Street Community Center.  

The town halls themselves were a learning process, requiring tweaks to the structure each time. Each town hall was focused on four particular planks that were released shortly before. They featured an MC and presenters for each of the planks. Both Evan and Justin say that the first one was too much like a “Q & A,” with the policy plank presenter responding to the comments directly, while what they were aiming for was more of a discussion. “I feel like we finally got the closest to what we were hoping for in the third one,” said Justin. Part of what restricted discussion, according to Evan, was clarifying the purpose of the policy platform itself. “There were some people who thought that this was supposed to be national in scope and would be sent to the national organization, then you had some people who thought this was going to be more of a ‘where we stand document,’ instead of just an expression of demands on the local state.” A ‘where we stand document’ would require more discussion about political analysis and had the potential to reveal more deeply the political divides within the organization, which Evan said could be an interesting exercise for the chapter. That said, he sounded fairly exhausted from this effort alone.

At the town halls, note takers were present to record feedback, and throughout the town halls and presentations at working group and branch meetings, members were also sent emails with forms requesting feedback on the planks. “Most of the feedback was additions,” Evan said. When asked about what was excluded, I was told, “If anything was too controversial or contradictory we tried to leave it out. The goal of the document was to reach a certain level of agreement across the organization.” The reams of notes and feedback were parsed and applied mostly in a two-day scramble before the text of the platform had to be sent to the CLC for the May 5th meeting.

The CLC spent a grueling 3-hour session going plank-by-plank through the platform, asking questions and submitting amendments. (I should admit here that as a major contributor to the total tally of amendments, I am certainly partly to blame for the length of the session.) At the end of the day, however, the vote on the platform as a whole passed unanimously, referring it on to the convention.

At the convention next weekend, there will be time on the agenda for a final few amendments that were submitted to the convention committee. Then the convention will be asked to vote on the platform, now 15 planks, as a whole. If it passes, it will become the official policy platform for the NYC-DSA.

When I asked Justin and Evan about what they would like to see happen if this thing passes, they both had similar answers. “If people want to know what we’re about, if they align with us, now they have a way of finding it out,” said Justin. Evan put it in coalition-building perspective, “If a group comes up to [NYC-DSA Co-chair] Abdullah and asks, what does DSA think about x, now Abdullah can actually answer that question, without having to start by saying, well DSA is a big tent organization...” Both also mentioned that this could guide the work of working groups and other parts of the organization, especially regarding endorsements and parsing which politicians align with us. Evan also mentioned repeatedly that if you really want to know what the policy platform should be used for, there’s a list of seven things in its introduction that you can read.

Overall though, both were satisfied with how the process had turned out. We’re a big tent — it’s true — but here are 30 pages of positions that, it seems, we can all agree we want to see enacted in New York City and State. That’s pretty remarkable.

Now let’s start crossing some of them off the list.

And just a final note for the record, the “hero’s effort” award for the work put into this policy platform — by all surveyed — goes to Evan, who did the administrative work of convening meetings, taking notes, and following up with people throughout the process. The original committee was 6 people and grew to around a dozen by the end. Thanks to each of you for your work on this!

Introducing the Mediation Collective

By Alice B

This piece was hard to write, and not only because this organization is overflowing with people who seem to never stop eloquently writing their opinions, while I write rarely. It was hard because I want you to read it and think mediation sounds good. I want you to want to use it, and I want you to be as hopeful as I am that it can work. I want us to be inspired to be good to each other.

***

“Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.”

— Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

***

The Mediation Collective is a new team of NYC-DSA members who are working to formalize and nurture an organizational culture that can productively address interpersonal conflict between members, one not based on the punitive nature of our carceral justice system, but conducive to a healthy community and aimed at the possibility of transformation and care.

Grievance vs. Mediation

You may be thinking, “don’t we already have a thing like that…?” The Mediation Collective is new, but we do have a Grievance Committee which has been operating for a little over a year. You can read more about the grievance process here. The introduction of the Mediation Collective does not mean the grievance process is no longer an option. A functional and consequential grievance structure is necessary for our organization, but it’s not the right solution for every situation. Both grievance and mediation are tools. In mediation, two people work together, with structure and guidance from the mediation team, to move past a conflict on to something new.  We are implementing the process of mediation to move toward and model a framework of transformative justice.

What is transformative justice?

When we take the time to examine them, we see that many of the issues that interrupt our interactions with comrades (and people in general) reflect the ways capitalism pits us against one another. In a retributive justice system, like the carceral regime of the capitalist state, all focus is placed on punishing the “perpetrator,” while little to no attention is paid to repairing harm, whether to the people involved or to the community. Nor is any care given to true rehabilitation — changing destructive behaviors or the societal structures that engendered or enabled harm.

Our mission is to transform the world. When we choose a transformative justice approach to addressing conflict — from the seemingly trivial to the acutely painful — we attune our minds to how those conflicts are symptoms of the larger problems in our society. When we choose to see on a micro scale the macro problems our interpersonal conflicts derive from, many of which we are in this organization to change, we can gain perspective on how our world affects us and how we can affect our world.

Before we arrive at mediation as an essential strategy we need to recognize some less productive routes personal conflict has a tendency to take. This analysis is not meant to apply to every conflict, to any specific conflict, nor to responses to threats to personal safety.

Suppressing: When it's “not that big a deal”

If you are upset about a situation with another member and it’s affecting you, your participation in DSA or  your organizing work, but you think it doesn’t seem like a big deal or have found yourself thinking “oh it’s not that bad, I’ll get over it,” or “it’s not worth filing a grievance,” that’s a perfect time to consider requesting mediation. Requesting, or accepting an invitation to mediation It isn’t an admission of guilt or a judgment on the gravity of a conflict, it’s a conversation — hopefully, a very good,  generative conversation. Addressing a conflict when it arises can not only prevent it from getting worse, it can actually strengthen a relationship. Taking the time to sit down with someone you’re not working well with, someone who has hurt you, or someone you’ve harmed — facing each other and facing the conflict — can build both your camaraderie and the communication skills vital to working with people, which is what we do! Going through mediation is an opportunity to grow.

Redirecting, Type 1: Talking Sh*t

Without community support for healthy and healing interactions and relationships, our movement will not succeed. Often we turn to friends to vent in times of conflict, and while personal friendships are important and necessary for emotional support, they are not always the best places to find a path forward. A thorough understanding of a conflict or failure in communication can’t happen in a vacuum. Talking about it exclusively to other people, not the person involved, can exacerbate the problem. Each time we tell the same half of a story, that version hardens until our narrative simplifies and solidifies, making it even harder to address the original events.

In such a tight-knit organization, a conflict between two can quickly seep into our organizational tissue, infecting larger spaces with low-(or high)-level turmoil. A small problem, when not adequately addressed, can and will become a big problem. Interpersonal conflict affects not only the people immediately involved, but the health of the entire community.

Redirect, Type 2:  Why you shouldn’t just leave

Our organization exists for the purpose of making a better, more equitable and compassionate world — for improving our collective existence and deciding how to do so democratically. Democracy requires the that each person affected by a decision should have a say in that decision.

Sometimes when people are in conflict, one person will decide to leave a space because they don’t feel comfortable or safe, and it often ends up being the person who has more social capital or is more entrenched who gets to stay. That doesn't mean the other person has less of a right to be there and contribute. Leaving a space with no attempt at mediation is often a missed opportunity to build. Leaving can mean passing up on knowledge, on how to work better with other people. The inverse of this is ostracisation, where instead of taking the opportunity to build and grow, you could be passing along insensitivity or destructive behavior to another space.  (All this being said, there will likely times when people do need to leave a space, but we hope to lessen this need by making available as many alternatives as possible, always prioritizing harm reduction.)

How our mediation process works:

There aren’t many restrictions on what issues mediation can be applied to, but the main requirement is willingness. Both people involved must be present to contribute to an examination of that conflict. The process can only succeed if each is willing to consider another perspective and open to re-examining their own. A mediation could address anything from a tough conversation that someone just wants a little extra support for, to a seemingly insurmountable personal disagreement. There are some cases which are not suitable for mediation; for example, the process would not be appropriate for cases of intimate partner violence.

If you’ve been in conflict with another member, you may have ignored the bad feelings in hopes they’d disappear. You may have tried avoiding someone by leaving organizing spaces, or by not having any interaction at all, online or offline. You might have tried talking to other people to get your feelings heard. If these modes of facing conflict did not work for you, you’re not alone!

Mediation isn't something anyone would ever be forced to do; it's always a choice. If you’re interested in setting up a conversation, you reach out to the team, and one of us will contact the other person. If they agree to participate, we’ll find a time that works for both people. We will try to pair you with a mediator who doesn't have a prior relationship with either person. That may not always be possible, as we work so closely with each other, but your mediators will always be someone that both parties agree to. All Mediators are local chapter members, spread out through all our branches, who have been through transformative justice mediator training.

A mediation happens only between the people in conflict with each other; it’s not a place for discussing other people. For now, our team is equipped to do two-person sessions, though we intend to expand to larger group circles in the future.

But it's hard!

Yes, it’s hard. But you’ve got it! You take some of that enormous energy you use for your DSA work, and channel it instead into working to listen to each other, address the feelings that you have and try to work it out. To do that, you both need to be willing to examine your own behaviors and actions and reactions, which absolutely, inarguably, is difficult. That’s why there’s a mediator there to help — by keeping conversation on topic, paying attention to how everyone is feeling, and making sure people are hearing each other. If you’ve ever seen a good facilitator or debate moderator, this may sound similar, but mediation is not a place for political debate. It is a place for growth as an organizer, and it is vital to the success of our movement.

Outcomes

Two people who have had a conflict and have taken the time to listen to each other and rebuild trust often have a stronger relationship than people who have never been in a conflict. Working through conflict is like building a bridge between yourself and another person. Sometimes the space between two people starts out just empty space with no way to cross, sometimes it starts out easy to cross, like a sturdy wood bridge. A wooden bridge can snap and break. But when both people participate in building, they can work together to come up with a plan for a new bridge that is built with knowledge of the particularities of either end. A mediator has an even view of both banks and can help coordinate the construction. Bridging that space is a critical skill for organizers.

The purpose of mediation is to come to a resolution for how to move forward. If someone caused another person harm and they want to do what they can to repair, this might mean coming up with a plan for restitution. It might mean a new understanding of a miscommunication or assumption. Mediation is about opening ourselves up to the possibility that perspectives, relationships, individual behaviors and social structures are not fixed. Each of us has a choice in how we choose to view and respond to conflict.

People are not past events. We aren’t static, or unchangeable; we grow and evolve in response to the world around us. Mediation can reveal the possibility for, and manifest the reality of, meaningful social change. Our political work hinges on that possibility.

--

To contact the Mediation Group, email mediation@socialists.nyc


Historic bill puts US sanctions against Israel “on the table”

By Danielle L

A bill in congress has put U.S. sanctions against Israel on the table for the first time in history. Here’s how NYC-DSA has taken action – and how you can get involved.

U.S.-Israel policy should concern every American. For 52 years, the U.S. has provided unconditional backing to Israel’s brutal and illegal occupation of Palestine. U.S. backing has helped Israel avoid sanctions from the international community for its systematic violations of Palestinian rights, including illegal Israeli colonization of Palestinian lands, expulsion of Palestinian refugees (and denial of their right of return), and sadistic treatment of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation.

A pillar of U.S. support for Israel is military aid: upwards of $3.8 billion annually since 2016, by far the most for any U.S. ally. This aid continues notwithstanding its direct violation of U.S. federal law – the “Leahy Law” – which prohibits arms sales or transfers to regimes which  commit gross violations of human rights and international law.

Until recently, there was little-to-no concerted effort to reverse this policy and uphold U.S. law; to make U.S. aid to Israel contingent on Israeli respect for international law and Palestinian human rights. However, this changed in 2017, when Minnesota Representative Betty McCollum introduced the Promoting Human Rights for Palestinian Children Living Under Israeli Occupation Act, known as H.R. 2407.

H.R. 2407 represents the first concerted attempt in history to establish U.S. sanctions against Israel for its ongoing violations of Palestinians’ human rights. The bill aims to prohibit military aid to any regime that commits war crimes against children, and would allocate $19 million for monitoring of human rights of Palestinian children. Every year, 700 Palestinian children are detained in the Israeli military justice system. Without guaranteeing due process or human rights, this system is unique in the world for its systematic prosecution of children. Half of all detained children are apprehended in their homes in the middle of the night, and many are detained outside the Palestinian territories, in violation of the Geneva Convention. Three-quarters experience physical violence or torture. Virtually all are denied parental contact and legal counsel, and 99 percent are convicted, primarily for throwing stones.

H.R. 2407 has considerable traction in the House: 30 representatives co-sponsored the bill in the last session of Congress. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently expressed support for it. Additionally, leading Palestine solidarity and humanitarian organizations in the U.S. have backed it, including the American Friends Service Committee (the Quakers), American Muslims for Palestine, and Jewish Voice for Peace.

From the point of view of DSA, which supports BDS, pushing for H.R. 2407 makes strategic sense. The bill effectively represents the ‘S’ in BDS: an actual, tangible sanction against Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights. Moreover, Defense for Children International Palestine (DCIP), the primary Palestinian organization lobbying for the bill, is a signatory to the 2005 BDS call to action, and an organization with which DSA could build valuable ties to help organizing in Palestine.

H.R. 2407 is also strategic from a PR standpoint, to convince mainstream U.S. public opinion to support Palestinian human rights. The bill polarizes the Palestinian issue by forcing politicians to answer a fundamental question: do you support torturing children? Apologists for Israeli actions will find it hard to avoid negative PR, even with a general audience. Winning the media battle has been the touchstone of past successful boycott movements, from Selma to South Africa, and H.R. 2407 can be effective here.

Beyond making an enormous and immediate difference in the lives of Palestinian children living under Israeli occupation, H.R. 2407 would represent a prelude to further sanctions against Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian human rights. DSA could leverage grassroots organizing initiatives around the bill toward future organizing for such sanctions. DSA is well placed to support these initiatives, given its history of grassroots campaigning, and stands to gain from organizing with local Palestinian and Palestine solidarity groups in NYC.

More broadly, the bill elevates the wastefulness of U.S. military spending, which is a key focus for DSA as a socialist organization. How can the U.S. afford to provide military aid to an arms-exporting, nuclear-armed nation, while millions in the U.S. lack basic means of subsistence? This money could otherwise fund a Green New Deal, Medicare for All, and free higher education. Instead, the U.S. squanders taxpayer dollars abetting Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian children’s human rights

Although H.R. 2407 is a national campaign, it cannot succeed without concerted local pressure on legislators. For this reason, in January 2019, the NYC-DSA Anti-War Working Group began campaigning in support of H.R. 2407. The AWWG identified representatives susceptible to pressure (namely Rose, Velázquez, Clarke, Ocasio-Cortez, and Espaillat), coordinated with local Palestine solidarity groups and activists, and used various tactics to solicit congressional support, including petitioning, meetings with legislators, and public appeals at community meetings.

The bill also comes at a crucial time, when the Israeli lobby’s anti-BDS campaign has hit New York. In 2016, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order punishing companies that support BDS. New York City Council passed a similar measure that year. The resolution was co-sponsored by Rory Lancman, an opponent of Tiffany Cabán for Queens District Attorney. Many U.S. representatives from New York co-sponsored recent congressional legislation condemning BDS. And a recent NYC-DSA event on H.R. 2407 was canceled after protestors affiliated with the far-right JDL threatened the venue (a church).

Today, no representatives from New York have yet signed on to support H.R. 2407, signaling the need for stronger grassroots pressure. There are a number of concrete ways that DSA chapters can support H.R. 2407: become co-sponsors of DCIP’s “No Way To Treat A Child” campaign; add support for H.R. 2407 to DSA candidate questionnaires; make the campaign a citywide priority; and pass resolutions in support of the bill at citywide and national conventions.

These measures deserve strong consideration. DSA has already shown support for Palestinian rights by endorsing BDS in 2017, as well as U.S. presidential candidate Bernie Sanders – so far, the only 2020 candidate to consider sanctioning Israel and a leading opponent of anti-BDS legislation in Congress.

DSA should embrace H.R. 2407, one of the most tangible ways Americans can advance BDS, and help finally shift U.S. policy in favor of Palestinian human rights.

Folks interested in getting involved in NYC-DSA’s work around H.R. 2407 can contact the Anti-War Working Group at antiwar@socialists.nyc. They can also sign the AWWG’s petition calling on NYS representatives to support the bill at bit.ly/PalestinianChildren.

Follow Queens Political Education at @qnspoliticaledu or email at queenspoliticaleducation@gmail.com

Danielle Lightfoot is on the Organizing Committee of the NYC-DSA Anti-War Working Group. The views expressed are their own.


Branches

Lower Manhattan

The LoMan April meeting was held on the 22nd, and featured a really spectacular presentation by the branch’s housing working group. With less than nine weeks to go before the rent law expiration, members are working overtime to protect our tenants’ rights and win major concessions from the landlord class.

The Lower Manhattan Healthcare committee, an arm of the Citywide Healthcare Working Group, met on Thursday April 25 to schedule a canvass for May. As of time of writing, details for that event are unavailable but will be posted to the calendar as soon as possible.

The branch’s political education committee will be doing a reading series on Terry Eagleton’s Why Marx Was Right to answer some of the most common questions asked of us like, Is socialism inherently violent? or Do socialists believe in human nature? People new to the left are encouraged to join us, but we welcome members of all levels of knowledge to brush up on the basics. Our reading group will be meeting on Tuesday nights in May. More info will be posted to the calendar shortly.

The next branch meeting will most likely be on May 30, where, among other things, there’ll be a discussion of proposals for the upcoming convention and candidate statements from those running for citywide leadership positions (CLC and SC). Hope to see you there!


Queens

The Queens branch of NYC-DSA has been pulling out all the stops in its efforts to elect public defender and DSA member Tiffany Cabán as Queens District Attorney. Its Electoral Working Group played a key role in the mapping out the campaign’s field strategy, and supplied about 60% of the campaign’s 10,000-plus petition signatures and organized nearly two thirds of the canvasses to date.

The Political Education Working Group is planning a teach-in with the Anti War Working Group on Palestine. The teach-in will be held be Tuesday, May 14, from 7 PM to 9 PM at Church of the Redeemer 30-18 Crescent Street, Astoria. The event is scheduled to commemorate the Nakba, or Catastrophe, when Palestinians were dispossessed off their land by Zionist settlers. Two Palestinian speakers will discuss the, Nakba, BDS, and the Great March of Return.

The Political Education group discussed the ABCs of Capitalism in April, and will discuss “Reform or Revolution” by Rosa Luxemburg, on Wednesday, May 15, from 7 PM to 9 PM at Art House Astoria 23-35 Broadway, Astoria.


Bronx/Upper Manhattan

This month, the Bronx/Upper Manhattan branch continued canvassing for the Save Allen Psych campaign in Inwood and for universal rent control in the Bronx. Branch members joined coalition partners for a rally and March for Housing Justice in Harlem on April 11; they helped prepare for the rally with a phone-banking and sign-making party. The branch's Food Justice Working Group worked on a Little Free Pantry Project, among other initiatives. The Political Education Working Group co-sponsored a screening of "Norma Rae" with The Workmen's Circle and organized reading groups on Emma Goldman, plus a happy hour. The branch formed its first Elections Committee to administer branch-wide elections for the next year. On April 27, there was another new member orientation, followed by a happy hour. At the branch meeting on the 30th, there’ll be a discussion of the citywide policy platform and updates from ongoing campaigns.


Labor

The next Labor Branch general meeting will be Thursday, May 16 from 7-9 PM at the UAW Offices at 256 W 38th St, 12th Fl. Industry breakout groups start at 6 pm, members should reach out to their industry leaders to see if there is a breakout for them to attend. The branch will use this meeting to discuss the upcoming NYC-DSA Convention, which will be June 1. The Labor Branch has 9 delegates, so members wishing to run should fill out Labor Branch questionnaire (to be sent out on May 1!) and write a candidate statement. Candidate statements will be sent out before the May meeting, at which candidates will be asked to read their statements (or have a stand-in read a statement for them if they can’t attend).

The branch will also be holding a Labor Notes Training, restarting at the beginning of their series “Secrets of a Successful Organizer, Beating Apathy.” The training will be Thursday, May 23 from 7-9 PM at the UAW offices at 256 W 38th St, 12th Fl. If you’ve already come to a previous iteration of this training, now’s a great opportunity to share it with a coworker who is new to organizing or to DSA. This is also a great training if you are starting the journey of getting  a Rank and File job and joining a union!


North Brooklyn

At the NBK April branch meeting, there were report backs from several efforts regarding the Universal Rent Control (URC) campaign, and a call for volunteers to canvass for URC and the Tiffany Cabán campaign in Queens. This was followed by citywide convention preparation and delegate nominations and later a lengthy discussion about the citywide policy platform. The four planks of this platform are Labor, Ending the Carceral State, Anti-Discrimination, and Immigration.

Here are some upcoming and past events NBK events:

* April 6: Fear City reading group

* April 8th: NBK Night School - Israel-Palestine.

* April 22nd: NBK Night School - Mass Incarceration.

* April 25th: NBK Branch Meeting, Mayday Space


* April 30th: Policy Platform town hall

* May 4: NBK Fundraiser @ Trans Pecos

 

Central Brooklyn

The next Central Brooklyn branch meeting will be next Tuesday, April 30 at 7 PM at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 123 Pierrepont St. The meeting will focus on discussing the proposed citywide policy platform and voting on amendments to branch bylaws, which have been submitted over the course of the month of April. We will also hear from comrades in the Red Rabbits to prepare for May Day.

Ballots are currently out to vote for Central Brooklyn delegates to the citywide convention in June, with voting closing at the end of the day April 30. Eligible members of Central Brooklyn should reach out to the organizing committee at central.brooklyn@socialists.nyc if they haven’t received an email with their ballot. Central Brooklyn members have the opportunity to meet and talk with delegate candidates for convention at a social prior to the branch meeting.

South Brooklyn

South Brooklyn DSA’s April branch meeting was held on Sunday, April 28th, from 1-3 PM at An-Noor, 7114 5th Ave, Brooklyn, NY. The branch discussed citywide and branch campaigns, the Policy Platform, and proposed amendments to our bylaws.

On Wednesday, April 24th South Brooklyn DSA's healthcare field team held their first canvass for the NYHA in Bay Ridge, focusing on pressuring Diane Savino and Andrew Gounardes to support single payer for New York.

The Political Education Committee held an ABC’s of Socialism Reading group on April 20th at the Pacific Branch library.

Staten Island

This month’s branch meeting was held on April 25th at CWA Local 1102 in Great Kills. There was a very productive discussion about potential branch involvement in Bernie 2020 work, and co-chair Lauren led the branch through a great introduction to canvassing in preparation for ramping up Medicare for All efforts on the island.

For political education, the branch just wrapped up Jacobin’s ABCs of Socialism. The discussion was so detailed and engaging that a second reading group needed to be scheduled to finish talking about it! Participants gave really good feedback and there’s a lot of excitement around continuing these reading groups in the future!
It was also decided that in place of a usual branch meeting, the branch will hold a pilot canvass for the Medicare for All campaign during the last week of May. Details will be coming soon!