Branches

NYU-YDSA

NYU-YDSA just got back from an incredible weekend at the 2019 YDSA National Convention in Berkeley, California. Eight NYU-YDSA members, along with 14 members of CUNY YDSA, attended (and, in some cases, facilitated) workshops and plenaries on issues of urgent importance to the Left today, including Medicare for All, College for All, Building a Mass Organization, and Fighting the Far Right on Campus. Members practiced vital organizing skills, shared out experiences with student socialists from around the country, and stood in solidarity with Oakland teachers as they prepared to strike.

Now NYU-YDSA members stand ready to put everything they’re learned into action! They’ll be kicking off their campus Bernie Sanders campaign with canvassing in dorms, and gearing up for a Medicare for All Town Hall with Michael Lighty on campus (March 13, 4-6pm, 60 Washington Square South). The crew has also been dropping some dank memes in the NYU Students for Bernie 2020 Facebook group (join us!), and building up the hype on campus for what’s shaping up to be an incredibly important class struggle campaign. There’s a lot of work ahead of us this semester, but NYU-YDSA is beyond excited to build this movement!

Queens

Queens branch celebrated victory over Amazon in February. Just a few days after two dozen DSA members took part in a 100-person coalition canvassing effort, Amazon withdrew from its plan to build a massive second headquarters in Long Island City. The Queens Housing Working Group and field organizers joined the victory press conference that afternoon at Gordon Triangle, danced and shouted at a rally in Jackson Heights that evening, and rallied again the following Sunday in Long Island City.

The branch’s February general meeting included a panel discussion on the Amazon campaign. The team would like to find ways to continue resisting tech capitalism by organizing with comrades and allies at Amazon locations across the country. For now, however, the No Amazon field operation is plugging into the Cabán for Queens campaign, the Housing Working Group's campaign for universal rent control, and resisting the Sunnyside Yards development and tenant organizing.

The Queens branch voted in January in favor of the resolution to endorse Bernie, but right now, its electoral efforts are focused on primarily on electing Tiffany Cabán to be the next Queens District Attorney.


Bronx/Upper Manhattan

This month, B/UM members canvassed in the Bronx for universal rent control and in Harlem to fight NYC schools' racist suspension practices. Members also picketed at Milstein and Allen Hospitals (New York Presbyterian) in solidarity with NYSNA nurses as they fight for a fair new contract. The branch held a New Member Orientation to welcome new comrades, followed by a happy hour. The B/UM Political Education Working Group co-sponsored a Valentine's Day screening of Ken Loach's Bread & Roses with The Workmen's Circle and organized a set of reading groups on Gramsci. At the February 26th branch meeting, members will vote on new branch bylaws, hear from the Healthcare and Racial Justice Working Groups about their campaigns, and have a breakout period where members can talk to representatives from various working groups and find out about all the work that’s going on.


Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan had a great start to the year, beginning with a debate and vote on recommending NYC-DSA’s Bernie 2020 plan. The branch ultimately voted in favor. LoMan also restarted its political education work with the ABC’s of Capitalism pamphlets from Jacobin+Catalyst, with very encouraging responses. The branch aims to continue to offer both highly accessible introductory-level material as well as more advanced content for members.

LoMan held a new member social on Feb 20 to introduce the organization and demystify DSA politics to curious residents in our district. At the monthly meeting on February 28th, in addition to discussing proposals put forward by our membership, there’ll be a panel discussion on the Green New Deal, featuring eco-socialists Kate Aronoff and Nancy Romer. Members will have a fantastic opportunity to ask questions and think through what a transition to a more sustainable, equitable society will concretely look like.

North Brooklyn

North Brooklyn held its first "Comrade's Basement" open social at Starr Bar on February 4th, co-hosted by the Organizing Committee and their Rose Buds new members' engagement committee. The NBK bi-weekly Night School continues every second Monday at Mayday Space thanks to the NBK Political Education Committee. Recent sessions included "Socialists and the Working Class" and "Poor People's Movements.” The next upcoming session for February 25 is "Unions and the Labor Movement." All are welcome to learn with at NBK Night School!

The NBK Tenants' Committee continues to fight for Universal Rent Control and to support tenant organizing in North Brooklyn. NBK is piloting a new program to encourage hyperlocal organizing called we’re calling neighborhood councils and held a kick-off meeting on February 9. Finally, North Brooklyn members turned out on February 13 to support NYSNA nurses at Mt Sinai Hospital on Madison Ave during their informational picket for safe staffing!


Central Brooklyn

During last month’s branch meeting at CBK’s beautiful new space at the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn Heights, members had the opportunity to discuss and vote on several proposals to be brought to the CLC in February. The Membership Development and Mobilization Committee hosted the monthly new member social at Cherry Tree Bar, offering a great opportunity for new and prospective members to learn more about organizing work and meet new comrades. The Base Building Committee has begun organizing comrades interested in running for community board or attending meetings to connect with other organizations and members of the community. At the upcoming Central Brooklyn branch meeting, members will get the opportunity to break out into groups led by working group representatives, discuss their work and find campaigns they may be interested in. Starting on the 26th, there is a CBK reading group for the ABC’s of Capitalism series at the Brooklyn Free School.

South Brooklyn

In February, South Brooklyn hosted several events: First was a New Member Orientation that drew in 30+ people new to DSA, where participants and organizers engaged in small group discussions around the question “What is (or is not) Democratic Socialism to you?” New and prospective members also had the opportunity to meet working group representatives.

The Political Economy of Welfare, a talk by Social Work Professor Joel Blau, went extremely well. Organizers of the event reported that most of the attendees were active social workers with little familiarity with DSA, leading to highly fruitful discussions. The branch also hosted its first-ever fundraiser, themed around Valentine’s Day, titled Why Can’t I Touch it (the Means of Production), which far exceeded its projected fundraising goal. Looking ahead, an ABC’s of Socialism reading group at Carroll Gardens library will meet on the 23rd. The SBK February branch meeting will be held on the 24th, featuring presentations and discussions from both the Housing and Healthcare working groups.

Labor

Read the article titled “Critical Mass” in this month’s issue for updates on the Labor Branch’s resolution to focus on influencing rank and file of targeted industry unions to become more militant.

The prison-abolition movement needs a DA Cabán to put policies into action

By Emma C

DSA’s prison-abolition position is consistent with an endorsement of DA candidate Tiffany Cabán, because it represents concrete steps we can take to counter mass incarceration.  In my work with hundreds of incarcerated people, it was rather shocking how hostile nearly all of them were to the idea of prison abolition. Upset, they demanded to know how dare I, safe on the outside, suggest the violent people they were around on the inside should be let out of prison? It made me seriously self-reflect on what abolition meant and how to achieve it. For me, abolition was framed in entirely negative terms: ending cages, tearing down prisons, and stopping new prisons from being built. In politics you need a positive vision to garner popular support - the obvious follow up to a policy of not-incarcerating is “Well, what should we do?”

Luckily there have recently been plenty of examples to get us past a limited, negative idea of abolition. These positive examples have been led by Black Liberation groups and those most impacted by mass incarceration, and unsurprisingly their perspective has focused on the material realities of the powers behind the prison industrial complex. The first example is the #ByeAnita campaign to defeat Anita Alvarez in the district attorney race for Cook County, led by prison abolition group Assata’s Daughters in Chicago.  Kim Foxx, Alvarez’s opponent, was not nearly as progressive as any of our comrades would like, but as Assata’s Daughters explained, quoting Ella Baker: “The major job was getting people to understand that they had something within their power that they could use, and it could only be used if they understood what was happening and how group action could counter violence.” That’s exactly what we want to do with Cabán’s campaign: show the most criminalized people in Queens that people power is stronger than the Queens political machine that supported DA Brown and his policies of locking up people of color and the working class.

The second example is the policies enacted by DA Larry Krasner in Philadelphia. An independent study recently verified, using statistics from DA Krasner’s time in office during which cash bail was eliminated for non-violent offenses, that the cash bail system is nothing but an additional punishment on working class people and its elimination would have no effect on crime rates, recidivism, or people showing up to court. The evidence from implementing the components of a prison-abolitionist vision is exponentially more compelling than any essay or speech. Advocates will be using this example to push against cash bail in their own counties and states for at least the next decade.

Of course, electing a progressive DA does not achieve abolition, nor does it absolve the need for grassroots actions like civil disobedience and protest. It does provide a platform to criticize and question pervasive criminalization and introduce these fringe ideas of abolition to the mainstream discourse. Cabán has stated her support for the No New Jails movement, and her election would give us a key elected official to work with as we continue to push for community solutions to closing Rikers (rather than simply moving the incarcerated elsewhere). Cabán’s strong stance against prosecuting sex work is a good fit with the policies promoted by recently elected NYC-DSA State Senator Julia Salazar. Cabán’s unprecedented stance against criminalizing poverty through welfare “fraud” crimes is a timely position that can use media attention on the Jazmine Headley case to promote prison-abolitionist ideas. All of these, among Cabán’s many other radical positions, would significantly decrease harm to Black and Latinx people, a group that DSA has too often neglected in our campaigns and demands.

Jazmine Headley’s recent testimony to the New York City Council about her experience being arrested while trying to navigate the cumbersome welfare system speaks to my last argument for endorsing Cabán: “It’s not just the fact that I was arrested,” she said, “It was the harsh way that I was treated by people who are supposed to help me.” As democratic socialists, we want a government by and for the people, not a government that arrests working class Black women for the “crime” of trying to survive, as DA Brown did over and over. As a FDCPA* litigator, I have seen landlords look at civil penalties as merely a cost of doing business, and consequently not changing their abusive behavior even after being sued over it dozens of times. The power of the state can help us combat the overwhelming power of corporations (which are the political force behind policies like welfare criminalization) and challenge the idea that governments exist to protect profits rather than people. Cabán’s pledge to prosecute tenant abuse and wage theft can hold corporations accountable in a way that civil law cannot.

Endorsing Cabán was the right decision because it will introduce prison abolition through action and not just words to the public.  Cabán is now collecting petition signatures to get on the ballot - it is imperative for all of us to join her campaign to put our prison abolition values into action, to keep working class people and people of color out of prison, to wipe the smirks off the faces of unrepentant predatory bosses and landlords, and to challenge the stranglehold that corporations have over governmental power.

*FDCPA: Fair Debt Collection Practices Act


We must be against participation in the carceral system in any form

by Evan G (SBK)

By all accounts, Tiffany Cabán is an excellent public defender, an active DSA member, and a good candidate for Queen’s District Attorney (DA). Despite the arguments made below, I believe that now that NYC-DSA has endorsed her, it is best for the organization that Cabán wins. The argument made below is an argument against DSA endorsing any candidate for DA.

The police and the DA are inseparable institutions. The police arrest, and the DA prosecutes. Both are essential elements of the carceral state, which exists to maintain our unjust society. The U.S. carceral state was created after the Civil War to reinforce a racist unequal class society. It carries on this purpose by continuing to arrest and imprison black and brown people at disproportionately high rates.

Even if the carceral system were not thoroughly racist, Socialists should oppose participating in it. The police exist to maintain public order, enforce a state monopoly on violence, and maintain capitalist property relations. In other words, they enforce the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Within the legal system, DAs represent the interests of the police. They decide what charges to bring against a suspect, they recommend what bail to set, they pressure suspects to take deals and confess to crimes. They provide legal justifications for the repressive role of the police in society. In the simplest sense, the DA is essentially a police person with a law degree.

The argument in favor of endorsing a DA is that a “good” DA can reduce harm by, choosing not to enforce laws harshly, declining to prosecute, and not recommending punitive bail or sentences. But the case of Larry Krasner in Philadelphia shows that even a “good” DA’s job is to punish and enforce the law. They are structurally bound to play their part in the carceral state. A “good” DA will still necessarily do the job of a prosecutor, representing the interests of the police in court, and ruin people’s lives by sending them to prison. A “good” DA will still enforce bourgeois property relations, through enforcement of property laws. This dynamic is clearly demonstrated in the way that Larry Krasner has chose to fight the appeal of political prisoner Mumia Abu Jamal, despite Mumia’s worsening health. Under capitalism, there cannot be a “good” DA.

As socialists, we understand the horror of life under capitalism and sympathize with all who suffer under it. We also understand that the only way to end the horror is to transform society: to fundamentally alter its logic and end the dictatorship of capital. In DSA, we generally understand that despite its drawbacks, electoral and legislative action is part of a larger strategy to transform society. But electing a DA does not fit into this strategy for transformation because DAs have no power to legislate. DAs cannot change the laws that help define the structure of capitalist society, they can only choose how to enforce them in a limited way for a relatively short period of time. Once “good” DAs leave office, their successors can resume enforcing the law in all its harshness and inhumanity.

In fact, participating in a DA election could strengthen the status quo. By choosing to participate in the election of a DA, socialists give legitimacy to this fundamentally undemocratic office and signal support for the repressive work of the DA once in office. Endorsing a DA shows support for the idea that DAs can be good, if the right people are elected.  

But the police apparatus of the capitalist state is thoroughly rotten. It cannot be reformed. It must be totally torn down and replaced by a system that actually offers justice for all. There cannot be a good DA. Participating in the election of a DA makes us complicit in the operation of the carceral state.


Working Groups

Housing (Brooklyn)

The Brooklyn Housing Working Group’s citywide tenant organizing subcommittee has held several successful meetings, and is helping DSA members and their neighbors citywide organize in their buildings and fight for tenants' rights. The group’s research subcommittee has also been revived, and is working to profile politicians, challenge landlord talking points, and track real estate influence in Albany.

The campaign for #UniversalRentControl continues to gain momentum! With the Brooklyn Electoral WG, they talked to local residents about housing and encouraged them to contact their state representatives about universal rent control during two canvasses in North and Central Brooklyn. The working group has also been phonebanking members in Brooklyn to let them know about  #UniversalRentControl campaign and ways to get involved.

Every week, members of DSA and other groups are sharing stories on social media for #TenantTuesdays. Let's keep tenants' rights trending! Please watch and share this great explainer video on universal rent control, featuring DSA's own Jabari Brisport!

The Brooklyn Housing WG's next monthly meeting will be Monday, March 4 at 7PM, at Local 61, 61 Bergen St. For any questions, email bk.housing@socialists.nyc.

Healthcare

The Healthcare Working Group is escalating a pressure campaign for universal healthcare by presenting at DSA branches, meeting with various target legislators, conducting research, planning direct actions, and compiling canvassing resources. In this campaign, they are continuing to collaborate with coalition members including the National Nurses United, New York State Nurses Association, Physicians for a National Health Program,  Campaign for New York Health, and many others.

This month, the working group has established formal representatives for the Labor Branch and Electoral Working Group. In March, they will be electing an official Organizing Committee, which will replace the interim OC.

On March 3, from 11AM-1PM they will hold a combination picket, rally, and march, starting at 235 E. 42nd St. If you'd like more specifics on the action, email pickettheprofiteersny@gmail.com.


Immigrant Justice

The Immigrant Justice Working Group is continuing to work with coalition partners for the ICE Out of the Courts campaign. Additionally, group members are preparing a strategy to support the passage of the Protect Our Courts Act.

The next meeting is on March 11, in the CUNY Grad Center, at 6:30PM.

Racial Justice

The Racial Justice Working Group is currently focusing on campaigns to limit school suspensions and create an Elected Civilian Review Board, which will replace the current ineffective and insulated Civilian Complaint Review Board, which does almost nothing to hold police accountable.

The working group has partnered with Organizing for Equity, NY to hold weekly petition canvassing days in support of the campaign to revise the NYC school disciplinary code to limit school suspensions.

On March 2, the campaign against school suspensions will hold a public delivery of petition signatures on the steps of City Hall. Members are encouraged to sign the petition online here.

In partnership with The Campaign for the Elected Civilian Review Board, the working group has attended every hearing and meeting of the Charter Revision Commission to pressure the commissioners to include an Elected Civilian Review Board in their proposals.

On March 7, The Elected Civilian Review Board Campaign will have a speaker at the police-accountability-focused Charter forum at City Council Chambers, and hopes to pack the chambers with at least 50-100 campaign supporters. A big showing would prove that NYC supports a board empowered to do something about police accountability. With enough pressure, we could push them to propose this historic reform to voters in November 2019.

Religion and Socialism

The Religion and Socialism working group is excited to announce multiple upcoming events:

  • On March 4, the working group will hold a group discussion led by Rabbi Michael Feinberg on religion and violence, at 124 Washington Place at 6:30PM.

  • On March 7, DSA members Steve Max, Paul Buhle, Henry Rose, and Maxine Phillips will be on a panel with political artist Nick Thorkelson for the launch of Eugene V. Debs A Graphic Biography, at Verso Books, 20 Jay St., Suite 1010, Brooklyn, New York 11201, at 7PM. RSVP here.

  • On April 3, DSA member and theologian Gary Dorrien will participate in a panel discussion centered around his newest book, Social Democracy in the Making at Union Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway, New York, NY 10027

Tech Action

The Tech Action Working Group helped beat Amazon! NYC-DSA Tech Action is proud to have played a part in the fight to keep Amazon out of Queens, and wants to commend all the members who stood in solidarity with their neighbors to stop Amazon’s plan to subvert democracy and take billions in public money, as they crack down on unions and workers’ rights, increase deportations of our immigrant neighbors, and fuel gentrification, housing speculation, and skyrocketing rents.

Despite some media reports and finger pointing at "rogue politicians," this win was the direct result of collective action. In leaked internal reports, Amazon itself said they feared "with little sign that the opposition was dissipating, it was staring down a decades long commitment to a political climate in which everything the company did would be scrutinized." This is a credit to the activists who came together around this issue, and a reminder that when we fight against the negative impacts of capitalism locally, we are fighting back against the system of oppression and exploitation it requires and propagates wherever it exists.

While this is a big win, there is still work to do. Amazon maintains a physical presence in NYC in the form of warehouses, Whole Foods, their corporate office in Midtown, and more, where they actively oppose unionization of their workers. They still dominate online retail, ad sales, and the fundamental infrastructure of the Internet. We know Amazon will continue to make incursions into our public schools, our healthcare, our local government, and our daily lives. Tech Action plans to continue the fight to keep pressure on Amazon in NYC.


Branches

NYU-YDSA

NYU-YDSA just got back from an incredible weekend at the 2019 YDSA National Convention in Berkeley, California. Eight NYU-YDSA members, along with 14 members of CUNY YDSA, attended (and, in some cases, facilitated) workshops and plenaries on issues of urgent importance to the Left today, including Medicare for All, College for All, Building a Mass Organization, and Fighting the Far Right on Campus. Members practiced vital organizing skills, shared out experiences with student socialists from around the country, and stood in solidarity with Oakland teachers as they prepared to strike.

Now NYU-YDSA members stand ready to put everything they’re learned into action! They’ll be kicking off their campus Bernie Sanders campaign with canvassing in dorms, and gearing up for a Medicare for All Town Hall with Michael Lighty on campus (March 13, 4-6pm, 60 Washington Square South). The crew has also been dropping some dank memes in the NYU Students for Bernie 2020 Facebook group (join us!), and building up the hype on campus for what’s shaping up to be an incredibly important class struggle campaign. There’s a lot of work ahead of us this semester, but NYU-YDSA is beyond excited to build this movement!

Queens

Queens branch celebrated victory over Amazon in February. Just a few days after two dozen DSA members took part in a 100-person coalition canvassing effort, Amazon withdrew from its plan to build a massive second headquarters in Long Island City. The Queens Housing Working Group and field organizers joined the victory press conference that afternoon at Gordon Triangle, danced and shouted at a rally in Jackson Heights that evening, and rallied again the following Sunday in Long Island City.

The branch’s February general meeting included a panel discussion on the Amazon campaign. The team would like to find ways to continue resisting tech capitalism by organizing with comrades and allies at Amazon locations across the country. For now, however, the No Amazon field operation is plugging into the Cabán for Queens campaign, the Housing Working Group's campaign for universal rent control, and resisting the Sunnyside Yards development and tenant organizing.

The Queens branch voted in January in favor of the resolution to endorse Bernie, but right now, its electoral efforts are focused on primarily on electing Tiffany Cabán to be the next Queens District Attorney.


Bronx/Upper Manhattan

This month, B/UM members canvassed in the Bronx for universal rent control and in Harlem to fight NYC schools' racist suspension practices. Members also picketed at Milstein and Allen Hospitals (New York Presbyterian) in solidarity with NYSNA nurses as they fight for a fair new contract. The branch held a New Member Orientation to welcome new comrades, followed by a happy hour. The B/UM Political Education Working Group co-sponsored a Valentine's Day screening of Ken Loach's Bread & Roses with The Workmen's Circle and organized a set of reading groups on Gramsci. At the February 26th branch meeting, members will vote on new branch bylaws, hear from the Healthcare and Racial Justice Working Groups about their campaigns, and have a breakout period where members can talk to representatives from various working groups and find out about all the work that’s going on.


Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan had a great start to the year, beginning with a debate and vote on recommending NYC-DSA’s Bernie 2020 plan. The branch ultimately voted in favor. LoMan also restarted its political education work with the ABC’s of Capitalism pamphlets from Jacobin+Catalyst, with very encouraging responses. The branch aims to continue to offer both highly accessible introductory-level material as well as more advanced content for members.

LoMan held a new member social on Feb 20 to introduce the organization and demystify DSA politics to curious residents in our district. At the monthly meeting on February 28th, in addition to discussing proposals put forward by our membership, there’ll be a panel discussion on the Green New Deal, featuring eco-socialists Kate Aronoff and Nancy Romer. Members will have a fantastic opportunity to ask questions and think through what a transition to a more sustainable, equitable society will concretely look like.

North Brooklyn

North Brooklyn held its first "Comrade's Basement" open social at Starr Bar on February 4th, co-hosted by the Organizing Committee and their Rose Buds new members' engagement committee. The NBK bi-weekly Night School continues every second Monday at Mayday Space thanks to the NBK Political Education Committee. Recent sessions included "Socialists and the Working Class" and "Poor People's Movements.” The next upcoming session for February 25 is "Unions and the Labor Movement." All are welcome to learn with at NBK Night School!

The NBK Tenants' Committee continues to fight for Universal Rent Control and to support tenant organizing in North Brooklyn. NBK is piloting a new program to encourage hyperlocal organizing called we’re calling neighborhood councils and held a kick-off meeting on February 9. Finally, North Brooklyn members turned out on February 13 to support NYSNA nurses at Mt Sinai Hospital on Madison Ave during their informational picket for safe staffing!


Central Brooklyn

During last month’s branch meeting at CBK’s beautiful new space at the First Unitarian Congregational Society in Brooklyn Heights, members had the opportunity to discuss and vote on several proposals to be brought to the CLC in February. The Membership Development and Mobilization Committee hosted the monthly new member social at Cherry Tree Bar, offering a great opportunity for new and prospective members to learn more about organizing work and meet new comrades. The Base Building Committee has begun organizing comrades interested in running for community board or attending meetings to connect with other organizations and members of the community. At the upcoming Central Brooklyn branch meeting, members will get the opportunity to break out into groups led by working group representatives, discuss their work and find campaigns they may be interested in. Starting on the 26th, there is a CBK reading group for the ABC’s of Capitalism series at the Brooklyn Free School.

South Brooklyn

In February, South Brooklyn hosted several events: First was a New Member Orientation that drew in 30+ people new to DSA, where participants and organizers engaged in small group discussions around the question “What is (or is not) Democratic Socialism to you?” New and prospective members also had the opportunity to meet working group representatives.

The Political Economy of Welfare, a talk by Social Work Professor Joel Blau, went extremely well. Organizers of the event reported that most of the attendees were active social workers with little familiarity with DSA, leading to highly fruitful discussions. The branch also hosted its first-ever fundraiser, themed around Valentine’s Day, titled Why Can’t I Touch it (the Means of Production), which far exceeded its projected fundraising goal. Looking ahead, an ABC’s of Socialism reading group at Carroll Gardens library will meet on the 23rd. The SBK February branch meeting will be held on the 24th, featuring presentations and discussions from both the Housing and Healthcare working groups.

Labor

Read the article titled “Critical Mass” in this month’s issue for updates on the Labor Branch’s resolution to focus on influencing rank and file of targeted industry unions to become more militant.

Critical Mass

By the Labor Branch OC

Unions have developed a negative reputation as exclusive organizations which fight only for paychecks for their members at the expense of “efficiency” and “productivity” for society. Caricatured as conservative bigots, a relic of the past, we are told that union members are actors who seek to preserve only their livelihood.

The radical history of the labor movement shows us the true legacy of unions: control over one’s work, halting arbitrary discipline, supporting public housing struggles, elevating socialist candidates for office, providing wealth to families of color, sharing resources with other workers through international delegations, and finally raising the living standards of ALL working people by setting a high bar for hours, wages, and benefits - essentially embodying the rising tide that lifts all boats (so much for trickle-down economics). DSA’s activists are committed to this vision rather than the labor movement’s current course, and many Labor Branch members have seen firsthand what a critical mass of organized, dissenting union members can achieve in defiance of an ineffective union bureaucracy.

On Thursday, January 10th, more than 60 people funneled down a tight stairwell to pack a small union hall. Inside, the NYC-DSA Labor Branch was holding a meeting seven months after taking on Resolution 33, which makes workplace militancy the cornerstone of the Chapter’s approach to union reform. The resolution’s aim is to select a handful of economic industries where DSA will concentrate its efforts and build a force, starting with rank and file union members, that effectively wields the institutional power of Labor against the big bosses of the NYC economy.

Peppered throughout the group were bricklayers, social workers, musicians, retired postal workers, union staff organizers, and folks wearing red in solidarity with teachers striking in Los Angeles. Not everyone was in a union or workers’ center, and some were at their first meeting.

Many understood the tactical need for discretion when building a strategy for Labor that places power back in the hands of the workers. As one member explained, “the Left has been subject to repression in the past (the witch-hunts of the 1950s come to mind) and we could be putting people’s jobs in jeopardy. When our members make a commitment to go into an industry, they are committing themselves for years and perhaps their lifetime. We need to protect that commitment.” As such, no names have been used in this article.

The Labor Branch Organizing Committee (OC) gave the floor to 10 speakers who would delineate the strategic importance of joining their union. Branch members had crafted a set of criteria on which to base one’s choices. The unions under discussion were the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Hotel Trades Council, the United Federation of Teachers, the Communication Workers of America, the Professional Staff Congress at CUNY, the Carpenters’ Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the NYS Nurses’ Association, the Transit Workers’ Union, and AFSCME District Council 37. Meeting goers also considered the way the work in each particular union coalesced with NYC-DSA’s citywide priorities, healthcare and housing.

Early in the discussion, the topic of “entry requirements” was raised - that is, the relative difficulty or ease of getting a job in the target industry. Some unionized workplaces require a civil service exam and then at least a year’s wait for an interview (e.g. DC37 or TWU). Others might hire you within a week, but only if you are ready to have no vacation days and work overtime during the provisional period (Teamsters).

This conversation led to more criteria for selection related to the working environment of the job. To address some of the difficulties that might come from particular organizing contexts, Branch members have committed to building support networks among like minded activists as one method to keep people engaged in what is to be a long fight for the soul of the labor movement.

Others in the room emphasized the support structure that militant union caucuses provide in the fight for bottom up union democracy. One of the most influential, TDU (Teamsters for a Democratic Union) openly challenges its union bureaucracy, revealing how the current union leadership forces concessionary policies onto its members. “There are hundreds of thousands of Teamsters ready to fight for a stronger, more militant, and more democratic labor movement, and we should build a bridge between DSA and this active layer of the working class,” said one member, relating to us that union locals of Teamsters across the country “are being taken back by rank and file reformers and TDU activists, including here in NYC.”

The New Directions caucus in the Transit Workers’ Union (TWU) was another example cited by members, with the explanation that there is “a rich history of militant unionism within TWU Local 100.” In the early 2000s, the caucus put forth a leftist platform with clear demands that culminated in the union going on strike, despite it being illegal for public sector unions to do so.

Yet another factor that members weighed was the public perception of a unionized workforce. We forget that the self-interest of workers is often the self-interest of their families. With certain industries’ more tangible connections to issues that affect the public, as is the case with nursing, teaching, and transportation, a new consciousness could be built to show the overlap of union members’ workplace demands and the material struggles of the cities they belong to. Members brought forward the point that MTA has a lot of potential for disruption, as it is a single massive employer in NYC. Similarly, healthcare workers like NYSNA and DC37 members work in one of the largest and most profitable industries.

This was a conversation which generally does not occur with such diverse participation, and the enthusiasm from union members and non-members alike could be felt throughout the room. Each eligible voter was given instructions on when to expect their online ballot. The results came in a week later, with six industries selected in the following order:

  • Department of Education (United Federation of Teachers)

  • Nursing (New York State Nurses’ Association)

  • UPS (Teamsters)

  • MTA (Transit Workers Union Local 100)

  • Carpenters (NYC District Council of Carpenters)

  • NYC Public Sector Jobs (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, District Council 37)

The NYC-DSA Labor Branch will continue to work toward a society in which solidarity is the norm, between all working people, and we hope you’ll read more about the Rank-and-File Resolution.

Reach out to labor@socialists.nyc for more information on the history, political currents, and ways to get involved in the labor movement.


CLC

By Erin N

February’s Citywide Leadership Committee (CLC) meeting proved to be filled with lively, thoughtful debate on several topics from the Bernie 2020 campaign to internal matters like hiring staff.

The meeting started with members going over the consent agenda, which included a new iteration of a conflicts of interest proposal after one was voted down at the previous CLC meeting, as well as amendments to the grievance policy. A report was also given on our healthcare priority campaign including on the new structure as its own citywide body and strategy to win passage of the NY Health Act this term.


Making Bernie 2020 a Priority Campaign in the Event of an Endorsement

Members then dived into debate over making Bernie 2020 a priority campaign in the event National DSA endorses the Democratic Socialist candidate. The proposal included a field operation plan for canvassing and other activities to support the Bernie campaign.

The vigorous debate sparked a wide range of views from CLC delegates. Authors and supporters stated that this is a great opportunity to bring people to socialism and build DSA. While the proposal was not technically a question of endorsement, the debate quickly turned to the merits of Bernie and his campaign. Supporters pointed out that Bernie is aligned with us on most issues and his win would have material improvements on the lives of the working class. Opponents of the proposal warned that the Democratic Party is a capitalist party that will co-opt progressive movements for their own gain, and an endorsement of a candidate on the Democratic line would only help the Democratic Party. Those wary of the proposal also pointed to Bernie’s position on SESTA/FOSTA, abolishing ICE, and other issues where he is not aligned with DSA.

Before voting on the proposal as a whole, delegates debated amendments to the proposal that were not previously taken as friendly. The first one on the table was an amendment to include outreach to people of color. The most controversial aspect of this amendment was the first clause requiring two Spanish language coordinators. Delegates expressed concern at making it a requirement and pointed out that this has never been a requirement in the past. A delegate also raised concerns that the coordinator role could be a labor burden on the Spanish speakers who may already have a lot of demands from the chapter on their Spanish language skills. Supporters of the amendment stated that it was time we held ourselves accountable by making this a requirement. The author of the amendment pointed out that the logistical burdens of planning the Spanish canvasses did not have to be done by a Spanish speaker and additionally we now have more resources to accomplish this, including a new NYC DSA translation team, as well as our own simultaneous translation equipment.

Ultimately, an amendment was made on the floor and passed changing the language of the amendment so that the two Spanish language coordinators were not a requirement, but rather a goal, in addition to including all non-English languages. Thereafter the amendment as a whole passed.

The second amendment sought to engage delegates in a debate as to whether the priority of the Bernie 2020 campaign was to grow DSA’s base or win the election. The author expressed concern that a field operation focused on winning, rather than base building could neglect black and brown neighborhoods with low voter turnout. Ultimately, the amendment did not pass, but another proposal was brought to the floor to include both the goals of base building and winning the election as the primary aims of the proposal.

The final amendment sought to explore areas of disagreement with the Bernie campaign. The authors of the amendment sought to illuminate areas of divergence between the Bernie campaign and DSA, including Bernie’s support for SESTA/FOSTA, his position on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement, and his position on abolishing ICE. Opponents of the amendment had varying views, some stating that we should not fool ourselves into believing that we could have any sway with the Bernie campaign, while others expressed concern that it encouraged bird dogging. Supporters felt strongly that we need to make our position on these issues clear. The amendment as written was voted down, but after the proposal was passed, a motion was made from the floor to direct the Steering Committee to write a letter expressing NYC-DSA’s political difference from the Sanders campaign. That motion passed.

The Policy Platform

After an active Bernie debate, the mood of the agenda mellowed with a noncontroversial proposal on the process for creating a Policy Platform. Delegates stated that this would be helpful in the endorsement process for political candidates, as well as provide clear political stances to our membership and potential members. The proposal passed unanimously.

Hiring Staff

Delegates returned after refueling over lunch to a hotly contested issue, whether or not we should hire a staff member for the chapter. The author of the proposal stated that the cost of hiring and maintaining a staff member for a year would cost approximately $57,000 for a part time employee and $66,000 for a full time employee. Meanwhile, based on this past years fundraisers, as well as monthly dues and shared dues from National DSA, the chapter’s annual revenue is roughly $72,000.

While most delegates agreed that hiring staff was not necessarily a bad idea, there were differing opinions as to whether now was the right time or if this was the best way to go about doing it. Arguments for the proposal included: many socialist organizations have paid staff; more can be accomplished with a person dedicated to DSA work as a day job; and that it can increase our fundraising potential.  A delegate also stated that paid staff could enable more working class people and/or parents to take on leadership roles by decreasing the amount of free labor input demanded of leadership.

Opponents of the proposal also had several reasons to vote against it. A predominant concern was a lack of clarity and depth of the job description. In addition, multiple delegates pointed out that promises were made to do a participatory budget. Additional concerns included that no broad assessment of the chapter’s financial needs had taken place before allocating such a large amount of the budget to hiring the staff. Another delegate also stated that we have untapped volunteer potential that we should utilize first.

Ultimately, the proposal passed with an amendment from the floor to develop a better job description in an ad-hoc committee of the CLC.


Working Group Census

Delegates then considered a less controversial proposal that would provide for a working group census to help create a more coherent and holistic strategy among the chapter’s campaigns, as well as provide a means to dissolve working groups who were functioning undemocratically and/or improperly.

One delegate provided an amendment on the floor, taken as friendly by the author, to clarify the language and criteria of dissolving a working group. After a short debate, the proposal passed with the vast majority of the delegates voting yes.

The Endorsement of Tiffany Caban for District Attorney of Queens

The CLC was put to the test at this meeting, as delegates had to consider a candidate endorsement unlike any previous endorsement. For the first time the chapter was deciding whether or not to support a prosecutor. The debate boiled down to supporters promoting the great potential for harm reduction in the immediate future, while others opposed the idea of supporting a prosecutor because, like cops, they are part of the law enforcement apparatus of the state. Ultimately, the CLC voted to endorse Tiffany Cabán. For a more robust summation of the debate please see the Red Letter’s Point and Counterpoint.

Citywide Priority Campaign to Stop Amazon’s HQ2

In an uncontroversial final debate, delegates passed a resolution to make a citywide priority out of stopping Amazon HQ2 from establishing itself in Queens. The proposal passed unanimously with delegates agreeing that the campaign touched on many issues that the chapter works on including housing, labor, and immigration. Delegates also recognized that membership was really excited to work on this issue.  They must have heard we were coming for them because the next week Amazon announced it was pulling out of negotiations. Today, we can say of this campaign: mission accomplished!

There will be one more CLC meeting before the next city-wide convention. Lookout for a notice from the Steering Committee. Any member in good standing is welcome to attend as an observer.


De Blasio's NYC Care Plan: Neoliberal "access to care" vs. a socialist single-payer system

By NYC-DSA Healthcare Working Group

On January 8th, 2019 Mayor DeBlasio announced a new proposed program for changes to NYC's healthcare system that his administration has framed as a form of universal healthcare for every New York City resident. In reality, it includes minor reforms that will likely lead to some residents using more outpatient or preventive services, but does little to challenge the city’s racially and economically segregated, profit-driven healthcare system that continues to perpetuate inequality in healthcare outcomes.

The mayor’s proposal consists of two main parts: 1) investment in the managed care plan MetroPlus, which the administration is calling a “public option” for health insurance because it is accepted by the city's public hospital system, to increase plan benefits and enrollment, and 2) expansion of the use of sliding scale fees for primary and specialty care at public hospitals, with the expressed aim of targeting uninsured New Yorkers, including undocumented immigrants. Healthcare options for undocumented New Yorkers are confusing and limited, and addressing this disparity should absolutely be a priority. Undocumented immigrants can only qualify for insurance if their income is under the Medicaid limit and this insurance covers emergency care only. Paying for this emergency coverage is costly for the city and state, so this provides a monetary incentive to get more undocumented residents into primary and preventive care.

The ideology of this proposal is based on the concept of increasing “access to care”, as if getting someone’s foot in the door of a healthcare facility is an end goal in itself, or that enrolling in health insurance or being charged a sliding scale fee suddenly means that someone can get the care that they need. A main component of the proposal is an investment in customer service to help people navigate the process of getting healthcare, which acknowledges that the system will still be fractured and confusing enough to need this kind of assistance.

The US healthcare system as it currently functions extracts profit from people, who are considered customers, to enrich a small few, including health insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Since the profit motive also affects fundamental areas of our lives like housing, education, and the environment which greatly affect our physical and mental health, the fight for health justice means eliminating the destructive influence of the profit motive in these areas as well. The mayor’s proposal acknowledges that there are problems with the current healthcare system, and is trying to address them with minor changes in NYC on the city level, but it is clear that this is totally insufficient in the fight for broader health justice.

In NYC-DSA, we reject the very idea of health insurance, because insurance is a concept that should have no place in healthcare. We will accept nothing less than the equitable distribution of quality, comprehensive healthcare for everyone.  Our ultimate goal is a healthcare system where everyone has high-quality comprehensive care, including reproductive and long term care, that is free at the point of service; hospitals are publicly owned and operated; and drug patents and other medical R+D are public domain.  We fight for single-payer health care because it is the only achievable step towards a planned nationalized health care system that is fully divested from the profit motive.

This year, 2019, presents unique opportunities for DSA and single payer advocacy groups. We will be pushing for public hearings and floor votes on single payer legislation in the House of Representatives and the NY State Senate in order to set the stage to make single payer healthcare the decisive issue of 2019 and 2020. In this context, DeBlasio’s announcement appears as a little more than a desperate attempt to distract from the increasingly viable pieces of single payer legislation that are currently gaining popularity and legitimacy at both the national and state levels; it is the latest in a long line of efforts to obscure the fundamental class conflict that underlies our current healthcare crisis.


Withdrawing our money from Wall Street: Why NYC needs public banking now

By James O

After the private banking system tanked the world’s economy in 2008, there has been a lot of outrage directed at banks. Countless books and articles have described how our private banking system caused such a mess, and why our politicians were wrong to socialize the losses—but not the gains—of the banks. And although there have been attempts to re-regulate the private banks in recent years, there is actually an alternative solution. Instead of working to convince our representatives (who depend on banks for campaign contributions) to ignore armies of lobbyists and write legislation regulating these entities against the will of their executives and shareholders, we can create our own public banks that give back to our communities, promote clean energy, and finance co-operative ownership structures. In other words, we can create our own credit and finance systems from the ground-up.

This is not a new idea. Approximately 40% of the world’s banks are public; many of them are large and successful. The Japan Post Bank is the largest bank in the world as measured by deposits. In fact, there is already precedent within the United States for a public banking system: the state of North Dakota has operated its own  public bank successfully since 1919. Unlike many private sector banks, the Bank of North Dakota emerged from both the Great Depression and the 2008 financial crisis in good shape. The people of North Dakota have done well for themselves by following the advice of Karl Marx, who had recommended just a few decades earlier to place “credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank.”

Creating a public banking system could remove  waste and corruption from our financial system. Private bankers have proven to be corrupt and short-sighted middlemen, taking as much as they can for themselves and using their privileged position to create increasingly complex financial transactions that extract wealth from others. Sometimes it is subtle (e.g., LIBOR manipulation), and sometimes bold (e.g., creating fraudulent accounts), but in almost all cases our legal system has shown a remarkable tolerance for this kind of wealth redistribution that benefits the bankers. Regulators and prosecutors who find wrongdoing (if we are lucky) impose fines representing only a portion of the ill-gotten gains; this is not so much a deterrent as it is a de facto kickback. Private bankers are allowed to manipulate and defraud everyone else, as long as the government gets some small portion of it back in the form of fines and fees. This is inefficient, and it imposes costs on everyone else.

The current system works well for people who work in private finance, but not so well for everyone else. A recent report from the New York State Comptroller noted that the average salary on Wall Street had risen to $422,500, while median household income sits at just $61,000 (about one-seventh the size of an average Wall Street salary). At the same time, working people deal with high interest rates, predatory overdraft fees, and a payday lending industry that preys on the poor who are excluded from banking. This isn’t the kind of economy we deserve.

If we commit to breaking this cycle and creating something new, there is a lot to be gained. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has repeatedly noted that her Green New Deal proposals are to be financed by public banks, similarly to how the New Deal was financed with the help of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation. But that’s just the start. If we create a new system of public finance, we can make a serious push for worker cooperatives, community land trusts, and affordable housing projects.

New York City is a great place to start developing public banks now. Symbolically, it is the heart of the global financial system. Practically, it is a place that desperately needs a better banking system than the one that currently fuels the city’s displacement and gentrification machine, while simultaneously creating “banking deserts” in the Bronx. Politically, New York City is a region that still has a strong and mobilized left wing, as the elections of Julia Salazar and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez demonstrate.

There is some political will among NYC politicians to engage in more responsible banking, even though the overturn of the “Responsible Banking Act,” passed by the City Council in 2012, shows how high the obstacles to regulation are. New York City has billions of dollars that it collects through taxes and fees, and that money has to go somewhere. By law, the city is required to deposit those funds into certain "designated banks" (i.e., private banks that often use the money to fund oil pipelines, private prisons, etc.). The Responsible Banking Act sought to evaluate the practices of the designated banks and make sure that the city's funds were put to socially useful purposes (such as local loans). Unfortunately, the law was struck down by a federal judge after the city was sued in 2015 by the New York Bankers Association, Inc. The judge agreed with the banking group that the minor oversight imposed on the banks  (e.g., requesting information about their practices) constituted impermissible "regulation" and was therefore "preempted" by federal and state law.

By creating a public bank, NYC wouldn't face the same legal obstacles because it wouldn't be "regulating" private banks. Rather, it would be creating its own bank to handle its own money in a responsible way. There are still some issues that remain to be decided, such as: (i) who would make up the board of directors, (ii) what investment criteria would the bank follow in extending loans, and (iii) how to ensure accountability and transparency within the public bank. These are absolutely critical issues, and we will need to spend a good deal of time—both within DSA and within the broader coalition—evaluating the successes and failures of past examples. We will also need to be creative and forward-thinking, if we want this new bank to stimulate a new economy that focuses on cooperative ownership structures and clean energy.

So what can do we do about it? The NYC-DSA’s Debt & Finance Working Group has been working in the Public Bank NYC coalition with the New Economy Project to promote public banking at the city-wide level. This involves research, public outreach, and communication with local politicians. We hope that in the year 2019, we can put the phrase “public banking” into the public discourse the same way that the DSA helped to elevate the issues of “Medicare For All” and “Universal Rent Control.” But we need your help if we want to accomplish anything here. We need the general DSA membership to mobilize, to pull together, and to canvass the city just like we did for Sen. Salazar and Rep. Ocasio. We can do this, and we can win.

There will be a Debt & Finance WG meeting on February 11 at 7pm (location TBD), a Public Banking discussion at the next North Brooklyn meeting at the end of February, and another Public Banking meeting sometime in March (details TBD).

Anyone who is interested in getting involved, especially with research, should email debtors@socialists.nyc (especially attorneys and people with a finance background).



Public Education is a Lie: The campaign to end school suspensions

By the Racial Justice Working Group

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When members of the NYC-DSA Racial Justice Working Group (RJWG) wanted to get a better understanding of the school-to-prison pipeline in NYC, we knew we had to start by looking at racial injustice within our deeply segregated public schools. We, sadly, were not surprised to learn that black students in NYC receive long-term suspension five times more often than white students, and hispanic students receive them nearly two and a half times as often. What was surprising to many of us in the RJWG was this simple fact: for a single infraction a student can be suspended for 180 days - that’s one full school year - at the discretion of the superintendent. One mistake or bad decision that rubs an administrator the wrong way and a student can be told to go home and start over next year. They are told, in effect, that their “right” to a public education was actually a privilege all along. They are segregated from their school community and told it is not their place.

As socialists, we know that our education system is not truly socialized so long as children of color are being systematically denied access to it. That’s why we’re teaming up with Organizing for Equity NY to demand a 20-day cap on school suspensions (with a long-term vision of no school suspensions at all), as well as comprehensive funding for implementing alternative de-escalation practices that support teachers and students, rather than asking teachers to criminalize students.

To win these goals, we need the Chancellor, the Mayor, and the City Council on board. In February, de Blasio is likely to announce his budget proposal, which will soon be followed by the City Council’s budget proposal. We must make sure that these budget proposals include sufficient funding to enable schools to successfully replace suspension with practices and resources that treat students with care rather than treating them as problems to eliminate. After the new budget is passed, Chancellor Carranza will likely submit a potential revision to the NYC DOE Discipline Code - in which he has the power to finally cap school suspensions.

NYC-DSA RJWG and Organizing for Equity NY plan to pressure these decision-makers both directly and indirectly. We’re starting with a petition that will be publicly delivered to both the Chancellor and the Mayor. For many of us, this has been some of the easiest canvassing we have ever experienced - our neighbors by and large already agree that public education should be truly universal are eager to demand justice for black and brown students. We’re also working to leverage the Public Advocate election, because we believe that if anyone claims to speak for the people, they should be talking about this issue. As our campaign progresses, we plan to escalate our tactics to make sure that every politician knows they are accountable on this issue.

Of course, the United Federation of Teachers is a powerful factor. As in other unions, there’s risk that leadership will bulldoze over the passions of the rank and file. If the recent strike wave has proven anything, it is that when teachers stand in solidarity with their students, the world listens. With that in mind, we are working with some of our comrades in the Socialist Teachers Caucus to develop strategy to push the UFT for its support.

We believe we can win this campaign and strike a blow to the racist school-to-prison pipeline in time for the next school year - but we won’t be able to do that without the involvement of more NYC-DSA members. RJWG remains one of the smallest working groups in NYC-DSA. But we know that white-supremacy is both antithetical to socialism, and one of the most powerful tools capitalism has to guard itself. So if you’re itching to fight back with us, here are 3 easy steps you can take:

First:  sign the petition.

Second:  sign up for a canvass (and sign up your friend).

Third: come to our next Racial Justice Working Group meeting!



Working Groups

Ecosocialist

The Ecosocialist Working Group priority campaign for 2019 will be energy democracy. The campaign will focus on fighting Con Ed‘s attempt to raise energy rates for fossil fuel-generated power, which forces New Yorkers to be participants in their own destruction. At the same time, they will lay out a vision for the right to publicly owned renewable energy with allies statewide hoping to socialize energy. Particularly, the working group will be joining comrades in Boston, Providence, East Bay, and San Francisco DSA who are already working to decarbonize, decommodify, and democratize energy in their own contexts.

The group’s Mutual Aid/Disaster Relief Subcommittee met with someone who was involved in Occupy Sandy and a comrade who was involved in Camp Fire relief efforts. The group moved forward with their plans to coordinate and prepare for the next knowable disaster in New York.

The working group has also been helping allies at UPROSE flyer for the first community owned solar cooperative in New York State, which they helped develop. Flyers were posted in low-income areas of Sunset Park to promote UPROSE's orientation for prospective members.

Electoral

The Brooklyn Electoral Working Group had a busy month managing Organizing Committee elections and moving projects forward through various committees:

  • The field committee started canvasses in North Brooklyn with the Housing Working Group.

  • The communications team has been training members to be spokespeople.

  • The fundraising & compliance committee has begun planning events for later in the year.

  • The research team is putting together dossiers on districts and candidates throughout Brooklyn.

  • The data committee has been building tools that make it easier to look at candidate donations, including continuing to improve the voter management tool ROSA.

Additionally, the working group plans to have tote bags for sale soon to raise money for The Thorn's Mailchimp fees. The group’s electoral reform project also continues to move forward, and the group is setting up in-district meetings with legislators.

The next Electoral meeting is February 7th, 7pm at Repair the World, 808 Nostrand Avenue. Anyone who’s interested in getting involved should reach out to bk.electoral@socialists.nyc

Healthcare

2019 is a critical year in the fight for single-payer healthcare. The number of politicians who've endorsed Medicare For All is growing, and all of the Democratic candidates who have announced their intention to run to president have ostensibly endorsed Medicare For All. But we know that this support is a mile wide and an inch deep. The only way to overcome the power of capital is through a mass movement. For that reason, the citywide Healthcare Working Group is excited to announce that, after the passage of a proposal in December to establish a NYC Medicare For All campaign linked to the national campaign, they will begin to work at the end of January.

At the January meeting, the working group approved a planning document for an escalating pressure campaign that targets a number of key local politicians who must be held to single-payer, at both the state and national level. The working group will be canvassing, phone-banking, writing op-eds, hosting town halls, and bird-dogging elected officials, and they encourage anyone and everyone who wants universal healthcare to reach out and get involved in the campaign by reaching the group at healthcare.nyc.dsa@gmail.com.


Immigrant Justice

For the new year, the Immigrant Justice working group elected a new organizing committee - congratulations to Alberto Aguirre, Nikku Chatha, Pam Galpern, Nancy Kricorian, and Dustin Reyes!

The working group is continuing its ICE Out of the Courts campaign. They are currently focusing on the Protect our Courts Legislation that will be introduced to the NY State legislature, in addition to pursuing community engagement and know your rights events.

The working group is continuing to support the Central American Exodus, in partnership with DSA's national immigrant rights working group and with local groups in NYC. They have recently partnered with the International Socialist Organization, Bay Ridge for Social Justice, and local immigrant rights groups to put together events that include report-backs on border support work, and information on local immigrant rights' campaigns.

The working group endorsed Power Not Panic, a queer latinx dance party that raised money for the New Sanctuary Coalition.

At the January monthly meeting, the working group heard report-backs from people who had recently returned from the border, and discussed ways to bring those type of report-backs to a broader audience.

The next general meeting is Mon, Feb 11, 6:30-8:30pm at the CUNY Grad Center, 365 Fifth Ave, Room 5409. If you're interested in getting involved in one of the campaigns listed above, email immigrant.justice@socialists.nyc.

Tech Action

Tech Action will be rolling out a subcommittee to engage directly with anti-Amazon HQ2 efforts. They have already been actively resisting Amazon, taking part in organizing a rally in Long Island City, and another on the steps of City Hall, as well as marshaling labor power against the deal in the form of a pledge for tech workers to sign stating they will not work for Amazon if they build in Queens. This subcommittee will help coordinate and propel these ongoing efforts, while developing new strategies for further work.

Tech Action co-hosted a panel on tech worker organizing at Verso Books, alongside Logic magazine, Science for the People, Coworker.org, and Tech Workers Coalition. The panel featured organizers of the Google walkout, Google cafeteria workers and organizers, and Joan Greenbaum, an early computer engineer organizer.

On January 30th, Tech Action will return to City Hall alongside coalition partners to rally and disrupt the second City Council hearing on the Amazon HQ2 deal. Contact tech.action@socialists.nyc if you are interested in participating in any working group meetings, campaigns, or events.


Branches

Introducing… Staten Island! Let’s hear it for Socialism in the 5 Boroughs!

DSA members on Staten Island are currently forming an Organizing Committee and will soon apply to become a branch of NYC-DSA.

Since their launch last August, the group has met monthly to discuss presentations on the local Amazon warehouse, electoral politics, housing issues related to the Bay Street rezoning, and Medicare for All. The online ballot, due February 1, asks the nearly 30 Staten Island DSAers to vote on whether to make NYC-DSA’s Medicare for All campaign its priority project.

Early meetings have averaged about twenty attendees, with roughly have of those in attendance being current DSA members. Participants are mostly Staten Island residents, with residences throughout the borough. Currently, meetings are being held at various locations around the island to accommodate the geographically diverse membership. South Brooklyn DSA has informally adopted the new group, with organizers wishing to offer special thanks to Abdoullah Y, Marcello N, Katie L and Zuzanna J, and Jared Watson for making the trip over the Verrazano Bridge to give presentations and provide organizing tips.

Shoutouts are also due to Brooklyn members who explained how the Working Groups work: Bianca C for Racial Justice, Noah W for Brooklyn Electoral Group, Natalie J for Socialist Feminism, and Zuzanna for Immigrant Justice.

Queens

Nearly 200 people attended Queens DSA's candidates’ forum for Queens District Attorney on January 17, where they pressed candidates about how they would reduce mass incarceration and decriminalize poverty, while also stepping up criminal prosecutions of bosses who cheat workers out of wages and landlords who abuse tenants. Three candidates showed up: Councilmember Rory Lancman, public defender Tiffany L. Caban, and Jose Nieves, a prosecutor in the State Attorney General's office. A fourth candidate, Lorelei Salas, a senior official at the State Department of Labor who was previously the legal director for Make the Road, couldn't attend due to illness; she answered the same questions at the Electoral Working Group meeting the following week. (The two other candidates in the race, Borough President Melinda Katz and retired Judge and former Queens ADA Gregory Lasak, did not submit candidate questionnaires in time to address the group.)

The Electoral Working Group voted 17-0 to recommend that NYC-DSA endorse Caban, who articulated the most transformative view of the DA's office. Her campaign is being managed by DSA members Vigie Ramos Rios (who managed Ocasio's successful campaign for Congress) and Martha Ayon (who managed Jumaane Williams’ near-win for Lieutenant Governor). If at least 60% of attendees at the next Queens branch meeting vote in favor, the endorsement will go to the CLC for a final vote.

Queens DSA members also showed up for the formal launch of Queens for DA Accountability, a coalition of grassroots groups seeking progressive policies from a new DA. Coalition members hope to agree on a DA candidate to support; the other organizations have not voted yet.

The branch's Housing WG held a training for tenant organizers, and continued working with a community coalition to stop Amazon's HQ2 from gentrifying Queens. The branch's political education group held a teach-in about Amazon on January 22, so that members would have a more solid knowledge base while organizing.

Bronx/Upper Manhattan

This month, B/UM members canvassed in the Bronx for Universal Rent Control and in Harlem to fight New York schools' racist suspension practices.  We had an organizing/mobilizer training to strengthen our mobilizer program and help our members improve at having one-on-one organizing conversations.  Our Political Education Working Group organized a screening of the documentary "What Is Democracy?", including a Q&A with filmmaker Astra Taylor. At our January branch meeting, we heard from our CLC representatives about the proposals they'll be voting on at the upcoming CLC meeting; we discussed the proposals in small groups, and then voted in a straw poll to give our representative a sense of the membership's views on each proposal.


Central Brooklyn

The Central Brooklyn membership development subcommittee held its second social in order to introduce new and prospective members into the organization. The branch also held an open forum during its branch meeting on January 23 to discuss upcoming NYC-DSA proposals and amendments ahead of February’s Citywide Leadership Committee meeting. An open comment document related to the discussion can be found here.

Labor Branch

We are holding a Labor Branch Conference Call to discuss the Citywide Leadership Committee proposals. If you are interested in discussing the proposals, call in on January 29, at 6:30 pm.

Call-in number: 515-739-1015

Access Code: 114646

In February, we will hold the next of our Labor Notes Style trainings: Turning an Issue into a Campaign! The training will be held on Monday, February 11 from 6:30-9pm,  and will continue our work in helping both DSA members and non-DSA union members in organizing their workplaces. This is a perfect event to bring a coworker to, as well as DSA members who are not currently involved in the Labor Branch.

We will be announcing focus industries for the Rank and File resolution ASAP. An email will go out to the citywide chapter.

Lower Manhattan

Lower Manhattan DSA sees 2019 as a highly exciting year for democratic socialists. The branch will be participating in the campaigns for M4A single-payer health care and against Amazon HQ2, talking to New Yorkers about what a brighter, fairer future could look like. They'll have political education starting back up again in the coming weeks, helping members articulate their analyses of capitalism and rationale for being Socialists. The branch also anticipates the upcoming Bernie 2020 presidential run will help catalyze the DSA’s political agenda into working class neighborhoods that are looking for real solutions to the problems they face.

January 24 was their New Member Social to introduce newcomers to the branch and demystify the organization’s politics to curious residents of the district. The January general meeting saw discussion and voting for/against recommendations to the CLC on a number of important proposals facing the branch and the work they choose to prioritize.


North Brooklyn

NBK DSA started the year off on January 12 by welcoming 70 new members for a social and orientation hosted by the Rose Buds, their new members' committee. The NBK Political Education committee continues to educate all who desire it with bi-weekly Night School sessions, most recently on January 14 with Gender and Capitalism. Night School meets every two weeks and is open to all! The NBK Tenants' Committee braved January weather to canvass for Universal Rent Control on January 15. On January 20, they witnessed the in-district swearing-in of comrade Julia Salazar, state senator for NY-18. Their January general meeting, held on January 22, focused on refining branch bylaws and discussing proposals for the upcoming Citywide Leadership Committee.


NYU YDSA

NYC colleges and universities may be on winter break, but the student socialists of NYU YDSA are hard at work gearing up for a new semester. We’re laying the groundwork for massive student mobilizations around Bernie Sanders’ potential 2020 presidential bid, and getting ready to recruit new members as the semester kicks off.

We’re also working alongside comrades from City College and Hunter College YDSA to prepare for the YDSA National Winter Conference coming up this February 15-17th in the Bay Area. If you see us at a branch or working group meeting in the next couple of weeks, be sure to say hi!--and, if you’re able, donate to our fundraiser so we can afford to send as many working class students from New York City as possible.

 

South Brooklyn

In the new year, SBK has been busy with its political education work, hosting two film screenings in partnership with SFWG and Queer Caucus, related to the ACT UP movement during the AIDS crisis. They also planned a book club on In Defense of Housing, and currently plan to host a talk, The Political Economy of Welfare, with Social Work Professor Joel Blau. They partnered with local groups to co-sponsor the annual Bay Ridge MLK Day March, and plan to partner with the Healthcare Working Group to support the Working Group's pressure campaign through SBK's branch campaign.


Hiring staff could jeopardize what makes NYC-DSA radically democratic

By Jennifer L

I sincerely appreciate this ambitious and thoughtful proposal for catalyzing and laying the foundation for an important and necessary conversation about how to use our chapter’s funds, and how to expand our capacity and organizing, as well as the many other organizational and political questions entailed in hiring staff.

I’m very sympathetic to, and take very seriously, the personal and organizational costs of administrative burdens placed on members, which in many cases are considerable. I want us to mitigate these costs as best we can, but in a way that also strengthens our organization. The concerns I have with hiring staff, as follow, range from pragmatic to political; some are addressable and some are more or less inherent/unavoidable. Although I’m not categorically opposed to the idea of ever hiring staff, taken together, I do not believe, at least at this time, that the potential benefits of doing so outweigh the costs and risks.

Is this the best way to spend our money?

it’s important to keep in mind that we do not actually have sufficient funds to hire either a part-time or full-time staffer yet. Before immediately spending this substantial amount of money, I think we should thoroughly review and discuss other potential uses for it (e.g., renting a central meeting space, subsidizing organizing work, sharing national dues with smaller chapters, sharing chapter dues with branches and working groups, solidarity funds, supporting citywide campaigns, etc.). Each of these other potential uses has its own merits and risks, which should be outlined, elaborated, and debated about, before moving forward with this particular proposal.

How can we ensure democratic and transparent use of staffer’s time?

As of now, our chapter has very few centralized resources at the citywide leadership’s disposal (besides the funds in question, which to my knowledge are not frequently deployed, as is indicated by their accumulation). This proposal would dramatically change that, and, to the extent that decisions around the staffer’s work are left to the discretion of the Administrative Committee (AC), this would make leadership (at the AC level) much more powerful. I’m not going to argue about whether this is intrinsically good or bad, but we need to ask how these resources would be used in a “democratic and transparent” way. Would there be differential access to this staffer across branches, working groups, campaigns, caucuses, tendencies? Although the proposal states that the staffer would only work on chapter-wide work, and the DSA contract specifies that work cannot be used for partisan functions, I am skeptical that these issues, given how blurry some of these lines are, wouldn’t still arise, especially in the absence of a clear outline of how the staffer’s work would be selected and managed. We should be very transparent about these parameters, we should strive to set them together, and we should create democratic mechanisms of accountability.

Questions around these parameters include: What is the job description? What work would be assigned to the staffer? How would this person report and relate to the AC? How would we select this person? Who would have hiring and firing power? Are AC officers prepared to be managers, to enforce a union contract? Are we prepared to have someone’s livelihood depend on our ability to maintain an annual budget? Are we prepared for the legal responsibilities and liabilities? In terms of the hiring process, we would also want to make sure that it doesn’t operate like a spoils system in which leaders hire members of their caucus or faction. Miriam B in her comment on the proposal raises another good point about hiring: one can imagine a wide range of informal relationships between the staffer and the AC, all with different implications and consequences, depending on the particular person hired and the prerogative of the AC: a staffer could be treated by the AC strictly as an employee given directives to follow or they could be treated more or less as an equal (effectively another non-voting member of the AC) or even as a leader among the AC. The latter two situations could easily arise without any ulterior motives or bad faith on the part of the AC: it’s reasonable to hire someone you trust and work well with, but if that person also voices political opinions and has self-direction in their work, the position becomes akin to that of an unelected leader. How do we navigate this?

Further, has there been an inventory of the administrative work that the staffer would be assigned? Should that assessment not be the *starting* point? The job description as it stands in the proposal is vague and left entirely to the discretion of the AC, which I am uncomfortable with (not because I am uncomfortable with our current AC officers, but because I am uncomfortable with that much concentrated, unchecked power).

Will the staffer even make a significant impact? Are there alternative solutions?

Many DSA members already volunteer around 20 hours of labor a week. How can we be sure that one more person working 30 hours a week (or, in the case of a full-time staffer, 40 hours a week) would make a substantive impact, enough to warrant the associated costs and risks? In any case, the staffer would likely not help alleviate the burdens of Branch and Working Group Organizing Committees, but would only help leaders at the highest level of the organization. However, fostering an organizing culture among our active members, one of broader and deeper member engagement and constant leadership development, and perhaps even setting up infrastructure to help divide and keep track of administrative tasks, would help everyone, from top to bottom. And the organizational dividends would be huge.

As an example, I feel confident that we could organize a volunteer-led dues drive in which members call other members to ask them to renew their dues and/or sign up for chapter/monthly dues. This scenario would be better, organizationally, than having a staffer make these calls, because it would engage more members in meaningful work and give them the opportunity to have organizing conversations and build relationships with other members. We should always think about how to engage and activate more members and how to develop their organizing skills through direct, hands-on experience. Making active recruitment an organizational priority would also help raise dues (and, in my opinion, should be a priority anyway). A better solution than hiring a staffer would be to identify and engage inactive members of the organization to do a couple of hours of administrative work a week -- better because it would be a part of a larger commitment to membership engagement and leadership development. In this context, hiring a staffer in some ways seems like a tempting shortcut. Having a dependable staffer at your disposal might even discourage leadership development, which is more likely to happen when it is urgently and materially needed and feels *necessary* than when it’s merely desired on an abstract level of principle.

What path might hiring staff put us on?

Apart from these more immediate, pragmatic concerns, I also want to make sure we discuss some of the potential political risks of hiring a staffer, even if they're not immediately relevant or apparent (as risks, especially long-term risks, rarely are). To me, these risks are insidious and significant, and should be taken seriously. How do we feel about the possibility of relying on staffers for the maintenance, management, and reproduction of our organization, as is the case for most labor unions and community-based organizations? The question of creating bureaucracy to sustain organization is one that has been written about extensively, and I’m not suggesting that we can completely circumvent answering this perhaps inevitable dilemma -- just that we should openly discuss and debate it.

Creating a layer of professional staffers, even if innocuous and strategically sound in its origin, *can* over time lead to a more top-down, staff-based model of organizing that I think is antithetical to many of DSA’s currently stated organizational and political principles, and would undermine our collective ownership of and responsibility for the organization, as well as our collective power. This professional layer could also in the long run take on a different, independent set of material concerns and a different orientation toward members, toward leadership, and toward the organization. Even though community-based organizations and labor unions nominally (and, in some cases, very genuinely) want members as opposed to staffers to make important strategic and political decisions (with staffers simply carrying out and implementing these decisions), that is often not the dynamic we see crystalize within these organizations. And, in most cases, it’s a structural, not personal, reason why.

It’s difficult to completely separate administrative work from political work: Bureaucracy is never strictly neutral. I'm not saying that hiring a part-time staffer will automatically bureaucratize our chapter, but I am saying that it would be the first step in creating bureaucracy (especially in light of the proposal’s stated goal of eventually hiring 2-3 staffers). Once we have created bureaucracy, the short-term, material imperative of maintaining that bureaucracy can undermine, contradict, and eventually supplant longer-term political goals of building working class power and winning socialism. This is arguably one of the most serious structural problems of unions. What currently separates us from many existing non-profit organizations, besides our politics, is that we are radically democratic and volunteer-run and that we're not subject to the conservatizing material influences of having to secure funding streams and annual budgets in order to maintain bureaucracy. I.e., it’s not just our politics that separate us, it’s also the material and structural influences on our politics. These are not foregone conclusions, but inherent risks.

In the end, however, I’m not convinced that administrative burden -- of the sort that can be solved by this proposal -- is the main limiting factor on our organizing and capacity-building, nor the best use of our money at this time. There is still a lot more we can and should strive to do with our volunteer labor, including strengthening our internal democracy and building more leaders, without the costs and risks of hiring staff. I would also like us to debate this proposed use of chapter funds in direct comparison to other possible uses.