August Steering Committee Update

The Steering Committee spent the end of July and the beginning of August finishing up the endorsement process, building the grievance committee and developing a new sign in process that you will experience at your branch meetings these next two weeks.

Building a Grievance Committee

We are close to approving our grievance officers. A list was sent out in the weekly email yesterday, Tuesday August 21st. We would like to give the membership the opportunity to weigh in on those applicants before the Steering Committee votes. If you have anything you'd like the SC to know about the proposed GOs that would interfere with their ability to do their job, please e-mail info@socialists.nyc.

Finishing the Endorsement Process for Nixon/Williams

Capped off the Nixon/Williams endorsement process with a successful CLC meeting that ended ahead of schedule, and now working with electoral and various groups to implement the plan that was passed. As part of that, the we are working with priority campaigns to implement a post-primary engagement plan to build momentum for our other campaigns off of the electoral work we've been doing.

New Sign-in Process

We will be rolling out a pilot of a new sign-ins process at August branch meetings. This will help us better track membership and engagement, and to better think about how to get more people involved.

 

August Branch Updates

Bronx/Upper Manhattan

In July and August, members worked in coalition with Northern Manhattan is Not for Sale (NMN4S) to protest the Inwood rezoning plan. The coalition raised $1000 for a block party in Inwood, and B/UM members participated in and supported protest actions including an overnight occupation of City Councilperson Ydanis Rodriguez's office and a march on August 6.

The B/UM branch also continued canvassing to save the psychiatric ward at Allen Hospital in Inwood, collecting and mailing postcards opposing New York-Presbyterian's plan to close this crucial ward. In July B/UM held an organizing training for new members and mobilizers. Lastly the bylaws committee has reconvened to continue the process of updating and expanding the Branch's bylaws in an open, democratic way.

Labor Branch

The Labor Branch has been working on the roll out of Resolution 33, passed at our chapter convention in May, which called for the recruiting of DSA members to find work in Rank and File union jobs. The Labor branch will be co-hosting a Labor Notes Troublemaker's School on September 29, and anyone interested in getting a Rank and File job is encouraged to attend and learn about workplace organizing.

The next branch meeting is on August 21 from 7-9 pm at the UAW offices on the 12th floor of 256 W 38th street. The topic of discussion will be the process of implementing Resolution 33, and all are welcome to attend. RSVP to the Facebook event here.

The Labor Branch OC was also able to meet with Cynthia Nixon about the Labor Movement and make some recommendations about what a strong Democratic Socialist Labor Platform would look like. The Labor Branch eager to continue to organize with Cynthia and her campaign. Labor for Julia Salazar canvases are ongoing, and these will be incorporating the chapter's recent endorsement of Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams. Upcoming Labor Canvases are on Sunday, August 26 at 3pm, Saturday, and September 8 at 3pm. All will start at Julia's campaign headquarters at 82 Central Ave, Brooklyn, NY.

Central Brooklyn

Central Brooklyn has been continuing work on the branch priority campaign: tenant organizing. For more information about the campaign, read an FAQ here or email tenants@socialists.nyc. The Central Brooklyn branch meeting is on August 22nd, at 7pm at the YWCA Brooklyn.

Lower Manhattan
Lower Manhattan had a very successful July meeting. Their endorsement process for Nixon and Williams brought out a large attendance, including many members who weren't yet active within DSA and a good number of new members who were excited about getting involved in politics. Actor and activist Susan Sarandon was in attendance, and said she felt right at home in the branch. The meeting was topped off with a panel discussion hosted by LoMan's own, Audrey Huigens, on the topic of sex work. Audrey, along with other active sex workers, detailed their experiences and how they're comparable to other labor in neoliberal capitalism.

Now the branch is focused on building out their major citywide and corresponding branch campaigns: NYHA canvassing, universal rent control canvassing, and mobilizing our members to either make canvass or phone bank for the Nixon, Williams, and Salazar campaigns.

The branch participated in the M4A weekend of action on August 12 and will have canvasses every Wednesday night this month, in addition to periodic phone banks. The branch is prioritizing major campaigns and giving members many opportunities to participate. In the near future they'll be rolling out a political education night school, focused on the key ideas that they think every socialist should integrate into their analyses and actions.

LoMan's next meeting on August 30 is going to feature a hot collab with comrades in the Labor Branch as they begin rolling out the Rank and File strategy, passed at the recent convention. LoMan see building a 21st century labor movement as imperative to the DSA's political goals.

North Brooklyn
North Brooklyn is focused on the final push to help our comrade Julia Salazar win in State Senate District 18! Primary day is September 13 and North Brooklyn encourages all of NYC-DSA to get involved by signing up for a volunteer shift: salazarforsenate.com/volunteer. NBK DSA is hosting canvassing days over the coming weekends: Saturday 8/25, and Sunday 9/2.

Julia Salazar button-mania is sweeping North Brooklyn! NBM comrades wear their support for Julia on their sleeves (and backpacks, tote bags, and dog vests). If you have a great idea for a campaign button, they want to hear it at north.brooklyn@socialists.nyc. And make sure to pick up a button for yourself when you stop by Salazar HQ to volunteer or donate healthy snacks and office supplies! [add links]

Members of NBK hosted a memorial for Heather Heyer on August 11 to honor her life, educate themselves about the anti-fascist movement, and renew their commitment to fighting white supremacy. Other NBK members have traveled in recent weeks to Portland, D.C., and Charlottesville, to document and participate in anti-fascist actions as marshals and medics.

NBK has launched a new members' welcoming committee, the Rosebuds, who hosted their first New Members' social on July 14. Next up for the Rosebuds is a collaboration with the NBK Political Education Committee on a Socialism 101 reading group starting with "Socialism...Seriously" by Danny Katch. All new and prospective members are welcome to join for the first session August 25 3-5pm at Julia Salazar's campaign office (82 Central Ave Brooklyn NY 11206). Don't have a copy? Reach out and NBK will work to lend you a copy! Email north.brooklyn@socialists.nyc.

Finally, in late June NBK elected a new Organizing Committee composed of Maia Rosenberg, Jamie Peck, Amy Wilson, Ramon Pebenito, Alex Burgos, James Neimester, Peter Fitzgerald, and Brendan O'Connor. The newly-elected Steering Committee Rep is Michael Grochowski and the CLC reps are Erin Neff, Charlotte Albrecht, Ariel Zakarison, and Justin Charles.

South Brooklyn
South Brooklyn has been focusing on the M4A/NYHA Campaign, tabling in Coney Island in support of single payer, and canvassing in collaboration with the Salazar campaign. For the next month, they'll be hosting weekly canvasses on Mondays and Wednesdays in Park Slope, talking to folks about the Nixon/Williams campaign as well as the New York Health Act. They encourage all members in the area to get involved with these canvasses, as there are only a few weeks left to support the Nixon/Williams campaign.

They're also preparing for an upcoming NYHA Teach-In, which will feature DSA comrades Martha Larson, Roona Ray, Chi Anunwa, Noah Weston, and others, to take place on Sunday, September 16th. Come out for pizza and important information regarding the private insurance industry, medical debt, and single payer activism!

Queens
Queens DSA is canvassing for Julia Salazar on Tuesday nights. They're also planning housing canvasses in Astoria to support Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams, which will build off the discussion of universal rent control and other elements of the housing program at the next Branch meeting on August 28.

Democratize ULURP

By Ben T

To Give the Affordable Housing Movement a Foothold, Make ULURP More Democratic

Capitalism’s default solution to the housing crisis is to build more supply, but that is a false solution, because what it really does is put more money and power into the hands of the wealthy capitalists—the bankers, real estate developers, and their political clients—and leaves working people with both less control over our own communities and little to no improvement in our financial well-being through making housing more affordable . The real path towards having decent, affordable housing available to everyone involves public investment in policies that regulate or eliminate the market, such as rent control and public housing.  Given that those are solutions not necessarily in control of New York City government, New York City socialists, being left with the limited tools at government’s disposal, should advocate for revamping the Universal Land Use Review Process (ULURP) by making it more democratic and giving it real teeth. ULURP is the process by which the city decides what can be done on what land in the city.

As the price of rental housing in the greater New York metropolitan area continues to rise roughly twice as fast as overall inflation [1] and the city’s homeless rate is now the highest it has been since the great depression, the DeBlasio administration has made tackling the housing crisis a central goal, by enacting a plan of creating and/or preserving 300,000 units of affordable housing, using a combination of mainly-market driven approaches, and spending substantially more than has ever been spent to do so. Optics aside, however, without adequate metrics to measure the success of this policy, like say, what a reasonable slowdown in the ever-increasing average rental prices of NYC housing would be, all we can grapple with is its underlying ideology: if we build enough market-rate housing, there will be enough affordable housing for everyone.

As socialists we know this ideology is absurd. In a future where a city like NY becomes more affordable, more people from the suburbs are likely to move here, seeking the benefits of city life, such as professional opportunity andcultural richness. At some point, given the limits of the city—physically, buildings can only be built so high and aesthetically, there are strong arguments for building them even lower still to allow for things like adequate daylight—the supply that can be built is limited, but the demand for such supply, I would argue, is nearly limitless. So we simply cannot build our way out of the problem.

This approach also implies that state and federal inaction on things like repealing vacancy decontrol and building more public housing is warranted, because only the free market can resolve the affordable housing crisis.  Therefore, when politicians in Albany or Washington punt on doing things to force the market to act in a way more beneficial to tenants, they can argue their hands were tied. We know that these policies serve a real purpose of continued enrichment for the ruling class of the US and the world, and only relatively recently has this ideology of invisible hand, market-driven solutions crowded out all the others in New York’s political soil. By letting this ideology go without a direct challenge at the city level, we, as NYC socialists, risk ceding the entire debate in the city’s mainstream political discourse.

In my opinion, we are wasting considerable energies pushing for policies at the state level that can easily be dismissed as impractical while allowing the city’s market-driven approach to continue to empower the actors most diametrically opposed to the real, structural solutions to the housing crisis, imbuing them with the profits that the increased development opportunities of upzonings provide. Take the recently-approved neighborhood rezoning in Inwood, which saw arrests at protests by local residents and has drawn criticism over worker treatment. That rezoning was recently revealed to have substantially benefited two developers, Taconic Investment Partners and Madd Equities, who together spent in excess of $200,000 lobbying for the rezoning, and one of whose principles was sentenced to 18 months in prison and 10 years probation for fraud charges related to a Medicare scheme in Florida.

By expanding our current housing campaign to include city-level policy prescriptions for democratizing and strengthening a community-based approach to development in NYC, we, as socialists, have an opportunity to directly confront market-centric advocates and regain the debate. We also will be participating in a sustainable tradition of community development in NYC that has been dying for a shot of democratic energy and strength that the DSA-NYC is uniquely situated to provide.

The issue is also very timely; the City Council’s 15-member Charter Review Commission is currently considering whether or not to propose strengthening ULURP via ballot questions in the 2019 general election. This follows the Mayoral Charter Review Commission just recently deciding not to do so in its own referenda for this year’s general election, but flagging it as a potential problem meriting further study. So over the next year or so there will be plenty of chances to credibly make our voices heard on this issue, with the real possibility of achieving our desired outcome.

Currently ULURP’s community based approach is located in community boards and 197-a proposals (plans, often counter-proposals to looming rezonings, that community boards and others may submit, always in an advisory capacity, but which at least require a public hearing and enshrine a community’s vision of a neighborhood undergoing rezoning). Community boards in the city were originally created in 1951 as community planning boards with the support of then-Borough President (later Mayor) Robert Wagner, with the central purpose of helping to improve community input on land use decisions. Despite this goal, their input was, and has remained, only advisory.

At the time, borough presidents enjoyed effective veto powers over construction projects in their jurisdictions by a “gentleperson’s agreement” that the other borough presidents would defer to the president of the borough of the project in question on the Board of Estimate. This meant that the veto power over a given proposal lay with just one person who was deeply dependent for reelection upon the jobs and patronage any major project created, and thus highly predisposed toward any development project, regardless of the social costs. ULURP, the seven-month, six-stage process that a project requiring a zoning change, disposing of city land, or certain deed modifications must undergo, was created in 1975 in response to the power of Robert Moses who unilaterally dictated the shape of the city. Community boards have always played a prominent role in ULURP, but their role has remained advisory.

After the Supreme Court ruled the Board of Estimate unconstitutional, resulting in the charter revision of 1989, the role of the Board of Estimate in approving or rejecting land use proposals was simply transposed to the City Council, which adopted the same “gentleperson’s agreement” between council members and hence left the easy road to rezonings relatively intact. And while the revised charter envisioned an expanded community-based planning process, with so-called 197-a and 197-c plans that were designed to enshrine community-based development goals for a specific project or neighborhood rezoning, their role is also exclusively advisory, which perhaps explains why only 17 have been submitted to the city since 1989.

What would a more democratic ULURP look like? Taking the veto power over major projects and neighborhood rezonings away from a single individual and returning it to as representative a group of voters as possible. The affected community districts could vote following vetting and put out an advisory statement by their democratically elected community board. Right now, community boards are appointed in an opaque manner; they must be directly elected. They should be paid and term-limited, like any other elected official of the city. They should have final say over land use projects that require rezonings and ULURP, not simply the sole city council member of their district; moreover, in the event that a proposed rezoning rises to the level of a so-called neighborhood rezoning, their vote should be advisory, and subject to the final approval of the voting public within that community board’s jurisdiction, through an online ballot similar to the way that participatory budgeting votes are administered.

This solution would not only democratize the land use approval process in our city, it would ensure that decisions ostensibly aimed at creating affordable housing were thoroughly weighed against the potential downsides of such projects, all by the very constituents those projects would affect most. No longer could the grail of unlimited housing supply be wielded by the bankers, real estate developers, and their political clients as a cudgel to beat back socialists advocating for market controls such as reinvigorated rent control and fiscal policies such as public housing. The fact that the city council already has a charter review commission looking at this exact sort of issue over the coming year means that we will have constant opportunities to meaningfully intervene and indeed win on this issue. And no longer would socialists’ considerable energies have to be spent exclusively on long-term, state-level, seemingly-impractical projects without local, shorter term and more pragmatic stepping stones that are ideologically and strategically consistent with these longer term strategies.

[1] According to both CPI and CPI-U statistics from BLS, the rent of primary residence component of overall CPI is rising about twice as fast as the overall basket of goods in the CPI, steadily, over the past 10 years, regardless of seasonal adjustment.

Mental Health as a Social Project

By MB

I was 34 before I knew I was autistic. For three decades, I tried to fit myself into the world like the proverbial round peg in a square hole. My sense of self was dominated by the conflict between what felt natural to me and what everyone else was doing. Much of my suffering could have been avoided had I grown up in a safe, nurturing mental health culture that provided the tools I needed to make sense of my own pain.

But I didn’t. I grew up like most Americans: born to parents who didn’t have the resources or know-how to deal with their own trauma before having kids and perpetuating their own coping mechanisms. This sucks—but it’s shockingly common in America in 2018.

It’s hard to come to a consensus about what exactly “mental health” means. In general, the phrase refers to the way we deal with our mental and emotional difficulties—what coping mechanisms we use, how we understand our shortcomings and limitations, and the way in which we interpret the seemingly irrational actions of others. Good mental health is largely informed by culture, and culture is shaped by mental health literacy—a concept we don’t talk about enough. As socialists, we can advance a vision of mental health, not just as an individual project, but as a social one.

If you’ve had the privilege of working through your own traumas, what made that possible? Did you figure it out on your own, or did you have help? Did you pick up a substance abuse habit, or did you learn healthy coping skills? When something caused you to enter a state of discomfort or anxiety, did you avoid thinking about that thing, or did you have the skills and support network to confront and process it?

These mental health questions indicate our larger societal health. Odds are that you address your traumas the way you were brought up to address them. For those with the resources and literacy to pursue a positive mental health culture—that works. But as socialists, we must be interested in improving everyone’s ability to handle trauma; we are in a system that produces an excess of it, and any transition out of capitalism will necessarily mean addressing that trauma.

Families that lack the resources to bounce between therapists, or to have neurodivergent kids evaluated, or to try a variety of medications until they find one that works simply don’t do those things. They opt out of that particular mental health culture and define their own. “I never had therapy, and I turned out fine,” a parent will say before modeling toxic coping behavior to their children.

And so those kids will turn to substance abuse or rage or displays of power or maybe they’ll just suffer in silence; they’ll struggle to understand the way their own choices contribute to their own unhappiness, and they’ll be eager to lap up any convenient narratives that blame all of their problems on someone else. Does this sound familiar?

In America today, the dominant mental health culture normalizes and even incentivizes toxic behaviors, which can be leveraged for political action and reap strong profits for industries that produce addictive substances or entertainment.  Inherent in the narratives of individual achievement and exceptionalism are very damaging consequences to the mental health of those who are not able to overpower the oppression of capitalism, who don’t achieve the expectations set upon them. Education and science and compassion, acknowledgement of the failures of our society to serve its members, are sneered at because they are— correctly!—identified as threats to that culture.

So what can we do about that? As I see it, there are two actions we can take.

The first is to fight for resources: NYC-DSA backs state- and national-level bills for universal healthcare, both of which include the elimination of deductibles, premiums, and copays for medical services including mental healthcare.

The Socialist Feminist Working Group has adopted healthcare as its main campaign, and several city branches have also launched campaigns. In South Brooklyn, comrades are canvassing for the New York Health Act (NYHA) in the district held by State Senator Simcha Felder—an IDC reactionary and key NYHA holdout.

NYC-DSA is also fighting for mental healthcare in northern Manhattan: The BUM branch is organizing to save the Allen Hospital psychiatric unit, a vital community resource. New York Presbyterian wants to replace its psychiatric beds with a lucrative spinal surgery practice. Even as universal healthcare gains traction nationwide, privatization and profit motives weaken traditional safety nets. We must engage the battle at both ends.

The second action we should take is one we don’t talk about nearly enough: fostering mental health literacy within our spaces and among our members.

Do you know how to have a healthy, productive disagreement with your romantic partner? Do you understand how to set boundaries with the people in your life—and respect theirs? Do you have a good sense of how to tell when you’re being irrational? Are you able to accept feedback that makes you uncomfortable?

Mental health requires this sort of literacy. It requires you to be able to (1) perceive that a problem exists, (2) identify the nature of that problem, and (3) know which “learned skill” to apply to solve that problem. People from poor mental health cultures can often do 1 and sometimes even 2, but when it comes time to solve the problem, they’re pulling tools from the wrong toolbox.

Healthy coping mechanisms are often deeply counter-intuitive. “Take that horribly painful emotion and just sit with it.” “Your family is within their rights to not want to talk to you about this; you have to respect that.” “You have a unique neurology that makes your experience of the world different from everyone else’s, and you’ll continue to feel like a failure until you hold yourself to a standard that makes sense for how your brain works.”

Mental health literacy is the broad set of knowledge necessary to know how best to cope with disorienting or uncomfortable mental and emotional states—states that our society, with its rising debt, precarious employment, persistently low wages, and impossibly high rent, offers consistently. None of these solutions offer relief, exactly. Each of them requires work, a mental and emotional effort whose result is not immediately obvious. These are not behaviors that a reasonable person would randomly discover; they have to be learned, which means they need to be taught.

If we want our society to be able to respond with compassion, kindness, and empathy to the very real problems that its citizens face, then we need to do the work to shift our collective mental health culture toward one that is capable of addressing real problems in healthy ways. This is a social project that acknowledges the past violence and resulting traumas that have created this country, as well as the ongoing trauma generated by the continued exploitation of the majority of people in our society. We already know that we need to provide people with the resources and access that they need to do this, but let’s not forget that we also need to be creating spaces that foster this sort of literacy and working to build a society in which trauma is no longer reproduced.

Rank and File: Rosy C on UFT

This is the first installment of a series profiling rank-and-file union members. Rosy C. teaches pre-K in a public elementary school in Brooklyn, and in this interview she discusses the UFT’s victory gaining paid parental leave and its slightly muddled response to the Janus decision.

What union are you a member of?

The United Federation of Teachers, or UFT. I am also a member of the Movement of Rank and File Educators, or MORE, which is an opposition caucus within the UFT. I am the Delegate at my school, which means that I assist the Chapter Leader in union business at our school, and can attend the Delegate Assemblies of the UFT.

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

I have been a member for two years, since I started my job as a teacher in the DOE. I was eager to get a job in a public school and become a member of the union, and was also excited to get into organizing within the union through MORE, but I wasn’t sure how conducive my new school environment would be to that. Lucky for me on my first day I met my Chapter Leader who is an active member of MORE and DSA, and was able to get started organizing almost right away. I have been the Delegate at my school for a year.

What do you feel are the major issues your union is focused on right now?

The union leadership has been especially focused recently on getting paid parental leave for members, which it successfully negotiated for in June of 2018. New York City teachers can now take 6 weeks of paid leave after they give birth to, adopt, or foster a child. Teachers of any gender can take this leave, and if you are the parent that gives birth to a child you can use your sick days to take up to an additional 6 weeks. MORE was active in achieving this goal as we held rallies, forums, and a walk-in action to spread the word and keep pressure on our public officials. We know that our fight isn’t over as we in MORE were pushing for paid family leave as a more comprehensive benefit than parental leave, but we are excited that this victory was achieved.

The union leadership has also been taking steps to try to prepare for and combat the anticipated loss of membership due to Janus, with questionable results. They organized a door-knocking campaign to engage members with political arguments encouraging them to become more active, followed by an attempt to organize “Membership Teams” in schools to talk to every staff member about continuing to remain union members. By the time of the Membership Teams effort, the union's message had changed in that the "you are the union" message was dropped, and the level of personal interaction with members was reduced to one or two minutes. Membership Teams were trained to seek mere commitments to stay in the union and to update members' contact information. The Mulgrew leadership has made it clear that membership activation and mobilization is not part of its strategy to defend the union. Instead, the sole purpose of the revised conversations appears to be to maintain the flow of dues income. Union membership has not been presented with a metric for how successful the campaign is at either reaching people or at convincing them.

What is/has been the attitude of your employer toward the union?

My personal employer, the principal at my school, has a fairly positive relationship with the union. The Chapter Leader at our school has a good working relationship with her, and our teachers are happy with the work environment at our school. Usually people would recommend that a teacher who is not tenured yet (you can’t get tenure until you’ve been working for 4 years) should not serve as a Delegate, but I talked to my Chapter Leader about it and we agreed that there is virtually no threat to my job by me getting involved in the union in this way.

Discuss the ways your union has advocated for the interests of its members.

The win for paid parental leave is the biggest marker for UFT at the moment. They negotiated to win that victory by pushing back the expiration of our contract which was supposed to happen in November of 2018, and I believe will now expire sometime in February of 2019. This was a big success since before this we didn’t have any paid time off for maternity or paternity leave, forcing people to use their sick days.

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

The UFT leadership is not always as transparent as I think they should be about their negotiations and motivations, and it was frustrating as a rank and file member to watch them negotiate for Parental Leave without knowing what was going on. I also think they made a mistake this year when a group of teachers got together to organize a Black Lives Matter Week of Action in Schools, and the UFT leadership argued against endorsing it, which got people to vote against it. I was extremely disappointed.

This year will still bring a lot of debate around the contract, even if it is happening in February instead of November. I am curious to see what impact the Janus decision has on our membership, and what the union leadership does to make sure that our members feel engaged with the union. MORE is committed to working for the rank and file teachers and we are looking forward to fighting for what our members deserve in the next contract.

August Working Group Updates

Below is subset of our working groups.  A full list with contact information is available here.

Electoral

The Citywide Electoral Working Group is working hard from now until election day on Thursday, September 13, 2018 to get New York State Senate candidate Julia Salazar elected. They are looking for volunteers to canvas and host phone banks. Canvassing is especially important on election day, and the working group is looking to mobilize as many people as possible to turn out the vote for Julia. They are also offering limited edition Julia Salazar shirts to help fund continued electoral work.

The B/UM Electoral Working Group is riding high off of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's stunning primary win on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. They are now organizing canvasses for New York State Senate candidate Julia Salazar on Sunday, August 26, 2018 and Sunday, September 9, 2018. They are also planning a series of canvasses in Upper Manhattan for the Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams campaigns in conjunction with housing initiatives uptown.

Tech Action

Salon recently published an article highlighting DSA candidate for New York State Senate Julia Salazar's tech platform, which was crafted with the help of the Tech Action Working Group. The platform includes protections for "gig-economy" workers, calls for cooperatively-owned platform apps, demands for public broadband, and restrictions on state surveillance. On Saturday, September 1, 2018, the Tech Action Working Group will be canvassing for the Salazar campaign and invites volunteers to join them.

The Tech Action Working Group has also recently collaborated with the Media Working Group to develop a workplace organizing training for tech and media workers, in conjunction with Coworker.org.

Finally, the working group will be holding elections for it's Organizing Committee in September/October. If you wish to run, please submit here.

Immigrant Justice

The Immigrant Justice Working Group continues to have SanctuaryHood canvassing events to secure safe havens for immigrants in our community. Please let them know if you can participate in your neighborhood by reaching out to immigrant.justice@socialists.nyc.

There will be a DSA Day School from 1:30 – 4 p.m. on Saturday, August 25, 2018 at the Carroll Gardens Library to discuss immigration through a socialist lens.

The working group is also planning a fundraiser with the DSA Chorus to benefit one of our partner organizations, the New Sanctuary Coalition, in the fall.

If you're interested in any of the above or the immigrant justice cause in general, please contact immigrant.justice@socialists.nyc!

Climate Justice

The Climate Justice Working Group has been a part of the #RiseNY citywide planning process and is looking to get 100 DSA members out to the Rise up for Climate, Jobs, and Justice action on Thursday, September 6, 2018 at 5:30 p.m. in Battery Park. To join, sign up here.

They have also made ecosocialist posters and signs in collaboration with the Media Working Group and will be making additional signs for the rally at the DSA Art Build on Thursday, August 23, 2018.





 

August CLC Update

The Citywide Leadership Committee—NYC-DSA's highest decision-making body after the yearly convention—held an emergency meeting on Sunday, July 29, 2018 to discuss and vote on the endorsement of Cynthia Nixon for Governor and Jumaane Williams for Lieutenant Governor. This vote was preceded by a chapter-wide electronic straw poll and in-person votes at branch meetings.

The proposal for supporting Nixon/Williams' candidacies was debated. The following three amendments were proposed and added:

  1. An amendment to call on the Nixon campaign to meet with the Labor Branch Organizing Committee to discuss and adopt a labor platform

  2. An amendment to stipulate that DSA-specific canvassing material be available to any DSA canvassers participating in one of the joint canvasses for Nixon and other DSA activities

  3. An amendment to require that new member-facing events have sign-up sheets available at upcoming citywide priority campaign events

After passing the campaign strategy document that laid out NYC-DSA's plan for engagement in the election, the CLC voted to endorse both candidates: 23-11 with one abstention for Nixon and 31-0 with four absentions for Williams.

The next CLC meeting will be in early October, and proposals are due tonight: Wednesday, August 22, 2018! Contact your branch representatives if you're interested in putting forward a proposal; they must be sponsored by an elected delegate to the CLC.

I Needed a Break

By John P

I am a rank-and-file emergency room nurse in Oakland, California, and president of a chapter within The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021. My chapter represents 3,000 workers in the county health system--almost everyone except doctors and senior management.

I got involved in the union in 2014, shortly after I got a job at a county hospital. I was angry that I wasn’t getting the breaks that both the law and our contract required; I can’t work a 12-hour shift without eating or going to the toilet. I was also angry that chronic short staffing forced me to choose between multiple patients who badly needed my attention. One of my critically ill patients crawled over her bed-rail and fell to the floor after my boss ordered me to respond to another critical patient’s needs. Another patient went missing after my coworker was told to transport a different patient to a separate building. Later, the missing patient was found locked in a bathroom, dead.

When I asked coworkers why we weren’t getting breaks, some responded that they felt like asking about breaks showed laziness. Others said, “It’s always been like this,” or referred me to the “union people,” coworkers who had been on the bargaining team. These “union people” said the contract provisions about breaks don’t apply to nurses, and reported me to management. All four nursing supervisors individually pulled me aside and told me, “We don’t ask about that around here...We’re old school...Just walk away from your patients whenever you want to take a break.”

Such rationalizations allow people to explain away the undeniable exploitation of their labor, and result in patients receiving inadequate care. Everyone wants to feel that they are helping, not harming patients. It’s uncomfortable to confront exploitation and neglect, especially if you feel like you don’t have the power to change the situation.

Key Tactics

Many coworkers shared my concerns but were afraid to speak openly, and about two dozen were allied with management. So, a handful of other nurses and I started a whisper campaign. We passed out information about the contractual rights hospital workers have to take breaks, and about how enlarging hospital staffs has been shown to benefit patients. We talked one-on-one with coworkers and collected their contact information, so we could invite them to a union meeting where nurses from another bargaining unit explained how they won a similar fight.

Word got to the boss about the planned meeting, and she demanded a private talk with me. We ignored her, so she sent a spy to the meeting. We got the spy to admit she was there to write down our names, and we kicked her out. The same day, the boss began providing extra staffing to cover lunch breaks.

Next, we collected data on how many workers on each shift had an unsafe number of patients, and we spread the fight to the rest of the county hospital system. Janitors passed notes from unit to unit. Clerks collected staffing plans and assignment sheets for us. Nursing assistants reported when they were expected to do nurses’ work. I filed a 15-page grievance that showed that management’s staffing plans were a load of horse hockey: It was mathematically impossible for them to provide breaks given the inadequate number of nurses in their plan!

While this was going on, we successfully defeated a proposal to lay off about 400 people. In the end, zero workers lost their jobs. We won a fight over staffing in a psychiatric hospital. We stopped the attempted closure of the county’s only substance abuse clinic for new parents. These wins helped us learn how to organize and built solidarity.

The breaking point came during a big meeting with the director of nursing, who had apparently been hired to win “Magnet Status” certification for the hospital. Everyone was sick of her communications about “Magnet Status” and “Our Magnet Journey.” Why was she fixating on this PR badge when patients weren’t getting their basic needs met and the hospital couldn’t provide workers with badly needed breaks?

People told their stories about working 12 hours without a break, and still being unable to provide the care patients needed due to perpetual understaffing. It was powerful. People cried. “What are you going to do about this?” someone asked, looking the Director of Nursing in the eye. When she used the word “magnet” in the first sentence of her reply, everyone in the packed room burst out laughing. Startled, the Director spilled the mixed nuts she was eating. At that moment I knew we were winning.

What we won

This kind of organizing forced management to increase the budget to hire more nurses to cover breaks in several departments. Now nurses are planning and imposing new staffing plans that include breaks. We also negotiated a back-pay settlement for all breaks missed; most nurses got thousands of dollars.

More broadly, we changed how our members and the bosses think about breaks. Breaks are now a right that the boss has to provide, not a favor or a privilege. People understand that breaks for nurses are good for patients because the nurses provide better care.

Last but not least, the Director of Nursing resigned, after apologizing on the hospital intranet for not providing breaks, and losing much of her power.

Building on success

The next year, we organized a group to campaign for seats on the bargaining team and we beat the laissez-faire old guard. Last year, we ran a slate that took over the chapter board; I’m now its president. Solidarity is strong across job categories. We now have janitors and kitchen laborers representing nurses when they get disciplined, nurses organizing janitors to march on their bosses, and nursing assistants organizing mass boycotts of nursing home management plans.

There’s also massive potential for us to be a powerful voice against austerity in public healthcare and to pressure for good jobs. We are leveraging our victory on breaks for nurses to help lower-paid workers to challenge their own notion of “normal.” They don’t get breaks either!

This article was adapted from a recent talk that John P gave at a NYC-DSA Labor Branch panel.

Socialism and Labor Organizing: A Natural Pair

By Paul P

I was pleased to see that NYC-DSA passed a resolution encouraging its members to become rank-and-file union organizers. My experience as a social studies teacher in Philadelphia and member of PFT Local 3 has reinforced my conviction that workplace organizing should be central to the socialist project. My socialist politics inform how I organize in the workplace, and my union experience informs how I organize for socialism.

Workplace Organizing Is Central to the Socialist Project

As socialists, we believe that society is driven by the profits gained off the backs of the working-class and that disrupting the flow of profits is one of the most powerful ways to win the changes we want.

Think about it. We’ve seen some incredible mobilizations over the last 15 years: the Iraq War protests in 2003, the Occupy movement, and the “movement of the squares” around the world. But most of these mobilizations did not disrupt production or stop business as usual, so they were unable to achieve their intended results.*

Contrast that with the recent teacher strikes in the South. Mass strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Kentucky did more to address the problems of teachers, parents, and students caused by decades of austerity than any lobbying over the past 30 years. Closing down schools stopped business as usual and created a social crisis that the state was forced to deal with.

Socialism Informs How We Organize Workplaces

Socialists can bring a longer-term and broader perspective to labor organizing. We want to do more than build enough power to win a bigger raise on the next contract. We want to strengthen working people’s power to build a long-term movement to change society.

Concretely, this means pushing our unions to formulate and fight for demands that benefit all working people, not just demands related to our particular workplace (though those matter, too). For example, teachers’ unions can only win smaller class sizes, enough counselors and nurses, safe building conditions, and more after-school programs by fighting for higher taxes on corporations and the rich to support school budgets. Notice how the fights in West Virginia and Oklahoma naturally spilled into a fight over wealth and resource distribution. The natural gas companies became the enemy and the target.

Our socialist belief in building the power and capacities of working people to improve their lives also leads us to build democratic, inclusive unions whose members have as much ownership and involvement as possible.

Workplace Organizing Influences Socialist Politics, Too

The experience of workplace organizing can, in turn, temper our socialist politics in positive ways. You quickly learn in workplace organizing that sloganeering doesn’t work; there are no shortcuts. You also learn you have to maintain unity while appealing to a diverse set of people, a challenge we also face in advancing socialist politics. I think a change in this direction is underway in DSA. People are looking for campaigns that can appeal to the working-class majority, such as Medicare for All or free public education from pre-K through higher education.

Also, in a union or workplace setting, it’s hard to get anywhere if you engage in call out culture or Twitter wars. The demands and constraints of labor organizing help mitigate these behaviors, which I think are toxic for the left.

Workplace organizing can also help us to develop an organizer’s approach to advancing socialist politics. When you organize in a union, you don’t go from fighting for overtime pay to a general strike. You have to figure out intermediate campaigns that increase people’s skills, capacities, and confidence. Lately, I’ve been thinking that the same is true in regard to our recent electoral victories. Some people criticize candidates for not calling for “Revolution Now.” They’re not thinking about how we get from our current disastrous situation to something better that will help our chances in the future.

In recent decades, too many socialists have abstained from active intervention in the workplace and the broader labor movement. This is a fatal mistake; it is in unions  that we can find the institutional resources and strategic leverage we need to transform society. Socialists have viewed labor as central to their movement since the earliest days of the socialist movement.

Today, leftist demands that haven’t moved people in a generation are capturing the imagination of millions in the United States. Making rank-and-file labor organizing a central aspect of our work again can put working people back on the offensive and help us win our goals.

*The exceptions were the mass mobilizations in Tunisia and Egypt, which disrupted business as usual with significant workplace action, and led to the downfall of dictatorships.

This article was adapted from a recent talk that Paul P gave at a NYC-DSA Labor Branch panel.

Build Socialism or Drown

By the Climate Justice OC

NYC-DSA’s Climate Justice Working Group is gearing up for the People's Climate Movement #RiseNY “Rise For Climate, Jobs, and Justice” rally and march in Battery Park on Thursday, September 6, at 5:30 pm.  We hope to turn out at least 100 DSA members. Sign up here to march with us. The action demands a just transition to 100% renewable energy now, stopping all new fossil fuel infrastructure, and making corporate polluters pay.

The Climate Justice Working Group is part of the citywide organizing committee for the Sept. 6 action, and the Steering Committee for the citywide People’s Climate Movement. We have contributed our perspective on the importance of community control, and designed both posters and T-shirts for the march. The shirt says “People and Planet over Profits.” It is available for pre-order here. A DSA art build is scheduled for August 23. Join us!

As a coastal city that suffered great damage from Superstorm Sandy and one which is vulnerable to both big storms and rising sea levels, New York badly needs  to transform its corporatist and inefficient economic system into a democratic and dynamic system. Our choice is to build socialism or drown.

Thus,  the working group is developing a climate justice platform that calls for giving communities a greater say in environmental decision-making across New York State, for creating a public bank to fund a just transition to 100% renewable energy and creating good green union jobs, and for amending state policies regarding the Value of Distributed Energy Resources metric to give communities democratic control over their energy systems. The Julia Salazar campaign for State Senate has adopted parts of this platform; we have also sent it to the Jumaane Williams Campaign for Lieutenant  Governor.

The Climate Justice Working Group is also part of the New York Dirty Buildings Campaign to pressure owners of the buildings that emit the most greenhouse gases to reduce emissions, and we are starting work on a proactive disaster preparedness plan as an alternative to reactionary plans for privatization that prioritize the lives of the wealthy. Our plan will challenge  capital and build new forms of democratic ecosocialism after storms.

Our next reading group meeting, on August 16, will discuss  Naomi Klein’s Battle For Paradise, which emphasizes the importance of building alternatives  to the disaster capitalism seen after Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

The Climate Justice Working Group’s Food Justice Group has been supporting a new food coop emerging in Central Brooklyn and volunteering on community garden days. It has also taken part in  rallies in support of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ Fair Foods Program.

The Working Group stands in solidarity with communities fighting for environmental justice and against displacement. In all our actions, we seek to highlight the links between climate and environmental justice and housing justice, racial justice, and socialist feminism. There’s lots to do. New and old DSA members are welcome to get involved.

July Steering Committee Updates

Here’s a quick overview of the Cynthia Nixon/Jumaane Williams endorsement process, which the Steering Committee has been working hard to carry-out:

  1. Initiation: Upon receipt of the candidate questionnaires from Nixon and Williams, the Electoral Working Group recommended to the SC to replace usual non-binding electoral working group votes with an online advisory non-binding vote for all membership. The Steering Committee accepted this recommendation.

  2. The Candidate Forum: This was held on July 10 with both candidates, organized by the steering committee for with support from the branches for watch parties.

  3. The Advisory Vote: After the candidate forum, an advisory, non binding vote was sent to all membership. The advisory vote closed on July 17th - the results are shared with the membership:

    1. 1134 For, 343 Against, 54 Undecided

  4. The Branch Votes: Members must be present at the Branch meeting to vote. The threshold for passing endorsement is 60%. Each candidate will be considered separately. These meetings will be held between now and the 29th. Check the calendar for your branch meeting time. If 3 branches pass the 60% threshold, then the matter will formally be referred to the CLC.

  5. The CLC Vote: The CLC is preparing to have an emergency session on July 29th if the endorsement is referred to them. At this session the CLC will vote on endorsement. If 60% of the total yes and no votes (abstentions will not be counted) are yes for endorsement, the endorsement will be given.

 

Some other things the Steering Committee has been up to:

Training:

At the end of June there was a Branch and WG organizing committee training talking about base-building, deepening member engagement, and structural racism and patriarchy.

New Member Engagement:

After Alexandria’s election on June 26, we have been coordinating organizational efforts around the wave of new members - it was the largest single-day bump in DSA's history. This includes connecting branch efforts and rolling out the first new member orientations in over a year.

Coming up: Our Summer Socialist Semi-Formal Fundraiser, and WG leadership trainings focused on strategic planning and campaigning

 

The Case to Abolish ICE

By Dustin R

The Immigrant Justice Working Group (IJWG) is engaged in several efforts to achieve our goals of aiding New York City's immigrant communities and the broader sanctuary movement, standing in solidarity with immigrant-led advocacy groups, and fighting for the labor rights of immigrant workers. In recent weeks, as the federal government's racist war on immigrants in the US has escalated, Working Group members have also marched to demand the abolishment of ICE, an end to detentions, and a true sanctuary city status for NYC without racist "broken windows" policing.

As the NYC DSA continues to grow (welcome, new comrades!), and with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s win in the NY-14 primary on an explicit platform of abolishing ICE heralding broader local support for reforming federal immigration policy,  the IJWG wants to set out what ICE abolishment means to us as socialists. Specifically, abolishing ICE alone is insufficient: capitalism drives a detention-deportation complex of which ICE is a single organ. ICE's parent agency, the Department of Homeland Security, is just as mired in racism, and private companies operate prisons and jails built to prey upon people of color. This we declare: human dignity does not stop at a line on a map.

Since its founding in 2002, DHS has pursued and enforced Islamophobic and anti-immigrant policies in the name of national security, a euphemism for securing white supremacy through immigration bans and detentions. Refusing to issue visas to Muslims harms families and the general community, with the same xenophobic root as border family separations. We demand the abolishment of DHS. To impede DHS and ICE locally, we advocate barring state agencies from cooperating with federal agencies with regard to immigration status and the state-level pardoning of immigrants facing deportation. New York must be a true sanctuary state for immigrants.

Mass deportation and detention cannot be adequately confronted without also challenging the mass incarceration machine that has existed for decades in the United States, imprisoning its citizens at rates and in sheer numbers without peer in the world. Police departments across the country enforce a regime that impoverishes, arrests, and kills primarily non-whites. Moreover, in just the last few decades, US imperialism has killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions attempting to escape the nightmares that our country has precipitated to extract more wealth. It is clear that the systems acting in concert with ICE to convert human life into capital must be abolished.

We call for an end to the basis and objectives of ICE. We call for amnesty and a path to citizenship for all immigrants. We call for the abolition of any law, organization, or policy that imprisons or restricts the free movement of people of color. We cannot consider this a just society, or a just world, until this has been achieved.

The IJWG has monthly meetings to discuss how best to accomplish the above and deliberate on future actions. There's much to be done, but it's vital work. By working together and with the community we can all really help. Please join us by sending an e-mail to immigrant.justice [at] socialists.nyc.

July Branch Updates

Bronx/Upper Manhattan

B/UM members have been canvassing with a petition to demand that ICE agents be excluded from New York's courts; in the last month, they've collected 750 signatures. The Save Allen Psych campaign has collected and mailed over 1,000 postcards opposing New York Presbyterian Hospital's plan to close a crucial mental health ward. Their New Members Picnic in Morningside Park drew 29 people, including one person who walked up to the group and stayed until the end—just because he saw the DSA flag!

 

Labor Branch

The Labor Branch is holding a Panel “Organizing to win as a Socialist Rank and Filer” in lieu of a branch meeting this month. All DSA members, whether actively involved in the Labor movement or not, are welcome to attend! Friday, July 20 at 7 pm - 9 pm, CWA 1180, 6 Harrison Street on the Lower Level. Check out the Facebook event here.There will be panelists from several unions, including Rosy Clark from the UFT, Bianca Cunningham from CWA, Paul Prescod from PFT, and John Pearson from SEIU.

The Labor branch is also currently working in our unions to connect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to the labor movement, and pushing our unions to endorse Julia Salazar.

 

Central Brooklyn

The Central Brooklyn political education committee recently hosted a debate focusing on the upcoming Nixon endorsement. On Sunday, CBK-DSA also hosted a new member social to meet the influx of new members since the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez primary victory.

At the last Central Brooklyn general meeting, the new Organizing Committee asked members to help define the branch strategy for the next year, and will be forming new branch committees to focus on local initiatives. At our upcoming general meeting, Central Brooklyn members will vote whether or not to endorse Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams in their bids for Governor and Lt. Governor.

 

Queens

Queens DSA attracted 35 new faces to its membership meeting in June, two days after Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's victory in the Democratic primary for Congress. After a spirited discussion of the election, the meeting broke up for a working group fair, and then toasted to its recent victory. The following week, its electoral working group held a pizza party in Astoria to thank DSAers from across the city who volunteered in the Ocasio campaign.

Earlier in June, the branch elected Andrea Guinn as SC Rep and Susan Kang and Vigie Ramos Rios as CLC Reps. The new OC includes Co-Chairs Miriam Bensman and Jose Cabrera; Membership Coordinator Leslie Guthrie; Working Group Coordinator Alex Kingsepp, and Treasurer Frank Llewellyn.

July Working Group Updates

Housing

The Housing Groups made a large showing at a march in June for universal rent control and an end to homeless. The housing working groups are organizing tenants citywide. The Bronx/Uptown Branch is recruiting volunteers for a housing court watch program. People with flexible morning schedules and a desire for housing justice should contact b-um.housing[at]socialists.nyc.

Religious Socialism

The Religious Socialism group continues to support the Poor People’s Campaign, and have been involved demonstrations demanding immigrant rights and the end of family separations. At least four members of the working group were arrested in Albany in acts of civic disobedience while advocating for universal healthcare and climate justice. They are having a picnic in Queens on July 28. Those interested in attending should contact marcy.genevieve@gmail.com.

Racial Justice

The racial justice working group are pursuing an ambitious campaign to transform Bronx residents' economic livelihoods through a public banking option in the form of postal banking. They are also pushing forward with a campaign to provide real, effective civilian oversight of NYPD through an Elected Civilian Review Board by targeting key city council members to pass the supporting legislation.

Anti-War

The anti-war working group are coordinating committees specific to the BDS Movement and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and are looking for comrades to help with research, website design, and power mapping. Those interested can contact antiwar@socialists.nyc. Their next general meeting is on August 1st, from 6:30-8:00pm, location TBD.

Climate Justice

The climate justice working group is preparing for the #Rise4Climate Jobs and Justice September Actions in New York on September 6th and 7th. The working group has been welcomed to the steering committee of the citywide Peoples Climate Planning Committee, and is working diligently on the messaging and action committee. Stay tuned to next month's Red Letter for more information on the event, and join the citywide Rise Mobilizing Meeting next week to help push this coalition forward.

#WhyDSA - Noah Weston

By Dallas G

The journey to socialism was no stretch for Noah Abraham Weston, “It’s in my blood!” he quips. 

The 33-year-old Bay Ridge resident assigns his active membership in NYC-DSA — where he’s now a Brooklyn Electoral Working Group field captain for Julia Salazar’s campaign to win Martin Dilan’s seat in the New York State Senate — more to a chance encounter while doing errands. That Saturday, photographer Chi A was on the ground in Bay Ridge, canvassing for single payer and the New York Health Act.  That was the ticket.

“At the time that I met Chi, I was already interested in DSA, but I didn’t go to meetings.  I couldn’t see how I would contribute. After we talked, I joined.  Months later, when I saw what was happening with [Reverend Khader El-Yateem’s] campaign [for City Council from Bay Ridge], I saw something palpable happening.  DSA was really doing it!  They were performing actual tasks, making gains, and I got involved with Khader’s campaign.” “At college, there were lots of activists and leftist groups talking, but with DSA, I saw something was really resonating with people.”

“That encounter was my jumping on point, my ‘Shane’ moment,” laughed Weston — known for his signature horn-rimmed glasses and quick repartee.  “Health care matters a great deal to me. It’s essential to form popular support for a single-payer program, and New York could be a potent proving ground.”

“As I see it for DSA, health care can change the most lives with the fewest number of steps.  It’s the great game changer.  You get it for people, and it fuels your work on other issues. It’s easier to organize for other things — anti-war, housing — but health care dictates our jobs, our lives, and it’s elusive for so many people:  Every job gives money.  Not every job gives health care.”

That was the fall of 2017. Weston is now the veteran of three bruising Brooklyn DSA political campaigns, including the City Council runs of Palestinian-American El-Yateem and Crown Heights-Bushwick’s Jabari Brisport.  The candidates lost, but by margins that knocked the political operatives who run the city off their chairs. 

Now Weston’s concentrating his best energies on Julia Salazar’s run for NY State Senate.  “Julia’s all that she’s cracked up to be.  There’s no pretense there. She is a great candidate.  It’s so important that we take back the senate, and her background is housing and criminal justice reform.  As it happens, my first job in New York was as an investigator for the Civilian Complaint Review Board.  I was living in Crown Heights and saw gentrification up close. I thought, ‘What could change this?’ Seeing what DSA’s doing, I have hope.”

“In our South Brooklyn branch, we can trust the experience and capacity of one another, and that makes the difference, I think.  If one doesn’t know the answer, then let’s go to the person who does!  We’ve benefitted so much, too, from the groundwork laid by Black Lives Matter and Occupy.  We’ve learned from them.  As I see it, our work is to set it up and get out of the way.”

“I want Socialism, and electoral work is my wheelhouse in DSA.  If we succeed, it’s not about DSA.  Winning means that we get socialism:  what DSA does would be what America does. If we — DSA — can just help to get America to the point where organizing comes from whole towns, unions, groups and associations, then the people are doing it for themselves, and we have succeeded.  That’s what I want.  It’s not about DSA.  It's about making Socialism the prevailing ideology in America.”

The Case Against Endorsing Nixon/Williams

By Justin C

I've given money to both Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams. I'll be voting for them on September 13th but I don't think NYC-DSA should endorse them. I’m not opposed for reasons like ideological purity, perceived opportunism, or any grievances against the Democratic Party or electoral politics . Cynthia Nixon’s newfound democratic socialism is but a year and half younger than mine. I recognize what can be gained from knocking off Cuomo and putting another dent in New York machine politics. I donate to our PAC on a recurring basis. My concern is I’m not sure we’re there yet.

The CLC  won’t vote on this endorsement until the end of July. At that point we’ll have a month and a half until the primary. Despite this timeline, we have yet to see a plan for a DSA field operation in this race. I imagine something will materialize between now and then but given the time and investment we’ve put into our electoral campaigns to this day, the lack of a plan at the eleventh hour does little to inspire confidence - even if something pops up at 11:10. I’ve read the proposal by supporters of the endorsement for joint Salazar/Nixon/Williams canvasses in State Senate District 18. I have yet to hear a convincing argument as to how that wins or makes a difference in a statewide race.

We're a people-powered organization. NYC-DSA's endorsement of a candidate, up until now, has meant we put that people-power to work with our own field operation and daily volunteer canvasses. Granted, we have yet to enter a statewide race and our electoral strategy explicitly says it’s better suited for smaller races. We’re in new territory, partially because we were a significant partner in a coalition that helped Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat Joe Crowley and people want a bit of what we have. More specifically, they want the labor we’ll give them with our endorsement. What is the shape of that labor when the constituency we need to persuade is not a city council, state senate, or congressional district but the whole city? What effect will these campaigns have on all our preexisting work? Julia Salazar’s campaign will likely be protected but I fear we will draw volunteer capacity away from abolishing I.C.E., tenant organizing, healthcare work, and the various issue campaigns underway. The fact that we will be working on this as part of a coalition is not new for us: we were ⅕ of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s field operation, and Jabari had the support of us and the Green Party. But what will this citywide coalition operation look like? Again, haven’t seen a plan.

I want the New York Health Act and universal rent control. I want to see Cuomo out of the governor’s mansion and weeping over the crumbled remains of his chances of becoming president. I also want DSA and NYC-DSA to continue to grow and attract more and more people to socialist politics. I recognize the uniqueness of this political moment. And yet, it feels like we’re chasing the high of AOC’s win without a real plan, to the detriment of all of the work we’ve already committed to do.

The Case For Endorsing Nixon/Williams

Daniel C

Everyone agrees that our ultimate goal is building a mass leftist movement; not just getting elected officials into office. We should never confuse being in office with being in power. However, electoral work is crucial for creating the conditions under which our movement can grow and flourish. Cynthia Nixon’s governorship and Jumaane Williams’ Lt. governorship will open up the room to breathe that we desperately need. Under Cuomo’s tyranny, we are gasping for air. Another four years of Cuomo will significantly curb our ability to win concessions from capital to help the working-class, people of color, and LGBTQIA folks. If we can’t win, then we can’t build power, attract new active members, or grow our movement. AOC showed us that recruiting new members and putting socialism into the mainstream happens through victory. And this doesn’t just mean electoral victories. In addition to the bump that DSA would gain from a Nixon upset, her governorship would give us the ability to win far more in our local campaigns. A Nixon governorship would fundamentally alter the political landscape of New York state, disrupting the neoliberal status quo and shifting the balance of power in our favor. On this new political terrain, the wall that Cuomo represents will be lifted and we can march forward. If we are at the forefront of a movement that wins New Yorkers single-payer healthcare, universal rent control, and protection from the neoliberalization of education, people will take notice and see that we are the most powerful political force actively improving the lives of the oppressed. Under Cuomo, none of those advancements will happen. With Nixon, they can. As DSA racks up wins in healthcare, housing, education, mass incarceration, we can recruit new members, build our movement, and split open the cracks that are finally emerging in neoliberalism’s armor.

In our debates both in person and the NYC-DSA Facebook group, many have been concerned that our intervention would not significantly affect the race. But when Zephyr Teachout won 34% of the vote in 2014 (with far less attention than Nixon and in a pre-Bernie/AOC political atmosphere), she swept upstate, and was crushed in the city. The Bernie/Clinton 2016 primary proved this trend even more decisively. As our member Michael Kinnucan has pointed out, statewide elections can be won or lost in Brooklyn and the battle for the governor’s office will be waged on our own home turf, NYC. We occupy the central structural position of this race and failing to leverage it will be the loss of an indispensible opportunity. One of the primary concerns about a Nixon endorsement is that it could detract from the Julia Salazar campaign. But in addition to the fact that Julia herself has said that a Nixon/Williams endorsement would only benefit her campaign, we could easily integrate these campaigns by focusing our attention in Julia’s district and encouraging canvasees to vote for Cynthia and Jumaane in addition to Julia. This electoral campaign can also be integrated with the campaigns for our two city-wide priorities, healthcare and housing. Our main demands for these campaigns live or die with the governorship, so securing Nixon’s governorship should be seen as crucial to our success.

Cynthia and Jumaane might not represent our ultimate destination of democratic socialism. But it’s clear to me that they will open our path to it. DSA has the opportunity to be the best organized, most democratic, and most radical organization within a much larger movement in New York State fueled by voters’ disgust at both Trump and his neoliberal enablers in the Democratic Party. We have a unique opportunity to recruit, educate, and participate in a movement that may not present itself on the state level again for decades. Between AOC’s recent victory and a potential Sanders 2020 presidential run, democratic socialism is on the rise. If we don’t do everything in our power to continue this momentum, our vision of a revived American Left may instead become the re-entrenchment of our wretched neoliberal reality.

What can you learn from our new Disability Caucus?

By Ethan F

"It's so disappointing to try and join your comrades at the bar after a meeting only to find that your mobility device can't get you in the door. Community spaces are wonderful and badly needed, but when attendance at an event is necessary for full participation in our organization, and the free community space requires climbing stairs or trying to focus in an environment that's overwhelming in sight or sound, we are setting up the same barriers that disabled people face everywhere else. We can do better." — Rachel S

_______________________________________________________________________________

The NYC-DSA Disability Caucus hasn’t been around for long, but we’ve been busy. Last month, the Steering Committee passed our Accessibility Guidelines and caucus members have started the process of verifying ADA-accessible event locations throughout the city. With this — and with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s resounding victory bringing many new members into DSA — it’s important for us to take this time to remind our comrades of the importance of inclusivity and accessible spaces.

People with disabilities are often the first to be trampled over, preyed upon, ostracized and othered by the forces of capitalism. When we strive to make our spaces more accessible, we begin to dismantle this tendency in our society, in DSA, and in our hearts. But our efforts must be more meaningful than flowery rhetoric, ardent promises, and lip service; we must take concrete action.

We have acknowledged the problem of accessibility in DSA. We have provided a path towards reconciliation and the betterment of our organization for all our members, not just those with disabilities. Will there be bumps in the road and unforeseen challenges? Almost certainly. But challenging ourselves to do more is at the core of our Guidelines, and we intend to challenge every member of NYC-DSA to do just that.

This means good faith efforts to obtain accessible locations and convey details about accessibility, agendas, and materials available well in advance. It means greater attempts to accommodate virtual attendance, particularly in inaccessible locations. It means gently reminding attendees that snapping or ASL applause is preferable to clapping. It means hosting events and post-meeting socials at locations that don’t serve alcohol and offering equally attractive non-alcoholic beverages. It means improved communication about childcare. It means making sure your comrades with disabilities can have vital roles in campaigns and canvassing drives available to them, such as tabling on-site or remotely via social media.

For many members, accessibility is often the difference between being able to fully participate in DSA and being sidelined by fellow organizers. “It's so disappointing to try and join your comrades at the bar after a meeting only to find that your mobility device can't get you in the door,” writes Caucus member Rachel S. “Community spaces are wonderful and badly needed, but when attendance at an event is necessary for full participation in our organization, and the free community space requires climbing stairs or trying to focus in an environment that's overwhelming in sight or sound, we are setting up the same barriers that disabled people face everywhere else. We can do better."

Do better we must. The recent resignation of DSA’s Disability Working Group has once again highlighted the divide between our words and our deeds when it comes to standing with those with disabilities. By allowing this group to be harassed from within DSA and without, we have lost important allies and shaken the faith of those of us who believe we can be better than the exploitative, dehumanizing systems that have produced us.  It now falls to local working groups and caucuses such as our own to continue the work these stalwart disability organizers have started, with the ardent hope that able-bodied members will reach out to their comrades with disabilities and begin the process of communicating issues, collaborating on solutions, and building trust in one another.

We look forward to working with you.

(If you want to learn more about joining our Disability Caucus or have questions about accessibility, email us at disabilitycaucusnycdsa@gmail.com, and follow our Facebook and Twitter for updates)

Reflections on the Single-Payer Strategy Conference

By Jen J

“Everybody in, nobody out,” the crowd chanted as the 2018 Single-Payer Strategy Conference opened. The chant set the tone and captured the conference’s goal: creating a Medicare for All system that provides healthcare as a right to all U.S.residents.

Healthcare-NOW! and The Labor Campaign for Single-Payer Healthcare organized the conference to bring together labor, community organizers, and politicians in the fight to make healthcare a universal right. More than 30 DSA members joined organizers from around the country in Minneapolis on June 22 to 24 to chart a path to victory.

DSA is providing an extensive ground game in this fight, with 150 chapters canvassing for Medicare for All; no other organization is doing anything similar on such a large scale. Our politics also set us apart. While many people spoke about the need to reach out to the business community (a message that fell flat with the crowd), we offered a more exciting strategy. 

At the Saturday plenary, DSA member Dustin Guastella laid out the three principles of our campaign: political and ideological clarity in our demands, naming the enemy (insurance companies, hospitals, and drug companies), and a mass approach to political organizing.This fight will not be won by money or policy wonks, he argued. It will be won by a mass movement that demands that our healthcare system be run for people, not profit.

DSA should be proud of the work we are doing. We are marching hand in hand with some of the strongest players in this fight, such as Physicians for a National Health Program and National Nurses United (NNU). On the conference’s last day, Holly Miller of NNU declared that we have built a movement strong enough to scare those in power; we are not just fighting the hospitals, big pharma, and the insurance companies; we are fighting capitalism itself.

Becky Bond, author of Rules for Revolutionaries, said that despite widespread despair, there’s an opening for radical change today that we cannot afford to waste. Bond’s vision for mass organizing fits neatly with DSA’s strategy. Rejecting the #resistance model of going to the protest of the moment, she told the organizers in the room to put people to work. “People are just waiting to be asked to do something big to win something big,” Bond said. “People are less willing to do something small to win something small.”

DSA is doing something big, and we are starting to win big. To continue taking power from the capitalist class, we need to keep growing. We will do so, one door knock at a time.

We knocked on doors on the 15th for Julia and the NY Health Act and will be doing more. Watch the calendar for events!

(For more videos from the conference go to https://wiki.healthcare-now.org/2018_Single-Payer_Strategy_Conference)

#WhyDSA - Renée P - Electoral Lawyer Extraordinaire

The website for attorney and NYC-DSA dynamo Renée Paradis reads, “Creative and Conscientious Legal Services.” She might add “& Passionately Political” to that logo. Her passion for social justice — and fury at the debacle that was the 2016 Presidential Election — are what led Paradis to the Democratic Socialists of America.

To look at her history or hear her speak, her arrival is no surprise. Her path took detours, but, as Paradis laughs, “There was no ‘road to Damascus’ moment—it was more of a process. But I came to DSA as someone who already thought socialism was the answer.”

In a phone interview, Paradis, 41, who served as National Voter Protection Director for “Bernie 2016,” recalls she found her way to DSA through an evolving series of events and policies. “I had felt such disgust after the election of Trump, concurring with the experience of seeing Bernie Sanders candidacy energize so many people to believe a better way was possible. I had a real sense of urgency and a need to organize outside of my day to day legal work.”

Paradis started going to DSA meetings, where, she said, she found people discussing “local issues … that are part of the larger fight against injustice. They were working to put action behind their words.”

This was sovereign to her journey: Paradis, who is an eloquent speaker and writer, noted her long “discomfort at the elided narratives” common to mainstream publishing, law, and politics: “I hated being in publishing (where she worked at a secondary retailer of education materials) . We never overtly lied about any product — we didn’t do that — but there were elisions, omissions, shading that were all intended to sell the product, to create a profit for my employer. I thought at the time that I didn’t like my job; it’s become clear over the years that what I didn’t like was capitalism.”

Her sense of urgency was reinforced in January 2017, when Donald Trump signed executive orders to ban citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries — even those who were en route with visas — from entering the United States. Outraged, Paradis joined lawyers from around the country to block the ban and counsel the hundreds of affected persons already jamming airports coming into the United States. The spontaneous action was quickly dubbed “No Ban JFK.” Given the shock of Trump’s flaunting a bevy of laws, the attorneys’ success was remarkable. They cleared hundreds of the travelers through customs, while the ACLU contested the order.

At the time, Paradis had already joined the Brooklyn Electoral Working Group. Last year, she worked to elect City Council candidates Reverend Khader el-Yateem, a Palestinian-American Lutheran minister, and Jabari Brisport, an actor and activist. Both Brooklyn leftists lost their elections, but the margins stunned pundits and mainstream Democrats.

Paradis helped to organize the May 2017 NYC-DSA Convention at Judson Memorial. Her combined expertise — from working on the federal appeals court, advocacy at both the state and federal levels on electoral, reproductive, and drug reform, in combination with community organizing, and electoral politics — meant Paradis could move fluidly around a host of subjects. She worked on DSA’s National Electoral Strategy too.

Paradis has a formidable resume. An award-winning graduate of Columbia University Law School, she clerked for the U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit, a plum vantage point on federal and state laws. In 2005, Californian Paradis returned to New York to serve as Counsel in the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice. Her remit: expand the franchise through automatic voter registration and voting rights for people with felony convictions and students. Paradis also worked at the ACLU, first as a fellow on drug law reform and later as a senior staff attorney on reproductive freedom. In 2008, she joined the Obama campaign as director for Michigan state voter protection. Eight years later, she was national director for voter protection for “Bernie 2016.”

Renée Paradis is currently applying her conscientious creativity to the candidacy of Julia Salazar, a police reform and tenant rights organizer, who is running for the NY State Senate against eight-term Brooklyn incumbent Martin Dilan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.