We have a special issue of Democratic Left devoted to labor once a year, but DSA locals support unions and the labor movement all year long. Here are some highlights from the past year:
Central Ohio DSA members joined forces with Interfaith Worker Justice to create the Central Ohio Workers’ Center. Members of DSA were key in doing the paperwork to obtain 501(c)(3) status and bringing in a pro bono lawyer. The center’s focus is on know-your-rights outreach to immigrant workers, especially the large Somali community as well as the growing Latino community.
Chicago DSA has fought for a national tax on the trading of financial assets (popularly known as a Robin Hood Tax) and worked with the Chicago Teachers Union, National Nurses United, and community groups to call for a similar Chicago-based tax to fund workers’ pensions as well as human services. Other coalitions are fighting newly elected governor Bruce Rauner’s anti-worker “Turnaround Agenda” modeled after Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s game plan. As a core member of the Illinois Fair Trade Coalition, Chicago DSA worked with many union partners to oppose Fast Track and the larger Trans Pacific Partnership.
Greater Detroit DSA works with Michigan labor to prevent the Republicans, who dominate state government, from overturning prevailing-wage legislation. To support prevailing wages, the local honored Patrick Devlin, president of the Michigan Building Trades, at the Douglass-Debs dinner on May 30.
Ithaca DSA has a weekly community access cable television program and a bi-monthly radio program. The local used both platforms to bring talks from the Labor Day Picnic, a Workers’ Center celebration, and Cornell University’s Union Days to a wider audience. Thus, community members who couldn’t attend the events still heard about innovative organizing for restaurant and retail workers, the new union at the local Health Alliance and Free Clinic, organizing among adjuncts at Ithaca College, and the story of the AFL-CIO’s vital cooperation with community and clergy.
Metro Atlanta DSA is actively involved with all the work of the Jobs with Justice Organizing Committee, including the Black Friday action at Wal-Mart, a national event on the Friday after Thanksgiving. A core DSA group of around 25 people joined with organized labor and community in the Fight for $15 campaign. On several days, including April 15, fast-food workers went out on strike in the early morning, and the demonstrators showed up to escort them back to work and ensure that they would not lose their jobs.
Metro DC DSA supported the DC Labor Fest. The DC Labor Fest—sponsored by the Metro Washington Labor Council and supported by many other labor and social justice organizations—provides a forum for numerous forms of cultural productions with a focus on working people. The films, music, art and walking tours open a window on the experiences, ideas and aspirations of individual workers and their collective struggles. Metro DC also supported efforts to organize associates at United Way Worldwide, headquarters of the largest health and human services non-profit in the world not run by a government. Despite a formal agreement to support the labor rights of workers and a long partnership with labor, management conducted a vicious anti-union campaign against the effort.
New York City DSA and YDS rallied for the “Fight for $15” and sponsored a staged reading of “Waiting for Lefty” in the theater district on April 15. YDS members from throughout the city worked with activists from several schools to prepare banners for the demonstration and to mobilize their classmates.
Sacramento DSA teamed up with the Sacramento Progressive Alliance, the California Faculty Association, Students for Quality Education, and the Campus Progressive Alliance to present a forum on “The Working Class Under Siege,” bringing the Fight for $15 and the struggle against Fast Track to California State University-Sacramento.
San Diego DSA worked with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the Labor Council, the Machinists and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) to get a citywide increase in the minimum wage passed by the City Council. Unfortunately, opponents derailed the coalition’s victory by successfully challenging the City Council to put the wage increase on a ballot initiative for November 2016, thus delaying and perhaps endangering the increase for workers. San Diego DSAers also joined with the Citizens Trade Campaign and the San Diego Imperial County Labor Council to urge congressional representatives to vote no on Fast Track.
Theresa Alt is secretary of Ithaca DSA and a member of the DSA National Political Committee. Peg Strobel is a member of Chicago DSA and the DSA National Political Committee, former director of the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, and professor emerita of gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois, Chicago.
This article originally appeared in the fall 2015 issue of the Democratic Left magazine.
Individually signed posts do not necessarily reflect the views of DSA as an organization or its leadership. Democratic Left blog post submission guidelines can be found here.