DSA Chapters Support Labor

DSA members around the country are working to build power in their unions, and those not in unions are showing solidarity by supporting the struggles of organized workers. Here’s some of what DSA members are doing. —DM

At the national level, the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission (DSLC), established by a 2017 convention resolution, serves as a community within DSA for members who are active in the labor movement in whatever capacity. By the end of 2017, more than 600 DSAers had joined the DSA Labor Activists Google Group. In January, group members nominated and elected a nine-member steering committee. To ensure diverse representation, five of the nine spots were reserved to rank-and-file union members and four to women, people of color, and LGBTQ individuals, and no chapter could have more than one member on the steering committee. Steering committee members have convened by phone every two to four weeks since then and met in person for the first time July 21-22. The commission held a nationwide conference call the week after the U.S. Supreme Court’s anti-union Janus v. AFSCME decision. DSLC also worked with national DSA staff to develop the labor movement component of regional leadership trainings. (For more information, see DSLC member JP Kaderbek’s article and visit dsausa.org/labor.)

In Central Connecticut DSA, a labor working group turned out members to support a walkout at the Stamford Hilton hotel, where UNITE HERE Local 217 members are struggling to win their first union contract.

More than 50 delegates and alternates gathered at the summer conference of Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) in Minneapolis in early August. Photo: Alicia Valenti.

In East Bay DSA, a labor committee with about 30 active members has kept busy turning out members for strike solidarity actions, including the AT&T Mobility strike and a strike by City of Berkeley municipal workers. During AFSCME Local 3299’s strike at the University of California, DSA support resulted in an invitation to conduct picket line teach-ins about Medicare for All and rent control. The committee is now developing a rapid response network that will train members in strike etiquette, train picket captains to coordinate turnout, and use mass texts to get the word out quickly. To orient DSA members who aren’t active in labor, committee members organized a presentation at the chapter’s Socialist Night School. The committee also raised funds to send people to the national Labor Notes conference and has sponsored an ongoing series of socials.

Along with the rest of the chapter, they’re working on the State Assembly campaign of union member and Richmond City Council member Jovanka Beckles and on the campaign to pass Proposition 10, a ballot measure which would repeal restrictions on local rent control ordinances.

In Metro DC DSA, a labor working group organized a training for federal workers about how not to get in trouble under the Hatch Act, which restricts political activity by federal workers. They’re also part of a chapter-wide effort to challenge incentives being offered to non-union Amazon for its much-hyped “HQ2.” Members are getting educated about worker co-ops and about the threat of postal privatization. And they’re preparing to support a possible strike by Metro subway workers.

New York City DSA has what may be the largest labor branch of any local chapter, with more than 160 members, and as many as 90 people turning out to branch meetings, which now alternate monthly with Labor-Notes-style trainings. (Labor Notes is a nonprofit that publishes a monthly magazine and provides training and networking events for union activists.) DSA-affiliated teachers played a key role in a rank-and-file campaign that won six weeks of fully paid parental leave for NYC public school teachers. Branch members helped get local unions to endorse the Right to Know Act campaign, which helped pass municipal legislation requiring police to inform people of their right not to consent to a search and to identify themselves and provide a reason if they stop a person under some circumstances.

Labor branch members were part of the all-hands-on-deck effort for DSA member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to win the 14th congressional district primary in June. They’re doing the same for DSA member Julia Salazar, a former domestic worker and now UAW union member who’s running for State Senate in a September 13 state primary. DSA volunteers collected more than 500 signatures in a one-day “Labor for Julia” canvass to help qualify Salazar for the ballot. The branch also sponsored a fundraiser for Teamsters for a Democratic Union, held a Labor School for all of NYC-DSA, and has regularly turned out solidarity pickets to support union struggles. At a citywide convention in May, delegates passed a resolution encouraging DSA members to get jobs in unionized workplaces and become active union members.

 In North Texas DSA (Dallas, Texas), a labor working group led by young union members organized a training attended by over 60 union members; showed up in large numbers to Dallas school board meetings in support of an American Federation of Teachers union campaign to win raises for underpaid school support staff; and helped gather signatures to qualify a November ballot measure that could mandate up to eight paid sick days a year for workers in Dallas.

 In Sacramento DSA, a labor committee serves as a network for the dozen or so chapter members who are engaged in the union movement or looking to unionize their workplaces. They’ve worked to build a relationship with the Sacramento Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, tabling at its Labor Day event, holding forums for young workers, and co-sponsoring a forum featuring California labor historian Fred Glass. They also formed a study group to read and discuss the labor strategy book No Shortcuts, by Jane McAlevey. They organized an August Labor Notes “troublemakers school,” following the curriculum of the book Secrets of a Successful Organizer, by Alexandra Bradbury, Mark Brenner, and Jane Slaughter. And they signed up more than 150 DSA members to a “flying squad” that can turn out to do picket line support and raise DSA’s visibility in the labor community.

In South Sound DSA (Tacoma, Washington), a labor working group worked with the Pierce County Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO, to develop and promote a half-day workshop in April about how to organize in a post-Janus world. About 60 union members from more than a dozen unions attended, learned about the history of anti-union “right-to-work” campaigns, and gathered afterward at a pub for fellowship.