DSA Across the USA

By Dan DiMaggio

DSA members in Gainesville, Florida, took part in the protests against far-right troll Richard Spencer’s visit to the University of Florida in October. Despite being urged to stay home by the university’s president, more than a thousand protesters showed up. “Spencer barely got a word out. As soon as he opened his mouth, there was continuous chanting,” says Roxanne Palmer of Gainesville DSA, who estimates that 90% of those inside the event were protesters. “We showed that we have collective people power in our community.” Palmer emphasized that the protest was successful in part because organizers tried not to appear like outsiders coming in, but rather emphasized they were part of the community (including chanting “Let’s go, Gators!” and “Orange and Blue!”).

Orlando DSA joined Disney workers at a big demonstration demanding a $15 an hour minimum at the theme park. The unions representing Disney workers are in negotiations now. DSA members also marched right behind the Disney workers in the “Come Out With Pride” parade, as part of a socialist contingent.

NYC DSA members have initiated biweekly “Spanish for Socialists” classes, which draw between 15 to 35 people ranging from beginners to native speakers. The classes grew out of the Immigrant Justice working group and aim to build Spanish-language conversational skills to benefit ongoing campaigns, learn vocabulary related to the projects DSAers are involved in, and read and discuss Latin American socialist writing and history. To date, classes have practiced vocabulary related to immigrant rights, workers’ rights, and healthcare. Classes generally start with a song or poem, before breaking into small-group discussions, with role-playing throughout. A recent class focused on practicing vocabulary used in canvassing for the NY Health Act, including going over the Spanish-language version of the survey canvassers use. One class took place at a local church where a Guatemalan family is living in sanctuary, as part of the Immigrant Justice Working Group’s effort to strengthen ties to local sanctuary efforts. “The goal is to make the work DSA is doing more accessible to non-English speaking communities,” says Elijah Stevens, one of the class facilitators. “It also makes the outreach work we’re doing reach broader audiences.”

Honolulu DSAers support UNITE HERE. 

Honolulu DSAers showed up to support a strike by UNITE HERE Local 5 members at the Ilikai Hotel, run by Hawaii’s largest hotel operator. Workers complain they are making $3.50 an hour less than the union hotel across the street while facing a punishing workload. DSA also joined a demonstration by News Guild members who are fighting layoffs at the island’s only local paper, the Star Advertiser. DSAers are also building connections to Hawaii’s displaced indigenous population by participating in work days (“Ho‘i I ka Lo‘i”) to build food sovereignty and secure local land rights.

DSA Knoxville initiated a resolution—passed at the 2017 DSA national convention—endorsing a national boycott of Pilot/Flying J, the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America. Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, the wealthiest elected official in the United States according to a 2015 Forbes magazine report, is the company’s co-owner. Haslam has been pushing the outsourcing of 10,000 jobs at state universities, an initiative opposed by United Campus Workers (UCW). Although Warren Buffett has announced his intent to buy a 38% stake in the company, the Haslam family will continue to hold a majority interest in the company for the next six years. At the end of October, University of Tennessee administrators announced they had decided not to participate in Haslam’s outsourcing scheme, following a two-year long campaign by UCW.

DSBay Brake Light Coalition

“Changing a brake light is not typically difficult or expensive. However, being stopped by a police officer for having a brake light out can be both.” That’s the impetus for the free brake light repair clinics being organized by a growing number of DSA chapters around the country. The New Orleans chapter kicked things off in August, with 15 to 20 volunteers changing lights on 50 cars in a local parking lot. Their success sparked interest from other DSAers; 80 joined a conference call to find out how to organize a clinic in their area. Since then, there have been events in places including Fort Worth, Texas, Huron Valley, Michigan, the Bay Area of California, and Carrboro, North Carolina. A DIY guide for DSA chapters interested in doing their own brake light events is available at: bit.ly/DSAbrakelightguide

Coming off of a good organizing meeting at the Chicago Convention, DSAers are launching or strengthening religion and socialism groups from New York (where the group will participate in Food Justice actions in December) to Los Angeles, where there are weekly get-togethers, complete with food and discussion, for any interested person in the chapter. Religious socialist members of Seattle DSA have met for what may become a monthly discussion group. Austin has begun a group, and religious socialists gathered at the New England DSA Solidarity Summit in Portland, ME, and at the monthly DSA meeting in Dover, NH. Richmond DSA has started a Christian Socialism/Liberation Theology Reading Group as a prelude to connecting local religious groups and congregations with the chapter’s organizing. For more information, check out religioussocialism.org.

Dan DiMaggio is a member of the South Brooklyn chapter of NYC DSA and is the assistant editor of Labor Notes. You can reach him at [email protected]

This article originally appeared in the Winter 2017 issue of 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.