On Wednesday 18th of September 2019, DSA New Orleans Labor Standing Committee (LSC) held its monthly meeting. This was more than a standard meeting as the committee was electing its new leadership for the year ahead. Furthermore, committee members were greeted with pizza and drinks. The meeting was well attended as more than 15 members came out, but we must keep growing to demand better conditions for all the workers of Greater New Orleans.
On Aug. 1-4, five DSA New Orleans delegates (Michael E, Sue M, Josh L, Frances G, and Jordan F) attended perhaps the largest gathering of organized socialists in at least a generation to help write new bylaws, define a new vision and chart the course forward for the country’s largest socialist organization.
There is a new publication from our chapter: Red Delta! We will be keeping y’all updated on local and statewide issues from a democratic socialist perspective, writing on everything from candidates for office, housing justice, environmental organizing, and more. Each edition of Red Delta is sent out to our supporters every other month so make sure you sign up for our mailing list. All of the Red Delta articles can also be read on our website by clicking the link in the sidebar.
Whether it’s tax policy that throws away public resources, a carceral system that steals years of labor from citizens or demagogues aiming to divide with extremist right-wing rhetoric, the residents of the state capital face a constant barrage of reactionary politics.
In that environment, a new DSA chapter is working to bring socialist ideas to the fore.
Pepper Bowen Roussel is a food, water and environmental attorney running for State Representative of District 91 in New Orleans, the election of which will be on October 12. Ms. Roussel did not seek or receive the endorsement of the DSA, but agreed to an interview to explain some of her positions. To find out more about her campaign, visit her site vote4pepper.com. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Louisiana will officially have a DSA member on the statewide ballot on Oct. 12.
Marguerite “Margee” Green has qualified for the race for Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry. She aims to unseat incumbent Mike Strain on a platform that will elevate all Louisianans, and she’ll need volunteers to do it.
$100 late rent fees. Evictions without warning. Refusing to fix collapsed ceilings.
These are merely a few of the myriad abuses New Orleans DSA member Breonne D. has seen in her time as an organizer with Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative.
For over 10 years, Jane Place has fought the deluge of gentrification, rent hikes, and landlord abuse in one of the most hostile regulatory environments in the nation. Their goal: decommodification of housing. Their method: community land trusts and expanded housing rights.
DSA New Orleans members elected new leadership, approved new bylaws and made the chapter’s first campaign endorsement at the annual convention Saturday.
Over 60 attendees voted to change bylaws, including streamlining and clarifying the chapter’s endorsement process, clarifying the stance on nationally endorsed campaigns, establishing new credentials officer and alternate positions, and creating working groups for growth and diversity, as well as chapter conduct. The convention also resolved to prioritize Medicare for All and labor rights and to continue streamlining budgeting and finances for the coming year.
Another major milestone passed with an overwhelming majority, as Marguerite Green received DSA New Orleans’ first official political campaign endorsement as she begins her run for Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry.
A number of candidates ran for local council seats, with Jordan F. elected as a new co-chair alongside re-elected Co-Chair Michael E.
“We learned a lot talking about what campaigns were successful and which weren’t, and we’re in a great position to reorient our organizing around that. I’m looking forward to seeing how the chapter will grow by moving away from the activist model and into a place where more casual organizers can make meaningful contributions to our work,” said Jordan.
Michael echoed his sentiment.
“I’m excited to work with new leadership to strengthen and grow our chapter as we start to take up more ambitious campaigns for working-class demands,” she said. “It’s clear we’re becoming a serious, durable organization with real potential to fight for meaningful change in Louisiana, and I’m honored to serve our members in another term as chair.”
The entire elected Local Council includes Zach D. and Sophie K. as at-large Local Council members, Logan Y. as membership chair, Alli D. as treasurer, and Ryan S. as secretary. Michael E., Sue M., Frances G., Josh L., and Jordan F. were chosen to represent the chapter at DSA’s upcoming National Convention in August.
Following Saturday afternoon’s convention, DSA members met for a social at a chapter member’s home. We look forward to building a better world and New Orleans over the next year.
Trey D: Over the last several years, I believe we’ve witnessed a genuinely rare moment: for the first time in decades, we have the chance to truly build a unified, durable and powerful workers’ movement in New Orleans and nationwide. Generations of stagnant wages, the Great Recession, and the endless fiasco that is our political system have swept underfoot generations of old lies about socialism (and a lot of other lies besides). As a result, our organization has grown from a tiny sect to the largest anticapitalist organization in the country in at least 50 years. I am running for co-chair because I believe our chapter, and DSA at large, now faces a profound and crucial question: what comes next? How do we turn this moment into a durable, powerful and multiracial workers’ organization? I believe we must prioritize, above all, both sustained membership growth and democratic durability. Growth that will continue regardless of who is in office or what happens on election day; growth which actively and tirelessly reaches beyond the heavily white demographics of our current membership. Democratic durability that is built on creating opportunities for involvement in our movement beyond committee-centered, single-issue organizing; durability that is founded on making democratic self-organization a part of the fabric of working peoples’ lives. I hope that some of my work over the last fifteen months as membership chair, such as creating the chapter Mobilizers Program to ensure every person expressing interest in our chapter is connected with an established member, leading development on the chapter website, and co-authoring the Collective Power Network’s Regional Representation plank, has contributed to beginning to address these goals. But as a chapter, I feel we must deepen our commitment to them, and if elected to co-chair, doing so will be my priority.
I’m Michael (she/her). I’m a restaurant worker and student who got my start in organizing as a rank-and-file labor activist, and later as an organizer for United Labor Unions, working primarily with school custodians. I’ve served as co-chair of New Orleans DSA for the past year, working on new member onboarding, navigating our coalition work in the Three Point Platform campaign, and helping to lead our chapter program process. For us to stand a chance in the struggle against the rich power players who run our state, and win working class victories that materially change peoples lives, we have to build our chapter. We’ve got to pair campaign activity with strong systems for growth & member development.
If elected to a second term as co-chair I’ll work to
Collaborate with the Labor Committee to build working class power through support for organizing in major industries
Team up with the Membership Chair and Mobilizers to implement a strategy for growth – one that emphasizes reaching and building trust with working class communities of color and working class women
Create tools to help incorporate political education and organizer training into all of our activity
Help guide our work in coalition with membership based organizations and working class communities whose priorities align with our own, especially on key issues like education, healthcare, labor and environment
We are at a rare moment for the socialist movement. We’ve continued to grow through ongoing political crises because more and more people believe that we are going to win. Our role as organizers is to show people that we will win. We do this when we create material changes for our neighbors and coworkers. And we make these changes by building real power. We must always be thinking about our work in relation to how it builds power, and as co-chair I’ll continue to challenge the membership and chapter leadership to think in these terms. I’ll do this by focusing my efforts on a small set of concrete goals:
Pushing the chapter to do more outward-facing events and outreach to build trust in our work and make it visible to our neighbors.
Creating and supporting an internal body focused on onboarding and welcoming new members.
Creating and supporting the Growth & Diversity Working Group to organize our neighborhoods beyond specific issue areas.
Developing a Leadership Development strategy. To identify informal leaders, create a succession plan for elected leadership, and create tools and trainings.
Centering political development and education in all our work.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has signaled his intention to sign the “fetal heartbeat bill” (SB 184, HB 133, HB 484) that would criminalize abortion after a heartbeat is detected, usually at 6 weeks. This bill is the result of decades of work by anti-choice zealots to shut down abortion access state by state.
This bill won’t protect life in Louisiana. It won’t do anything about the maternal mortality rate that is the 2nd worst in the country. It won’t stop the 45% of pregnancy-related deaths that are preventable. It won’t address the fact that childbirth is 4x more deadly for black people in Louisiana, and 3x more deadly for parents over 35. It won’t provide greater access to healthcare. It won’t help a single person living in this state.
It won’t help parents provide for their children’s food, shelter, education, or healthcare. It won’t create jobs and livelihoods to sustain families. It won’t stop violence. This bill is meant to punish and dominate. To steal autonomy and choice from pregnant people. This bill is designed — as most of Louisiana’s abortion laws are designed — to punish working class people and make our lives harder. Already, 95% of parishes don’t have an abortion clinic (75% of Louisianans live in a parish without a clinic). People seeking abortions already have to arrange transportation and travel, take multiple days off work, receive medically unnecessary ultrasounds and state-mandated counseling, and self-fund procedures that cost hundreds of dollars — starting around $500 in the first trimester and getting more expensive as time passes.