Chapter’s New Leaders Look to the Future

DSA New Orleans’ first majority-online elections swept in a wave of new officers last week. New Co-Chairs Frances G. and Benjamin H. and Membership Chair Sean D. said their top priorities include finalizing a code of conduct, expanding and engaging the general membership, and empowering members.

Other election winners were:

  • Secretary: Lori D.
  • Treasurer: James P.
  • At-large Members: Nadia E. & Andrew S.
  • Treasurer Trustee: Alli D.

“Even though this is a really challenging time within our chapter and outside, it’s also a moment of incredible opportunity,” said Frances, who’s served in the past as Health Care Committee Chair and chapter Secretary. “I want to see as much work and decision-making as possible done by the general membership, with the Local Council facilitating.”

Benjamin, the Direct Service Committee Steward, agreed that empowering members should be a top goal of the new Local Council, along with building formal processes for identifying and developing leaders.

“We’ve already created an environment where you can come in green and learn how to be a solid organizer and leader, but we should do some formalizing of that process,” he said.

To that end, Sean suggested building/formalizing positions within a Membership Committee that engage and motivate new members, including membership trustee, mobilizing team head, and social organizer.

“Membership isn’t built top-down. Membership is grown when people make those connections one-on-one. The biggest thing we can do is to provide spaces where people can meet and exchange ideas,” said Sean, who has experience organizing with the Interfaith Prayer Vigil and as an internal mobilizer on the chapter’s City Waste Working Group.

All three of the chapter’s new top leaders identified a lack of diversity among the leadership as a critical obstacle in the coming year. 

 “We have to figure out structural solutions to these systemic structural problems,” Frances said. “We have to do externally-facing work that puts us in the trenches with other working-class organizations alongside black- and brown-led organizations.”

Benjamin said he wants to work quickly on establishing a long-term defund and disarm the police campaign that would engage the entire chapter in anti-racism work.

“Can we claw back the funds that the city is putting into reactive, racist policies and put them toward health justice or a green new deal or housing justice?” he asked.

Educating new members on the chapter’s politics by creating a political program would be a critical goal for Sean in the coming months.

“It’s one thing to provide a space for people to learn, but if we don’t have a framework to work with it, we can lose sight of where we stand as democratic socialists,” he said. “The membership political spectrum can vary as far as Marxist to Anarchist, so we need to clearly define and come to a consensus on our chapter values”

Frances had her eyes on a large-scale political campaign: a City Council seat in 2021. 

“Even a long-shot campaign would still solidify our knowledge base and get us out there more,” she said. “In any campaign, we can drag the whole thing to the left by staking out further leftward positions.”

How Can I Help?

Message Frances, Benjamin, Sean, or any of the chapter’s officers on Slack with questions and suggestions, or email hello@dsaneworleans.org to reach us!

Local Convention & Chapter Officer Elections Coming Soon

It is almost time for New Orleans DSA’s annual Convention, our largest meeting each year. Due to social distancing measures related to the pandemic, we will be holding this important gathering online through Zoom. Though it will not be the same as convening in person, we are doing our best to replicate all aspects of the Convention and provide all of our members the resources they need to participate.

Save the Dates
We will hold Convention in two parts:

Saturday, June 27th, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. CST
State of the Chapter presentation
Annual Treasurer’s Report
Candidate Statements + Voting

Saturday, July 25th, 2 p.m. CST
Discuss and vote on proposed Bylaw Amendments and Political Resolutions

Candidates
These members have accepted their nominations to run for officers of the Local Council. (Read descriptions of each position here).

At-Large Members:  Nadia J. & Andrew S.
Co-Chair: Alec D., Frances G. & Benjamin H.
Membership Chair: Sean D. & Amanda S.
Secretary: Lori DG. & Zack D.
Treasurer: James P.
Treasurer Trustee: Alli DJ. & Bill M.

How to Vote
We will be using the online voting platform Opavote [read our guide]. You do not have to register an account to use this platform, but you must be a member in good standing with National DSA in order to vote. That means that you are up to date with your national dues. 

If you are not a member, why not take this opportunity to officially join DSA and have a say in our election? 

This year, we will hold an open voting period that begins on June 27th and runs to 5 p.m. on Friday, July 3rd in order to accept ballots by mail. This is the first year we are offering mail-in ballots as an option. We will mail election packets with candidate information and the ballots to all members.

If you do not need or want a mail-in ballot, please fill out this quick form. You can also update your mailing address through this form. Opting-opt will allow us to reduce the number of packets we need to print and mail, so please consider this!

Hear from the Candidates
The candidates are allowed to campaign any way they choose, but our chapter is providing a few opportunities for them to introduce themselves and present their platform. Written candidate statements will be posted on the chapter website, emailed to members, and included in the mailed election packet. We are also holding a Candidate Forum in a Q&A panel style the week before the election (time and date TBD). 

If you have a question for the candidates, you can submit it here or email hello@dsaneworleans.org.

Open Call for Bylaw Amendments & Political Resolutions 
Finally, we are accepting proposals for bylaw amendments and political resolutions to consider and vote on during the July 25th portion of Convention. Bylaw amendments add, remove, or alter the text of our chapter’s bylaws. Political resolutions are the same type of document we typically vote on during General Meetings. We will provide more information about this process in the coming weeks, but you can read about how to write a resolution here.

Amendments and resolutions must be submitted to hello@dsaneworleans.org by members in good standing by 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, July 12th.

If you have any questions, please email us!

Thanks & Solidarity,

The 2020 Election Committee
New Orleans Democratic Socialists of America

Socialists Must Fight to Defund the Police

On June 3rd, the New Orleans Police Department used chemical weapons (teargas) and rubber bullets against peaceful protestors marching on the Crescent City Connection bridge to the West Bank. This comes after the previous night of protests (6/2), when NOPD tried to play us by taking a knee as protesters lined up to block I-10, only to turn around and use force the next evening, in a situation with children present. The use of teargas over the CCC bridge could have ended with protestors falling off the bridge. NOPD must be held accountable for their dangerous, life-threatening actions.

Over the last several years, Black uprisings against the police in cities across the country have advanced popular understanding of policing and prisons. We have seen police departments across the country attempt to implement “reforms” like de-escalation training, community police boards, and requiring police to wear body cameras. These reforms have not proven to be effective, as Black men, women and children are still dying at the hands of cops. Here in southeast Louisiana, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and Kenner Police have been responsible for the deaths of many Black people in recent years, including Modesto Reyes, Keeven Robinson, Chris Joseph, Daviri Robertson, Armond Jairon Brown, Desmond Willis, and others.

Eric Garner was killed by the New York Police Department nearly six years ago. His death, and his final words, “I can’t breathe,” were captured with irrefutable video evidence. Yet his murderers were not held to account. Police violence has been captured on video for decades now with few consequences.

It is not the job of socialist workers to stand back and watch the uprisings re-shaping our political system and society. We do not merely provide commentary on the Rebellion taking place across the nation in reaction to police murder. We are working class organizers. These are the questions we need to be asking ourselves now: how can we support and sustain the spirit, the leadership of the Black rebellion? What steps must we take to end racist police violence?

The vague, liberal promise of “community policing” and “bias training” are not enough. They misunderstand the nature of the problem. We cannot sensitivity train the institutionalized racism and violence of the policing system out of existence. We must fight to reduce police interventions and to eliminate access to riot gear and weapons of war police use to terrorize our communities. Police officers are treated like general first responders, called for all emergency situations, even though they are an ultra-militarized force trained to arrest, shoot and kill. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. We must fight to defund and disarm the police.

Currently, 30% of New Orleans’ city budget is spent on policing. That does not include the costs of Orleans Parish Prison, a notoriously unsafe, violent institution. What could we do with that money? How many childcare providers, educators, and social workers could we employ? How many youth after-school programs could we fund? How many emergency first responders, trained to safely address mental health crises, could we put to work?

As socialists who struggle for the liberation of Black, brown, Indigenous communities and all oppressed peoples in our society, we must ORGANIZE for real working class solutions. Do not let yourself be lulled into a sense of complacency by copaganda and liberal half-answers to the institutionalized state violence.

Disarm the police. Defund the police.

In Solidarity with Minneapolis Protesters

New Orleans DSA stands in solidarity with the uprisings in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Columbus, Louisville, Los Angeles, and beyond. We stand in solidarity with people everywhere who are demanding freedom from racist violence at the hands of the police. We stand in solidarity with the Black-led rebellions taking place across the nation. The police are one of the lethal tools of white supremacy, used to protect capital and property rights and to crush the powerful movements of working people.

In Louisiana, we can look back to the Thibodaux Massacre in 1887, where white supremacist militias massacred hundreds of Black people after an estimated 10,000 Black sugarcane workers went on strike. We can look to the 1970 storming of the Black Panther Party’s headquarters in the Desire Housing Projects. Or we can look to the present, where PeopleReady, a temp agency that contracts labor for Metro Service Group, fires striking sanitation workers (all of whom are Black men), and forces people who are imprisoned to replace them for pennies on the dollar. 

This is how the carceral state works; this is what policing is. This is not unique to Minneapolis or to “a few bad apples.” The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis came just days before the police murder of Modesto Reyes here in Jefferson Parish and on the heels of Breonna Taylor’s murder in Louisville.   

We uphold the right of Black communities to protect themselves against a murderous state, and we encourage all people to join the ongoing movement to end state violence and white supremacy. 

As the events this week in Minneapolis have shown, we will only win this fight when we—the multiracial working class—come together to leverage our collective power and force the end of a system that relies on white supremacist violence to maintain the status quo. This system will not end because of a moral shift in the hearts of the ruling class or in individual white people’s conscience. It will only end when we all commit to stepping up now, joining the fight for the long-term, and building our power together.  

This year, New Orleans will elect a district attorney and several criminal court judges—we demand that they hold officers accountable for misconduct and brutality. The city will pass a budget this fall in the midst of a pandemic and record unemployment. We demand the city divert our tax dollars away from NOPD and surveillance contractors to community health and social services. Orleans Parish Prison, which has killed about 50 people since 2006, is at its lowest population since the 1980s. We support the demands of the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and call for a mass release of incarcerated people.

We are angry, and we are mourning, and we are ready to fight.

Take action with us: 

Solidarity,
New Orleans DSA

Nominations for 2020 Local Officers’ Election is Open!

Each year our local chapter holds a convention for the purpose of electing new officers to the Local Council and debating proposed amendments to our chapter bylaws and political resolutions that can shape the direction of our chapter. Due to the public health crisis of COVID-19 and social distancing measures, our chapter must find ways to do both important elements of the Convention in virtual spaces. 

The Local Council has created our first ever Election Committee to undertake the work of planning an election that is fair, transparent, and accessible despite the fact that we cannot meeting together in a physical space. The Election Committee is currently meeting weekly on Tuesdays at 5pm, and anyone who is interested in contributing is welcome to join. You can join the #election-committee-2020 channel on Slack to participate or register for the Zoom call here.

While we are still researching voting platforms as well as how to collect votes from members with little or no internet access, the Election Committee is pleased to announce that the nomination period is now open!

New Orleans DSA will have elections at the end of June. These positions are a chance for members to take a more direct role in guiding our chapter. It’s an opportunity for our chapter to develop new leaders and get fresh perspectives on our work. It’s also a chance for members to gain experience as leaders in a democratic organization of more than 250 people. 

Candidates must be nominated by another member to run and must be a member in good standing, which means that you are currently paying dues to DSA National. No one may nominate themselves. To nominate a member, email hello@dsaneworleans.org with the subject line Officer Nomination or let a current chapter officer know your nomination(s). There’s no limit on how many people you can nominate. The nomination period is for the next two weeks, ending May 30th. The Election Committee will reach out to each nominee to confirm their acceptance and give them information on what will be expected of them as a candidate. 

Read this document for a full description of the role of each officer (hat tip to Noah T. for writing this up!).

Special Meeting Announcement

Our chapter will be holding a Special Meeting on Saturday, May 30th (instead of our Weekly Update call) to vote on proposed amendments to the bylaws. According to our bylaws, amendments can only be debated and voted on during Special Meetings. We need to have a quorum of 10% of our membership in attendance, so please mark this on your calendar!

This is not a substitute for the Convention. Another special meeting will take place in conjunction with the election this summer, and we will be providing information on how to write, submit, and debate any proposed resolutions or amendments well ahead of time. At this month’s meeting, we will be debating just a handful of amendments to the bylaws to potentially add new positions to the Local Council and a clause that allows our chapter to reformat or reschedule the Convention under extreme circumstances (like the one we are in now). The full text of these amendments will be emailed and posted to the website as soon as possible so that members can review them.

We will also be giving a general overview of the election process and schedule as well as information on Robert’s Rules of Order, which we use for debate. 

Discourse Digest: DSA and Bernie 2020

Discourse Digest is a new monthly web series published by the New Orleans DSA Political Education Committee. Each entry of Discourse Digest highlights a strategic or programmatic question facing DSA and the broader left, and charts arguments and counterarguments comprising the body of discourse.

Aaron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Q: How should DSA orient itself to the US presidential election in 2020? What role, if any, should DSA play in a possible Bernie Sanders campaign?



Part I: Bernie versus the Dem primary field of candidates

“It’s Time for the Left to Unite Behind Bernie 2020” by Briahna Gray; published in In These Times on Oct 2, 2018.
“Think Bernie and Warren are the same? They aren’t” by Bhaskar Sunkara; published in The Guardian on Oct 23, 2018. Read time: 5 minutes.
“12 Theses on the Election” by Leo Casey; published on the DSA North Star Caucus blog on Jan 7, 2019. Read time: 3 minutes.
“It’s Bernie, Bitch” by Amber A’lee Frost; published in The Baffler on Jan 11, 2019. Read time: 10 minutes.

Part II: DSA and Bernie 2020

“NYC-DSA Should Wait on Supporting Sanders 2020” by Charlotte A; published on the NYC-DSA chapter blog on May 16, 2018.
“NYC-DSA Should Plan for a 2020 Sanders Presidential Campaign” by Neil Meyer; published on the NYC-DSA chapter blog on May 16, 2018.
“The Case for Bernie 2020” by Neil Meyer and Ben B; published in The Call on Aug 16, 2018.
“The Inside-Outside Approach to Bernie 2020” by Peter Frase; published in In These Times on Oct 2, 2018.
“Debating ‘The Case for Bernie 2020′” by Charlie Post; published in Socialist Worker on Oct 16, 2018.
“East Bay DSA Should Hit the Ground Running on Bernie 2020” by Meagan Day; published on Medium on November 28, 2018.

Discourse Digest: Race, Class, & DSA

Discourse Digest is a new monthly web series published by the New Orleans DSA Political Education Committee. Each entry of Discourse Digest highlights a strategic or programmatic question facing DSA and the broader left, and charts arguments and counterarguments.

Question:

“The Identity Mistake” by Melissa Naschek; published in Jacobin on August 28, 2018. Read time: 14 minutes.
“Zombie Manifesto” by Asad Haider; published on the Verso blog on September 1, 2018. Read time: 26 minutes.
“Race, Class, and Socialist Strategy” by Jeremy Gong and Eric Blanc; published in The Call on August 30, 2018. Read time: 13 minutes.
“The Mistaken Universalism” by R.L. Stephens; published in The DSA Weekly on September 4, 2018. Read time: 12 minutes.
“Do America’s Socialists Have A Race Problem?” by Miguel Salazar; published in The New Republic on Dec 20, 2018. Read time: 17 minutes.
“Which Side Are You On?” by Adolph Reed Jr.; published in Common Dreams on Dec 23, 2018. Read time: 14 minutes.

Four-part series by Mike McNair; published in The Weekly Worker
— Part I: “Intersectionality Is a Dead End”, June 7, 2018. Read time: 18 minutes.
— Part II: “Race & Class”, June 24, 2018. Read time: 23 minutes.
— Part III: “Mistaken Versions of Maoism”, June 28, 2018. Read time: 23 minutes.
— Part IV: “Getting Beyond Capitalism”, July 5, 2018. Read time: 20 minutes.

Sanitation Workers Fighting for their Rights

Sanitation worker Greg Woods speaks to local press about their organizing efforts.

New Orleans Sanitation workers are fighting for their rights! These workers keep our city clean and safe, and are putting their lives out on the line everyday to keep New Orleans running. They are doing a WORK STOPPAGE to demand hazard pay and PPE.

Please call METROWIDE SERVICES today to tell them you are a concerned New Orleanian and that Metrowide needs to do right by these workers. 🌹

504-520-8331

“Hello, my name is [X] I am calling to urge Metrowide Services to pay their workers what they deserve and give them PPE. The hoppers are demanding $135 standard day rate plus $150 hazard pay per day until the pandemic is over. They also demand to be given proper protective equipment every day.”

If you live in New Orleans, say you are a New Orleans resident. If you live outside of New Orleans, say what city you are calling in from and that “people all over the country are watching Metrowide.”

Let’s show our FRONTLINE workers we have their back!
🌹

Click here to read a news story about this.

Tell City Council to Support Emergency Healthcare for All!

We are calling on the New Orleans City Council to support the Medicare for All Act of 2019 or Health Care Emergency Guarantee Act to meet the immediate need for full health care coverage with no out-of-pocket expenses. Public health is a social good, like clean air or fresh water. In this time of crisis it is clear that we are only as safe and healthy as our neighbors, coworkers, teachers, bus drivers, grocery workers, servers, and bartenders. We need federal legislation that will keep our neighbors safe and protect them from surprise medical bills and debt.

Take action – sign the petition! 

Please call your council member and urge them to support the Medicare for All Act of 2019 or Healthcare Emergency Guarantee Act!

Call your council member today!
At-Large Councilmember Helena Moreno: (504) 658-1060
At-Large Councilmember Jason Williams: (504) 658-1070
District A Councilmember Joe Giarrusso: (504) 658-1010
District B Councilmember Jay Banks: (504) 658-1020
District C Councilmember Kristin Palmer: (504) 658-1030
District D Councilmember Jared Brossett: (504) 658-1040
District E Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen: (504) 658-1050

Script:
“Hello, my name is [NAME] and I live in District [X] in New Orleans. I’m calling to urge Councilmember [X] to support Resolution No. R-20-125 and endorse federal legislation to create universal healthcare.

Public health is a social good, like clean air or fresh water. COVID-19 has shown us that we are only as safe and healthy as our neighbors and community members. We need legislation that will keep our neighbors safe and protect them from surprise medical bills and debt. We need Healthcare-for-All! Thank you for your time.”

We Need a Fair Fund for Hospitality Workers

We’re part of a coalition fighting for hospitality workers. New Orleans’ Exhibition Hall Authority has nearly $200 million in cash reserves and, with over 90,000 hospitality and tourism workers in New Orleans currently out of work, we are demanding $100 million go to direct relief for workers. The GNO Fair Hospitality Fund is escalating now and we need everyone’s help! 

  • Sign the petition. Demand the Exhibition Hall Authority give direct relief to workers! You can sign here
  • Share the petition. Is someone in your family, a friend, or a neighbor an out of work hospitality worker? Ask them to sign and share the petition!
  • Film a #FairFundNow selfie. Check out some of the videos we’ve already uploaded to our facebook, and share widely. Instructions for how to do your own are here. If you’re not an out of work hospitality worker, pass this along your networks.
  • Join our online rally! On 4/20 from 5 pm – 7 pm. You can find the Facebook event here with links to zoom registration.