Frequently Asked Questions about DSA New Orleans

What is DSA?

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States. DSA’s members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly democratic socialist presence in American communities and politics. We are socialists because we believe that work and the economy should be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create products, not for the profit of the bosses. We struggle for a socialist, feminist, and anti-racist transformation of our society for the benefit of the many, not the few.  

Who’s in charge here?

You are! The Local Council is the leadership body for the chapter, and each committee has leadership as well. But ultimately, our chapter is driven by the passion and energy and interests of the membership. Do you have an idea for a socialist campaign? Is there an issue or an injustice in your community that you are particularly driven to fight? Bring it to our chapter, and chances are, you will find folks who are interested in helping you bring that idea to fruition.

What’s the best way to find out about upcoming DSA events?

Check out our events calendar on our website, keep an eye on our Twitter and our Facebook, and sign up here to get our email and text updates.

What are committees? How are they organized?

Committees are formal democratic bodies within the chapter typically oriented around a specific mission, issue, service, or aspect of socialist organizing, such as labor, political-education, healthcare, housing justice, technology, and communications. Committees are created by a vote of the general membership during general membership meetings. Committee membership is informal and participation based. All dues-paying members of the chapter are entitled to participate and exercise voting power in any committee. While committee leadership is defined in the bylaws governing each committee, most committees include two elected co-chairs who are primarily responsible for guiding the democratic process within the committee by organizing and facilitating meetings. Additionally, each committee elects a steward to the Local Council. The steward acts as a representative of the committee, offers updates on committee work, and exercises voting power as a full member of the council. Most committees meet on a monthly basis. During meetings, committee members typically offer report backs on current projects, discuss relevant news and ideas, and debate and ratify proposals.

Can I attend a committee meeting? How do I get involved with a committee?

All committee meetings are open to the public, and anyone is welcome to attend. New to the chapter? Feel free to try out a few committee meetings to get a sense of what each one is about and which projects you’d like to get involved with. Want a little more information before you go to a meeting? At each general meeting, there’s an ‘intermission’ halfway through, where you’ll have an opportunity to speak to the committee leadership. They can tell you more about what each committee is working on and different ways to get involved with the work. All the up-to-date information about committee meetings (and all other events) can be found here.

What’s the deal with general meetings?

Every other month, the general membership of the chapter comes together as the democratic governing body of DSA New Orleans. Expect to hear work reports from committee chairs, debate and vote on important resolutions, and get caught up on the latest news about the chapter.

What’s the Local Council?

The Local Council is the leadership body of the chapter. There are six elected officers for the whole chapter: two co-chairs, one treasurer, one treasurer-trustee, one membership chair, and one secretary. These officers are elected annually during our chapter convention. Additionally, each committee elects a committee steward, who sits on the Local Council and represents the committee as a part of the chapter leadership. The LC meets once a month to hear updates from committees and to discuss any questions or issues that affect the chapter as a whole. Practically, this means planning the general meetings, the strategy meetings, and special events, such as the annual convention. These meetings are open to all DSA members (although only members of the LC may vote at these meetings) and are posted on the events calendar.

How is DSA National Organized?

In addition to the individual local chapters, there are larger national working groups and committees. These working groups are centered around specific issues or topics, like socialist feminism or labor or climate justice. They function similarly to the committees or working groups you will find in our local, but they are working with members across the country on national projects.   Additionally, there is the national political committee, or the NPC. This is a sixteen person body that guides the direction of the organization as a whole. They are all elected at the Convention, which is held every two years. Lastly, there are national staff. These are paid individuals who do the bulk of the administrative work of running DSA.

What are dues? How much are they?

Dues are recurring payments made by members of an organization as a prerequisite for membership. In DSA, the dues amount depends on how much you want to pay! DSA has a tiered dues system that allows you to pay based on your income, but they don’t check up on you. If you only feel comfortable paying the twenty dollar student fee right now, no one from DSA is going to come looking to check your student ID. But DSA is a member sustained organization, and we wouldn’t be able to all do this work if we didn’t pitch in to keep this ship afloat.

Am I required to pay dues?

Neither national dues nor local dues are required to attend DSA meetings and events or to participate in discussions. But only dues-paying members are allowed to vote, run for local leadership, and propose things for the membership to vote on, like political resolutions or bylaws amendments. No one is required to pay local dues, but everyone is encouraged to do so.

Why does DSA require dues?

DSA is a socialist organization largely funded by membership dues. We believe that the capacity to self-fund our organization is a necessary condition for institutional independence. If the organization were funded by wealthy donors, we might have a much bigger budget, but we’d also be beholden to outside interests. Funding based on membership dues ensures that DSA leadership—both at the local and national level—remain accountable to the interests and democratic will of the rank-and-file membership.

What’s the difference between national and local dues?

National dues are required for membership in DSA. They can either be paid annually or on a monthly basis. Check out the National DSA membership page for more info. Local dues, on the other hand, are democratically established by local DSA chapters to fund self-directed chapter initiatives. In New Orleans, our local dues system is entirely voluntary, and based on a sliding income scale starting at $3 per month for our low-wage members.

What are the benefits of being a dues paying member?

Paying dues to an organization means that you get a say in the direction of that organization. Practically, this means that when we vote on stuff at general meetings, you get to vote. Members are also able to run for elected positions in the chapter, and be elected as delegates to the national convention. This is also true of certain committees, dues-paying members are empowered to vote on key decisions, and serve as committee chairs or stewards.

What kinds of activities do dues fund?

Dues pay the bills—they “keep the lights on” so to speak. For national, the biggest expenditure goes towards paying the national staff, some of the loveliest and hardest working people you’ll ever meet. The second biggest expense is organizing and education. Local dues go toward our rent for meeting spaces, and funding our regular activities such as our brake lights clinic. New projects and initiatives proposed and adopted by the general membership are funded with local dues, and membership may also vote to send money to solidarity and relief funds- for example, in April 2018 the general membership pledged $250 in support of teachers on strike in Oklahoma.