Convention

Build will endorse an array of proposals for the 2019 National Convention. So far, we’ve endorsed two proposals:

  • Pass the Hat

  • Just Cause for All DSA Staff

 

Pass the Hat

Proposed Addition to Article II of DSA National Bylaws: Require that
National Pays Stipends to Locals

Section 7.

In addition to any procedures determined for the sharing of dues, the National Organization shall pay a standard monthly or quarterly stipend to each Local, whether or not incorporated as a separate entity, that (1) has a valid bank or credit union account into which the stipend can be deposited; and (2) regularly provides the National Organization with updated contact information for the Local and its leadership. Locals may use their stipends for any lawful purpose in their sole discretion, with the exception of electoral contributions or expenditures implicating campaign finance requirements.

The standard stipend shall be no less than $100 per month if paid monthly or $300 per quarter if paid quarterly. The standard stipend may be adjusted upward by the NPC, but shall always be the same for all Locals receiving it.


Co-authors:

  • Erika P, Lincoln

  • Jennifer B, San Francisco

  • Tawny T, NYC

  • Zac E, Red River Valley

Sponsors:

Join Build to help us work on and review other resolutions for Convention.

Why Are We Proposing This?

Pass the Hat: We Must Invest in Our Chapters in Order to Grow

  • We have to invest material resources in chapters if we want to see our membership grow. $100/month would allow chapters across the country to do the following, without requiring overtaxed core organizers to spend their own money footing the bill:

    • Rent safe, inclusive meeting spaces

    • Provide transportation to members traveling for regional meetings and events

    • Provide food and snacks for meetings and new member orientations

    • Print or purchase t-shirts, flyers, cards, posters, and other propaganda, or purchase buttonmakers and other means of propaganda production

    • Purchase books and print reading materials for political education

    • Much, much more!

  • The baseline $100/mo stipend is a very small portion of the national budget (only $180,000/year if all of the 150 chapters we have now qualify), but is enough to pay some basic chapter expenses without requiring core members in small chapters to foot the bill for everything.


DSA Needs to Better Distribute (and Redistribute) its Resources

  • Socialists should redistribute wealth! This proposal effectively does that by providing funds to chapters, the vast majority of which are small and lack resources.

  • National currently only provides a very small amount of funding to chapters in the form of dues sharing. Chapters lack financial resources for basic needs, like holding meetings, printing literature, funding their efforts. If we expect chapters to do local, regional, and/or national work, they must be funded!

  • Current dues sharing perpetuates disparities between chapter finances. Members pay annual dues by default, but can opt in to monthly dues. National returns a small fraction (20%) of monthly dues to the home chapters of members who opt in to paying monthly dues. This is only approximately $75,000/year across all chapters, and most members paying monthly dues reside in larger, wealthier chapters.

Strengthen Bonds Between Chapters and the National Organization

  • Many chapters are skeptical of National and see little incentive to stay affiliated. We must rebuild faith in the National Organization by creating a real material reason for chapters to stay affiliated and to strengthen bonds with National.

  • Chapters frequently request money for various things, but, too often, chapters that are well-connected to the NPC and National’s staff are the only ones to hear back. This proposal reduces the administrative burden on both chapters and busy staff by providing a (nearly) automated stipend, freeing up staff from the hassle of responding to reimbursement requests.

  • Currently, many members are shifting from paying dues or donations to National to giving directly to their chapters, because they do not believe that money sent to National is used effectively.

FAQ - Some Responses

Concern: How can we afford paying up to $180,000/year on this? Shouldn’t we spend it on national campaigns voted on by the membership?

Answer: Many chapters can’t even commit meaningfully to working on national priorities because they lack the funding to do so. This stipend helps us facilitate more and better work on priorities campaigns.

Another Answer: $180,000 is about the same as what National recently voted to spend on CRM and VAN access through The Movement Cooperative, a purchase that many chapters will not effectively be able to use unless they already have the infrastructure to run intensive, data-oriented campaigns.

One More Answer: This is an investment that will pay for itself over time. If our small chapters have the resources so they can focus on organizing instead of scraping by just to fund meeting spaces and purchases of basic needs such as shirts, buttons, and other propaganda, they will bring in more members. More members = more dues!

Concern: Larger chapters don’t need stipends, shouldn’t we just give them chapters with fewer members?

Answer: As socialists, we should be promoting universal benefits in all of our work. By universally giving each chapter $100/month, we remove unnecessary administrative work of seeing if a chapter meets criteria for the stipend, and get the money to chapters quicker. Plus, it goes without saying that not all larger chapters are well-off, and in any case they should be supported too!


Concern: How can we give stipends to unincorporated chapters? Isn't that a huge legal risk? Would national be sending money to members’ personal bank accounts if the chapter is unincorporated?

Answer: Chapters would need to have a bank or credit union account in their own name to qualify. Stipends would not be paid to individual members. Unincorporated associations that are not separate 501c4-registered entities can often get bank accounts, but it does depend on the particular state and financial institution. The point is to pay the stipend to any chapter that does have a valid bank account in its own name, not to force chapters to incorporate if they don't need to. However, depending on state law and local financial institution policies, some chapters may need to incorporate to take advantage of the stipend.


Concern: Why can't chapters use the stipend for electoral expenses? Isn't that unfair?

Answer: Electoral expenses are unique because they often come with very complicated campaign finance law requirements. The stipend may not be used for any electoral expenses that could create additional legal obligations for the national organization.

Concern: Why is this a bylaw and not a resolution, isn't it wrong to tie National's hands?

Answer: The stipend would be a new program, different from dues sharing, so it needs its own section in the bylaws.

Another Answer: There needs to be a mandatory baseline for providing chapter support that National is required to follow. As we've seen with the passed-but-unfulfilled Bail Fund resolution from the 2017 convention, which instructed National to create a bail fund to support members arrested during direct actions, the National Organization and the NPC sometimes simply ignore resolutions. This proposal builds in flexibility for the NPC to increase the stipend later if it would be helpful, but the $100/month or $300/quarter baseline needs be codified to ensure a minimal level of chapter support.

Concern: Didn’t the NPC vote against co-sponsoring this amendment?

Answer: Yes they did. There is broad support for this and we wanted to give national leaders a chance to join us.. Members getting to vote on this bylaws resolution is the next step, and we hope you'll agree that passing the hat benefits all of us. Vote yes to pass the hat, and come build with us.

 

Just Cause for All DSA Staff

Proposed Addition to Article VIII of DSA National Bylaws

Section 8.

The NPC shall be responsible for hiring and discharging staff as necessary, except as modified by relevant provisions of any collective bargaining agreements. Non-supervisory employees may not be discharged without just cause.

Why Is Build Endorsing Just Cause?

Our Staff Aren’t Disposable

  • Our staff are our comrades, and they’re not disposable.

  • National staff work hard to support our organization’s mission to build a socialist future. They help expand the horizons of what’s possible, and they deserve job protections.

  • DSA chapters advocate for just cause in campaigns across the country, but some of our own staff don’t have those protections. We need to practice what we preach.

FAQ - Some Responses

Question: What’s “just cause”?

Answer: “Just cause” means an employer needs good reason to discipline or fire an employee.  In the United States, almost all employees are “at-will” – meaning they can be fired at any time, for any reason. It doesn’t mean that staff can’t be disciplined or fired, just that reasons need to be justifiable and related to work performance.

Question: Doesn’t DSA have a staff union?

Answer: Yes, DSA staff have a union! DSA’s collective bargaining agreement with the Washington-Baltimore News Guild (the union representing staff) even includes just cause. However, just cause in the contract explicitly does not apply to “probationary” employees. Probationary periods can extend from three months to six months, depending on the discretion of the National Director. During that time, DSA reserves “unlimited right to discipline or discharge the employee, and such discipline or discharge shall not be subject to the grievance procedure[.]”

Question: Doesn’t DSA need flexibility to figure out if staff are a good fit?

Answer: Management always wants “flexibility,” which just means that they want to call the shots. In reality, just cause doesn’t restrict management from discipling or firing an employee for chronic poor job performance. It just means they can’t fire an employee arbitrarily.