CB33 - Assembly of Locals

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Build endorses C/B Change #33 - Assembly of Locals.

DSA was never structured to be an organization of this size, or with this many vibrant local chapters. We need a National that directly represents the locals, and that brings members into the decision-making and the work: an Assembly of Locals.

Read the amendment here.

Why Is Build Endorsing “Assembly of Locals”?

Listen to the Locals.

  • We must develop radical democracy by practicing it.

  • DSA should be governed by the membership, and national leaders should be directly accountable to their local chapter.

  • This proposal would transfer political and organizing responsibilities to a new body, the Assembly of Locals, composed of delegates from chapters; and focus the NPC (now simply called the Board) on core administrative and fiduciary responsibilities.

  • The Assembly would facilitate new ways for members to participate democratically: 100 members of DSA would be able to petition the Assembly and be guaranteed a vote on their proposal, and all Assembly delegates are subject to recall by their chapter.

A participatory National.

  • We need a National that’s not just “responsive” to membership but is membership.

  • There’s been a lot of amendment proposals that try to provide more oversight on the NPC, or put checks on its power. That’s an important conversation to have—but the problem isn’t just that the NPC has too much power, but that it has too many responsibilities. We hope to free DSA from current bottlenecks by distributing responsibility to more people along clear lines.

  • Day-to-day, Assembly delegates would work in more focused committees, including: Local Chapter Support, Training and Education, Media, Publications, and Ombuds.

  • We need to bridge the gap between local work and the national organization. National feels remote or irrelevant to many members and chapters. We want to fix that structural flaw.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Concern: How is the Assembly going to get work done? Hundreds of people on a Zoom call is a bit much, even for DSA. How many people need to be involved in every little decision?

Answer: We do love conference calls, but for large groups they’re not the best way to talk things through or make decisions. That’s why Assembly delegates will vote asynchronously on Loomio or a similar platform. Most of their discussions could happen on our official forums.

Another Answer: The amendment requires a democratic and inclusive process for making motions (including by petition from members), debating them, proposing alternatives, and taking votes.

Another Answer: Almost all of the work and decisions would happen in democratically-elected committees. There wouldn’t be a lot of pressure on the whole Assembly.

Concern: I’m from a small chapter. We’re plenty busy with our local work, putting on meetings, and bringing people into DSA. Will we be able to participate in the Assembly? Why should I vote yes on AOL?

Answer: The Assembly is designed to work for different levels and kinds of involvement from delegates. Some delegates will opt to run for standing committees, others will be very active in deliberation, and others will mostly participate in liaising with their chapter and participating in votes. Small chapters also have the option of designating another small chapter as their proxy (which they may rescind at any time).

Another Answer: We need to create a direct line from chapters to National - especially for small chapters. This proposal would close the gap between the local and the national and create opportunities for cross-chapter collaboration. National could do so much more to support small chapters - the best way to get there is for small chapters to be able to be part of the decision-making.

Concern: I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but structural changes are the wrong solution. We need the right leaders on the NPC.

Answer: While we do want to be able to feel confidence in the NPC (or the Board, as it would be called under this proposal), no small group of individuals is well-placed to represent all chapters. There’s also just too much work at the national level for the NPC to do it all. The Assembly would involve all chapters in decision-making, and create a democratic way to delegate the work.

Concern: National DSA is the wrong site of change—what we really need to focus on is state and regional structures to connect members to one another.

Answer: The Assembly can happily co-exist with state or regional structures. This proposal is narrowly tailored to give chapters a voice in National, while leaving flexibility at the state and regional level. Some states may opt to have delegates serve dual roles, but this proposal tries to avoid being too prescriptive.

Another Answer: While the Assembly is designed to be mostly separate from state and regional levels, we believe it will help foster cross-chapter connections and help make DSA more than the sum of its parts—at all levels of the organization.

Concern: This is too much too fast. Is there some way we can phase in the Assembly? Maybe we could make it an advisory body for the first two years.

Answer: It’s true that this is a significant change to the way DSA is run, but we wouldn’t be rushing into it. The proposal includes an 8-month transition period to ensure the last NPC has time to communicate the change, and members have time to organize for the first delegate election.

Another Answer: An advisory Assembly would not work, because chapters would not have a reason to participate. The history of (Y)DSA is littered with advisory bodies gone defunct.

Concern: Is the Assembly apportionment fair to everyone? Do large chapters get a fair say? How can small chapters have a voice? Are at-large members and YDSA members represented?

Answer: Chapter delegate apportionment is identical to the system we use for National Conventions: chapters are represented proportionally, but every chapter gets at least one seat. At-large members elect delegates as if they were in a set of chapters. YDSA is apportioned 10% of seats. We believe that this system will feel familiar, fair, and inclusive.

Concern: Can we really rely on a distinction between political and administrative/fiduciary duties between the Assembly and the Board? Budgets, chartering new chapters, and any administrative duty you can think of all have political implications. Does this mean the Board has political power anyway?

Answer: It’s true that a clear line can’t be drawn. That’s why the proposal provides detail on how key questions like budgeting get handled. However, the distinction is useful in carving out a narrow set of work for the Board. The Board, in turn, can be held accountable by powerful oversight mechanisms available to the Assembly.