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 Build endorses Resolution #68: A New Operation Dixie

Text of Resolved clauses:

Resolved, that the 2019 Convention of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) calls on rank-and-file union members and leaders in DSA to organize within their labor unions to prioritize a new “Operation Dixie” to organize the South, defined as the states of the former Confederacy, and therefore be it

Resolved, that the 2019 Convention directs the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission to, in developing the capacity of all chapters to engage in self-sustaining labor organizing, further prioritize developing the self-sustaining capacity of Southern chapters, where such development is needed, based on proven models of success, and therefore be it

Resolved, that the 2019 Convention encourages Southern chapters to engage with existing unions, organize unorganized workplaces, and engage in strike and campaign solidarity where possible, and therefore be it

Resolved, that the 2019 Convention directs the DSLC to ensure that all chapters in the South are provided with the opportunity for in-depth training on workplace organizing by August of 2020.

Why Is Build Endorsing Resolution 68?

Pass the Hat:

  • The most exciting part of DSA’s explosive growth is that socialist organizing is now happening in places where it hasn’t consistently materialized in generations.

  • This includes the South, where chapters are struggling to keep good organizers attached to their work.

  • We need to foster strong campaigns that build a durable political infrastructure for future struggles

Fight exploitation, fight white supremacy, fight patriarchy:

  • The history of the South is one of a brutal white supremacist power structure holding down working people (especially people of color, and especially Black people). The violent hostility the children of the planter class have against labor organizing is a reflection of that.

  • This is because labor organizing has proven to be a venue for antiracist organizing from the Civil War onward. Unionists in the South didn’t just take up the struggle against their bosses, but also took on the entrenched bigotry of Jim Crow—and frequently paid the price for it.

  • Now, it’s our obligation to try and break reaction’s grip on the South, the way the Populists, CPUSA, the CIO, and the Civil Rights Movement struggled in generations past.

One foot in the institutions, one foot in the streets:

  • Labor organizing will inevitably require DSA members who engage in this work to take to the streets while having to meaningfully engage with institutional power.

  • Tactics like lobbying state legislatures for a higher minimum wage will sit side by side with supporting illegal strikes, and that’s a good thing.

  • As we help to grow more unions in the South, these victories will open up more spaces and resources for other struggles down the line.

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

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Does DSA have the capacity to organize new unions?

Answer: We think it does, and we think there’s a huge appetite for workplace organizing across DSA, but especially in the South. For instance, there’s a strong presence of the Tech Workers Coalition and of Game Workers United in and around Raleigh and Durham in North Carolina, with several DSA members involved in both. One DSA member in the area even organized the company he worked for into transitioning from being a common stock corporation to being a worker co-operative. Rather than developing ad-hoc guides and structures to shape this work on a chapter by chapter basis, there should be a constructive process to develop capacity and spread useful materials across all Southern chapters.

Question: Why should the South receive priority over other parts of the country?

Answer: Every part of the country sucks for working people. That’s a fact. The South, though, serves as a semi-permanent cudgel against working people elsewhere, as companies constantly threaten to relocate to Southern states for the ‘better regulatory climate’. The South’s historic hostility to unions is also weaponized against unions elsewhere, as evidenced by Boeing’s attacks on IAMAW and SPEEA by relocating work from Renton, WA to Charleston, SC.

The South is also a waystation towards offshoring of manufacturing jobs. The textile industry is perhaps the best example of this, as it came to being in the Northeast, moved south after the mills unionized, and then moved offshore to countries like Bangladesh, which have textile workers employed in unsafe and dangerous factories for pittance wages. Blocking that pathway of capital mobility would be part of a broader attack against exploitative bosses and predatory foreign policy that makes unsafe working conditions in poorer countries appealing to foreign investment.

Question: There isn’t much labor organizing going on in the South. Why should we work dead turf?

Answer: Chapter 5 of No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age by Jane McAlevey discusses UFCW’s hard-fought victory at Smithfield Foods in North Carolina. That victory has transformed the lives of thousands of workers in rural NC. IAMAW has won a string of victories at Swedwood, a subsidiary of IKEA, that started in Danville, VA in 2011. In 2017, UFCW overwhelmingly won a union election and a first contract at Lipton in Suffolk, VA. Just this past winter, grad educators at UNC-Chapel Hill undertook a wildcat strike action and forced the administration to abolish student fees as part of a broader push against the far right ideologues in charge of the university. UCW-CWA successfully fought off an attempt by Tennessee’s governor to privatize the university in secret. There have been major protests in defense of public education across the South. Some of which have materialized in one-day marches, like in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia; others of which have culminated in strike actions, like in Kentucky.

If you think there is nothing going on in the South with labor, you are not paying attention.

By Bryan C. - NC Piedmont DSA