Amendments to the Grievance Policy

By The Interim Grievance Committee

We all want a safer space within the NYC-DSA. With that goal in mind, the NYC-DSA Grievance Committee was formed under a resolution passed at the NYC-DSA CLC meeting in November of 2017, which established the Grievance Committee (GC) and a high level outline of or policies, procedures, and responsibilities. Since then, the GC has been hard at work crafting more detailed procedures to investigate grievances, allow transparency, and create trainings for Grievance Officers (GOs) and Peer Mediators. Our goal is to help create a safer space within NYC-DSA.

While the current process is a good foundation, it is evolving and needs refinements. With a few proposed amendments, which will be discussed and voted on at the upcoming CLC meeting, we’re seeking to streamline inconsistencies regarding GC numbers, geographic representation, and gender representation; bring the NYC-DSA grievance policy in line with the national organization’s requirements; and make minor changes to the harassment policy.

Clarify the minimum number of Grievance Committee members

The grievance policy as passed by our chapter last November had a few inconsistencies with regards to how many people should be on the GC, how many branches must be represented, etc. We’ve streamlined this to require a minimum of 12 GOs from three geographic branches and two boroughs. While we don’t think this is ideal and will be striving for representation from all boroughs and branches, we do accept this as a feasible minimum standard to operate under. We’re pretty sure 12 GOs is a low estimate for needed capacity.

We’re also seeking to remove the Steering Committee (SC) Liaison from being a member of the Grievance Committee. At the moment, the SC liaison is a SC member who is the primary contact with whom Grievance Officers communicate. This has worked out decently thus far, and has kept our communication streamlined. However, the way the policy is written suggests that the SC liaison would be an SC member actually on the Grievance Committee. While the SC should have oversight over the GC, having a SC member on the GC is neither appropriate nor feasible.  

It is the SC that  makes the final decisions on grievances, so it’s vital that the Grievance Committee act as an independent body from the SC to prevent conflicts of interest (or even appearances of conflict).  Additionally, the GC requires a lot of meetings and work (especially now, as we ramp up capacity, procedures, and training). The liaison would be hard pressed for time to participate on the GC on top of their SC responsibilities (GOs can not be on OCs for the same reason).

Clarify the gender requirement for Grievance Officer

As written, the current policy uses several terms to identify gender: sometimes it says “not-male identified,” other times “women / femme” which are not the the same, despite a lot of overlap. The spirit of this rule is that members can request a “non-male” GO, which would definitely include our non-binary comrades. The change we’ve made reflects this to consistently say “not male,” which we find to be both more specific and more inclusive. We also remove the word “identified” as it is unnecessary (anyone who identifies as a man is a man, and there’s no need to specify a distinction). We intentionally specified “not men” instead of “not cis-men” for the same reason: anyone who identifies as a man is a man. Trans men are men, just as trans women are women, and all gender requirements are equally applied regardless whether a person is cis or trans.

Lastly, we used this amendment to formally allow the GC to structure itself. We’re currently working on structures that will allow for greater capacity, flexibility for GOs, and work to prevent GO burnout. We are still in the process of developing those structures and we want the CLC to formally approve our ability to change our own internal structures.

That said, it is critical that the GC is transparent and that the SC has oversight over the GC, so the amendment specifies that the SC is informed of any GC structural changes and can veto them. Moreover the amendment stipulates that the structure, whatever form it takes, is publically accessible for membership.

Add term limits for Grievance Officers

In order to the national requirement of Grievance Officer term limits, we’ve set a limit of three years which can be renewed with a vote by the SC. The time commitment, requirements, and area of work the GC requires will make it hard enough to retain GOs. We don’t want to add a massive wave of turnover three years from now, if we can help it.

Harassment Policy Update

This update is to ensure the harassment policy is explicit about what is considered harassment, and the circumstances under which  a grievance could / should be filed. This change will also state what locations / spaces the harassment policy covers; i.e., all of them: cyberspace, in person, social media, email, and everything in between.

We want the policy to be very clear as to what sort of non-consensual touching is permitted: none. The original policy prohibited “non-consensual sexual touching,”and this needs additional language so that there are no mistakes: all non-consensual touch is a violation of the harassment policy.

This is important! Our bodies and our body autonomy are sacrosanct. Each of us has an absolute right to decide who may physically interact with our bodies; everything from a hug to an intimate encounter is only permissible with consent. Consent can be revoked at any time, for any reason, and there are a lot of forms of physical touch that are not covered under “sexual touching.” The proposed additional language is necessary if NYC DSA is to develop into a safer space.

Long Story Short

The NYC DSA Interim Grievance Committee is dedicated to helping to make this organization a safer space for organizing and have proposed the above changes to that end. This process is iterative, and we’ll likely be proposing more changes in future CLC meetings, but for now this is a good start on refining the process.

If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at