By Erin N

February’s Citywide Leadership Committee (CLC) meeting proved to be filled with lively, thoughtful debate on several topics from the Bernie 2020 campaign to internal matters like hiring staff.

The meeting started with members going over the consent agenda, which included a new iteration of a conflicts of interest proposal after one was voted down at the previous CLC meeting, as well as amendments to the grievance policy. A report was also given on our healthcare priority campaign including on the new structure as its own citywide body and strategy to win passage of the NY Health Act this term.

Making Bernie 2020 a Priority Campaign in the Event of an Endorsement

Members then dived into debate over making Bernie 2020 a priority campaign in the event National DSA endorses the Democratic Socialist candidate. The proposal included a field operation plan for canvassing and other activities to support the Bernie campaign.

The vigorous debate sparked a wide range of views from CLC delegates. Authors and supporters stated that this is a great opportunity to bring people to socialism and build DSA. While the proposal was not technically a question of endorsement, the debate quickly turned to the merits of Bernie and his campaign. Supporters pointed out that Bernie is aligned with us on most issues and his win would have material improvements on the lives of the working class. Opponents of the proposal warned that the Democratic Party is a capitalist party that will co-opt progressive movements for their own gain, and an endorsement of a candidate on the Democratic line would only help the Democratic Party. Those wary of the proposal also pointed to Bernie’s position on SESTA/FOSTA, abolishing ICE, and other issues where he is not aligned with DSA.

Before voting on the proposal as a whole, delegates debated amendments to the proposal that were not previously taken as friendly. The first one on the table was an amendment to include outreach to people of color. The most controversial aspect of this amendment was the first clause requiring two Spanish language coordinators. Delegates expressed concern at making it a requirement and pointed out that this has never been a requirement in the past. A delegate also raised concerns that the coordinator role could be a labor burden on the Spanish speakers who may already have a lot of demands from the chapter on their Spanish language skills. Supporters of the amendment stated that it was time we held ourselves accountable by making this a requirement. The author of the amendment pointed out that the logistical burdens of planning the Spanish canvasses did not have to be done by a Spanish speaker and additionally we now have more resources to accomplish this, including a new NYC DSA translation team, as well as our own simultaneous translation equipment.

Ultimately, an amendment was made on the floor and passed changing the language of the amendment so that the two Spanish language coordinators were not a requirement, but rather a goal, in addition to including all non-English languages. Thereafter the amendment as a whole passed.

The second amendment sought to engage delegates in a debate as to whether the priority of the Bernie 2020 campaign was to grow DSA’s base or win the election. The author expressed concern that a field operation focused on winning, rather than base building could neglect black and brown neighborhoods with low voter turnout. Ultimately, the amendment did not pass, but another proposal was brought to the floor to include both the goals of base building and winning the election as the primary aims of the proposal.

The final amendment sought to explore areas of disagreement with the Bernie campaign. The authors of the amendment sought to illuminate areas of divergence between the Bernie campaign and DSA, including Bernie’s support for SESTA/FOSTA, his position on the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions Movement, and his position on abolishing ICE. Opponents of the amendment had varying views, some stating that we should not fool ourselves into believing that we could have any sway with the Bernie campaign, while others expressed concern that it encouraged bird dogging. Supporters felt strongly that we need to make our position on these issues clear. The amendment as written was voted down, but after the proposal was passed, a motion was made from the floor to direct the Steering Committee to write a letter expressing NYC-DSA’s political difference from the Sanders campaign. That motion passed.

The Policy Platform

After an active Bernie debate, the mood of the agenda mellowed with a noncontroversial proposal on the process for creating a Policy Platform. Delegates stated that this would be helpful in the endorsement process for political candidates, as well as provide clear political stances to our membership and potential members. The proposal passed unanimously.

Hiring Staff

Delegates returned after refueling over lunch to a hotly contested issue, whether or not we should hire a staff member for the chapter. The author of the proposal stated that the cost of hiring and maintaining a staff member for a year would cost approximately $57,000 for a part time employee and $66,000 for a full time employee. Meanwhile, based on this past years fundraisers, as well as monthly dues and shared dues from National DSA, the chapter’s annual revenue is roughly $72,000.

While most delegates agreed that hiring staff was not necessarily a bad idea, there were differing opinions as to whether now was the right time or if this was the best way to go about doing it. Arguments for the proposal included: many socialist organizations have paid staff; more can be accomplished with a person dedicated to DSA work as a day job; and that it can increase our fundraising potential.  A delegate also stated that paid staff could enable more working class people and/or parents to take on leadership roles by decreasing the amount of free labor input demanded of leadership.

Opponents of the proposal also had several reasons to vote against it. A predominant concern was a lack of clarity and depth of the job description. In addition, multiple delegates pointed out that promises were made to do a participatory budget. Additional concerns included that no broad assessment of the chapter’s financial needs had taken place before allocating such a large amount of the budget to hiring the staff. Another delegate also stated that we have untapped volunteer potential that we should utilize first.

Ultimately, the proposal passed with an amendment from the floor to develop a better job description in an ad-hoc committee of the CLC.

Working Group Census

Delegates then considered a less controversial proposal that would provide for a working group census to help create a more coherent and holistic strategy among the chapter’s campaigns, as well as provide a means to dissolve working groups who were functioning undemocratically and/or improperly.

One delegate provided an amendment on the floor, taken as friendly by the author, to clarify the language and criteria of dissolving a working group. After a short debate, the proposal passed with the vast majority of the delegates voting yes.

The Endorsement of Tiffany Caban for District Attorney of Queens

The CLC was put to the test at this meeting, as delegates had to consider a candidate endorsement unlike any previous endorsement. For the first time the chapter was deciding whether or not to support a prosecutor. The debate boiled down to supporters promoting the great potential for harm reduction in the immediate future, while others opposed the idea of supporting a prosecutor because, like cops, they are part of the law enforcement apparatus of the state. Ultimately, the CLC voted to endorse Tiffany Cabán. For a more robust summation of the debate please see the Red Letter’s Point and Counterpoint.

Citywide Priority Campaign to Stop Amazon’s HQ2

In an uncontroversial final debate, delegates passed a resolution to make a citywide priority out of stopping Amazon HQ2 from establishing itself in Queens. The proposal passed unanimously with delegates agreeing that the campaign touched on many issues that the chapter works on including housing, labor, and immigration. Delegates also recognized that membership was really excited to work on this issue.  They must have heard we were coming for them because the next week Amazon announced it was pulling out of negotiations. Today, we can say of this campaign: mission accomplished!

There will be one more CLC meeting before the next city-wide convention. Lookout for a notice from the Steering Committee. Any member in good standing is welcome to attend as an observer.

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