Update: Chicago DSA’s Labor Working Group

Chicago DSA’s Labor Working Group has had a busy winter. We’ve walked the picket line with striking workers, hosted a Workers Town Hall and Labor 101, and met monthly to discuss developments in the labor movement and how DSA can be involved. We strive to bring an analysis of how to leverage the power of the working class as workers to all Chicago DSA campaigns, including Lift the Ban, Medicare for All, and Democratize ComEd.

In the fall of 2018, our six-person steering committee developed a focus on three overlapping goals: organizing regular educational events that cover the history and politics of the labor movement as well as focused meetings for workers in particular industries, developing DSA members as rank-and-file activists at their workplaces, and supporting workers in Chicago who are organizing a union or on strike.

Chicago DSA includes workers in many types of occupations and industries, including some members who belong to unions and many at unorganized workplaces. A long-term goal of our Working Group is to develop our members into skilled rank-and-file labor activists who can participate in or lead organizing drives for new unions, or forming rank-and-file caucuses in their existing unions to transform them into more democratic, militant, and class-conscious organizations. A first step in this direction is a survey to find out more about where Chicago DSA members are working and which comrades are interested in workplace and union organizing. Even if you haven’t yet been involved in the Labor Working Group, we invite you to participate in this survey.

The Working Group has a permanent Strike and Solidarity committee to coordinate our activity supporting workers who go on strike: communicating with the union, inviting striking workers to talk about the issues of the strike, adopting picket lines to focus Chicago DSA support, and developing lasting relationships with the rank and file union members. In September, Chicago DSA had strong presence in the citywide UNITE HERE strike of hotel workers—the management at several hotels met union demands almost as quickly as we could adopt a picket line to support. In November, we supported Licensed Practical Nurses organized in the Illinois Nurses Association who went on strike at UIC.

In December, Chicago DSA supported the historic four-day Chicago Teachers’ Union strike at Acero, the first ever strike of charter teachers. Following the victory at Acero, CTU members at Chicago International Charter Schools struck for nine days before settling a contract. DSA members were on the lines throughout the bitterly cold mornings of early February.

Chicago DSA has also been active supporting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians’ strike and the UIC grad students strike. Our local committee is also working with the Democratic Socialist Labor Commission and comrades in other chapters to create a DSA strike solidarity manual. With more strikes on the horizon, we encourage all friends of labor to sign up for Chicago DSA strike support updates, or even get trained as a DSA picket captain by texting SOLIDARITY to 55522.

Our own union activist members and connections we’ve made in strike solidarity were highlighted at the first educational event of 2019, a Workers Town Hall. Attendees packed the Q4 event space to listen to first-person stories of worker organizing from the past year, including DSA members and workers we’d met on the picket lines. In March, we held our first Labor 101 of the year in Rogers Park. The curriculum covered introductory concepts of class struggle, labor history, the current shape of organized labor, and some of the nuts and bolts of union organizing.

The Labor Working Group welcomes new comrades to join in all of these exciting activities. You can find us at our regular meetings at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday of each month at the UE Hall (37 S. Ashland), or by emailing the co-chairs at Labor at chicagodsa.org.