Chapter Update: Detroit

Last year was busy for Detroit DSA. When hotel workers at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel went on strike in downtown Detroit, DSA members were there on the picket lines. We turned out over 30 members for the first public solidarity rally. Detroit DSA members joined the picket line throughout the strike, stopping in whenever they could—on lunch breaks and after work. The hotel workers were victorious, and ratified a new contract on November 3rd that raises wages by 20 percent over the next four years.

We recently published the first issue of our newspaper, The Detroit Socialist. The paper, which is both in print and online, includes a wide variety of articles on our recent activities. There are also great essays from Detroit DSA members about why they joined DSA. The paper includes a print-only kids page written by one of our younger comrades.

Our Medicare for All working group led canvassing efforts to drum up efforts to pressure our legislators to support Medicare for All. Hours after the November election, our Governor-Elect Gretchen Whitmer appointed Dan Loep, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield Michigan to her transition team. Detroit DSA has circulated a petition calling for his removal, our members have been calling the transition office and protesting in Lansing.

We’ve undertaken a number of efforts to educate our members about socialism. Our Socialist Night School has been a huge success, and has covered a number of topics including labor, electoral politics, and anti-racism. We also have a reading group that meets twice a month, which focuses on book-length readings. Recently, they have been reading Women and Socialism by Sharon Smith.

At our last meeting, we had a lively discussion about what role we as socialists should play in electoral politics. We were, of course, very excited to see our endorsed candidate (and DSA member!) Rashida Tlaib win in the 13th congressional district. Our members also worked for Padma Kuppa, who won in Michigan’s 41st house district, which had previously been held by a Republican.

Our socialist feminist group continues with monthly clinic escorting, and they have started a drive to collect menstrual pads for homeless women. Earlier in 2018 we did our first bowl-a-thon for abortion access, which was hopefully the start of an annual tradition.

We held a brake light clinic on the first Saturday of November in Pontiac. Our members braved the cold and were able to change the brake lights on 14 vehicles. Our Medicare for All working group joined the effort and tabled at the clinic, talking to people about the need for universal healthcare.

Great things are happening in Detroit DSA, and we hope to do even more in 2019.

Chapter Update: St. Louis

St. Louis rechartered its local DSA chapter in early 2017, and in the year since we’ve been actively engaged in a number of different statewide and St. Louis-specific campaigns. In all of these, we strive to uphold the goals and values of our local chapter and the DSA organization: delivering meaningful material improvements that help build our organizing capacity, fighting back against corporate dominance of the political agenda, and building powerful coalitions of the working class.

In August we scored a major victory with the repeal of Missouri’s Right to Work law. Experience teaches us that states which enact Right to Work see marked declines in salaries, benefits, and the ability to organize; this repeal reverses a serious threat to workers’ rights throughout the state. In the lead-up to the repeal initiative, St. Louis DSA hosted a voter registration drive and a rally with local union, community, and political leaders speaking on the dangers of Right to Work laws. We had members canvassing and phonebanking to ensure Right to Work was soundly defeated at the polls.

Looking forward, there are two other statewide initiatives we have been supporting since their early stages. The CLEAN Act is a state constitutional amendment that includes much-needed campaign finance, election, and lobbying reforms. In addition to bringing candidate donation limits more in line with federal standards (there is no limit under current Missouri law), it radically limits lobbyist donations, closes loopholes that allow big money donors to hide in shell corporations, and moves congressional redistricting authority to a non-partisan board in an attempt to reduce gerrymandering. There is also an initiative to increase the statewide minimum wage to $12 an hour—important not only for the increase in compensation for thousands of workers across Missouri, but also as pushback against a state legislature that has overturned municipal attempts to set their own minimum wage.

On the local level, we are engaged in a two-pronged effort to fight our city’s increasing trends toward neoliberalization and gentrification. First, we are involved in the organizing coalition behind the STL: Not For Sale campaign that is combatting local attempts to privatize our airport. Instead of letting a small group of developer-friendly politicians decide the fate of our municipal assets, our strategy is to let the voters determine the future of our shared public resources. While the airport is the first staging ground, our hope is to build a strong coalition able to resist future attempts to gut other utilities, such as water, sanitation, or parking. Finally, in conjunction with local community organizations and other leftist organizers—and under the umbrella of the national Homes for All coalition—we have started working with tenants and residents to stand up and fight against predatory landlords, developers, and outside investors that are working to shape our communities without our input.

There is an adage that “action is the oxygen of an organization.” While we agree that practice is important for any meaningful socialist organizing, we also recognize the importance of making sure our values are articulated clearly in all of our work. This mutual relationship between actions and values is the strongest basis for building working class power and a socialist future.