Frequently Asked Questions about New Orleans DSA
What is DSA?
The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) is the largest socialist organization in the United States. DSA’s members are building progressive movements for social change while establishing an openly democratic socialist presence in American communities and politics. We are socialists because we believe that work and the economy should be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create products, not for the profit of the bosses. We struggle for a socialist, feminist, and anti-racist transformation of our society for the benefit of the many, not the few.
How do I become an official member of DSA?
- Go to https://dsausa.org/join and fill out the form.
- You can sign up and pay dues on a monthly, annual or lifetime basis.
- Standard national dues are $15 per month or $5 for low income folks. Dues can be waived for financial hardship.
- If you sign up for monthly dues, the chapter gets a share of your money!
- You must be a dues paying member of DSA to vote in chapter elections and for political resolutions at the annual convention.
How (and why) do I pay local dues?
- Separate from National dues, we also have voluntary local dues. With local dues, 100% of your dues money belongs to the local chapter, and is used how we see fit, collectively. Just like a labor union, we are supported by dues-paying members, which means that we are accountable to ourselves, rather than large foundations or grant money. This gives us autonomy.
- Here is the link for local monthly donations.
- Here is the link for local non-recurring donations.
What do local dues pay for?
- Local dues go toward our rent for office and meeting spaces.
- Local dues go funding our regular chapter activities such as our brake lights clinic.
- New projects and initiatives proposed and adopted by the general membership
- Membership may also vote to send money to solidarity and relief funds- for example, in April 2018 the general membership pledged $250 in support of teachers on strike in Oklahoma.
How do I figure out where to post on Slack?
- You can see which channels exist in the “Channel Browser”
- A few important channels for all members are #announcements (automated with Google Calendar), #discussion (biggest channel, try to only post information critical for all members to know there), #help-me-comrade (ride shares, mutual aid, or even questions about “where should I post this?), #social-socialists (official and unofficial parties, get-togethers, and whatnot)
- #charnel is our “random”, anything-goes channel. Memes, chatter, shooting the shit.
- Committee channels; #direct-service-committee, #health-justice-committee, #worker-power-louisiana, #municipal-action-committee, #entergy-campaign, #comms, #membership-admin-group
- Please remember that Slack is a semi-public space and not private or secure.
How do I find out about meetings?
- You can find our full calendar on our website.
- Meeting reminders, agendas, and minutes will also be posted in the appropriate channels for any committee or working group.
- You can get weekly email updates on chapter news, projects, and campaigns by filling out the form in the Join section.
What happens at a committee meeting?
- Committee and admin/campaign/working group meetings are where most of the work of the chapter happens
- Agendas are usually posted in the slack channel the day before a meeting
- Every committee and group has a different way of arranging their meetings
- Discussion might include planning for upcoming events, discussion of strategy, and voting on actions.
What happens at a Local Council (LC) meeting?
- Local Council meetings are where Chapter administrative decisions get made.
- Local Council meetings are open to all dues paying members.
- LC Meetings are held monthly, and agendas are usually posted in the slack channel the day before a meeting. Join the #local-council channel so you don’t miss anything.
- Committee, admin group, and campaign group stewards report on ongoing activities, events, organizing, etc.
- New business is voted on, including resolutions that will go before the general membership.
What happens at a General Meeting?
General Meetings are our monthly chapter-wide meeting of members. The General Meeting is the highest decision-making body in the Chapter, and where we make all our most important decisions together, democratically. If you can only attend one chapter event a month, make it this one!
At General Meetings we’ll also hear updates from our various organizing efforts, and usually include political education or debate. Every month we’ll also take up formal business, which is when we discuss, vote, and make collective decisions about the political work we are doing. During these sections we operate under Robert's Rules, to ensure we're operating in a way that's democratic and transparent to membership. While only members can vote at General Meetings, the meeting is open to anyone.
What happens at the chapter convention?
- Chapter Convention happens every year in the first six months of the year.
- We’ll vote on chapter officers (Co-chairs, Secretary, Membership Chair, Treasurer, and two At-Large members of Local Council).
- We may take up amendments to our bylaws.
- We may take up electoral endorsements.
- We may take up formal business about the political direction of our chapter in the coming year.
Why do we use Robert's Rules?
- Robert’s Rules allow us to make collective decisions.
- They allow us to do that in a way that respects the minority position on any vote.
- They allow us to do that in a way that respects the majority position on any vote.
- Robert’s Rules are used by many governmental bodies and the DSA National Convention, and using them locally allows members to learn this skill.
- Check out this article from The Socialist Call for more details
How do I learn Robert's Rules?
- We will hold training on Robert’s Rules prior to Local Conventions.
- Prior to the business section of a General Meeting or Special Meeting the Chair will provide a brief overview of how to use Robert’s Rules.
- Here is a brief primer.
- We want everyone to be comfortable- if this is your first time and you have a question in a meeting, raise your hand and ask! The chair will do their best to help.
- The best way is to practice!
What is progressive "stack"?
- We use “one mic” principles, this means if you’d like to speak, raise your hand and the chair or facilitator will recognize you and call on you.
- The facilitator, chair or stack keeper, will keep a list of names of those who’d like to speak (this list is the “stack”).
- Progressive stack means that the facilitator or stack keeper will prioritize people who haven’t spoken, and people from marginalized communities.
- This has the effect of meaning that not everyone may speak in the order they raised their hand or asked to be added to stack, in order to balance the conversation and favor other voices.
How do I start a campaign?
- Find other members who want to do the same thing.
- Research who else in the city or region is working on the issue.
- Write a political resolution and campaign proposal.
- If it falls within a committee or admin/campaign group, and their bylaws require it, vote within the committee or group.
- Present to the Local Council and/or to the General Meeting for a vote!
How do I write a political resolution?
Here’s a resolution writing primer.
How do I get a list for phone banking or canvassing?
- Reach out to your committee steward or the chapter Membership Chair (email@example.com).
- Write a script for your phone bankers. You can find a sample script here.
- You can find best practices on information security for list cutting here.
How do I get something posted on chapter social media?
- Find a committee, admin group, campaign group, or working group that organizes around the statement or event you want to amplify
- Check recent discussion and meeting minutes to see if there has already been a discussion around what you want posted
- If not, have a political discussion and vote on whether to post
- Committee leadership and/or the designated communications contact person will coordinate with the elected Comms officer.
How do I release a statement on behalf of the chapter?
- Ask in Slack if anyone is writing a statement, or wants to help write one.
- Write a statement together.
- Submit your statement to the Local Council for approval if urgent. Per our Bylaws, the Local Council collectively operates as public spokespeople for the Chapter, and can vote to approve public statements.
- If your statement isn't time-sensitive, you may also submit it to the general membership for approval at a General Meeting.
How do I get training to be a better organizer?
- Check the calendar for upcoming training sessions.
- Our Direct Service, Labor, and Healthcare committees also offer resources and are happy to work with you to help organize something you think is missing.
- Other DSA chapters and the National organization also offer trainings, political education calls, and reading groups. Those can usually be found posted on social media, but sometimes in #read_watch_listen in Slack. DSA National lists trainings and events here.
How can I get involved with DSA nationally?
- These are some of the current national committees and their contact information:
- Democratic Socialist Labor Commission (DSLC): firstname.lastname@example.org
- Growth and Diversity Working Group: email@example.com
- Medicare for All: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Housing Justice Commission: email@example.com
- National Electoral Commision: firstname.lastname@example.org
- International Committee: https://international.dsausa.org
- National Tech Committee: https://tech.dsausa.org
Find more about national committees and working groups here: https://www.dsausa.org/get-involved
Who is in chapter leadership?
- You are! DSA’s highest decision-making authority is the general membership.
- Big decisions are voted on by membership at General Meetings, Special Meetings, and our annual convention.
- We also elect a Local Council, which is made up of officers, at-large representatives, and committee, admin group, and campaign group stewards.
- The Local Council governs the day-to-day business of the chapter.
What do At-large Local Council members do?
At-Large members of Local Council serve to coordinate projects that aren’t happening within a specific committee but with the membership as a whole. At-Large members also serve in a supporting role to elected officers (Membership Chair, Co-Chairs, Secretary, Treasurer) and are encouraged to bring a vision or project to the role that they would like to focus on during their time on Local Council.
What is a committee? What about admin and campaign groups?
A committee is a dedicated organizing space within our chapter, usually focused on an issue or set of issues. Committees must carry out a program as described by their Statement of Purpose and bylaws. Committees define their own leadership per their bylaws, and have one steward on the Local Council.
Admin groups exist to carry out a lot of the day-to-day work that keeps the chapter functioning. They do not require bylaws, and also have one steward on the Local Council.
Campaign groups, similar to admin groups, have a lower barrier to creation than a committee, and exist to carry out work related to a specific campaign or project. Campaign groups also send one steward to the Local Council, and only exist for the duration of their campaign or project.
A working group is an informal grouping of members working on a set project. These are often short-term, they can be within committees or external to them. It is expected that if working groups grow or take on larger projects or require more resources that they organize as committees or admin/campaign groups, or have projects approved by the General Membership or Local Council.
This table illustrates the differences between committees, admin groups, campaign groups, and working groups.
What are our current committees and groups?
- Municipal Action
- Direct Service
- Worker Power Louisiana (Labor)
- MembershipAG (Membership Admin Group)
- CommsAG (Communications Admin Group)
- Make Entergy Pay Campaign
How do I join a committee or admin/campaign/working group?
- Search the Channel Browser on Slack (top left corner)
- Select the committee or group you’re interested in
- Click “Join Channel”
- Introduce yourself!
- Look for meeting times in the channel or on the calendar
How do I start a committee? Do I need to?
Committees are for standing or ongoing projects or fronts of organizing. If you’re looking to start work that is long-term or involves larger projects a committee might make sense. Working groups and caucuses are two other ways to structure organizing in the chapter, and they don’t require a vote, formally elected leadership, bylaws, or a budget.
To start a committee:
- Check whether a committee or working group already exists for the topic.
- Write a Political Resolution to propose the creation of the committee.
- Present to the Local Council for addition to the General Meeting agenda.
- Present to General Membership for a vote.
- If approved, work with committee members to write bylaws.
- If approved, work with the Treasurer to create a budget.
Organizing committees must be created or disbanded by vote of the general membership, must elect leadership including a steward to the Local Council, and must operate by internal committee bylaws. Each committee has a dedicated channel on Slack, our internal digital organizing space. Committees organize their own internal elections. Some committees are extremely active, and some are more or less defunct, but until and unless the committee is abolished by the general membership, it remains an organizing space within our chapter.
What is a working group?
A working group is an informal grouping of members working on a set project. These are often short-term, they can be within committees or external to them. It is expected that if working groups grow or take on larger projects or require more resources that they organize as committees or have projects approved by the General Membership or Local Council.
How do I start a working group?
- There is no formal process for starting a working group! Talk to your comrades in Slack, or in person, to find others who want to work on an issue together.
- Ask on Slack to see if anyone else has already started a working group focused on that issue.
- Check in with the membership chair to see if there are others working on this issue or who have interest in it.
- Any group of members can organize as a working group.
What's a caucus? How do I start one?
Caucuses are independent, unofficial formations of members. Caucuses do not require any formal recognition from the Local. Members may self-organize into caucuses temporarily or permanently according to shared interest, affinity, or political goals.
Caucuses can be self-organized! If there’s a political goal you have, or an interest you feel you and your comrades share and want to advocate for, you can organize with your comrades towards those ends.
How do I run for leadership in a committee?
Committees hold elections on their own schedules, and according to their own bylaws. Upcoming committee elections will be called by committee leaders and announced in committee meetings, on committee channels on slack, and in General Meeting.
How do I run for chapter leadership?
Officer elections are held during our Local Convention. In order to run for an officer role you must be nominated by another member, then a member of Local Council will reach out and ask if you’d like to accept the nominations. Local Council will announce the date of Local Convention and the nomination period.
How does New Orleans DSA make endorsements for political candidates or ballot measures?
Per our chapter bylaws, electoral endorsements must take place at the Annual Summer Convention or at a Special Meeting with a quorum of twenty-five percent of membership. If you are interested in being considered for an endorsement please email email@example.com.
Unless otherwise authorized, members or committees of New Orleans DSA are forbidden from campaigning as representatives of DSA for candidates or ballot measures that have not been officially endorsed by the Local, a Regional Organization to which the Local belongs, or National DSA.
We sure have a lot of acronyms and jargon around here...
Here are definitions for a few common terms:
- DSA: Democratic Socialists of America
- NPC: National Political Committee
- LC: Local Council
- WPL: Worker Power Louisiana (Labor Committee)
- DSLC: Democratic Socialist Labor Commission
- Quorum: The minimum percentage of membership required to vote on and make official decisions within a committee, the Local Council, or the general body.
- Stack: A list of people who wish to speak, kept by a designated person at a meeting. (See “Progressive Stack” above)