171-1 DSA in the News

compiled by Bob Roman

The press seems to be getting over its fascination with the modest rise of socialism in America, or perhaps everyone with the least bit of interest in it has heard the story at least once. Thus we’re starting to see detail work, profiles of individuals and local organizations. This is actually an easy way down from DSA’s celebrity status. Some folks have a much harder time of it. It is nice, though, that if we’re involved in an issue today, we’re likely to be given at least a mention. That’s not something we could have expected two years ago. 28 links in this semi-monthly report:

DSA (and its members) was profiled by Kara Clark at Newest York. Ian Ringgenberg reported on organizing by the Twin Cities DSA chapter at Southside Pride. Pat Riehle at KKFI’s “Radio Active Magazine” interviewed four local members of DSA. Lilly Martinez profiled the Madison, Wisconsin, DSA chapter at The Badger Herald. Colt Shaw did a profile of the Philadelphia DSA chapter at Philadelphia Weekly.

Socialism (and DSA) rising, even here on this campus, observed Tori Falcon at North Texas Daily. There’s no place for secret money in campus elections, according to a YDS statement at The Lantern. (And a “why not?” reply HERE.)

Suddenly everyone is into roses, observed Jeff Ihaza at The Outline, giving DSA two paragraphs in an article not about politics.

Nick Margetis used DSA as part of an argument for national health insurance at JTNN Online. Rochester DSA was interviewed by Evan Dawson in connection with national health insurance at WXXI’s “Connections”.

YDS member Michael Curry was quoted by Maddie Biertempfel regarding grad student unionization at Penn State at The Daily Collegian. Telon Delany’s account of an anti-prison labor demonstration included a quote from YDS’ David Karayof at Iowa State Daily. This article got excerpted by a number of conservative campus-oriented publications: Awww, those pretty little snowflakes.

Stephanie Yuvienco covered a Stony Brook Muslim Student Association’s interfaith Jummah prayer and quoted YDS’ Stephen Hanna at The Statesman. YDS got quoted in an open letter by Ariana Quennan re: diversity to Hofstra’s Stuart Rabinowitz at The Hofstra Chronicle. Sanders was too easy on bigotry among Trump supporters, opined Anthony Rogers-Wright, citing DSA as a model at Medium.

YDS was mentioned in passing in a report on student government by Jessica Macey at The Scarlet.

Marc Torrence at Patch noted DSA as one of the organizers of a march against the Bedford-Union Armory deal in Brooklyn.

DSA was used as an identifier in a column by Tom Broderick denouncing the Trump budget at Wednesday Journal.

Lisa Hagen mentioned DSA among the organizers of the second People’s Summit at The Hill.

Francis Flisiuk included extensive quotes from DSA members in coverage of an anti-Gorsuch demonstration at The Portland Phoenix.

William Turton did the whole “organizer thing” on Daniel Hanley, including DSA buttons, at Gizmodo. DSA got a mention in Reeves Wiedeman’s profile of Brace Belden at New York Magazine. DSA was mentioned in passing in Jennifer Swann’s interview with Moshe Kasher at LA Weekly.

The Democratic Party needs to fix itself or else it’s DSA, opined Julianna Siemssen at The Tacoma Ledger. DSA Green Party candidate for NYC City Council Jabari Bisport was interviewed by Emma Whitford at Gothamist.

Lyle Jeremy Rubin mentioned DSA in an article about veterans, war and politics at New Labor Forum.

Greg Afinogenov mentioned DSA in a review of Peter Frase’s Four Futures and Wolfgang Streeck’s How Will Capitalism End? at N+1.

171-1 DSA News

DSA Condemns the Bombing of Afghanistan

Dated April 14, 2017, the statement from the DSA National Political Committee begins:

DSA condemns the first military use of the largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan on April 13. Allegedly used to attack a cave used by ISIS in Afghanistan, the GBU-43 bomb (which contains 11 tons of explosives) poses a threat to all human existence within a one-mile radius of its target. The Trump administration’s praise for massive bombings, first in Syria and now in Afghanistan, as “the US military doing their job as usual” shows the Trump administration’s commitment to the United States’ tradition of using brutal and indiscriminate military force as the primary response to complex foreign policy problems.


DSA Chapters Raise Money for Abortion Funds

At Democratic Left, Caroline Reid writes:

Socialist feminists know that women deserve free abortion on demand, a full range of reproductive health care and family services, and an economic system allowing for full employment and compensation for caregiving of the elderly and young. “Reproductive justice” is a concept that moves beyond the notions of “choice” and “rights.” It links the calls for reproductive choice (a woman’s right to control her own body) to the broader issues of economic justice and human rights (creating conditions that enable people to have children, not only to not have them). Access to abortion is one small, but critical, part of reproductive justice.


Replace NAFTA

by Tom Broderick

The people united will never be defeated! Good chant, but also a clear reflection of the defeat of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Negotiated in secret by hundreds of corporate advisers it went down in flames thanks to the power of the people. The TPP threatened environmental laws, health and safety regulations and public interest policies. The TPP sought to limit food safety inspections on imported foods. Countries that signed the agreement could simply declare that their food safety inspections were on par with ours. The TPP would have gutted Buy American / Buy Local procurement policies which keeps our tax dollars invested in our communities. The TPP would have expanded corporate power with special investor rights and allowed tribunals of corporate lawyers to adjudicate lawsuits brought by trans-national corporations against U.S. taxpayers. These tribunals are known as Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). Complaints would be filed and settled completely outside the U.S. judicial system and would not be subject to appeal.

Chicago DSA pushed hard to defeat the TPP. Green Party Presidential candidate, Jill Stein and Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump came out loud and strong against the TPP. With pressure from Bernie Sanders, Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was dragged into the TPP fray more or less against her will, finally declaring she was against it. Of the four major candidates, only the Libertarian Presidential candidate, Gary Johnson supported signing the agreement.

As a candidate, the donald pledged he would renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to make it “much better” for working Americans. NAFTA is a trade agreement between Canada, Mexico and the U.S. The donald said “NAFTA has been a catastrophe for our country; it’s been a catastrophe for our workers and our jobs and companies.” The White House web site said the donald “will withdraw from NAFTA if the U.S. doesn’t get a better deal.” This is something he could do. He could simply pull the United States out of NAFTA.

Chicago DSA and West Suburban Illinois DSA are working with Public Citizen, gathering post cards calling on the donald to replace NAFTA. The cards demand that the donald “replace the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with a deal benefiting working people in all three countries, not just the multinational corporations. This means ending the NAFTA investor protections and the ban on Buy American/Buy Local procurement that promote job-offshoring, removing investor-state dispute settlement, and requiring that food imports meet U.S. safety rules. A new deal must only go into effect if countries enact and enforce strong labor, wage and environmental standards. Nothing to make NAFTA even worse, like monopoly protections for Big Pharma can be included.”

Although claiming he intended to “drain the swamp,” the donald has appointed very dubious characters to the Departments of Commerce and Trade as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lightizer is referred to as a skeptic of free trade deals, but represented a business controlled by the Chinese government in a lawsuit brought against the U.S. taxpayers in 1991. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, was described by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D. MA) as “practically a cartoon stereotype of a Wall Street fat cat who has no interest in anyone but himself.” As a billionaire investor in a car parts company, he sent U.S. jobs to Mexico, taking advantage of NAFTA rules. He is also an investor in a Chinese government backed company.

Two former Goldman Sachs big wigs in the donald’s administration are Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director, Gary Cohn. Mnuchin was “part of the cadre of corporate raiders that brought our economy to its knees” according to Senator Scott Menendez (D. NJ) during Mnuchin’s confirmation hearing. Senator Ron Wyden (D. OR) referred to Mnuchin as “the foreclosure king” during the same hearing. Former President of Goldman Sachs, Gary Cohn has suggested a very watered down reinstatement of the Glass-Steagall Act might be appropriate. According to The American Prospect, Cohn’s version would allow for increased banking deregulation. Something near and dear to any Goldman Sachs bankster heart. Scott Pruitt, a self described “leading advocate aginst the EPA’s activist agenda” is now heading that Agency He has repeatedly sued the EPA.

Although yet to be confirmed, the donald’s choice to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture is Sunny Perdue. Before he was elected Governor of Georgia, he made a great deal of money peddling fertilizer. As Governor of Georgia he signed a bill blocking local communities from enacting regulations against animal cruelty, for worker safety and against pollution at factory farms in Georgia. Georgia is the home of many large industrial farms. Quite a mash-up of the pro-investment moneybag folk.

After the Congressional recess, the donald and his pack of pirates are likely to begin the process of renegotiating NAFTA. That would begin with a letter notifying the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee stating that the donald wants to begin renegotiating NAFTA. Both committees would have to agree to renegotiation. It will be our responsibility to make trouble for the well-heeled one-percenters who don’t give a rat’s ass for democracy, workers’ rights, and the health of people and planet. No top secret negotiations allowed. Let the leaks spring forth.

More from DSA:

Not This NAFTA (1993)

Renegotiate NAFTA (2008)

Fair Trade Not Free Trade from the New Ground archives

Remembering Harold Washington

In These Times reposted an article they published back in 1983, on the occasion of Washington’s election as Mayor of Chicago. The article mentions, in passing, DSA’s involvement in the election. It begins:

CHICAGO—“We were slow to move from the protest movement into politics,” Harold Washington said just after he won the Chicago Democratic mayoral primary in February. “We were lulled to sleep thinking that passing a few laws was enough. But we’ve got to be involved in the mainstream political activity. That’s what’s happening here in Chicago,” he added. “And that’s the lesson that’s going out across the country.”

This “coming into political maturity” of minority groups that, as Washington says, once thought simple street protests were enough took a giant leap forward on April 12 when a sizable majority of Hispanic voters and enough left and liberal whites joined the overwhelming majority of blacks to give Chicago its first black mayor.


At Monthly Review Online, Michael Hoover provided a retrospective, where he judged:

It is, perhaps, unfair to have expected the institutionalization of populist policies and programs in such a short period of time. And long-term change might not have occurred even if Washington had lived longer. Reliance upon individual leaders does not address how urban growth policymaking and the competitive character of global cities respond to the dictates of capital markets. Thus, proactive restructuring without popular mobilization will surely result in business as usual. Neither an episodic “politics of the streets” nor an incremental “politics of the suites” can by themselves overcome the conventional way of doing things. A convergence of the two is necessary to both combat political stasis and to develop an enduring progressive politics.


Your editor doesn’t pretend familiarity with all of Washington’s biographies, but generally DSA gets mentioned in passing. Our involvement in that election was rather more than peripheral: One of Washington’s first stops outside the Black community was DSA. His victory had rather mixed consequences for the organization. This is something that deserves a more extended examination.

Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner

to Honor Larry Cohen and Adriana Alvarez

Keynote by Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa

by Bob Roman

The 2017 Eugene V. Debs – Norman Thomas – Michael Harrington Dinner will be held Friday, May 19, at the Crowne Plaza Chicago West Loop, Madison & Halsted, on Chicago’s near west side. This will be the 59th annual dinner. We have a great evening lined up, and you are invited to attend!

1981 Norman Thomas Eugene V. Debs Dinner
Italian labor leader and socialist Egidio Clemente (left) accepts the award from DSOC’s Carl Shier while the soon-to-be Chicago Mayor Harold Washington looks on at the 1981 Thomas – Debs Dinner. Photo by Syd Harris.

For those of you new to the movement, the Dinner is something of a Chicago institution that predates DSA. It began in 1958 under the auspices of the newly merged Socialist Party – Social Democratic Federation (SP-SDF) as Chicago’s Debs Day Dinner, much as Republicans had (and often still have) Lincoln dinners and Democrats likewise Jefferson – Jackson dinners. It quickly gained some success as a platform for notable speakers such as Sid Lens, Bayard Rustin, Chicago’s Leon Despres, James Farmer, Norman Thomas and Michael Harrington. After Norman Thomas died, the event became the Norman Thomas – Eugene V. Debs Dinner. In 1971, it became an awards dinner as well as a speaker’s platform. The SP-SDF fell apart and the event was taken over by Michael Harrington’s

Michael Harrington
Michael Harrington speaking at the 1986 Thomas – Debs Dinner. Photo by Syd Harris.

Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee. When they merged with the New American

Movement, it was taken over by the resulting Democratic Socialists of America. You can find more the history at chicagodsa.org/dthdin.html.

That was then. The theme for this year’s Dinner is, A Way Forward! There’s no doubt that most of what is decent about our country is in peril. But Trump’s failure to win the popular vote is a clear indication we can go beyond resistance, beyond stalemate to where democracy is victorious and we are on the path to social and economic justice. Our honorees, each in their own way, have made significant contributions to this fight for equality.

Larry Cohen

Larry Cohen may be familiar to you as being the recently “retired” President of the Communication Workers of America. CWA members have been willing to confront some truly gargantuan corporations, but Cohen’s contributions have not stopped there. He correctly judged the mood of insurgency in our country and was a leader in Labor for Bernie and he’s continued that struggle as Board Chair of Our Revolution. Cohen is the Chair of the Democracy Initiative, a coalition of national organizations confronting the corruption of our democracy by corporate money. And he’s a Senior Fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future. He’s also been serving as a rabble-rouser about town, grabbing the bullhorn by the mic in protest of the latest Trumpian outrage.

Adriana Alvarez

Adriana Alvarez may be less familiar to you. She is a rank-and-file leader in Fight for 15, a worker at McDonald’s who has been willing to be arrested in support of her fellow workers, opens her home for meetings and, in between raising a son, does what needs to be done in the grand left tradition of a “Janie Higgins”. Alvarez also serves as one of the public faces of the campaign for a $15 / hour minimum wage (and a union), representing that movement on the web, across the nation, and in countries as various as Canada, Brazil and the Vatican. In honoring Alvarez, we are also honoring a movement that, while in the process of exploring alternative organizing strategies, has already made a huge difference in the lives of those at the bottom of our economy.

Our featured speaker is Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa from Chicago’s 35th Ward. Rosa is one of Chicago’s crop of outstanding new leaders in the City Council. Rosa has confronted the problem of governing head on. He has not complacently waited for a movement to begin in his ward around election time. He has taken leadership in making one happen.

Please join us in honoring these two outstanding activists for they deserve your recognition as well as ours. I hope to see you there on Friday evening, May 19.

If you cannot attend or if money for politics is scarce, please consider getting a greeting or an ad in the Dinner Program Book. This is the truly cost-effective way of participating while publicly recognizing the work our honorees have done on behalf of the movement.

The favor of your reply is requested.

Wage Theft Must End

by Tom Broderick

From 2013 through 2016, the Chicago City Council enacted three new employment laws. In 2013, the Wage Theft Ordinance was passed. The Minimum Wage Ordinance was passed in 2015 and in 2016, the Council enacted the Paid Sick Leave Ordinance.

Who is minding the store on this legislation? In Chicago, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) is supposed to protect workers’ rights. The Department’s web site states: “The Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection licenses, regulates and empowers Chicago businesses to grow and succeed as well as, receives and processes consumer complaints.”

Faith – Labor – Action is the motto of ARISE Chicago. The group’s mission is to end workplace abuse. ARISE Chicago announced their campaign to have the City of Chicago create a Chicago Office of Labor Standards (COoLS) at a press conference at Roosevelt University on Thursday, February 23rd. It appears that ARISE is calling for the COoLS to be under the Dept. of BACP and take responsibility for enforcing Chicago’s employment laws.

Data obtained by The Chicago Reporter through a Freedom of Information Act request, shows that between July, 2015, when the Chicago minimum wage law took effect, and December, 2016, the Dept. of BACP received 454 complaints about violations regarding the minimum wage. Of those, 112 complaints led to investigations, just shy of 25%. Workers are required to submit affidavits attesting to violations. The Dept. of BACP forwards a copy of the complaint and the affidavit to the employer: A recipe for employer retaliation against the worker.

While 51 workers recovered wages totaling $82,000 according to The Chicago Reporter, not a single fine was assessed to any Chicago business, even though the law states that businesses shall be subject to fines of $500 to $1,000 per day. Nor has the business license been revoked for any company found in violation of the ordinance: Not a successful track record of enforcement.

In her opening remarks, Reverend C. J. Hawking (Executive Director of ARISE Chicago) welcomed us as a “congregation of believers.” She said we gathered in the spirit of Jane Addams (who along with Ellen Gates Starr opened the settlement house known as Hull House for arriving European immigrants in 1889) and Frances Perkins, the first woman appointed to head any U. S. Cabinet position – the Department of Labor. Rev. Hawking continued “We rise up against the current political climate of hostility toward workers and unions.”

She was followed by Maria Leon, a restaurant worker who spoke of how her former employer regularly refused to disperse tips that had been added to restaurant bills that were paid with a credit card. After repeatedly asking for the tips that restaurant patrons had charged, she was fired. Tips, whether paid in cash or charged have been earned by the worker. Tips are not donations to the bottom line of those who manage or own restaurants. The denial of earned tips is wage theft and the firing is illegal.

Janice Fine, PhD, Professor of Labor Studies at Rutgers University took to the podium and said that municipalities, large and small, have established Offices of Labor Standards with enforcement capabilities. She stated that Chicago could join San Francisco, Los Angeles, the County of Los Angeles, Seattle, New York City, Minneapolis and Austin, Texas in working to shore up workers’ rights. As a major center for the economy in the mid-west Chicago could lead the way in regional support for promoting and enhancing the rights of workers.

Local enforcement of existing laws/policies must be handled by local governmental agencies working in collaboration with worker centers. Workers are often hesitant to go to governmental agencies for fear of being reported to their employers. Workers may not even understand that they have rights as workers. Worker centers are well known to low-wage workers. These centers provide support to workers and that builds trust among the workers and with the centers. The centers can be a bridge between the workers and the governmental agency tasked with enforcement.

According to Dr. Fine, workers will know which industries or segments of industries regularly violate the rights of workers: wage theft, including “working off the clock,” overtime pay, minimum wage payment and the theft of tips as well as accrued sick leave pay violations. Industries with a record of violations could be taxed a percentage of profit to finance the Office of Labor Standards.

According to a University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC) report published in 2009 (The Breakdown of Workplace Protections in the Low-Wage Labor Market), nearly half of the sampled low-wage workers experienced at least one pay-related violation in the previous work week. The average worker lost $50 out of their weekly earnings of $322. That’s a 16% loss in earnings. The report extrapolated that low-wage workers in Chicago and suburban Cook County lose more than $7.3 million per week as a result of employment and labor law violations. Not only do the workers lose, but the taxing bodies also lose. Wage theft cheats workers, families and communities.

Four members of the Chicago City Council took part in the press conference. Council member Ameya Pawar (47th Ward) said he is in fear of the current federal administration. He is concerned that at the federal level as well as the state level, there is no concern for the rights of every day working people. The creation of a Chicago Office of Labor Standards is about decency and human rights. The Office must have enforcement capabilities to protect and safeguard justice for the working people of Chicago.

Ameya Pawar has announced his candidacy to become the next Governor of Illinois. Pawar is not just another rich white guy running for re-election or election to the Governorship of Illinois, he has staked out a clear position as to which side he is on when it comes to the 99%.

Council member George Cardenas (12th Ward) was introduced as Chair of the Latino caucus. He said he is product of his neighborhood and that his family suffered workplace problems. “The Latino community is hard hit by wage theft.” Cardenas called for establishing a regulatory framework to protect workers.

Council member Carlos Ramirez Rosa (35th Ward) was introduced as a member of the Latino and the Progressive caucuses. He added “and a proud member of the Gay and Lesbian caucus.” He spoke of being approached by ARISE Chicago to help a worker facing wage theft in his ward. “We need stronger citywide enforcement, connected to community groups on the ground . . . Chicago won’t have the first Office of Labor Standards, but working with experts, groups on the ground and workers, we can have the best Office of Labor Standards.” Carlos Rosa will be the keynote speaker at the Chicago DSA Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner on Friday, May 19, 2017 at the Crowne Plaza Chicago Hotel.

Council member John Arena (45th Ward) was also introduced as a member of the Progressive caucus. Along with Rev. Hawking and Adam Kader who directs the ARISE Chicago Worker Center Program, Arena visited with some of the staff in the Seattle Office of Labor Standards to understand how their program operated. He said “it’s important to bake in” enforcement mechanisms covering workers under Chicago’s employment laws. He said he met with Samantha Fields, Commissioner of the Dept. of BACP and feels she is open to understanding what the COoLS would do.

Robert Reiter is the Secretary-Treasurer of the Chicago Federation of Labor (CFL). He said that the labor movement is greater than organized labor and that local protection for worker standards is necessary. On a national level, the current administration is looking to roll back labor standards, so local offices like the proposed Chicago COoLS would be critical in protecting workers. If employers are allowed to steal workers wages, “we need a way to get that money back.” The City Council has passed important employment laws. The next logical step is to create a Chicago Office of Labor Standards.”

The final speaker was Sophia Zaman, the Executive Director of Raise the Floor Alliance, a collaborative effort to amplify the voice of workers. Raise the Floor Alliance was launched in December, 2015. The founding members are ARISE Chicago, Centro de Trabajadores Unidos, Chicago Community & Worker Rights, Chicago Workers Collaborative, Latino Union of Chicago, Restaurant Opportunities Center, Warehouse Workers for Justice and Workers Center for Racial Justice. Ms. Zaman indicated Raise The Floor Alliance would be in a strong position to bridge the gap between workers and the Chicago Office of Labor Standards.

What can Chicago DSA do to promote the creation of a robust Chicago Office of Labor Standards? If you live in Chicago, contact your elected city council member. Tell them that labor laws recently passed by the Chicago City Council need to be vigorously enforced. Advise them that workplace violations will continue unless the city creates a strong Chicago Office of Labor Standards that is fully funded and dedicated to enforcing Chicago’s employment laws.

Chicago DSA v. 3.0

by Bob Roman

You have probably heard that DSA has tripled its membership since the November election, reaching 19,000. The same is true for Chicago. Last year at this time, membership was at 250. Now, in the Chicago metropolitan area, it’s over 750. Even within Chicago DSA’s redefined borders, membership is just less than 600. These are not huge numbers, but they are record highs. Moreover, this growth has been matched by a notable increase in people willing and downright eager to take responsibility. This is manifest in the proliferation of DSA chapters across the nation; we’re very nearly a 50 state organization now. In Illinois, we have a West Suburban Illinois chapter, and organizing committees in the Quad Cities, Northern Illinois and Champaign – Urbana. In Chicago DSA, we now have three branches: Greater Oak Park, Northside Chicago and Southside Chicago. Within our chapter, we also have a number of self-organized working groups, some of which are mostly notional while others, such as the Rapid Response group and the Labor group, have staged useful interventions in Chicago politics. The Labor working group, for example, recently blitzed CTA stations in support of the Amalgamated Transit Union’s negotiations with the CTA. The Rapid Response group has made sure that DSA has been visible at several recent demonstrations. (We really do need to be better about blowing our own horn.) This is the good news.

The less good news is that on the local level, most of this work is being done out-of-pocket whenever there are expenses. Furthermore, our new members are predominantly younger adults who have grown up on the web. Combined with meager branch finances, this means that nearly all the organizing and communication is being done via Facebook, email, Twitter, and other social media. Basically, if you’re offline or if we don’t have your email address then you’re a second class member. (But really, apart from holiday cards, how often do you get personal letters these days?)

Chicago DSA was moving in this direction before the avalanche. The percentage of members lacking an email address had been dropping, and it’s dropped radically with this influx of new members. There are ways of working around these mismatched modes of communication, and we’ll find ways of doing it, especially if those of you off-line insist.

Other changes are on the horizon. If money allows, we may move the office again as our Executive Committee meetings have been drawing capacity crowds. You will see new leadership at Chicago DSA. The terms of office for our CDSA officers are staggered, but also there are vacancies. There is also an Executive Committee expanded by more representatives from branches.

But the most important change will be when Chicago DSA becomes a player that intervenes in politics in a strategic way on behalf of a particular constituency. This will require your participation. This will require your contributions. Remember, your continued support is important, and I do appreciate it.