172-1 DSA News

Save the Date

The Democratic Socialists of America’s 2017 convention will be held in Chicago from August 3-6. We anticipate this to be DSA’s largest convention ever! DSA has more members than ever before and is now the third largest socialist organization in United States history. At this event, we’ll have interactive workshops, educational panels, resolution debates, elect a new national leadership, and much more!


Meet the New DSA

New Chicago DSA
L-R: Leonard Pierce, Clara Alcott, Ramsin Canon, Dele Balogun

Chicago DSA has staggered two year terms for its officers, but add in two vacancies among the officer positions and you have nearly a whole new crew selected at the June 17 membership convention. The meeting was held in the historic United Electrical Workers Hall at 37 S. Ashland in Chicago. Clara Alcott was elected female co-chair. Leonard Pierce was elected male co-chair. Hope Payton-Carrillo was elected secretary. Dele Balogun and Ramsin Canon will share the political education officer position (but only one vote). Peg Strobel remains as treasurer, that term ending next June.

The Executive Committee itself will be rather larger than that, with possibly as many as 14 representatives from the 3 branches in addition to the officers. This will make the Chicago DSA office not a particularly practical location for Executive Committee meetings.

Bob Roman will be taking a sabbatical from politics.

DSA in the News

compiled by Bob Roman

The “socialism is cool” and “American socialism, isn’t that remarkable” themes (in other words, DSA being famous for being famous) are finally subsiding though there are still a few instances. I’ve been waiting for it: This June has brought the first conservative media attack of any consequence on DSA as the Virginia shootings made left-wing terrorism plausible for the first time in decades. On the other hand, the People’s Summit and various off-year elections generated considerably more press for DSA, and equal to those two were a steady trickle of stories of local DSA actions on a variety of issues. It amounted to an impressive portfolio, especially since a few were wire service reports that were carried in a wide number of outlets. There are well over five dozen links in this report. CLICK HERE.


Net Neutrality Is Essential to Online Democracy

A statement by DSA’s National Political Committee, posted June 20, begins:

In May of this year, the Federal Communications Commission voted in favor of dismantling one of the fundamental tenets of an open Internet: net neutrality. Enacted in 2015, net neutrality is the principle that Internet service providers (ISPs) should allow users equal access to all online content and applications regardless of the source. It classifies broadband as a utility, thus preventing providers such as Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T from accelerating traffic to preferred sites (that is, sites that pay extra, are affiliated with them, or that they find politically savory) or obstructing traffic to sites they deem unfavorable.


Rose Radio

Podcasts are all the rage. DSA is all the rage. Put them together, and you get: Rose Radio. The first episode is always free.

Solidarity Fund

Contribute to South Side CDSA’s “Solidarity Fund” and get two really cool buttons. CLICK HERE.

Anti-Act for America 2017
Chicago DSA members protest Act for America’s anti-Muslim demonstration, June 10, 2017.

172-1 DSA in the News

compiled by Bob Roman

The “socialism is cool” and “American socialism, isn’t that remarkable” themes (in other words, DSA being famous for being famous) are finally subsiding though there are still a few instances. I’ve been waiting for it: This June has brought the first conservative media attack of any consequence on DSA as the Virginia shootings made left-wing terrorism plausible for the first time in decades. On the other hand, the People’s Summit and various off-year elections generated considerably more press for DSA, and equal to those two were a steady trickle of stories of local DSA actions on a variety of issues. It amounted to an impressive portfolio, especially since a few were wire service reports that were carried in a wide number of outlets. There are well over five dozen links in this report.

At Mother Jones, Tim Murphy wrote a socialism = cool article, meaning DSA = cool. DSA’s growth was used as an argument in an article by Charles Lasswell at Time. DSA made it into Liza Featherstone’s “advice” essay at The Nation. A progressive wave, including DSA, is sweeping the country, said John Nichols at The Nation.

The story had been getting some play among right-wing blogs, but David Urbanski brought it to The Blaze: YDS advocates the guillotine for conservatives! I haven’t seen these folks have so much fun in a long time, not since “Obama is a socialist.” Clint Cooper eventually brought the story to the Times Free Press. Unfortunately, the story became coincident with the shootings in suburban Virginia. Julie Bykowicz then incorporated it a “climate of hate” essay at Associated Press. That AP article gave the University of Georgia an excuse to open proceedings against the YDS club according to Nate Harris at The Red & Black. That item made it into USA Today’s weekly summary of collegiate news. The story also made it into the local press at the Athens Banner-Herald by Lee Shearer. A follow-up article by Lee Shearer at the Athens Banner-Herald noted that any such investigation could easily infringe on free speech rights. Understandably, that aspect did not make it into Tom Ciccotta’s account at Breitbart nor in any of the multitude of ditto-head postings on various right-wing blog sites.

A “who is James Hodgkinson” item by Oliver Laughland at The Guardian included a quote from DSA’s Stuart Keating. A “political climate in the wake of the shootings” item at The Guardian by Ed Pilkington, Adam Gabbatt and Lois Beckett included a quote from YDS’ Hannah Zimmerman.

DSA got a passing mention as one of the organizers of the Peoples Summit by Adam Gabbatt at The Guardian. Chris Kenning’s Saturday coverage of the Peoples Summit at Reuters included mentions of DSA. Kim Bellware and Daniel Marans at the Huffington Post mentioned DSA in the context of the Peoples Summit, Sanders, Corbyn and more. Maria Svart was quoted in Gregory Krieg’s coverage of the Peoples Summit at CNN. Chris Kenning’s Sunday coverage at Reuters included two DSA mentions, and Charlie May quoted Reuters in mentioning DSA at Salon. Tim Murphy’s write-up of the Peoples Summit at Mother Jones included a few passing mentions of DSA. Andrew Breiner wrote a brief account of the event for Roll Call with a DSA mention. I don’t generally consider Daily Kos as “news” but “benny05” had a good account of DSA at the Peoples Summit. Kate Aronoff’s account of the Peoples Summit at In These Times mentioned DSA in connection with Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa. Lauren Niedel mentioned DSA in a Peoples Summit account at RI Future. Sarah Leonard mentioned DSA in her Sanders / Corbyn / Peoples Summit piece in The New York Times. Jacobin Radio’s Suzi Weissman had DSA National Director Maria Svart on to discuss the People’s Summit. It’s not clear whether it’s about the Peoples Summit or about Reality Leigh Winner, but DSA got a mention in Chuck Ross’ item at Daily Caller as we did in a Peoples Summit editorial at Anchorage Daily Planet.

Despite the many benefits of the Sanders campaign, including DSA among them, Sanders shouldn’t run for President again, opines Sarah Jones at New Republic.

An account of the recent British election got DSA a mention by Amber Enderton at Elk Grove News.net.

At The Washington Post, Gregory Schneider’s report on Virginia politics, focusing on the campaign of Ross Mittiga, gave DSA a passing mention. Michael Bragg noted DSA’s support for Mittiga at Daily Progress. Our Revolution’s intervention in the Massachusetts Democratic Party convention was covered by Theo Anderson at In These Times, using DSA as an identifier. Paul Frangipane’s account of a Brooklyn town hall for district attorney candidates included a quote from a DSA member at Brooklyn Daily Eagle. At Brooklyn Daily, Julianna Cuba noted NYC DSA endorsed Khader El-Yateem for District Council. At Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Paula Katinas profiled Council candidate Khader El-Yateem and DSA’s support for his campaign. Mark Chiusano at Newsday also noted NYC DSA’s re-entry into electoral politics with the El-Yateem campaign. Republican Bob Capano gave DSA some free publicity in denouncing our participation in the El-Yateem campaign, and Paula Katinas wrote it up for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Daniel Marans’ account of a campaign debate between Handel and Ossoff included a quote from DSA’s Milton Tambor at The Huffington Post. Bartolome Carpio’s account of that debate also included a quote from DSA’s Milton Tambor at HoyenTV. The same quote somehow appears at VouxMagazine by Alfred Griffith. Michael Sainato interviewed Minneapolis City Council candidate Ginger Jentzen wherein DSA got a few mentions at The Real News Network.

Jerry Iannelli mentioned DSA in passing at the Miami New Times in connection with county States Attorney Kathy Rundle’s political career.

At City Arts Magazine, Shaun Scott mentioned DSA a few times in an article about political culture, national and in Seattle.

Jared Ware’s examination of Redneck Revolt at Shadowproof included a mention of DSA.

Pittsburg has two Pride marches. Aldalberto Toledo’s coverage included quotes from DSA members at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

The Associated Press’ Kristena Hansen covered a disruptive protest at the state legislature over anemic school funding in Oregon, including DSA’s participation. The accompanying photo featured DSA banners. Being AP, the account and photo got picked up by numerous entities. Paris Achen at the Portland Tribune covered the same demo, giving DSA a brief paragraph.

Jules Boykoff at The Guardian mentioned DSA and the NOlympics LA campaign in an essay pointing out the connection between the games and government spying. KCAL (CBS) noted DSA’s NOlympics LA campaign in an item about the prospects for the games in LA.

Jason Ruiz at Long Beach Post covered a protest of a developers’ conference, including a quote from DSA’s Andrew Guy and a photo filled with DSA signs. (You can find an account plus video at Barry Saks’ blog.)

Who is dominating the anti-Trump narrative, asks Michael Tracey at The New Republic, mentioning DSA in passing.

Leah Sottile’s coverage of Portland’s anti-hate demonstrations at The Washington Post included a quote from DSA’s Cari Luna.

The Roseville & Granite Bay Press Tribune coverage of anti-Sharia law and counter protest by Graham Womack included a mention of DSA.

DSA member and candidate for Brooklyn Council was quoted by Madina Toure in her account about a demo protesting the Philando Castile trial outcome at Observer.

DSA supported CWA in the AT&T strike according to a report by Ashley Pederson at Southside Pride.

DSA was used as an identifier in a piece about Irving Howe by Jake Offenhartz at Gothamist.

NYC DSA’s technical chops were on display in a piece by Tyler Woods at Technica.ly Brooklyn.

In assessing Trump’s first six months, Leslie Sarinana included a quote from DSA’s Gabriel Solis at The Prospector.

Rob Lorei at WMNF interviewed DSA members organizing a Ybor City chapter.

DSA is a member of a coalition that opposed Walmart coming to Boulder and celebrates its exit, according to Matt Nicodemus opining at the Daily Camera.

Tim Munier boosted DSA’s campaign for NY universal health care at Karma Brooklyn.

The campaign to make Troy, NY, a sanctuary community (and DSA) was satirized at The Albany Smudge.

DSA at the People’s Summit

by Charles Austin

If you arrived at McCormick Place early on June 9 for the People’s Summit, you might be forgiven for assuming it was a DSA only affair. I got in line to grab my badge around 10 a.m. and just about everybody waiting with me was a DSA member. This wasn’t too surprising, since our trainings began hours before official People’s Summit events, but it set a certain tone for DSA’s high visibility all weekend.

In line, DSAers from Iowa and Tennessee recounted their separate experiences of attending the 2016 DNC as delegates for Bernie Sanders’ campaign. Before hearing their stories, I had failed to appreciate (or at least, failed to put individual faces to) the transformative disillusionment attendees felt at the convention. Sanders’ DNC delegates witnessed a chaotic, divisive mess on the ground, only to see a manicured and stage-managed alternate reality broadcast on TV. This, I suppose, is how politics often feels, and sure, the disorder at the 2016 convention wasn’t on the magnitude of the notorious 1968 DNC, but I still get the impression that it’s galvanized this generation of activists in a profound way.

After registration we settled in for the DSA exclusive part of the day’s programming. This included practice for elevator pitches, regional breakouts to discuss how issues overlap or differ between chapters, and a panel featuring Jacobin’s Bhaskar Sunkara and other DSA notables.

The People's Summit 2017 1
DSA’s David Duhalde leads a breakout session about coalition building.

Maybe it goes without saying, but meeting DSAers from Austin, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Lincoln, NE, and beyond reassured me that most comrades came to the People’s Summit with a nuanced understanding of the issues in their own communities and a solid sense of what needs to be done. The day’s trainings left members with actionable takeaways about coalition building, about handling growing pains in new chapters, and in some way these trainings were revelatory, but it felt even more revelatory to realize just how capable DSA members already are to take on the challenges their communities face. It’s sort of a vindication of DSA’s bottom-up approach to see so many capable people from across the country in one place.

And the simple sense that there’s something all of us can do feels charged and consequential at this moment. It’s telling that people aren’t flocking to ClintonCon 2k17 or whatever. In fact, the closest thing there is to a ClintonCon, the Center for American Progress’s invite-only conference, was held last month as a closed-door affair reserved for elite Democratic faithful looking to coronate future party leaders (in attendance: Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand; not in attendance: you and me).

But I guess it’s unfair to say the CAP event was invite-only; you and I had the opportunity to throw down $1,000 for the privilege of attending the after party. And to be fair, we’d gladly reciprocate the offer. The DSA after party at the In These Times office was free, but John Podesta would have been welcome to hand off $1,000 for a PBR or two.

The People's Summit 2017 2
The DSA after party. Not pictured: David Brock and John Podesta shotgunning Natty Ice wearing togas made out of bed sheets.

Of course, this inclusionary approach is exactly what sets the People’s Summit in stark contrast to the CAP — and indeed sets apart the burgeoning Sanders-inspired left movement from establishment liberals in general. So far as these conferences are concerned, the medium is the message.

A People’s Summit panel on Saturday, titled “Down-Ballot Revolutionaries,” drove this point home, serving as the antidote to exclusionary CAP-style electoral politics. Newly elected South Fulton, GA, City Councilman khalid kamau spelled out in concrete terms exactly how he put his winning campaign together. In a PowerPoint presentation he walked the crowd through building a campaign on a budget (you don’t need a campaign manager; if you pay one person, make it a field organizer), fundraising (a generous portion of his $26,000 budget came by way of small Our Revolution donations), and voter activation (DSA put together a robust nationwide phone-banking operation for his campaign).

The panel’s message was that any of us could run for office, and the presence of so many newly elected officials in the room — from Pennsylvania, Georgia, Maine — made it feel not just possible but probable that others of us would soon follow in their footsteps.

That evening as Sanders’ speech neared, a different demographic, something like a Bernie Fan Club, stirred from hibernation. This subset of the Summit talks a stranger’s ear off about its volumes of Sanders-inspired poetry. It rambles about the Sanders musicals it has penned.

Its chief political concern is the “Draft Bernie” campaign, a quixotic attempt to drag Sanders kicking and screaming into starting a new party he doesn’t want to start. Its strategy is this: take a politician whose message places the issues above the candidate, and draft him into a cult-of-personality campaign that places the candidate above the issues.

It shouldn’t be too surprising that the starry-eyed Draft Bernie bunch tried its damnedest to disrupt his speech with shouted, pouty interjections. The people whose entire platform hinges on drafting one guy don’t realize that it’s in their best interest not to irritate that guy.

But I guess the power of democracy will sort this out. Maybe I’m wrong and The Bernie Party or whatever will conquer the U.S. House next year and win like 250 seats. They brought the feel of a comic-book convention to a political summit, and maybe they’ll bring it to Capitol Hill next.

After Bernie’s speech, a bunch of celebrities read excerpts of Howard Zinn. Naturally this was the cue for a few dozen DSAers to ditch the rest of the proceedings for drinks.

Sunday morning, Thomas Frank hosted a panel of activists as a sort of convention denouement over breakfast. In part this centered on the authenticity of grassroots movements. Frank recounted being present at the first-ever Tea Party rally in D.C., an astroturf campaign if there ever was one, populated by industry lobbyists and Grover Norquist types from the start. This was contrasted against Linda Sarsour’s account of the January 21 Women’s March, which, for all its initial internal struggles, stands as an authentic ground-up achievement, inclusive and stirring, the kind of thing soft-drink ads want to co-opt.

I caught a bit of this discussion before my volunteer shift at the DSA table. The two-hour shift sprawled out to three or four hours simply because a revolving door of DSAers kept the table bustling and entertaining. As the Summit wound down most booths thinned out, but DSA’s was a hive of activity.

This strikes me as a non-trivial part of DSA’s appeal.

We’re building an organization at the same time that we’re forming a community. The buzz of members caused non-members to gravitate over too, one reason that a healthy number of new comrades enlisted that weekend. And by capitalist standards we had a great weekend: When I left, only one DSA t-shirt and a single poster remained unsold. By our own standards, though, the scope of our success will be measured by how much the movement has spread its message by next year’s People’s Summit, and by how effectively we can bring real change through actions on the ground.

Look. The shadow cast over American life by President Trump’s buffoonish, discolored countenance was unthinkable just a few years ago. But so was The People’s Summit. Our moment’s inescapable politics of the deplorable breathes new potential into Michael Harrington’s “left wing of the possible.” There’s a spark here. So the misery of austerity, of oligarchy, of capitalism goes on pretty much unabated for the moment, but the promise of the People’s Summit is that the seeds of the grassroots are sprouting already, in khalid kamau’s city council seat, in Larry Krasner’s bid for Philadelphia DA, in every person inspired to take action after the summit.

The promise of DSA, then, is that a pragmatic socialism can bring working people radical self-empowerment through democracy and collective action, not tomorrow but today, not when beltway power brokers say so but when we seize power for ourselves. It was nice to breathe that in for three days.

172-1 Democratic Socialism

Love Is the Only Law

At Leonard Pierce Dot Com, Leonard Pierce begins:

It’s been a busy week as I help my comrades prepare for the Democratic Socialists of America’s national convention, to be held here in Chicago in only a few months.  I’ll also be running for a leadership position in our local chapter — a prospect that, I must admit, fills me with dread.  Ever since my anarchist days, I’ve been allergic to the idea of leadership; who am I, after all, to tell anyone else what to do?  I want to be a strong leader but not a martinet, an effective leader but not a mere administrator, a leader who listens but isn’t just there to be manipulated.  I tell myself that the mere fact that I volunteered to run speaks to my commitment to socialism, but I’m terrified of doing wrong.


Fear of Hygge

At Working Class Perspectives, Jack Metzgar notes:

…much of the fear of hygge, as Anna Altman in The New Yorker points out, may be based on the “American” rejection of Denmark’s “high taxes and socialist ideas.”  Before snarkily dismissing it, Altman cites an alternative point-of-view:

“Perhaps Scandinavians are better able to appreciate the small, hygge things in life because they already have all the big ones nailed down: free university education, social security, universal health care, efficient infrastructure, paid family leave, and at least a month of vacation a year. With those necessities secured, according to [Meik] Wiking, Danes are free to become ‘aware of the decoupling between wealth and well-being.’”

The American working class does not have these big things nailed down, and their preference for belonging is more likely influenced by the fact that it’s cheaper and doesn’t require cash or a credit card.  In addition, in a belonging culture that is better at bonding than bridging, “pre-existing relationships” are not “the small things of life” but the big ones.


The Hoi Polloi United

by Lenoard Pierce

The annual Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner is one of Chicago DSA’s oldest and most honored traditions, and it closed out its sixth decade in high style on Friday, May 19th, 2017.

2017 Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner
Photo by John Scott

Considering Chicago DSA’s rapid growth over the last year, the dinner was expected to be well-attended, and did not disappoint: the Crowne Plaza Chicago West Loop’s ballroom was filled up with previous attendees and newcomers, all eager to lend their support to our efforts in the coming year. In fact, “A Way Forward” was the theme of the 59th annual dinner, and our speakers and honorees all focused on the road ahead as food and drinks were served by the hotel’s union staff.

Adriana Alvarez and son
Adriana Alvarez and son;
photo by John Scott

As should be expected from an event commemorating the life of labor titan Eugene V. Debs, labor was one of the most crucial themes of the evening. After dinner, the DSA’s first honoree, Adriana Alvarez, was introduced by C.J. Hawking, a United Methodist pastor, executive director of Arise Chicago, and one of Oak Park’s most prominent faith-based labor organizers. The Rev. Hawking talked about Ms. Alvarez’s vital work organizing McDonald’s workers in the Fight for $15 movement and how she represents a critical new path in labor agitation for the new millennium.

Adriana Alvarez – with 5-year-old son Manny in tow! – then took the stage to accept her plaque, on behalf of and accompanied by a number of her McDonald’s co-workers. She spoke of her astonishment at being so honored and her surprise at finding herself travelling all over the world to represent some of society’s most marginalized workers, people often taken for granted in the new economy. Ms. Alvarez noted that the work was often degrading, dangerous, and subject to few protections, but focused on the many victories Fight for $15 has won since its inception and emphasized the vital role of solidarity in winning those victories.

Larry Cohen Clem Balanoff
Larry Cohen (L) and Clem Balanoff (R) Photo by John Scott

Clem Balanoff was the next up at the podium, introducing the DSA’s next honoree. Balanoff, a lifelong activist from a storied family of radical Chicagoans, described Larry Cohen as a man “bad at retirement”, who stepped away from a leadership position with the Communication Workers of America only to find himself chairing Bernie Sander’s campaign for Labor. Cohen accepted his plaque with verve and enthusiasm, reminding the audience that the CWA is still fighting battles every day (several attendees at the dinner had come directly from standing on CWA picket lines as they engaged in a three-day strike against AT&T). He stressed the importance of building movements, and of keeping the momentum of the Sanders movement going forward to build more just and democratic institutions in the Age of Trump.

Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa
Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa Photo by John Scott

The evening’s final speaker was Carlos Ramirez Rosa, the young alderman of Chicago’s 35th ward and a proud member of the Democratic Socialists of America. He charismatically addressed the room with a story of the opportunities afforded him by his immigrant parents, and how he was radicalized as a teenager by the migrant march in 2006 to protest the unfair deportation policies proposed by Republicans in Congress. Though he seemed like an unlikely candidate for government office, he challenged the Democratic machine and won an overwhelming victory to become the alderman of his native Logan Square. He reminded the crowd that while every action may seem like a tiny trickle of effort, they can combine into an unstoppable flood of justice.

Brandon Payton Carrillo and Ron Baiman
Brandon Payton Carrillo on guitar and Ron Baiman on fiddle lead the Dinner in “Solidarity Forever”; photo by John Scott

South Side DSA member Brandon Payton-Carrillo closed out the evening with a great rendition of “Solidarity Forever”. Many attendees stuck around afterwards to socialize, plan future actions and events, and consider the theme of the evening. DSA plans on being an integral part of the Way Forward to a post-Trump, post-capitalism America. See you all next year at the 60th annual Debs-Thomas-Harrington dinner!

2017 Debs - Thomas - Harrington Dinner
C.J. Hawking, Clem Balanoff, Larry Cohen, Adriana Alvarez and son, Patrick Winegar, and Alderman Carlos Ramirez Rosa. Photo by John Scott

Taxing Sin or Bringing the Poor to HEAL?

by Leonard Pierce

The Illinois Public Health Institute’s Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity is currently backing House Bill 2667, known as the HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living) Act. The bill would impose a tax of a penny per ounce on soda and other sugary drinks, including powders, syrups, and beverages sold at retail level. The tax would be imposed on distributors, and the majority of funds would be earmarked for the Illinois Wellness Fund.

On the surface, this sounds like a win all around; distributors of unhealthful beverages have to pay more, and a blow is struck against what is indisputably a leading cause of obesity and diabetes. That’s one reason the HEAL Act is so popular with liberals, and is attracting a wide range of sponsors from both sides of the aisle. Of course, any time Republicans and Democrats agree on something, that’s cause to be suspicious; it usually means the working class is about to get it in the neck. And, unfortunately, the HEAL Act is no exception.

So-called “soda taxes” are picking up steam across the country as states and municipalities look for ways to make up public health revenue lost to tax cuts and austerity measures. They tend to be extremely regressive – that is, they impact the poor, who cannot afford to pay them, much more than they do the rich. While the HEAL Act places the tax burden on distributors, they’re likely to pass the cost on to consumers. The money raised will be supervised by an advisory council, the make-up of which is unclear, as is its answerability to the public. It exempts fruit juices, many of which have as many sugar calories as sodas, and its wording makes it unclear if it will impact coffee drinks – sugar bombs favored by the wealthier classes, and almost always let off the hook by such legislation.

Aside from these loopholes, and the regressive nature of such ‘sin taxes’ (of which Illinois already has far too many), there is also an element of moral scolding in bills like the HEAL Act. They suggest that the health problems of the poor are caused by their failure to make ‘good choices’, rather than that they tend to be forced into bad choices by poverty, deprivation, and a lack of better options. Working people eat and drink what is affordable, and programs that force them to pay more for soda and junk food just punish them for taking the path of least resistance to their economic realities.

Of course, as socialists, we must also consider the fact that legislation like the HEAL Act also fails to address the root causes of the ills they claim to want to cure. Poor people don’t get addicted to soda because of some inherent vice; they get addicted to it because it’s literally addictive, and because it’s cheap, readily available everywhere, and forced into their consciousness non-stop by advertising. Big corporations get rich off the poor getting hooked on sugary drinks, and now we want to make the poor pay for it? Why not tax the soda companies themselves, or better yet, place a general tax on the manufacture of sugar?

We know the answer to that: money. Soda corporations are exactly the kinds of big business that both Democrats and Republicans are beholden to, and our politicians will do anything to avoid offending them. In fact, we give them tax breaks at every opportunity. This is the same reason we don’t just tax sugar: the federal government massively subsidizes the sugar industry, deepening the problem of addiction and disease in order to protect private profit. Any sensible approach to the health outcomes caused by sugary drinks would begin with making the rich who benefit from their manufacture start paying their fair share of taxes, and end with the establishment of universal health care rather than funneling more money into a dysfunctional for-profit system that already fails millions of people in Illinois and elsewhere.

HB 2667 is currently sine die in the House, meaning it is not scheduled for further action. It may die there. But such measures, combining as they do regressive taxation, moral scolding, and austerity politics, are increasingly popular as state governments pretend to be broke rather than stuck having to scrape by without all the revenue that would come from fair taxation of corporations and the rich. If it manages to resurface, the DSA should oppose it, as we should all such calls to make the poor pay for the consequences forced on them by the rich.

Chicago DSA Mobilizes

by Bob Roman

It was just days before our annual Debs-Thomas-Harrington Dinner when we got an email from a DSA member on the staff of the Communication Workers of America. Union members at some AT&T divisions had been working without a contract for up to a year and wanted to end management stalling on negotiations. Another sore point was the frequent outsourcing of work to overseas call centers. To that end, they were declaring a three-day strike for that weekend. Could we help with the picket lines in Chicago?

This is where having working groups is a major asset. Patrick Winegar, coordinator of the labor working group in Chicago, sprang into action to have graphics, already prepared by DSA’s national office, turned into union printed posters. The original plan was to adopt a particular AT&T store for DSA’s attention, but most Chicago stores did not survive the strike: They were closed for the duration. Consequently strikers and DSA focused on those few that were open.

CWA AT&T strike in Oak Park
Greater Oak Park branch DSA members join CWA pickets.

Given the catch-as-catch-can nature of Facebook and email communications, Chicago DSA nonetheless mobilized dozens of members to spend at least a part of their weekend on the picket line. Our neighbors in the West Suburban Illinois DSA chapter also turned out in the ‘burbs.

Fight for 15, May 23, Chicago River
The signature photo for the May 23 Fight for 15 demonstration.

The next week brought Fight for 15’s annual attempt at talking sense to the McDonald’s corporation that was having its annual shareholders meeting at the McDonald’s campus out in Oak Brook on May 24. Fight for 15 always makes sure to have a vocal presence there. The day before, however, was a rally and march in Chicago to focus attention on the issue of a $15 / hour wage and union rights. The Chicago demonstration began at Daley Plaza, wandered up to Trump Tower, and ended at the Rock’n’Roll McDonald’s on North Clark Street.

Fight for 15, May 23, Chicago
Yep, that’s our banner in the background. Photo by SEIU Healthcare.

Banners! The folks at Fight for 15 wanted banners, the more representation the better. So we brought the Chicago DSA banner. Dozens of DSA members may have been at the demonstration, but the official Chicago DSA delegation ended up being only three of us toward the rear of the march. For all the cameras, I wasn’t able to find any suitable photos. The Pilsen Alliance Facebook page, however, has a video that captures several glimpses of a sodden Aaron Dellutri, Bob Roman, Frank Smith and the DSA banner.