General Membership Meeting: Oct. 14, 2018

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East Bay DSA General Membership Meeting, October 14, 2018, 1–3 p.m.

This is a general meeting of the East Bay DSA membership. Zach M. and Abigail G.-G. chaired the meeting. The recording secretary is present and documenting the minutes.

The meeting was called to order at 1:10 p.m.

Settle In and Welcome

Co-chair Zach M. called the meeting to order and delivered instruction for how to submit an announcement for the member announcement period.

Committee Reports and Announcements

Committees were invited to deliver reports. The following oral reports were delivered to the membership.

  • Political Education Committee report, delivered by Dan D.
  • Member Engagement Committee report, delivered by Hannah E.
  • Meetings Committee report, delivered by Andy C.
  • Labor Committee report, delivered by Ashley P. and Robbie N.
  • Racial Solidarity Committee report, delivered by Kara M.
  • Steering Committee report, delivered by Mark G.
  • Electoral Committee report, delivered by Sandy B.
  • Social Housing Committee report, delivered by Will S.
  • Finance report, delivered by Sean M.

Campaigns Report Back

Following the committee reports, electoral campaign reports were delivered.

Soli A. delivered a report on the progress of the Community Power Slate campaign for the Berkeley Rent Board Election, calling on members to attend canvasses in Berkeley, which will be carrying Community Power Slate literature.

Will S. and Allie L. delivered a report on the progress of the Proposition 10 and Measure Y campaigns. Canvassing has been happening in North Berkeley, South Berkeley, North Oakland, and recently East Oakland.

Jack M., delivered a report on the Jovanka Beckles campaign, after which Matt S. delivered a presentation on how to get involved in the coming work of the chapter for canvassing and phonebanking. Information for these events can be found on the chapter event calendar.

Member Announcements

Abigail G.-G. opened the member announcements segment of the meeting.

Stan made an announcement for a rally in protest of a police killing in Pittsburg.

Michael K. made an announcement regarding the latest UN report on global climate change and the Ecosocialist Caucus meeting that will be coming up this month on October 29.

Rex L. made an announcement for the Socialist Feminist Caucus defense of an abortion clinic later this month.

Karina S. made an announcement for a reading group on the Spanish Civil War and upcoming study groups.

Resolutions

Abigail G.-G. introduced the resolutions potion of the meeting, and Graham D. delivered a short presentation on Robert's Rules and the process for considering the resolution.

The following resolution was motivated by Kate K.

Resolution to Support the Oakland Educators Association in Their Contract Campaign

Submitted by: Kate K. (OEA teacher, Labor Committee)

Cosponsored by: Tim M. (OEA teacher, Labor Committee), Tyler D. (OEA teacher, Labor Committee), Shula B. (OEA teacher), Julia M. (OEA teacher), Robbie N. (UAW 2865, Labor Committee co-chair), Ashley P. (SEIU 1021, Labor Committee co-chair), John P. (SEIU Local 1021, Labor Committee), Nick F. (UAW 2865, Political Education Committee co-chair), Hannah K. (Labor Committee, Political Education Committee)

Whereas,

The strike wave inaugurated by West Virginia teachers in late February has inspired thousands of teachers across the country to organize against austerity as they fight for better working conditions for themselves and better learning conditions for their students. In the spring, teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona struck, and teachers in North Carolina and Kentucky staged major walkouts. This fall the strikes are moving west, with teachers in Washington State on strike, and Los Angeles teachers set to strike in November. Teachers here in Oakland have been working without a contract since July 2017, and are currently deadlocked in mediation with the Oakland Unified School District after having declared an impasse in bargaining negotiations.

The teacher strike wave is particularly consequential in light of the July 2018 Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision, which prohibited public sector unions from collecting agency fees from workers who don’t pay dues, but who nevertheless benefit from their activities. The capitalist class, their lackeys, and their spokespeople claimed this as a victory—they expect that depleting public-sector unions of major funding sources will weaken their power to demand more from the bosses. And they’re not wrong—deprived of resources, many public-sector unions, especially those that are highly bureaucratized and reliant on paid staff to drive their activity, have been dealt a major blow.

Against this backdrop, these teacher strikes have demonstrated the power of militant workers, united in solidarity with one another, conscious of their power to grind society to a halt, and ready to fight the bosses and capitalists as a class. With union density of the American workforce under 11% (down from 35% at its peak in the mid-50s), a widespread acceptance of non-confrontational business unionism, and Janus, labor unions face an uphill battle. But the brave workers who are organizing these militant mass strikes and labor actions show us all that’s still possible. 

The labor movement is vital to the struggle for socialism, because it’s where the working class gains critical experience in class struggle by fighting individual employers. And in those instances where it moves beyond demands on individual bosses and starts to fight for the emancipation of the entire working class, the labor movement becomes a major vehicle of struggle against the capitalist system as a whole. Since the resurgence of class politics in the 2010s, and especially in the wake of DSA’s massive growth since 2016, socialists are now poised to develop strong ties and a coordinated presence in unions, and to help develop them into organizations that can fight for working-class politics on a mass scale.

Public sector workers—who labor for government officials who administer state funds, rather than capitalist firms—occupy a uniquely political position in the labor movement. Teachers, the majority of whom are public employees, are in a particularly strategic position because they represent the most unionized sector in the U.S. and globally, meaning the institutional infrastructure necessary for militant organized labor is already developed in most places. Furthermore, teachers are necessary to the reproduction of the workforce, and they are very difficult to automate. Teachers and public school workers constitute a large percentage of the workforce almost everywhere in the US, and they have direct and organic connections to large, diverse swaths of the working class.

When public school teachers unite and organize with students, parents, and fellow public employees, demanding better working conditions for teachers and better learning conditions for students, they are fighting for the future of our public education system as a whole. The threats that public education faces—austerity cuts and aggressive privatization pushed by the charter school movement—will only be overcome by public school teachers, united, organized, and committed to the broader fight.

The West Virginia teacher strike was successful because there was a small core of deeply rooted, highly politicized teachers driving the organizing. These teachers are representatives of a growing “militant minority” in the labor movement—a group of rank-and-file worker leaders who are deeply committed to class struggle. The perspectives and capacities of these committed, political worker-leaders are necessary not only for winning better contracts in the short term, but building on those wins to organize larger and larger segments of the working class until capitalism is abolished and the exploitation of all workers comes to an end.

And whereas,

  • The education section of the priorities resolution passed at the 2018 East Bay DSA convention states that East Bay DSA should:
  • Fight for tuition-free college and university, and against cuts to public education from pre-kindergarten through higher education.
  • Support the efforts of educators and school workers to organize for their own working conditions and the learning conditions of students.
  • Oppose the further privatization of public schools and demand full funding of quality K-12 public education through progressive tax reform.

There are a number of East Bay DSA members who are active members of OEA, and the Labor Committee has already begun supporting them in encouraging worker militancy in this contract campaign. Through DSA’s National Democratic Socialist Teacher Network, these teachers can share resources and experiences with public school teachers around the country who are organizing in their unions with a working-class politics perspective. 

As we know from the Chicago Teachers’ Union strike in 2012, links between education workers’ unions and the broader community of students, parents, and activists were crucial in generating public support for the strike and solidifying the power of striking educators. We believe that, if the OEA fight culminates in a strike or any sort of escalated action, East Bay DSA can help bolster public support for teachers. When combined with the good organizing and agitational work that DSA/OEA members have already been engaged in, East Bay DSA could play a critical role in this moment of historic potential.

Therefore be it resolved,

East Bay DSA will endeavor to develop strong relationships with OEA teachers and families, and to support the OEA contract fight—including any potential strike activity—with material resources, organizing assistance, and publicity as needed.

The Labor Committee will form a group for democratic socialist teachers, comprised of K-12 public school teachers and Labor Committee members. This group will work to support OEA's contract campaign and rally public support behind Oakland teachers. Moreover, it will work to highlight the role of class politics in teachers' struggle for a fair contract, and create spaces for militant teachers who are interested in democratic socialism to convene within East Bay DSA.

The Labor Committee will educate the membership of East Bay DSA about the campaign and mobilize members to support Oakland teachers.

Following the motivation of the resolution, a period of question and answer was opened by Abigail G.-G. Members asked questions which were then answered by Educators from the Oakland Educator Association who were invited to answer along with the motivator.

After debate, the resolution PASSED by a majority vote.

Adjournment

Following the resolution, a motion to adjourn PASSED by a majority vote.

Following adjournment, announcements were made regarding committee tabling and the currently active hotel workers strike.

The meeting was adjourned at 2:45 p.m.