Brief: 2021 DSA Los Angeles Convention
On October 16th, DSA-LA held its 2021 Annual Convention. With over 5,000 members, DSA-LA is the second largest chapter in the country, after only New York City. The Convention was held online utilizing Zoom Conference and had 169 attendees registered (quorum was 150). It also offered simultaneous translation in Spanish.
Presented at the Convention were a package of Bylaw amendments motivated by the Bylaws Editing Commission as well as four individual Bylaw amendments separately submitted. Five priority resolutions were also heard. You can see the text of the considered Amendments and Resolutions here. Leadership elections will be held in December, as required by the Chapter’s bylaws. Sub-group elections, such as for committees, are held separately and will take place in January.
After keynote speakers from Victor Bouzi (DSA-Long Beach and IATSE 695), Hugo Soto-Martinez (LA City Council District 13 Candidate, endorsed by the chapter) and Burbank City Council Member Konstantine Anthony, the Convention moved into business quickly.
The Convention Body debated the package of Bylaw Amendments offered by the Bylaws Editing Commission. These amendments constituted the final work product of the Commission, created in June 2020 by the 2020 Steering Committee. The amendments follow a Report published in August 2020, and were the result of interviews of chapter members, as well as meetings, and research of other recent chapter bylaws changes. The package of Amendments included, among other minor changes:
Moving Convention from September/October to May, as well as prohibiting Floor Amendments at Convention permanently, with a process written in for submitting and debating amendments ahead of time;
The elimination of “at-large officers,” with specific roles created for Steering Committee members;
The addition of two co-chairs to the Steering Committee, who would serve as the public spokespersons for the Local and preside over membership and Steering Committee meetings;
Splitting the role of the Communications Director into multiple positions;
Term limits for the Steering Committee of three consecutive terms;
An elected Nominations Committee to oversees all Chapter-wide elections and voting;
Active membership to be counted annually, to be determined by attendance at the Local Convention, as well as an annual anonymous census;
Required caucus registration as well as other subcommittee leadership requirements; and,
Recusing elected officers with active grievances from any grievance-related deliberation or voting.
The motivators cited issues within the chapter that the bylaws were targeted at addressing including a lack of trust between leadership and members, as well as a struggle to build up a cadre of members to take on more responsibilities within the chapter.
While attendees seemed to agree on the chapter’s issues, the proposal was met with mixed debate. Supporters recognized that this would be a start in solving some of the chapter’s structural issues, detractors took issue with certain provisions in the package including (1) the splitting of the Communications Director role and its responsibilities, and a concern that expanded requirements for subcommittee leaders would lower their organizing capacity. Overall, those speaking against the package cited a concern that the structural changes are meant to address major organizing problems within the chapter and worried that the changes would be a band aid on larger issues. The package failed 53-78.
The Convention body also debated individual bylaw amendments within Proposal for Voting Accessibility, which would have expanded absentee voting under the bylaws. This failed 39-73, with detractors citing concerns about structural capacity to implement this against a concern about deliberative democracy. Additionally failing were proposals for Four Months Notice for Convention Amendment and Only Amend Bylaws at Convention bylaw amendments. The Open Steering Meetings Amendment did pass the ⅔ requirement at 85-35.
The following five Resolutions for Chapter-level priority campaigns were debated:
DSA-LA for Universal Childcare Priority Resolution - Passed 94-20
Resolution for Guaranteed Healthcare for All in CA - Failed 83-51
Accessibility and Orientation Resolution (Amended) - Failed 50-54
Multiracial Leadership Development Resolution - Passed 69 - 29
Green New Deal for Public Schools in LA (Amended) - Passed 85-10
A couple of things were notable among these. While the Resolution for Guaranteed Healthcare did have wide support as a campaign, several speakers against cited concerns with the $11,000 price tag for billboards across the city of Los Angeles. Several speakers noted that they would have supported the Resolution without that specific expenditure. The Accessibility and Orientation Resolution, which proposed solutions regarding issues with accessibility, childcare, language justice, onboarding and conflict resolution, failed by a large margin despite nobody speaking against the Resolution on the Convention floor.
There was wide support and enthusiasm for the speakers who spoke for priorities that did pass: the Childcare for All campaign, the Multi-Racial Leadership training series, and the Green New Deal for Public Schools in LA campaign. These will be the chapter priorities for the upcoming six to nine months.
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