On Sunday, January 22nd, about 24 socialists gathered after the Metro DC DSA general meeting to discuss next steps for the Economic Justice Committee. The round of introductions revealed that the meeting was attended by organizers, researchers for non-profits and government employees and contractors. All were interested in organizing and spreading socialist ideas. A few attendees were visiting and said that they planned to join DSA then and there after the meeting.
Sam Nelson began the proceedings with information about two campaigns open to DSA members, Jobs With Justice's Solidarity Squad and DC May Day Committee's International Workers Day March. As Sam put it, Solidarity Squad is, "a volunteer rapid response group that can quickly mobilize to defend immigrants from deportation raids and workers in general from attack. Joining means committing to being rapid response, attending a training, doing know your rights outreach, and attending demonstrations. Metro D.C. DSA is a full member of D.C. Jobs With Justice." DC May Day is an "all volunteer group that bottom lines organizing DC's International Workers Day march. At this moment, the key needs are outreach to join the committee and getting unions and organizations to commit to turning people out to the march and endorsing it."
Continuing on updates on works-in-progress, Leo Gurtner spoke on his upcoming attendance of the Jobs With Justice Steering Committee, and our close work with them. Leo also spoke about our plans to have Rights-At-Work trainings for DSA members and the general public. That trainings on organizing were in talks excited the attendees, as many are non-unionized workers in the non-profit sector or government contractors who would like to be represented by a union. It was agreed that a better understanding of labor law would be beneficial for all, in order to understand how DSA can aid organizing campaigns.
Will Fischer of IUPAT (Painters and Allied Trades) made an appeal to build a strong relationship with AFGE to support them in the dark days ahead. Discussion of how to do this followed, but the first step was agreed to be having guests from AFGE and other unions speak to DSA and in order to come to an analysis of how DSA can best support them. Will also pointed out that connections with veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should be made, and that he could lead on this, as a veteran of those wars. Points were made that we should undertake similar steps with AFSCME. One gentleman raised the point, however, that we need to support people who have not yet unionized.
This led to a discussion of the Fight for 15. Different ways of getting involved with the Fight were discussed, though one was admitted as having risks -- some remarked that the Northern Virginia effort is being led by Socialist Alternative and there was some question of how to engage with them. It will have to be discussed in a location for more deliberation on tactics. We discussed the Fight for 15 in Maryland, and many were interested in contacting Montgomery County's County Executive Ike Leggett to tell him not to veto the County Council's bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. Ben Spielberg offered to get DSA in contact with Councilman Marc Elrich, the sponsor of the bill, in order to get Elrich's opinion of how DSA can support the bill and the Fight in Montgomery County. The persons to meet with Elrich are to be decided at the next meeting.
The next day, members of the Economic Justice Committee shared Leggett's contact information, encouraging DSA and community members in the DMV to call Leggett and implore him not to veto the bill. Contact information came from a variety of sources, from other DSA members sharing details over Slack, to this writer acquiring the number for Leggett's liaison from an employee contacted through a fortunate error in the Montgomery County website directory.
But around 7 o'clock that night it was announced that Leggett had vetoed the bill. Before the veto was announced there was a discussion of a letter writing campaign in the Economic Justice Committee online forum. After the veto, members quickly decided that letters should be sent to Leggett and open letters to the public challenging the reasoning of the veto. Moreover, it was decided that an information gathering project be started in order to have necessary details to respond to the revised bill. Unsurprisingly, but still inspiring, is many members of the Economic Justice committee command an incredible knowledge of wage-level economics and the history of the Fight for Fifteen campaign, and immediately offered to write letters and did catalogue and share information on minimum wage economics.
After this quick huddle, it was decided that a statement be put out to denounce Leggett's veto, and a group collaborate on writing a letter to Leggett expressing DSA's disappointment. Josh Crotty wrote a statement for the committee, while this author spoke with Communications Co-Chair Woody Woodruff on getting the statement out. After a lightning round of approvals from members of the Economic Justice, Communications and Steering committees, the statement was sent out to local media contacts that night. The next day the statement was sent out on the local's social media channels, where it was shared widely. Ryan Mosgrove led the letter campaign to Leggett, writing an impressive notice that will be brought to the next meeting and signed onto by agreeing members.