For the third year in a row, the Metro DC chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (Metro DC DSA) hosted an annual local convention to debate and collectively decide on the pressing questions not just facing our chapter, but also our movement as a whole. For the third year in a row, and in conjunction with the local convention, the Metro DC DSA Steering Committee is providing an annual report to members as a summary of the past year’s activities and highlights in our chapter. That annual report is contained herein.
The compiling and drafting of this report—and the need to do so—marks an important point in the history of our chapter. The need to document our activities for future chapter members comes from the fact that our DSA chapter, along with DSA as a national organization, have shown that both will likely outlast the ebbs and flows inherent in US politics.
Six years have now passed since the resurgence of DSA began during Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential campaign and as a response to the brutal, reactionary policies of the Trump presidency. Since the election of President Biden in 2020, political apathy is on the rise again in the general public. Despite 2022 being a year of relatively low political engagement, our chapter has remained strong, notching notable wins across campaigns.
Over these past six years, the Metro DC DSA chapter has become a working-class political and organizing force in our region. In 2016-2017, at roughly 1,000 members, we were largely a network of loose-knit formations acting independently under the chapter’s amorphous organizational structure. But through struggle, defeats, and, ultimately, victories for our class, we have since become an interconnected machine of complementary activities and power-building.
In our chapter, endorsed electoral candidates, apartment building organizing, and mutual aid have all combined to deliver material benefits to tenants across the DC region—in what has become one of the most militant tenant movements in the nation. Labor-focused organizing has fused with our electoral organizing strategy, producing a landslide victory for tipped workers in Initiative 82. Elected officials who are DSA members have fought for and successfully won functionally free public transit in DC as well as voting rights for noncitizen residents, and worked to expand social housing in Montgomery County. This is only the beginning; elected DSA members introduced the Green New Deal for Social Housing in DC, which, at the time of writing this report, is being considered by the DC Council. Chapter members also organized to get municipalities to allow public sector collective bargaining in Northern Virginia. And our chapter has maintained a strong administrative core and geographic branches to maintain and push the bounds of logistics, communications, and member engagement as we fight to win our collective campaigns. By presenting a united front across our region, our chapter has once again proven our unshakeable commitment to changing the quality of life for workers in DC, Maryland, and Virginia.
Growth and Development remains a focus for our chapter, with members and leaders participating in discussions at the local and national level about how to drive intentional recruitment. During this period of relatively low political engagement from the general public, our chapter has retained 86% (2,846) of members in good standing as compared to our peak of 3,300 in November of 2021. Organizational contraction is certainly a concern, but it is worth acknowledging the relative strength of DSA that we are able to remain a steady, growing political force during a period of liberal governance and efforts by the neoliberal establishment to placate the left, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed many chapter operations to digital alternatives. Lapsed dues among chapter members has also seen a net increase since last year.
Our chapter has not stood by idling during this period, redoubling our efforts on external organizing with wins across campaigns, as well as strengthening internal political structures and administrative functions. In the coming year there are many opportunities for us to increase our membership roles once again. Political engagement from the public is likely to increase in conjunction with presidential primaries and an ever rising, increasingly openly fascist Right. The dropoff in membership this year shows that we must be intentional in retaining, recruiting, and engaging chapter members. Our internal structures are now better equipped than ever to do so.
As we close 2022, we hope comrades consider the information in this report during convention deliberations. Being aware of, understanding, and learning from our past activities will be critical to honing our strategies and tactics for future struggles. If the past six years have shown us anything, it is that a better world through democratic socialism is possible. The path to that better world depends on our collective abilities as a chapter, a national organization, and a broader movement to build on our progress thus far.
As stated in our chapter’s bylaws, “The Steering Committee is the highest elected body of MDC DSA and is the political leadership of the chapter when the membership is not assembled.” In addition to political leadership, the Steering Committee—through the committee’s chair—is responsible for carrying out the “orders and resolutions” of Metro DC DSA members. In this sense, when members of the chapter pass resolutions or amend the bylaws, the buck stops with the Steering Committee and its members to ensure that those decisions are enacted. The committee has taken steps—like drafting and assigning portfolios—to ensure that committee members remain attentive and accountable to the chapter.
In terms of structure, our chapter’s Steering Committee has four officer seats and seven at-large seats, as well as three non-voting delegates, one from each branch. Regarding officers, the Treasurer, Secretary, and Campaigns Coordinator are directly elected to the Steering Committee and each officer chairs the Finance Committee, Administrative Committee, and Campaigns Council, respectively. The Steering Committee chair is the only officer position that is not directly elected, but is instead selected by fellow Steering Committee members. Finally, though not an officer, an at-large Steering Committee member chairs the chapter’s Political Engagement Committee—which is responsible for coordinating the chapter’s external political activities, including electoral endorsements and legislative advocacy. The remaining at-large members are responsible for tasks set out in the portfolios assigned to each Steering Committee member.
The sections following this one provide summaries of the permanent committees mentioned above. Immediately below is a summary of activities (not included in the permanent committee summaries) for the 2022 Metro DC DSA Steering Committee:
For the next year, and for the new Steering Committee, the current Steering Committee chair recommends focusing on developing HGO procedures, strengthening membership retention measures, and formalizing reports on portfolio work for Steering Committee members. However, ultimately, the work plan for the next Steering Committee will be at the discretion of the members of that committee.
Verified as of 12/8/2022, total cash on hand is $71,904.22. As of December 8, 2021, we had $62,625.01 in cash on hand. This reflects a total increase of $9,279.21 in our cash reserves in 2022.
We had some significant financial movement this year. National Staff helped the chapter to transfer over $11,145.77 from a legacy account in the Spring of this year. We paid $3,000 from the Migrant Justice Fundraiser to the Free Them All VA Coalition (FTAVA). We spent most of our allocated funds: over $13,000 of the $16,150 allocated for our priority campaigns. We also spent more than $7,000 on purchasing chapter items for the merchandise store, of which we made back a substantial amount.
Additionally, because of overcompliance by our payment processor Wepay, the chapter was unable to take donations via Action Network from mid-June to mid-September of this year and funds were temporarily frozen. Transferring to Stripe has allowed us to operate again. We estimate that we lost out on $5,000 due to this issue.
On the drop in funds following October 2022:
This is money held in the Treasury that is not held in restricted funds, budget funds, or branch funds. This is referred to as General Funds. We have $59,875.10 in General Funds. As of December 8, 2021, we had $46,231.51 in General Funds. This reflects an increase in 2021 of $12,267.05 in General Fund money.
This is money that has been deposited by a Working Group or Section via fundraising to be used for their own purposes. This money is counted as separate from the General Funds. In total, we have $10,607.57 in Restricted Funds. As of December 8, 2021, we had $13,907.51. This reflects an annual decrease of $3,299.94. This can be attributed both to the spending of long-standing Migrant Justice funds, as well as other older funds being strategically spent.
Branch Funds are like Restricted Funds for Branches, self-raised money that can be used for their own purposes. Branches also received a $500 budget allocation placed into a “use it or lose it” budget fund that expires by the next budget period.
In total, our branches spent $1,479 of its allotted $1,500 dollars. Montgomery County and Northern Virginia went over their allotment, but it was covered by Prince George’s County not spending their money. It is recommended that the next Treasurer work with PG County leadership to help them use these resources in 2023.
2022 was the second year of a priority budget. In 2021, we provided $9,750 to our Priorities: Labor, Green New Deal, SOS, and Defund. In total, our priorities have spent $8,641.81 and there is $1,101.19 left unspent. In 2022, we allocated $16,150 in total, and spent $13,21.95. $2,858.05 went unspent.
The breakdown of expenditures is as follows:
The Priority system was, from a financial perspective, a rousing success. We have spent 84% of the priority money after a marked increase in Priority Funds ($9,000 in 2021 to $16,150 in 2022), and there is one month left in the year.
The 2021 Chapter Budget put aside $2,500 for “discretionary” spending, i.e. money for reimbursements for expenditures that come up. In 2022, we have spent $1,875.08 of that money, with $624.92 pending for the remainder of December.
At the 2022 Convention, the chapter approved its second Operational Budget. The total approved was $28,247 for the payment of recurring chapter expenses. These include things like website hosting, text banking, allocations to branches, meeting space, among others.
The Treasurer closely tracked the Chapter’s operational expenditures in 2022. In total we spent $13,731.00. This means, we are $14,000 below budget for the annual year. The Treasurer proposed a smaller budget for 2023, to better match actual expenses.
In August 2021, the Chapter approved Resolution 2021-08-R04: Authorize Funding for MDCDSA Merchandise Store. In 2022, the Chapter spent $7,048.40 on items and fees. It brought in $3,595.20.
In 2022, The Treasurer will continue to replenish its items for sale under the mandate of the Resolution, and will look to expand its offering. Currently, of the $7,000 authorized in outstanding costs on the Merchandise Store, $6,423.62 is outstanding. This means that we cannot order more than $576.38 in additional items until more sales are made.
In 2021, the Finance Committee began tracking the dues and donations received from our membership. For dues, we received $28,034.28 from the National Dues share, which represents the last quarter of 2021 through the third quarter of 2022. This is up from $21,593.00 in 2021. We average 2,336.19 in dues per month. This is notable as our membership numbers have constricted a bit since the last convention. This means that more of our members are paying monthly dues and with higher monthly contributions.
The chapter also received donations in 2021, via an older Paypal fundraising system and Action Network. In total, the Chapter received $12,089.81 in donations. This is down from 2021, where we received $17,846.59 in donations. This $5,000 difference is likely because of the shut down we experienced in the summer.
The Administrative Committee (AdCom) is a chapter entity sanctioned by the Steering Committee to oversee and accomplish the general administrative functions of the chapter, among other duties as outlined in the bylaws. AdCom is organized into departments—for example, communications and operations. Within those departments are teams—for example, events (within operations) and social media (within communications). Both departments and teams are led by stewards, with the chapter secretary chairing AdCom.
AdCom has formally existed since late 2020 and has evolved along with the chapter. For instance, AdCom added a security department following the events of January 6th. In 2021, the security department enshrined vetting and threat assessment for the chapter. Most members interact with AdCom through Red Desk, our chapter's internal ticketing management system, where members submit requests for social media posts, vetting, onboarding, mass texts, and many other items. In 2022, the Security department has become essential to our continued commitment to the safety of our members and their data.
The past year has seen successes and challenges for AdCom. At the beginning of the year, the newly formed Member Engagement Committee relied on AdCom to get organized and set up with chapter tools. Due to the swift and thorough work of AdCom members, the MEC was able to hit the ground running. Additionally, the Tech Team within AdCom did a tremendous job this year in furthering our self-reliant infrastructure and continuing to add new services and apps to our self-hosted servers, the most recent of which was Loomio. The Tech Team has some great projects in the works which you’ll see the fruits of in 2023
As of December 9, 2022 , AdCom closed 401 red-desk tickets. The chapter has grown by leaps and bounds since AdCom's inception, and while the number of tickets is lower than last year, that doesn’t diminish the importance of RedDesk and our AdCom team. This level of success has led to DSA members running for leadership in other chapters or national formations on platforms of starting their own AdCom or the equivalent.
The Campaigns Council is a comprehensive board and gathering space of working groups and priority campaigns. The Council is responsible for providing both visibility across MDC DSA’s various campaigns and updates on campaign progress to the broader MDC DSA membership. In the past year, the Campaign Council met on a mostly monthly basis to promote coordination and cooperation among and between chapter formations.
For each of the completed quarters of this year (not counting the most recent quarter), we had an average of 9 formations (including all priority campaigns) submit reports that detail the activities of those formations and their plans for the upcoming quarter. While 9 per quarter is impressive, the Council can improve by encouraging further engagement with the bylaw mandated reporting requirements. Another area of potential improvement is a streamlined way of moving submitted reports to the member portal, which has thus far been unevenly done. A final area for improvement would be increased buy-in around meeting participation.
In its second year as a chapter body, the Political Engagement Committee (PEC) focused on our endorsed campaigns throughout the year. From January to November, the body oversaw electoral organizing in DC and Montgomery County, supporting three candidates and one ballot initiative. The chapter applied for and received national endorsement for Gabe Acevero, Max Socol, and Initiative 82. Additionally, we applied for and received two grants from the National Electoral Committee (NEC) to support our electoral organizing across the DMV.
Highlights from the PEC in 2022:
On the implementation of GR4: Building Electoral Power and Accountability, passed in the 2021 Convention, the PEC organized two meetings with chapter members discussing when, how, and why we hold elected officials accountable; developed an informational training for chapter members interested in working as campaign and legislative staff; and began the project to identify favorable districts and draft an electoral strategy. However, the PEC did not finish that project — of special note is the work done to target friendly districts in Northern Virginia.
On some of the challenges faced by the PEC: operating with a vacancy for half of the year as well as needing to fill vacancies and restructure the body halfway through the year, and having election deadlines be extended later than foreseen in 2021. Due to these timing and scheduling challenges, as well as the high time demands of running our electoral campaigns through November, we were unable to schedule the town hall for endorsed electeds to engage with membership for 2022, but plan to hold the town hall in early 2023, with plans to continue working on the electoral strategy document, project of favorable districts, public schedule of periodic meetings, and continued staff trainings, town halls, and accountability discussions in 2023.
The Membership Engagement Committee (MEC) was established at the 2021 Local Convention following the passage of BA4. The MEC is tasked with housing our chapter’s organizer training and development efforts, chapter-wide recruitment efforts, and the various member mobilization efforts our chapter utilizes - from New Member Orientations and subsequent one-on-one mentoring chats, to using our mobilization survey results to assist campaigns and working groups with their mobilization efforts. The MEC was chaired by At-Large Steering Committee Member Dieter LM, and had the following comrades as Department Stewards: Andrew S (Mobilization Department), Rafael FG (Recruitment Department), and Sheena S (Development Department).
Despite being the Committee responsible for member mobilization, MEC leadership itself was soon beset by burnout and lost its department stewards early in its first year of operations. However, the Mobilization Department was able to remain operational under the leadership of Ali T as Mobilization Steward. For the past year, the Mobilization Department has maintained and improved on its already-established mobilization programs (like the aforementioned Chats with a Comrade and New Member Orientations), and has been working with other campaigns like WePower to reduce redundancies in mobilization efforts across the chapter.
In terms of chapter recruitment, ad-hoc recruitment efforts (like the reproductive justice cards that were handed out at SCOTUS actions earlier this year) have sprung up that have made up for the absence of a functional Recruitment Department and centralized recruitment strategy. And while the Development Department has also fallen short of its initial goals, we believe that should GR2 pass at the 2022 Local Convention, a revived Training and Development Department under the MEC umbrella will ensure that chapter members have access to bi-annual organizer training cohorts, as well as specialized monthly training sessions.
Looking back on its inaugural year, the MEC has learned many structural lessons and plans to continue the great work that it is already engaged in. In its sophomore year, the MEC will also continue its efforts to work with our chapter’s campaigns and working groups to ensure that they are able to engage in their own mobilization, recruitment, and development efforts, which will free up the MEC to focus on centralized and general efforts.
The Stomp Out Slumlords (SOS) Working Group fights evictions and supports tenant organizing throughout the Washington metro area. A summary of SOS’s accomplishments over the last year is below:
The Labor Working Group organizes with workers, including DSA members, from across the region to fight the boss, build new unions (and strengthen existing ones) and turn out for solidarity actions. Organizing the working class in their workplaces– whether through traditional collective bargaining, pre-majority unionism, worker centers, or other types of organizations, is central to socialist theory and praxis. Especially here in the DMV, unions are diverse working-class organizations that build multi-racial solidarity through collective action for community transformation..
Below is a list of the Labor Working Group’s accomplishments in 2022:
Metro DC DSA's Defund MPD Working Group is organizing in coalition with Black-led and racial justice organizations to defund the DC Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), reallocate the funds to create new services such as free public transit and social housing, redistribute funds to restore underfunded agencies such as public libraries and parks and recreation, remove police from schools, and free our neighbors from occupation and incarceration as a path towards abolition — a world without cops and prisons. As part of our vision for racial and economic justice, we demand that the funding removed from police and prisons be reinvested in real public safety: housing, schools, jobs, healthcare and mental health services, community-based support programs, violence interruption, and other public goods and services. This aspiration is a core part of our vision of socialism.
The accomplishments of the Defund MPD Working Group over the last year are below:
We Power DC is a grassroots campaign fighting for public power in the District. We believe that a publicly-owned municipal utility, directly accountable to the people it serves, is the only way to achieve a more just energy system as part of a Green New Deal for DC residents.
A summary of WePowerDC’s activities for 2022 is below:
The Political Engagement Committee and our Electoral Working Groups in DC and Montgomery County, as well our Initiative 82 campaign, fought to win races for Gabe Acevero, Max Socol, Zachary Parker, and Initiative 82. A continuation of the chapter’s strong electoral program, we competed in two separate districts in Montgomery County, intensely in DC’s Ward 5, and district wide for Initiative 82.
Our activities included:
The Montgomery County Branch is one of three sub-chapter geography-based formations—along with the Prince George’s County and Northern Virginia branches—that exists as another level of support for chapter organizing and administration. The Montgomery County Branch was chartered in 2017 and its members have consistently expanded the reach and capacity of the branch since then.
The branch ran a robust campaign to re-elect Del. Gabriel Acevero in District 39 during a tough re-election campaign and elect cadre Metro DC DSA member and current branch steering committee member Max Socol in District 18 from January-July. In the process, we:
The Branch also organized a range of events and efforts along a wide array of local issues:
We are proud to share that the overall size of the branch mailing list has grown from under 1300 emails in January 2022 to close to 1900 emails as of December 2022, thanks to our outreach efforts and popular action alerts about rent stabilization and the IHRA definition of antisemitism, representing more people we can recruit to join actions and join DSA.
Chartered at the annual local convention in December 2020, Prince George’s County Branch has expanded to 150+ members.
Below are the Prince George’s County Branch highlights from 2022:
The Northern Virginia Branch of MD.C. DSA was established in 2017. Branch members organize in the Northern Virginia area, from the Virginia side of the Potomac River to Loudoun, Prince William and Fauquier counties. The branch’s objective is to center socialist organizing in the Northern Virginia area, while also supporting coalition partners and fellow Virginia DSA chapters.
Below are 2022 highlights from the Northern Virginia Branch:
The 14th Metro DC DSA Steering Committee hopes that the information in this report is useful. The diverse array and sheer number of activities recorded here—all occurring in just one year—has been unprecedented in our chapter. The work we all have collectively contributed has decidedly built power for and delivered material benefits to our class.
It is also important to note that the accomplishments documented in this report did not simply happen out of thin air. Every item in this report was the product of volunteers who have dedicated themselves to a better world. We engage in this work not for direct personal gain, but because we understand that every material benefit won for our class is a benefit won for us all.