Pay Our NCC Members the Stipends They Deserve

Alex Pellitteri argues in favor of Resolution 13 which would call on the DSA NPC to allocate a YDSA budget that included stipends for the NCC.

Becoming a National Coordinating Committee (NCC) member is similar to taking on an unpaid part-time job. It’s not exactly the same; your labor isn’t being used to enrich some capitalist, you don’t have an annoying boss, and the work is fulfilling. However, you still must dedicate 15 to 20 hours per week and take on many responsibilities, with many people relying on you to complete them. Most of us are full-time students and at least part-time workers, so running for NCC would require taking on the equivalent of an additional part-time job. There are many YDSA members who, although they would make fantastic NCC members, cannot commit the necessary time to run for and ultimately accept the position. The last NCC election at the 2021 Summer Convention had only 11 candidates running for the 9 seats. When I speak to people about running for NCC, the primary reason for not running is the amount of time and responsibility it requires and how difficult it would be to balance with the responsibilities of school and work. Instead of a spirited debate about a political vision and theory of change, NCC elections are often uncompetitive and national leaders struggle to find people to run. 

Although those who do run and win are deeply committed and try their best, there is a limit to how much time and energy they can devote if they must balance being on the NCC with school and work. This often results in existing NCC members being burnt out from and overwhelmed by their organizing work. Out of the 9 NCC members from 2020-2021, just one ran for re-election the next year, meaning the NCC lost valuable experience and institutional memory. 

However, the NCC does not need to be such an arduous position for potential candidates. Offering stipends for NCC members would make the position much more accessible and fruitful as more people could run and devote more time to the position. At our upcoming national convention, delegates will have the opportunity to vote for Resolution 13, “Support for a Growing YDSA”. This resolution would call on the DSA National Political Committee to allocate funding to a budget for YDSA which includes a stipend of $1,000 per month for NCC members. It would also include $2,000 per semester for the executive editor of The Activist, $1,500 for printing and distributing materials, funding for national committees, and $7,000 for chapter grants. 

The amount for stipends, $108,000 per year, is roughly two percent of DSA’s total budget, a small price to pay for enhancing the capacity of our national leadership. Stipends will make running for and being on the NCC more accessible because positions will no longer be limited to people who can devote 15 to 20 hours a week of unpaid labor. This means that we will have more competitive elections and elect people with more diverse organizing experiences. An additional $1,000 per month is not a life changing amount and it would keep YDSA a volunteer-led organization. But it would mean that NCC members can take fewer shifts at work and devote more time and energy to YDSA organizing. It would mean our national leaders can have a healthier work-life balance and not leave their terms burnt-out, as is often the case now. Ultimately, it will strengthen our ability to grow YDSA and make us a more sustainable organization that prepares people to become lifelong socialists. 

Paying organizers is not uncommon for other organizations. I am an organizer of the New Deal 4 CUNY campaign, a campaign to make New York City public college free, and the focus of Hunter YDSA. I also represent YDSA in the CUNY Rising Alliance, a coalition of unions, student organizations, NGOs, and advocacy groups who are committed to fighting for the New Deal 4 CUNY. I recently realized that I am the only representative in this coalition who is not compensated for their time. I am happy to do this work for free, and I would not receive any stipend even if this resolution passed. However, this illustrates how YDSA is trailing our coalition partners in how we support our leaders. All of these other groups and organizations pay at least some of their leaders and organizers.

Unlike other organizations, we are seeking to build a sustainable movement that creates lifelong socialist organizers. We must always remember that fighting for socialism is a lifelong struggle. We need to ensure that we prepare people to fight for the long term and remove all barriers to leadership. Giving our NCC members a stipend of $1,000 a month means that more people can run for leadership and devote the necessary time and energy to grow our movement. The decisions we make at this convention will impact the socialist movement for the next several years. I urge all delegates to vote yes on Resolution 13 and help make YDSA a more sustainable organization for generations of organizers to come.