Why You Should Attend Red Hot Summer 2023

YDSA is launching the second edition of its Red Hot Summer program, on the night of Wednesday June 21st. The organizers behind it think that this year’s version will be even better. You can sign up to join here.

“The Young Democratic Socialists of America (YDSA) are relaunching the national summer labor training series Red Hot Summer on June 21st,” said the press release issued by YDSA co-chairs Leena Yumeen and Jake Colosa on June 6th. After the success of last year’s Red Hot Summer program — with “nearly 1,000 YDSA members,” signing up — the program will be returning in 2023, teaching both veteran organizers and the inexperienced alike about labor organizing. Red Hot Summer 2023 also features a wide-ranging guest list, with Twitch streamer Hasan Piker speaking, alongside Jacobin staff writer Alex Press, Association of Flight Attendants President Sara Nelson, Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) organizer Anthony Rosario, and Boycott, Divestment, and Sanction (BDS) movement  co-founder Omar Barghouti. 

The press release expanded upon how influential YDSA has been in shaping the modern labor movement, citing numerous union victories spearheaded or supported by YDSA chapters. The statement mentioned University of Oregon (UO) YDSA, where “a union drive led by many YDSA members filed over 2,000 signed union cards to the Oregon Employment Relation Board,” Columbia University’s minimum wage campaign, wherein they “won a $20 minimum wage for some student workers and a 13 hour cut in weekend shifts,” and several other campaigns at colleges like Brown and the University of Pennsylvania.

Many have shared accounts of how valuable the previous training program had been. “YDSA’s Red Hot Summer was instrumental to my development as an organizer,” said Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) YDSA’s Philip Paterson. “It inspired me to lead a YDSA chapter at my university, and gave us the tools to organize Resident Assistants at RPI to win their vote for the first union ever on campus.” Willem Morris, co-chair of the National Labor Committee also shared “During the program, my co-workers and I wrote a petition in our factory to have Spanish and Tagalog translations of all English work announcements, and we won.”

Leena Yumeen spoke about this year’s training program, and how it differs from the Red Hot Summer of 2022. One of the biggest flaws of last year’s program was the programming structure. Though thousands attended the training sessions, not all were in industries considered ripe for unionization, and some were even unemployed. Yumeen says Red Hot Summer 2023 was created partially to address that issue. “Last year we had everyone attend each of the sessions,” Yumeen said, despite how “a lot of people were not in the place where they could make the political education actionable.” Yumeen wants Red Hot Summer 2023 to benefit everyone, from “training young workers to form unions,” to supporting “young workers in industries where they might already be unionized.” Consequently, the program is separated into two tracks. The first track is for those who are employed, allowing them to “actively organize their coworkers during the trainings and get active support and feedback from experienced labor organizers.” The second track focuses on organizing both inside and outside the labor sphere, giving insight into “reproductive justice, Palestinian liberation, a strong Teamsters contract, and police and prison abolition.”

Yumeen also brought up her own organizing experience leading the fight to unionize Columbia’s RAs. “Things go really slow, until they go fast,” Yumeen said, using the experience to strengthen her understanding of effective organizing. Sometimes, “forming a union is not an intuitive thing for someone who is working,” Yumeen admitted. And people who hope to unionize their workplace must always do so with respect to the thoughts and concerns of their fellow workers. Yumeen “places an emphasis to organize not by hate but by love,” instilling a sense of community among fellow workers that cannot be shaken. 

More than anything, Yumeen expressed astonishment at how far YDSA had come since its first entries into the labor movement. Compared to even a few years ago, YDSA is in “a completely different place now in the labor program,” Yumeen said. Referencing the newfound attention YDSA has garnered among large labor unions, Yumeen said, “There are “people from Amazon, Starbucks etc… who want to collaborate with us.  She argues a key goal of Red Hot Summer is to reaffirm that apparatus.