These committee reports were prepared for the Winter 2021 print issue of The Activist.
National Organizing Committee by Labiba Chowdhury (CCNY)
With over 130 chapters, YDSA is the largest has ever been! It was obvious that we couldn’t coordinate nationally with the same infrastructure as when we had just 12 chapters. At our 2020 convention, we decided to establish a National Organizing Committee with the following goals:
- Hold regular calls with each chapter and organizing committee;
- Provide training, support, and mentorship to chapters and members;
- Integrate national resources, materials, and campaigns into chapters;
- Elevate local chapter experiences and reports to inform national strategy;
- Recruit chapter leaders from stable, developed chapters to national committees;
- Recruit and train a diverse group of potential NOC members; and
- Produce organizational reports on the state of chapters to be presented at all future conferences and conventions
To achieve these ambitious goals, we set up three subcommittees: outreach, materials, and coalition.
Building relationships is essential to organizing. Twelve outreach volunteers have each been developing relationships with two or three chapter leaders. Through these conversations, we’ve surveyed our chapters’ capacities and current activities. We’ve also spoken to these leaders about how they can use the newly-adopted Student Debt Cancellation campaign to grow their chapter and develop new leaders
We are currently in consistent contact with about 30 chapters. We need to build more capacity so that we can reach more of our chapters. If you’re interested in joining the outreach committee, apply at tinyurl.com/apply-committee or send any questions you have to [email protected]
The materials subcommittee’s purpose is to create flyers, social media graphics, guides, and presentations for trainings and events.
For our Student Debt Cancellation Campaign, our materials subcommittee has created guides for organizing a banner drop. They will also be releasing social media branding guides for our campaign, toolkits, graphics, flyers, and more!
A crucial component of our work is building relationships with labor unions. Our power as the working class lies in the mass organization of workers. So labor unions are pivotal in the fight for truly transformative change.
We’ve begun building connections with labor unions across the country and have started a Labor for Student Debt Cancellation coalition. We are working with union leaders to push resolutions in their union locals to call on Biden to cancel all student debt. We will continue to expand our coalition and bring in more rank-and-file union workers into the fight for a better world for working class people.
National Political Education Committee by Josh Kuh (Kalamazoo)
Political education is at the core of a successful socialist program and organization. As students of the socialist and labor movements, we must learn from the organizers who came before us, both their successes and their failures. Our internal political education supports our external socialist organizing. The collective education allows us to understand, prioritize, and campaign around issues that will propel class struggle. A strong political education allows us to push the boundaries of political discussion. For instance, the decision for YDSA to take on Cancel All Student Debt as a demand was due to our collective understanding of how organizing for universal demands can advance class struggle. Strong political education has allowed us to progress by putting our shared goals and strategies in an external program. By building a shared understanding of socialism, solidarity, and action, we are able to take education back into our own hands and wield it as a tool for class struggle.
At the 2020 YDSA Convention, we empowered the YDSA National Political Education to build on the work of last year’s committee, and to grow our external facing political education. The committee has built a new social media program for YDSA; drafted a national Tasks and Perspectives document; hosted national reading groups; and developed syllabi for new members. National events for discussing the Tasks and Perspectives document were attended by 40 people, 70 attended a debt cancellation reading group, and over 150 students across the country attended our students and the labor movement reading group. We would love to hear what your chapter is doing for political education, and have you join our national work.
National Labor Committee by Oren Schweitzer (Yale)
Since 2018, YDSA has endorsed the “rank-and-file strategy” as its strategic vision for fighting for socialism through the labor movement. The rank-and-file strategy (RFS) argues that the socialist movement needs to focus on rebuilding the layer of militant and committed workplaces leaders and organizers and also win this layer over to socialist politics and organization, re-embedding the socialist movement in a vibrant, democratic, and militant working class.
A key tactic of the rank-and-file strategy — especially relevant for YDSAers who have not yet decided on or committed to a career — is socialists getting jobs in strategic industries upon graduation, with the intent of organizing on the job and rebuilding the labor movement from the bottom up. In previous years, YDSA has organized around the RFS by helping develop the pamphlet “Why Socialists Should Become Teachers” and by individual members pursuing rank-and-file jobs after graduation. This year, with a bigger committee and a more ambitious mandate from convention Resolution 11, the YDSA National Labor Committee is beginning to build out a rank-and-file pipeline to educate YDSAers on rank-and-file labor organizing and support them in thinking about jobs to take after graduation.
So far, we’ve organized national educational panels, hosted a strategic industries “jobs fair”, and started mapping our membership with a national labor survey. We’re also creating a speakers bureau, rank-and-file schools, and other materials with the Democratic Socialists Labor Commission (DSLC, DSA’s equivalent of our committee). Throughout our committee’s work, we are trying to develop relationships with YDSAers considering getting rank-and-file jobs with the intent of providing mentorship and developing cohorts of graduates.
Our first national panel featured former Bernie 2020 campaign staffers who talked about the centrality of the labor movement to the fight for socialism. Then we hosted union activists and DSA members from a wide variety of industries to give YDSAers a sense of what jobs are out there and what organizing is like. Most recently, our jobs fair was three back-to-back days of calls with rank-and-filers in education, healthcare, and logistics for students who are already interested in these fields or just curious. To date, with our membership survey, we’ve identified nearly 100 YDSA members who want to enter a strategic industry, and another 50 who are unsure of the particular job but want to do rank-and-file work after graduation.
The forthcoming speakers bureau will be able to send union members and DSA organizers to YDSA chapters to talk to them about labor work and the rank-and-file strategy. The rank-and-file “schools” will be a multi-semester program for members who are serious about pursuing a job after graduation; it will cover the political importance of the rank-and-file strategy, how to concretely choose a job, how unions actually work, and how to organize along your coworkers.
With the Emergency Workers Organizing Committee (EWOC, a project of DSA and the union UE) and Labor Notes, we hope to run trainings on how to start a union in your unorganized workplace and how to reinvigorate and strengthen your union if you already have one. With the DSLC, we plan to publish pamphlets like “Why Socialists Should Become Healthcare Workers” and “Why Socialists Should Become Logistics Workers,” the latter of which will deal with unionized jobs like UPS as well as new organizing at Amazon.
We hope that you will come to our workshops and panels, bring speakers to talk to your chapters, and read and share these new materials when they’re released.