- Welcome Note
- Report on Post-Election Virtual Community Platica / Discussion
- Report on DSARGV Back to School Vigil and Summit
- Membership Update and DSA’s 100K Membership Campaign Results
- Establishment of Membership, Onboarding, and Retention Committee
- Notice of Upcoming Elections (January 2021)
- December Monthly Meeting (Friday, December 11 at 6:00)
1. Welcome Note:
Dear DSA-RGV family,
Welcome to the November/December edition of the DSARGV Monthly Newsletter. As it is likely this will be our last newsletter for 2020, this monthly newsletter is a ’twofer,’ covering both November and December. But fear ye not! As you will read below, DSARGV has great things in store for you in 2021.
We want to start this newsletter by extending a warm welcome to all the new members who have signed up in the last month. In September 2020, our membership was holding steady at 56. This was already a high number for us, and surely a result of the “hot summer” of activism on the streets, across the whole country. Today, however, DSARGV has 71 members! This is a massive increase for us, and gives us so much confidence for what we can accomplish together in the year to come.
We are grateful to all the new members. Equally, however, given the economic hardship of COVID, and the material challenges that so many of us are facing right now, we must also acknowledge that it is especially humbling for us that you have chosen to make the material commitment of becoming a dues-paying member of DSA. Together we are stronger, and can accomplish so much more in our shared goal of build socialist solidarity in the RGV.
As we close 2020, its important to look back and take stock. It was an incredibly difficult year. Not only did we face an arduous and demanding primary season, we saw also the outbreak of an historically significant pandemic, the turning of a dramatic new page in the struggle for racial equality, and the beginning of a difficult if also vitally necessary conversation about the results of the recent election.
While we are still a very young chapter, ‘born’ only on February 27, 2020, the chapter has performed well this year and can report on a number of milestone achievements. In the below, you’ll be able to read about some of our most recent such achievements, including the Safe Schools Covid Vigil and Town Hall event we held on Friday. October 30, and the Post-Election Virtual Community Platica / Discussion we held on November 22. We will also fill you in our plans for the establishment of our first ever Ad Hoc Committee, focused on recruitment, onboarding, and retention.
As ever, before we get started, here’s a quick reminder of these various ways you can stay connected with us!
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DSARGV/
- Twitter: @DSAoftheRGV
- Instagram: @DSARGV
- Website: https://dsargv.org
- Slack: dsargv.slack.com (for dues-paying members only)
- Email: email@example.com
2. Report on Post-Election Virtual Community Platica / Discussion (November 22):
One of our two major events to close out this year was our post-election community platica/discussion, on November 22. The event focused on the results of the 2020 election, and the question of where we go from here. Speakers included:
- Sara Stapleton Barrera: Attorney and Candidate for Texas Senate District 27, 2020
- Cristina Garcia: Social Media Coordinator, DSARGV, and Regional Organizer for Bernie Sanders Campaign, 2016
- Clayton Tucker: Coordinator for Our Revolution Texas
Before our key speakers gave their remarks, everyone introduced themselves. Conversation at the event address a number of issues. The overall tone was one of relief and gratitude that “the fascist” had been defeated, but one equally of trepidation at the prospect’s of President Biden’s incoming neoliberal oligarchy. Many expressed concern about weaknesses inherent in the local Democratic Party’s approach to the campaign. Equally, a number of people expressed discomfort with the focus of national and international media on the counties in the RGV that flipped for Trump, without perhaps taking sufficient time to understand the issues facing local voters.
Thus we can obverse an emerging complexity in voter behavior. It was recalled that Bernie had outperformed Biden in the primaries in many RGV counties and that, in the state of Texas, progressive candidates outperformed corporatists by 20%. In this sense, the ‘swing to Trump’ in Texas should thus perhaps be seen less as a reflection of any particular fondness for Trump, and more as a repudiation of the inaction of local Democrats on issues of corruption. Equally, said some, local voters may have quite understandably decided to embrace Trump as a result of stimulus checks received this summer while Democrats were seen to dawdle on the question of stimulus.
For another example of emerging voter complexity, a couple of participants raised the point that while Florida had voted for Trump for the presidency, they had nevertheless also supported progressive causes, even passing a referendum for a $15 minimum wage. This complexity in mind then, one of the key challenges we face now is reconnecting with rural voters, so they are aware which candidates are truly willing to stand up for the multiracial working class.
Our first invited speaker, Sara Stapleton Barrera, opened by saying she was not surprised with the narrowness of the Biden-Harris win. The GOP, she observed, were masterful at scare tactics. As a criminal defense attorney, she has seen these sorts of tactics used by prosecutions and number of times in the courtroom. She noted how common it is even today for people to invoke the cliche that “socialism doesn’t work,” and how we must find a way of messaging ordinary voters that, at the end of the day, socialism is simply about obtaining the services that they need and deserve. We cannot expect Texan’s to respond to Biden’s arguments for the banning of fracking, for example, without also offering them a Green New Deal jobs program. Democrats in the RGV are sick and tired of politicians expressing concern about their poverty, and having nothing to show for it despite decades of voting for Democratic candidates. Stapleton Barrera suggested that DSARGV needs to focus its attention on teachers and retail workers, and create events that are recognizable to local people as opportunities for building solidarity. Block parties, she suggested, are the way to go, as they are fun, and allow people to overcome the ‘fear factor’ often associated with the word socialism.
Cristina Garcia offered a number of compelling personal observations about her own time working for progressive causes in the Valley. She started by noting that burnout is real, and how we need to respect the fact that, as activists, we have finite limits. She went on to comment on the election results, arguing that they reveal the importance of getting serious about a working class agenda with a jobs guarantee.
Clayton Tucker addressed a number of points but focused on what activists in Texas can do on the state legislative agenda. He discussed the HB 602 Healthy Texas Act, which is a single payer healthcare bill in the Texas house, written by National Nurses United. If introduced, it would permit universal coverage with no cost at the point of service. The Bill was heard in committee last session, but has currently just 3 co-sponsors. The goal this year is to get to 7 sponsors, or more. Here in RGV, said Tucker, an important goal will be to win the support of Sen. Lucio for this bill.
3. Report on Back to School Vigil and Summit at the Basilica of San Juan del Valle (October 30):
Our “Back to School Vigil and Summit,” for educators, students and healthcare workers, took place on October 30, at the Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle. In collaboration with teachers and other organizing groups in the Valley, and inspired in part by Texas DSA Demands Safe Schools initiative, this event took place outdoors, on the steps of the Basilica, and featured a number of speakers, along with an altar for ofrendas, inside.
Collaborating groups included the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo branch of the American Federation of Teachers (PSJA AFT), the Texas AFT Associate Membership Program (AMP), and the Movement for People’s Democracy – Texas Branch. This alliance came together because, while it understands and fully supports the value that in-person instruction provides to students, families, and communities, it recognizes equally that solutions should not require sacrificing the health, safety, and lives neither of students, teachers, or other workers, in the RGV.
As schools began reopening across the country this fall, DSARGV organized this event in recognition of the concerns of teachers, school employees and students for their safety in the context of COVID. Our event was aligned with DSA’s national campaign for a safe return to school. With this vigil and summit, we wished to promote the following demands:
- Better ventilation, masks and other PPE, proper sanitation in schools, along with social distancing, and smaller class sizes
- A schedule for sanitizing services for common used areas and water and soap available to all
- Police-free schools with adequate staffing levels and the availability of the full range of academic, social–emotional, and mental and behavioral health services to all students
- Free testing for those suspected of being infected with COVID-19. We demand transparency on reporting cases of COVID-19, and a detailed protocol for dealing with infected students, staff, and household members.
- Clear, appropriate policies for quarantine leaves, both for individual staff who must quarantine or leave to care for sick family members and for all personnel if schools have to close to manage outbreaks
- Copies of plans to be provided to staff and students in English and Spanish, and readily available on school websites
- A moratorium on charter schools and other attempts at privatization
- Equitable access to online learning
- Emergency extended sick leave for infected staff
- COVID-19 community and family support, including rent and mortgage cancellation, an eviction/foreclosure moratorium, direct cash assistance to those unable to work or unemployed, and other critical social needs so working-class parents aren’t pressured to send their kids to unsafe schools
Keynote speakers included: Dr. Deepu George, Associate Professor of Family & Community Medicine and the Director of Integrated Behavioral Health for UT Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine; Daniela Garza, Physician Assistant at UT Health RGV; Sergio Muñoz Jr, State Rep. Dist. 36 and Attorney; Michelle Serrano, RGV Equal Voice Network Communications Strategist; Ramona Casas, Community Organizer with ARISE; Zonia Castillo, RN, PSJA AFT Vice-President; and Bishop Daniel E. Flores.
In advance of the event, we set up a ‘padlet’ as an online testimonial website which people can still use, to post thoughts and memories of their Covid experience. This can be found here:
The Basilica operates to CDC guidelines. This event was carried out in strict observance of masking and social distancing guidelines.
4. Membership Update and DSA’s 100K Membership Campaign Results:
As we noted in the Welcome Note above, DSARGV experienced an unprecedented growth in numbers last month, expanding from 56 dues-paying members to 71. We believe a number of factors contributed to this growth. It was already a good year for us in terms of membership, driven we think by the “hot summer” of protest for Black Lives, not to mention an intense and high stakes election season.
Equally, we acknowledge that the Chapter’s growth was not an isolated phenomenon. At the national level, DSA implemented this November a 100K recruitment initiative, and achieved very impressive results. All together, 12,942 new memberswere signed up by the end of the scheduled 5-week drive. This growth brings DSA’s national membership to 84,000 (that is, a growth of 18%).
The goal of this campaign was not only to recruit new members, however. It was also an opportunity to develop our skills as organizers, and to continue the work of transforming DSA into a thriving and multiracial movement of the majority. At the current rate of growth, we believe DSA will hit the milestone of 100,000 early in 2021, and be closing in on 200,000 by the time of the next midterm election cycle.
Locally, as part of this campain, DSARGV had three local “Pledge Captains.” These were Colton Wholley, Mia Croll, and Nicholas Kiersey. Our captains made calls to every lapsed local member of DSARGV, and made sure they were aware of the membership drive.
DSARGV’s unique membership signup website is remains available, here:
5. Establishment of DSARGV Membership, Onboarding, and Retention Committee:
Thus far, our young chapter has yet to establish any ad hoc committees. Such committees are a common feature in DSA chapters around the country, however, and allow the chapter to generate efficiencies by dividing up its tasks among committed, specialized groups. They also allow the chapter to distribute its responsibilities among the among the membership, and generate greater capacity for future organizing and leadership.
At the next Monthly Meeting (taking place online via Zoom, on Friday, December 11, at 6:30 PM — see details below), we will be tabling a motion to create our first ad hoc committee: the DSARGV Membership, Onboarding, and Retention Committee (or ‘MOR’ committee).
For purposes of a working definition and discussion at this early stage, MOR will be be tasked with the following three tasks:
- Recruitment: The strategization and implementation of a plan for growing DSARGV’s dues-paying membership base.
- Onboarding: Holding “one-on-one” meetings with new members and directing them to campaigns and committees within DSARGV, so that they can develop further their membership capacities. Onboarding will also include implementing rudimentary political education activities, such as the facilitation “Socialism 101”-style presentations, discussions and reading groups.
- Retention: Checking in with any lapsed members to make sure they are ok, and if they are aware that their membership has lapsed. May include rudimentary discussions to see if there are ways the chapter can meet their needs, so they would want to return.
The establishment of Ad Hoc Committees is provided for, in our chapter’s bylaws. According to the DSARGV bylaws (Article VIII):
“Ad Hoc Committees may be established by a vote of members in good standing at a Regular Meeting of the Local Chapter.”
It is thus imperative that we have a good turnout for the upcoming Monthly Meeting, so we can get MOR off to a flying start. Assuming a positive vote, we hope to have MOR set up by January, so it can hit the ground running as we enter the Biden era running (and growing!).
Once an Ad Hoc Committee is established, an election may be held among dues-paying members of the Committee to decide its leadership.
6. Notice of Upcoming Elections (January 2021):
According to our Bylaws (adopted 11/08/2019), we must have elections every year. These must take place before the end of January, accordiing to the following language:
The officers of the Local Chapter will be Co-Chairs, Secretary, Treasurer, and Social Media Coordinator. The term of office will be one year, and will run from February through January, or until their successors are elected. The officers may not all be of the same gender (Article V, Section 1)
Furthermore, per the following language, the bylaws require us to set up a 3-person committee for receiving nominations. This must be established a minimum of one month before the elections, at a monthly meeting (i.e., our December monthly meeting). The Committee must begin receiving nominations at least 10 days before the monthly meeting in which the election is to take place (i.e., our January 2021 monthly meeting):
A three (3)-person Nominations Committee will be established at least one (1) month prior to every election by vote of a Regular Meeting. It will solicit and receive nominations for the positions to be elected (Article XI, Section 1)
Nominations for Local Chapter officers and delegates to the National Convention will be opened at least 10 days before and closed at the meeting at which elections take place. The call for nominations will be announced to all members in good standing of DSARGV as soon as nominations are open (Article XI, Section 2)
We encourage nominations from any and all dues-paying members of DSARGV. All executive positions are available, including: Two Co-Chairs, Secretary, Treasurer, and a Social Media Coordinator.
Per DSARGV bylaws, the positions will function accordion to the following parameters:
The Co-Chairs will be the chief executive officers of the Local Chapter. They will preside over Local Chapter and Executive Committee meetings or will appoint a substitute to assume the powers and duties of the presiding officer as specified in Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised 11th Edition. The Co-Chairs will be the official public spokespersons for the Local Chapter and will initiate such actions and policies as the Local Chapter’s general welfare may demand.
The Co-Chairs will be responsible also for coordinating the day-to-day operations and political work of the Local Chapter’s Branches and Committees.
The Co-Chairs will report to Local Chapter Regular Meetings on the business of the Executive Committee Meetings, at which time a copy of the minutes of those meetings will be available for inspection.
The Secretary will be responsible for answering all correspondence and queries of the Local Chapter and for maintaining an up-to-date membership list of the Local Chapter. They will ensure effective communication with national DSA. They will temporarily assume the responsibilities of the Co-Chair, if neither Co-Chair is able to do so.
The Secretary will be responsible also for the taking of minutes of all Local Chapter and Executive Committee Meetings and will have custody of these minutes, and the resolutions, reports and other official records of the Local Chapter. They will transfer official records in good condition to their successor. Official records will include meeting minutes and member lists.
The Treasurer will be responsible for the funds and financial records of the Local Chapter. All funds collected by the Local Chapter will be turned over to the Treasurer, who will deposit them in a bank account under the name of the Local Chapter. In cooperation with the Secretary, the Treasurer will be responsible for ensuring that membership dues are paid up-to-date. The Treasurer will prepare the annual Local Chapter budget and deliver the Local Chapter financial report to the General Meeting of the Local Chapter, as well as periodic progress reports as requested by the Executive Committee of the Local Chapter.
Social Media Coordinator
The Social Media Coordinator will be responsible for managing the social media communications of the Local Chapter.
Harassment Grievance Officer (HGO)
This is not an executive position, and it is not covered by the bylaws. It is however an important position, and required by DSA per the following language:
Note that this position will require certification of training by DSA National before the officer can be deemed appointed.
6. December Monthly Meeting (Friday, December 11 at 6:00)
As you may know, the DSARGV Monthly Meeting takes place on the second Friday of every month. Our meetings are public, and everyone is welcome. You do not have to be a dues-paying member to attend!
Our next Monthly Meeting will take place via Zoom, on Friday, December 11, 2020, at 6:00 PM. If you have an item for the Agenda, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Agenda can be found here:
For the link to sign up for the December monthly meeting, please drop us an email at email@example.com. The link has also been circulated in the email version of this Monthly Newsletter.
SECURITY UPDATE: Due to new DSA national requirements, we may not post Zoom links in public online spaces (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, or our blog). Hence we are able to circulate the zoom signup for the December monthly meeting by email and by Slack, only. Please do not post this Zoom link in any publicly-viewable online space.
We look forward to seeing you soon!