Tue, Nov 28th, 2023
Weekly Roundup: November 28, 2023
Tuesday, 11/28 (6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.): Turnout Tuesday – Labor Edition (In person at 1916 McAllister, with hybrid option available; contact [email protected] for more info)
Wednesday, 11/29 (6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.): HWG Reading Group: Mean Streets (In person at 1916 McAllister)
Thursday, 11/30 (6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.): HWG Presents: JenBo! “How to Get Housed in SF.” (In person at 1916 McAllister)
Friday, 12/1 (12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.): Office Hours (In person at 1916 McAllister)
Tuesday, 12/5 (7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.): Strike CFA-SFSU (In person at SFSU; exact address will be announced the week before)
Tuesday, 12/5 (6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.): How to Be an Organizer Training (Zoom)
Wednesday, 12/6 (7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.) (Labor) Board Game Night (In person at 1916 McAllister)
Thursday (6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.): Ecosocialist Monthly Meeting (Zoom)
Check out https://dsasf.org/events/ for more events.
Events & Actions
How Do People Get Housed?
Is San Francisco set up to actually help people exit homelessness and get into housing? What resources exist, and are they accessible? And how long does this whole process take? Join DSA SF member and City Hall worker, Jenbo, as she attempts to untangle the arcane bureaucracy of different city departments, nonprofits, outreach teams, shelter and housing systems that make up the City’s response to the homelessness crisis.
Join this Homelessness Working Group-hosted event on Thursday, November 30th at 6:30 p.m. at 1916 McAllister. Dinner will be provided!
Holiday Party and Bake Sale
Join us for our holiday bash Sunday, December 10th at 2:00 p.m. at 1916 McAllister and try the best baking DSA SF has to offer! Featuring celebrity guest judges Joanna Fuller from Devil’s Teeth Baking Company, labor organizer and comedian Nato Green and California labor historian and author of From Mission to Microchip Fred Glass!
In addition to delicious treats we will have plenty of cool gifts for you to buy for your loved ones (or yourself!) with handcrafted goods by DSA members, a silent art auction, and one-of-a-kind experiences! Sign up for the baking contest here.
Submit Your Nominations for Chapter Leadership!
Hello, comrades! We are now opening nominations for chapter leadership! Please fill out this form if you would like to nominate yourself or a comrade for a leadership position!
Leadership positions for the following chapter bodies are up for chapter-wide elections:
- Labor Board (5 seats)
- Electoral Board (5 seats)
- Mutual Aid Priority Leadership (3 seats total, 1 vacant)
- Chapter Coordination Committee Co-Chairs (2 seats)
- Education Board (3 seats)
- Ecosocialists Committee Co-Chairs (2 seats)
- Tenant Organizing Working Group Co-Chairs (2 seats)
The following chapter bodies will be holding internal elections, which will be ratified by the chapter:
- Homelessness Working Group Co-Chairs
- AfroSocialists & Socialists of Color Committee Co-Chairs
Elections and ratification votes will be held at our December chapter meeting!
Smolidarity is Coming Back for the December Chapter Meeting!
The chapter is coordinating childwatch for the upcoming chapter meeting in December! If you are a parent or caregiver and you would like to bring your kids to the meeting, take a moment to fill out this form so we can make sure we have enough volunteers and the right supplies on hand.
If you would like to help out with the chapter’s smolidarity efforts, drop a line in the #priority-mutual-aid channel on Slack!
At the last chapter meeting, members passed a Holiday Break Resolution calling for a pause in regular chapter activities from Sunday, December 17th until Monday, January 1st. This break is intended to give folks time to rest, relax, and recuperate as we enter the winter season.
What this means in practice is a pause in our organizing for the latter half of December, including canceling regularly scheduled chapter body meetings, fewer events being held, and some chapter coordination functions like CCC support, new member onboarding, and the newsletter taking a break for a couple weeks.
We hope chapter members will take this period to recuperate and recharge so we can all return energized in the New Year.
Behind the Scenes
The Chapter Coordination Committee (CCC) regularly rotates duties among chapter members. This allows us to train new members in key duties that help keep the chapter running like organizing chapter meetings, keeping records updated, office cleanup, updating the DSA SF website and newsletter, etc. Members can view current CCC rotations here.
To help with the day-to-day tasks that keep the chapter running, fill out the CCC help form.
Feedback? Questions? Something to add?
We’re always looking for feedback. If you have comments or suggestions, feel free to send a message to the #newsletter channel on Slack.
For information on how to add content, check out the Newsletter Q&A thread on the forum.
Maine Mural Podcast, Episode 34: Maine Lacks Adequate Civil Rights Protections
In this month’s installment of the Maine Mural Podcast, Wil T. reads his Pine & Roses article, “Maine Lacks Adequate Civil Rights Protections.” The Maine Mural Podcast strives to offer interviews, histories, reporting, and article readings for a working-class audience, both locally and abroad. You can listen to this episode below, and find other episodes by clicking here, or looking us up on your favorite major podcast platform. If you would like to get involved with the Maine Mural Podcast, or more generally Pine & Roses, please email us at [email protected]. Now please, enjoy the episode!
The post Maine Mural Podcast, Episode 34: Maine Lacks Adequate Civil Rights Protections appeared first on Pine & Roses.
Starbucks: The long haul from recognition to a national contract
Frank Emspak argues that Starbucks workers can win a union and a contract at Starbucks if the labor movement acts like a labor movement.
Update from State Street Starbucks
Our union sympathetic manager has quit because he “can no longer ethically work for this company”. Our new store manager has been selected and is a universally disliked leader who is known for firing union organizers. We have also learned that our district manager expects our store specifically, though not others, to follow a scheduling system made by an AI. Because of this, in the school year when we typically have about 50+ workers, we are now being told we will not be permitted more than 25 workers, including supervisors and the store manager. Our outgoing store manager told me that this is not only to cut labor even more but that it is a tactic to wear workers down, presumably to the point they are just so exhausted they either A. quit or B. fail to perform to new standards so they will be fired. After that, corporate will likely return to full staff with new hires brought in to decertify the union.(from Frank’s communications with State Street Starbucks workers)
Workers at Starbucks have decided to unionize in at least 200 locations throughout the US. However, as might be expected, Starbucks has refused to negotiate a contract with any location. The company has been fined for unfair labor practices and has even agreed to reinstate some workers. But the NLRB process itself is fatally flawed. It is clear that we must find other ways to alter the balance of forces, so that Starbucks understands that it is in their best interest to negotiate a fair contract with unionized locations.
The NLRB thicket
In the 1930s, the NLRB was set up to regulate union recognition battles then erupting across America. It was not designed to facilitate union organization but to channel it. Over the years, especially with the passage of the Taft-Hartley act in 1947, and through various court decisions since then, many of the tactics that unions used to organize and encourage firms to bargain were ruled to be illegal or unfair labor practices.
There is more bad news on the labor law front. Companies have developed the deadly art of delay. As Megan K Stack described the situation, Starbucks just did what companies do. In ways that are perfectly legal, they delay, delay, and delay until a union victory appears fruitless to those that organized the union in the first place. The process of delay effectively undermines the union’s power. Extreme turnover in industries like Starbucks and food service in general means that delay can mean the people who voted for a union are not there when the firm mounts a decertification challenge.
Extreme delays also make it harder and harder to convince workers that it’s worth risking their jobs for a contract that can’t be realized in their time as workers there. As reported in the publication Dollars and Sense, the average length of time it takes to obtain a first contract after winning a union representation election has increased from 375 days in 2007 to 575 days in the years 2020-2022, an increase of 35 percent. After 3 years, 32 percent of those unions formed more than 3 years ago still do not have a contract. At the same time the number of union representation elections is increasing: 1522 in 2022 with a 76 percent union win rate.
It is true that in some cases unions can file unfair labor practices cases demanding that the company negotiate or order the reinstatement of a person fired for union activity. Even should the union win, the remedy is generally to make whole; that is, to hire the person back with back wages. Most workers are in no position to wait the year or two (plus appeals) that such cases can take. In addition, the NLRB cannot impose monetary penalties.
Just in case delay and appeal did not stack the deck enough, firms (or unions) can also appeal. Even if the National Labor Relations Board makes a decision and administrative law judges concur with that decision or make their own, it can be appealed in the federal Courts. But as Take Back the Court reports, more than 80 percent of Supreme Court rulings favor the corporations so that actual implementation of a pro-worker ruling can be delayed for years, and when it gets to the Supreme Court, there is a 4 out of 5 chance that the ruling will be pro-management.
In any case Congress has been unwilling to pass legislation to improve the process to even come close to balancing the playing field, never mind providing meaningful protections for workers who seek to organize a union.
Given that history, think of what it would take to make American labor law correspond with the rest of existing law. For example, in the rest of society, punishment (jail time, fines, etc.) are imposed after a trial and a finding of guilt. In labor law, the opposite is true. Punishment (suspension or firing) is imposed by management immediately, and then at some future point a trial is held.
Clearly, the NLRB route doesn’t work.
But the limits imposed by the NLRB process are only part of the problem. As the New York Times pointed out so clearly, Starbucks, in its efforts to defeat unionization, simply did what companies do. So far, there have been no egregious physical assaults on workers, mass closings of Starbucks shops in a city, or widespread discharges. These are not the iron and coal police of Pennsylvania in the 1930s. Delay, delay, and appeal are the methods of choice to defeat the union, and these are all legal. Every once in a while, Starbucks gets out of line and is charged with an unfair labor practice, but these instances are neither widespread enough nor costly enough to force any changes in the company’s behavior.
There are other barriers to organization in firms like Starbucks that go beyond labor law. Starbucks has thousands of workplaces, and although the presentation of products and the culture of the location are determined at the top, the multiplicity of locations means that there is a lack of employee concentration. This employment structure effectively makes it more difficult to use the strike weapon.
An effective strike shuts a company down, inflicting enough pain to force management to the table for meaningful negotiations. It provides enough leverage to alter the balance of forces between management and labor. But a strike at Starbucks, which operates 9,000 stores in the U.S., would have to involve a much larger number of locations than the union has currently organized to really impact the company’s financial performance. To an extent, the effective use of social media and communication systems like Zoom can overcome only some of the challenges.
Is it possible to conceive of a solution within the current legal and organizational framework to achieve contracts? Is it possible to conceive that a firm could agree to implement a neutrality agreement that in effect allows the union to campaign for recognition without opposition from management? Such an agreement, negotiated at the top between union leadership and Starbucks, could in theory level the playing field. But a neutrality agreement with teeth in it usually results from an effective nationwide corporate campaign of a scope and popularity of the United Farm Workers campaign against Gallo wines a generation ago. Looking at a company like Starbucks, a corporate campaign would also have to include a serious financial offensive as well as a political offensive beyond the scope of a consumer boycott.
A variant of neutrality would require the company to agree to neutrality during an election as well as an agreement to accept a contract, national or regional, covering all the employees who vote for a union. The agreement between the United Auto Workers and General Motor after the Flint sit-down strike ended in 1937, General Electric agreements with United Electrical Workers, and the agreement between the United Steel workers and U.S. Steel in 1937 were of this type.
But while neutrality or outright union recognition pending a vote has been successful in many public sector campaigns, the private sector is another question. Absent political pressure available in the public sector, we have seen that these agreements do not necessarily result in union victories–as has been the case with the United Automobile Workers at Mercedes Benz in Alabama. Indeed, a meaningful neutrality agreement is possible only when it mirrors the situation on the ground, thus becoming an agreement that enables the already-existing organization and impulse of the workforce. It is a ratification of democracy, not a system to replace it. Specifically the union would have to be acting like a union,organizing departments or groups of workers to be demanding fair treatment, better schedules or acting on health and safety complaints. Public actions supported by a majority of workers, enough to get noticed and show that collective action is worthwhile. If these small actions are supported by a majority it is very hard for management to impose discipline, illustrating strength in numbers.
A short look at U.S. labor history
In the 1920s, working people faced a grim reality. All of the hi-tech industries of the day–auto, electrical, steel, paper, and chemical–were almost completely nonunion. To say that these industries were nonunion understates the situation, as many of these firms had their own police and thugs, as well as the courts, to attack workers who wanted to organize. It was also obvious that the dominant labor organization of the day, the American Federation of Labor, and its craft-based orientation were simply incapable of organizing the new industries.
As the 1920s rolled on, more and more workers realized that they needed a new form of organization; they developed the industrial form of organization–essentially a wall-to-wall approach. Everyone in a location would be in the same union. This realization was stimulated by groups of class-conscious workers, many of whom were in socialist or communist organizations. The new form of organization resulted in the unionization of General Motors, General Electric, U.S. Steel, and others.
Today, major industries–from technology to food service–are unorganized. If the union movement is unable to organize those firms, it will become increasingly marginalized. The GEs and GMs of yesterday are the Apple, Amazon, Epics, and Starbucks of today. Meanwhile, as in the past, workers in those firms are crying out for organization and, in many cases, taking steps to do it themselves.
PULL: The Starbucks workers will determine the best union or organization to represent their interests. … We need a focused effort, city by city, area by area, to lend support to those workers who are now in motion.
Moving forward: Doing the same thing more vigorously will do nothing
It is clear that if the company continues to do what it does naturally and organized labor does the same, then the results will be the same–derailing or stifling the movement.
The implications of this assessment are obvious. Progressive workers fought within the AFL to organize the unorganized along industrial lines.
This form of organization, necessary to win contracts with firms like Starbucks, will require innovation in the way we precede. The source of that innovation will be a focus and mobilization of progressives within the labor movement to force changes in the way we operate. The change envisioned is a change of attitude from defensiveness or passivity to one where the local labor movement is on the offensive. This means that our local labor and progressive organizations should not wait until workers come to it , but to be out there in the community and the workplace with the message that we are here for you. Starbucks workers -and all workers attempting to organize must know that aside from the union organizer that the labor community has their backs.
Those changes will make it possible for the labor movement to enable Starbucks workers to win. The Starbucks workers, just as workers in other generations and other circumstances, seem to be able to organize themselves and appeal for outside help to secure a contract. It is that next step– winning the contract–that will require political and organizational mobilization.
What existing structures are at our disposal that could be a basis for change?
Our assumption is that if it is too costly for Starbucks to maintain their massive resistance to unionization in any particular market they will either abandon that market or agree to a contract. Obviously there is a limit to the abandonment strategy.
Denying the company their market is the best remaining option for the workers involved. The labor movement has a structure in place that can serve as a basis for a campaign of support for Starbucks workers. There are several hundred labor councils in the United States. Many of them are in markets essential to Starbucks growth. In addition, there are hundreds of progressive community centered groups, many focused on dealing with specific working class issues which could join any labor council initiative to support Starbucks workers.
If those labor councils, as a matter of policy, mobilized their memberships to boycott Starbucks locations–no matter which union was organizing them–until the company recognized the union and signed a contract, perhaps we might make some progress.
Clearly there are barriers to this strategy. Not all unions are in labor councils, especially some of those organizing Starbucks workers. The disorganization of organized labor puts the issue of what progressives in those labor councils and in those unions organizing Starbucks need to do to place the interests of the Starbucks workers ahead of the parochial interests of their local union or labor council.
This strategy depends on the collective of unions in any area accepting the notion that union consciousness means challenging these barriers. This is no easy task, but it has the advantage of being clear. A program focusing its support for Starbucks workers will enable workers to take action. It also means that Starbucks workers, who wish to engage in organizing their workplace, will know that someone has their back.
The Starbucks workers will determine the best union or organization to represent their interests. That is their right. Maybe workers will develop new forms of organization as workers did in the 1930s; maybe not. But we in the labor movement have a responsibility to do all we can to find ways to move past the present impasse. We need a focused effort, city by city, area by area, to lend support to those workers who are now in motion.
The author would like to thank Mike Locker for his suggestions and assistance in developing this article.
ADDENDUM: I wrote this article during the summer of 2023 as workers in Starbucks continued their efforts to organize. Since then workers conducted a successful strike at about 300 locations during Red Cup day- but the company remained unmoved. While the company faces numerous unfair labor practice charges there is apparently no effort on the part of the NLRB or the Biden administration to call out Starbucks for the labor violator that it is. If anything the November strikes demonstrate the need for massive support for Starbucks workers from the labor movement as a whole. The purpose of direct action is to cause enough pain to a company so as to encourage it to meet the union as an equal. We are not quite there yet.
Mon, Nov 27th, 2023
DSA Active in Campaign for Ceasefire and Palestine Liberation
Since October 7th, DSA has supported the cause of Palestinian liberation through calls for a ceasefire, an end to US military aid to Israel, and the end of Israeli apartheid.
On a national scale, the “No Money for Massacres” campaign has been phone banking members and patching them through to leave comments with their elected representatives, whose offices take note of constituent opinion. The campaign has made hundreds of thousands of calls and has a schedule posted for interested activists to sign up for shifts.
The DSA International Committee – whose robust Palestine Solidarity Toolkit is worth checking out – held a national call on Thursday Nov 9 that featured Nerdeen Kiswani and professor Bikrum Gill. Ms. Kiswani, one of the most prominent voices for Palestinian liberation in the English-speaking world, suggested that DSA members would do well to familiarize themselves with the Points of Unity of Within Our Lifetime (WOL), the organization she is affiliated with, and join Palestinians in their call for the right of return to the land “from the river to the sea.”
Professor Gill addressed common questions about violence during decolonization. He stated that it is not possible for people living in the belly of the beast to give instructions on how to resist oppression to people who are facing nuclear armed superpowers. He added that it is the duty of activists within the American empire and its allies to organize toward the disarmament of the military apparatuses in their own home countries.
There are some notable ad-hoc efforts by DSA organizers that have had national and international reach. Jewish socialists from across the country have signed onto an open letter whose authors are some of DSA’s Jewish organizers. The letter has caught the attention of mainstream outlets and is crucially letting the public know that Zionism is antithetical to both Judaism and social justice. A prominent DSA member helped raise over $88,000 for the Palestinian Children Relief Fund through social media.
The work of chapters
Chapters across the United States are taking action as well. They have both sponsored rallies and marches as well as sent contingents to be present at those actions where sponsoring events was not possible. Portland DSA’s Jewish organizers were critical to the November 11 labor rally and march for a ceasefire. NYC DSA is leafletting across the boroughs, holding political education meetings about Palestinian liberation, and is leading an email blitz of elected representatives. In California, East Bay DSA was instrumental in getting a resolution in solidarity with Gaza passed in Richmond California, which was the first American city to pass such a resolution. Similarly, EBDSA members organized to boost turnout to protest and shut down a weapons shipment from the Port of Oakland, taking the lead of the Arab Resource Organizing Center and joining the wave of dockworkers in Belgium and South Africa who are similarly protesting.
California DSA members, including California Democratic Convention delegate Jonah Gottlieb of East Bay DSA, have given public comment at the Alameda County Democratic Party and the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, which has helped pass pro-Palestine resolutions in those bodies. Future targets for similar resolutions are Oakland Unified School District, the SFDCC, the Berkeley School Board, and the Oakland City Council.
YDSA in California has been active on Berkeley’s campus, supporting, promoting, and speaking at rallies organized by Bears for Palestine and Law Students for Justice in Palestine. It also hosted a teach-in on the history of Zionism and Palestinian resistance, phone banked members of Congress in support of a ceasefire and an end to US military aid for Israel, and supported UAW members at UC Berkeley in the union’s successful passage of a pro-Palestine resolution.
The above is only an overview that is meant to be representative of DSA’s involvement in the struggle for Palestinian liberation in the past several weeks, not an exhaustive recounting. Readers are encouraged to regularly check both national and local DSA websites for information on ways to participate as we continue to struggle alongside our Palestinian siblings. As American Socialists, we must be clear in echoing the demands of organizations such as WOL and Palestinian Trade Unions such as demanding a ceasefire, stopping U.S. military aid to Israel, and an end to the Israeli apartheid regime.
Transit Workers and Riders Organize for Better Conditions
Over the past year, AC Transit, the East Bay’s local bus network, has been planning a major service redesign known as “Realign”. The multi-year project seeks to adjust transit service to meet changing travel demands among riders and an ongoing transit worker shortage. However, the current proposals threaten to cut transit service and fail to address the root causes of AC Transit’s problems: workplace issues causing a transit worker retention and hiring crisis.
Linking Workers’ and Riders’ Issues
East Bay DSA’s People’s Transit Alliance began a petition campaign in May 2023 to call on AC Transit to improve conditions for transit workers and address service reliability deficits. The petition was based on demands raised by transit workers during a town hall with DSA-endorsed AC Transit Director Jovanka Beckles in April 2023. Too often, workers say, bus schedules do not accurately reflect on-the-ground conditions, causing undue pressure for Bus Operators. Workers’ breaks at the end of their routes are often cut short or don’t happen at all. For instance, when the bus arrives 10 minutes late to its final stop, that is time taken away from an operator to take a break and use the restroom before getting on their next route. For riders, this means that their buses are unreliable, leaving them unable to get to their destinations on time.
AC Transit’s own data shows that on time performance (OTP) is around 75%. However, OTP is significantly lower among certain lines—particularly the trunk routes that carry the highest number of riders.
The Realign Proposals
On November 1st, AC Transit staff presented three proposals to the Board of Directors. AC Transit is set to vote to select and implement one of these proposals in April 2024, with full roll-out set for August. The proposals, however, currently only show route-by-route changes, without data to compare overall service levels among each other or to pre-COVID service.
In addition, none of the proposals provide any concrete means to improve scheduling and reliability. Instead, the proposals seek to merge various lines together, exacerbating their unreliability, while threatening to cut one of AC Transit’s highest ridership lines, the 72R. All this will mean greater strain on workers and a continuing workforce shortage that keeps AC Transit from restoring services cut at the onset of the COVID pandemic.
In the last week of October, PTA sponsored a sign-on letter to the AC Transit Board of Directors. The letter, which gathered over 130 signatures, called on the Board to ensure that Realign addresses scheduling issues, to publish more data on the proposed changes, and to create a truly aspirational Visionary Scenario. At the November 1st board meeting, PTA organized workers and riders to make public comment, ensuring that the Board and staff heard our concerns directly.
Along with the demands included in the letter, PTA also called on AC Transit to delay the implementation of Realign to ensure that staff have time to get it right. These interventions have incorporated workers’ voices into the Realign process.
Realign and the Longer Fight for a World-Class Transit System
Realign is a major service redesign with a lot at stake for both workers and riders. While it will take continued efforts to transform the East Bay’s bus network into the system that the multi-racial working class truly deserves, Realign provides a nearer-term opportunity to identify and organize around common-good demands. By connecting worker and rider issues, PTA is fostering solidarity among providers of a critical public service and the communities they serve, while showing that it is in fact these two groups that should be giving direction on how public transit is governed in the East Bay.Back to all news
A Win for Socialism in Orange County
Earlier this month Santa Ana Ward 3 residents in Orange County beat back an attempted recall of councilwoman Jessie Lopez with the help of DSA members by a 56-44% margin.
An hour south of Los Angeles, nestled between the 5, the 55 and the 22 freeways, sits Ward 3 of Santa Ana. This November, the residents there raised their voice in opposition to the corporate arm of Santa Ana city council members at the ballot box, and they won.
Democracy be damned
We are living in a time where conservatives don’t seem to care whether their candidate earned the most votes. These are the entitled brats of our contemporary era, blindly addicted to power, democracy be damned. Can we still call it democracy? Santa Ana Councilwoman Jessie Lopez faced what appears to be a pattern on the right: when you lose the election, no you didn’t! Deny the possibility that you did in fact lose. Allege that all the votes cast for your opponent are fraudulent. And fight and spend like hell to recall the winner when you have no evidence to support that claim.
In Santa Ana—the only city in Orange County with rent control—big developers, landlords and police spent money in favor of liberal, centrist politicians who wouldn’t mind having us all pay even higher rent. Jessie Lopez, a member of the Working Families Party, was duly elected to the City Council, representing Ward 3, in November of 2020. The City Charter, which was drafted and adopted last century, clearly reads that a member of the City Council is elected for a term of four years. Why do right-wingers, cops, and big owners wish to ignore basic foundations to the Santa Ana city code? a
“It’s very important to remember that landlords and police unions teamed up together not for the benefit of the community, but for the benefit of themselves. This recall was an attempt by the powers that be to disenfranchise the voters from the 3rd Ward,” said Daniel Placencia, Co-Chair of the Orange County chapter of the DSA. “They were willing to spend eight hundred thousand dollars of taxpayer money, for what? To end rent control and diminish police oversight.”
When landlords, cops and establishment Democrats on the council endorsed a recall of Jessie Lopez, they did it out of complete disrespect for the majority of working families who put her there. Jessie was born and raised in Santa Ana, California. She holds a BA in Sociology from the California State University, Long Beach, after transferring in from Santa Ana College. While in college, she organized to fight against sexual assault. She has worked to ensure the city’s parks are revitalized and taken care of. She is an exemplar of public service. Make no mistake, these qualifications fall on deaf ears for her greedy and power-hungry opponents.
These opponents include Phil Braccera, David Penazola, and Valerie Amezcua, the current mayor, who are against full enfranchisement of the residents of Santa Ana, as well as rent control. Over the past year, these councilmembers took xenophobic and classist positions in debates. In Amezcua’s own words, “There’s four people up here that are just jumping in the water cause it feels good, looks good – ra, ra, ra – pat yourself up on the back because ‘I’m saving my community.’”
She went on, “That’s mature, responsible leadership. That’s not what we’re doing up here.” Allowing rents to increase, handing over excessively more money to cops, and disenfranchising residents of Santa Ana appear to be what Amezcua finds responsible. Rather than deploying the council’s power to the benefit of people, these liberal centrists have repeatedly bent their knees to big money interests.
Placencia points out, “What’s more ridiculous is that Jessie is up for re-election next year, the general election. They knew less people would show up during an off year, and that’s why they tried this.” Daniel grew up in Santa Ana and is now studying Political Science at Concordia University, a small private university in Irvine. He understands politics as a noble vocation, sharing my excitement over a cup of coffee that Jessie defeated the recall.
Who gets to have power
The policies Lopez supports include keeping Santa Anans housed, aid for houseless people, and ensuring city funds are provided for education, recreation, mental health professionals. These policies help keep everyone safe, while supporting the most vulnerable in our society. While these seemingly intractable social problems pervade the state, every Californian can find hope in Jessie’s victory.
“Imagine talking to single parents or struggling families and telling them your rent is going to go up two hundred dollars a month this year,” said Placencia. “Can you imagine the amount of extra stress they’d be put under to pull together an extra two hundred? [Because of] our victory, we maintained the 3% rent control, which was established when Jessie was the deciding vote in favor in 2020.”
Or as Lopez told Jacobin, “This is the fundamental fight that so many of us have been a part of for so long—of who gets to have power in their communities.”
Orange County DSA members joined the CA Working Families Party to phonebank for Jessie on September 29. And on the Saturday before the election, November 11th, Orange County DSA members joined a canvass to knock doors for her. The night she won, OCDSA members joined the celebration.
With this victory, Californian socialists can admire Santa Ana for leading on democratic and collectivist principles. But the fight goes on. With neighboring Orange County cities such as Costa Mesa and Buena Park signaling support for rent control policies when we all drastically need them, you better believe the interests of capital will swarm in to try to stop these municipalities from progressing. If we continue to organize, we can continue to win.
SF Nurses Fight VA Scheduling Change Caused by Outsourcing & Cost-Cutting
The national wave of worker unrest over hospital conditions that create job stress, burnout, and short-staffing reached the corner of Clement and 42nd Streets in San Francisco’s outer Richmond district last month.
On October 18, nearly one hundred RNs and other staffers from the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center (SFVAMC) spent their breaks or lunch hour on an informational picket-line. It was organized by Local 1 of the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), which represents 1,100 employees at the facility. Dressed in blue scrubs, and accompanied by a boom box blasting golden oldies like “We Are Family,” the RNs waved signs, chanted slogans, urged passing drivers to honk their horns in solidarity, which many did, and perfected their picket-line call-and-response skills (“When nurses are under attack, what do we do? Stand up, fight back!”)
A key organizer of the protest was SF DSA member Mark Smith, an occupational therapist at the VA. NFFE members are getting picket line and public support from other SF DSA labor committee activists and SF Supervisor Dean Preston, who is also a DSA member.
The protest was triggered by a cost-cutting measure, announced by one of 170 medical centers run by Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which serves nine million patients nationwide. SFVAMC executives want to cancel flexible work schedules for bedside nurses at a time when the VA is struggling to fill RN vacancies around the country. A recent report by the agency’s own Inspector General found “severe shortages” of nurses in more than 90% of VA hospitals.
NFFE members—who picketed in T-shirts with the slogan “Serving Those Who Served” on the back—say this management move will impede RN recruitment and retention locally and adversely affect the quality of patient care. According to one report, 87% of healthcare recruiters surveyed are having more difficulty hiring nurses, with two-thirds reporting major difficulties. This has created an intense post-pandemic competition for nursing staff. The flexible work schedule known as “72/80,” which allows nurses to work for 72 hours while being paid for 80, has become a key tool for keeping experienced RNs on the job and attracting younger ones.
Why Change What’s Working?
To conform to this new industry standard, VA management initiated “72/80” about a year ago. As part of a national effort to reduce RN burnout and relieve staffing shortages, more than 5,100 nurses at 57 VA medical centers around the country are currently on this schedule, a 70% increase from earlier this year. At the San Francisco VA, inpatient and emergency department nurses currently work six 12-hour shifts in two weeks, totaling 72 hours instead of the traditional 80 hours.
This arrangement is popular because it permits workload relief and more time off between shifts. As one NFFE member explained, it allows nurses to have more time to care for themselves and their families, and also work part-time elsewhere if necessary. In a high cost of living city like San Francisco, this is often a necessity. Another nurse, who has been with the VA for over a decade, recalled that management initially rolled out flexible scheduling “very intentionally, unit by unit to see how it would work and it was working. People were happier and morale went up.”
But then management decreed that nurses at Fort Miley, as the facility is popularly known, would have to return to a traditional 80-hour schedule in early November.
“We have been told by our leadership that there is a $76 million deficit and that part of the way they want to deal with that is by taking away our flexible work schedules,” said one picketing nurse, who did not want her name used for fear of employer retaliation. “To now take that away and have us work more for no difference in pay, no increase in pay, is a huge problem for us.” She and other nurses interviewed for this story worry the schedule change, if implemented, will lead valued co-workers to quit. “That would absolutely happen,” one RN predicted. “There are so many nurses that are hanging on because they care about our veterans.”
Listening to Nurses?
Union supporters were also irate about management’s stance during a recent virtual town hall meeting with nursing staff. Instead of listening to rank-and-file concerns, one reported, “They ended up speaking over the nurses for nearly the entire time and, when we tried to have the union meet with our medical center director, she wouldn’t even entertain the idea.” (Not surprisingly, a VA Inspector General report issued in August found deficiencies in the local leadership, including the facility’s nurse executive. Even more alarming was its finding that 40% of San Francisco VA hospital staff were afraid to disclose a “violation of any law, rule, or regulation” for fear of reprisal.)
According to NFFE chief steward Mark Smith, management “has been unwilling to negotiate over its proposed change in nurses’ working conditions and has not responded to our bargaining related data requests.” NFFE has a filed an unfair labor practice charge over this, triggering a pending investigation by the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA).
VA management did respond to a CR request for comment on the dispute. In an email message, local public affairs representative Shirley Jih told us that “the re-evaluation of the 72/80 alternate work schedule was carefully made and we are confident, that as a health care organization, our ability to provide high-quality care for veterans will remain unchanged. We will monitor outcomes and continue to evaluate the decision as we move forward.” Jih said that the SF VA Medical Center has “an active talent management program and will continue to utilize available recruitment and retention authorities to hire and maintain highly qualified nursing staff.”
Mark Smith points out that the VA’s top three local competitors for nursing staff—UC San Francisco, Zuckerberg San Francisco General, and California Pacific Medical Center—all offer flexible schedules along with equivalent or better salaries and benefits for their nursing staff. Two San Francisco Supervisors, who have weighed into the dispute, are questioning management’s claim that the impending schedule change will have no adverse impact on what Jih called the “valued, dedicated, and hardworking members of our staff.”
On October 18, District 1 Supervisor Connie Chan offered personal picket-line encouragement to VA nurses, who work in her district. She told us that “taking away flexible schedules is creating a hazard in the work environment not just for nurses but for their patients.” In a letter sent the same day to SF VA hospital executives, District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston chided management for not “consulting with frontline nurses or their union.”
Preston put the ill-advised scheduling decision in the broader context of “privatization of public goods.” This has led, under the Obama, Trump and Biden Administrations, to massive out-sourcing of veterans’ care to the private healthcare industry. Currently, more than one quarter of the VA’s $120 billion clinical care budget is being spent outside the VA for treatment that could be provided, at lower cost and with greater effectiveness, inside the nation’s best working model for socialized medicine.
Impact of Privatization
As a result, the VA Medical Center in San Francisco is only one of many around the country with operating deficits, due to unnecessary but Congressionally-mandated patient referrals to the private sector. The hospital’s $830 million budget for 2020 was increased by $87 million for the following year; yet $50 million of that increase was spent on reimbursement of private doctors and hospitals. When a group of VA patients and union activists held an anti-privatization protest four years ago at the same location as the NFFE protest this month, Vietnam combat veteran Paul Cox warned that “outsourcing is going to do serious damage to the VA’s ability to provide healthcare.”
That prediction has, unfortunately, come true. And those paying the price today, locally and nationally, are VA patients like Cox and front-line care-givers forced to wage defensive fights over the fall-out from privatization of VA services. Like trade unionists under attack anywhere, NFFE Local 1 is necessarily focused on local damage control.
“Nurses understand the necessity of effective budget management,” says chief steward Mark Smith. “They are prepared to discuss alternative solutions to address financial concerns while preserving the 72/80 schedule. They firmly believe that cost savings can be achieved in ways that don’t reduce bedside nurses’ quality of work-life. We want an agreement that benefits the VA, its bedside nurses, and the veterans they care for.”
Any such “win-wins” on a larger scale will not occur until more caregivers stand up and fight back politically against the privatization push that threatens more 300,000 union-represented workers at the VA and nine million patients.
Canvassing Contra Costa about local fossil fuel drilling
On October 4th, from 4:30-6:30 PM, seven members of the Climate Action Committee of East Bay DSA canvassed at the Concord Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station, talking to people on their way back from work.
The primary aim of the canvass was to gather signatures for a petition to the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to ban new oil and gas infrastructure within the county and to phase out existing drilling.
To give some context for the petition and canvass, let’s look at the fossil-fuel geography of Contra Costa County. Contra Costa is chock full of refineries, which dot the coast of the county along its natural northern and western borders—a chain of waterways transitioning from the Sacramento River to the San Francisco Bay. Here we find a history of anti-fossil-fuel resistance, in the city of Richmond especially, where the Chevron refinery has poisoned residents for decades (e.g., Richmond has an asthma rate of 25%, compared to 13% in California).
Contra Costa also has an active oil well in unincorporated land outside the city of Antioch. This is on the eastern side of the imposing Mount Diablo, which splits the county.
We canvassed in Concord, which is the most populous city in Contra Costa (129,000), but fairly spread out with a land area larger than Manhattan. Concord is to the west of Mount Diablo.
Our experience canvassing
To assist the seven of us canvassing BART riders at the Concord station we had made flyers, which described our intent and some background on the current drilling.
Here’s what we found.
Many had no knowledge of drilling in Contra Costa County. One canvasser said only one person he spoke with knew about the drilling, and that person had been taught about it a few years ago as a high school student. This person was against the drilling, but felt hopeless about stopping it.
Only a small fraction of the BART riders stopped to chat, and even among those who seemed supportive, few were interested in having long conversations. As a result the vast majority of conversations were quite short.
Only a fairly small fraction of those who opposed the drilling did so due to the relationship between fossil fuel usage and climate change. Other reasons included: the negative health effects it could have on a beloved pet, and the perception that drilling could result in seismic activity.
A person will take an action to try to change the world when
that action fits into the existing pattern of their life-activity
they believe that that action has a good chance of changing the world to alleviate a felt pain.
Put another way, the strongest resistance begins in sites within people’s daily lives, in opposition to obvious wrongs, with actions that start off as small modifications of behaviors they’re already engaged in. This is why labor and tenant unions can be so powerful. They do not require their members to engage in purely “activist” activity outside the patterns of their daily behavior; rather they allow people to struggle within the life-patterns they are already following due to their position within the social structure.
Climate change is, unfortunately, a pretty abstract issue. The connection between its causes (fossil fuel usage demanded by the needs of capital accumulation) and its effects (heatwaves, fires, droughts, flooding, destruction of animal and plant life, mass migrations) is difficult to perceive directly because there is a large time-lag between the cause and the effects, and because the causality is mediated by completely invisible changes in the composition of the atmosphere.
Growing the committee’s skills
Even in this case of concrete fossil fuel infrastructure, the fact that the existing well is hidden away from most people makes the issue abstract in a way that lessens the felt pain. Moreover, the actions we were presenting people with—first stopping to talk about a yet unknown issue, and then subsequently signing a petition—required interrupting their normal commuting-rhythm and perhaps was not credible in terms of its potential to actually ban new fossil fuel infrastructure.
As a result, I think our effectiveness was limited in terms of getting signatures and having deep conversations. On the positive side, I think the canvass was valuable in terms of exercising our skills as a committee: our logistical capacity of getting canvassing materials to the site, our mobilizing capacity to turn out members, our design and communication capacities in the design and production of a flyer, and our skills in talking to strangers about politics. Moreover, I think we learned something about how a local segment of the working class is currently thinking about the climate crisis, the relation of that crisis to fossil fuel, and the possibility of intervening.
Planned Parenthood Gives Birth to a Union
Hot labor summer has come to a close with a union election win for Planned Parenthood workers in southern California. On September 12th, the National Labor Relations Board tallied mail-in ballots, revealing 93% of workers in support of forming a union with SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW).
An Accelerated Campaign
Following the overturn of Roe with the Dobbs decision in June of last year, abortion providers became especially vulnerable to the will of their employers, as demand for essential healthcare services increased. Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest (PPPSW) workers recognized this, and understood there cannot be reproductive justice without labor justice.
The organizing committee leading this campaign was determined via nomination by peers, identifying individuals considered organic leaders within the micro-community of each work site. This process cultivated organizers with diverse experiences, and representation of job roles across PPPSW. This was the first union organizing campaign for most of the organizing committee. Therefore internal development and improved understanding of unions and labor justice were important for the organizing committee’s success. Committee members became a key resource for all PPPSW workers, dispelling myths and misconceptions about unions, and streamlining communication throughout the campaign.
PPPSW workers progressed through their organizing campaign at a remarkable pace for the affiliate’s size and geography, which includes about 500 workers in San Diego, Riverside, and Imperial counties across 26 facilities. This momentum may be attributed to the workers’ collective dedication to reproductive rights, and how those principles align with ensuring a fair and equitable workplace. Less than a year of rank-and-file organizing resulted in a clear majority win for PPPSW, forming a union of workers from many job titles, including licensed professionals, medical assistants, patient access specialists, and non-clinical administrative roles.
In joining SEIU-UHW, PPPSW workers have chosen a prominent healthcare justice union of more than 100,000 workers across California, which includes workers from Kaiser and SHARP Healthcare. With this foundation of solidarity, PPPSW workers intend to improve on key issues such as pay, benefits, and work-life balance. Governor Newsom’s recent approval of SB 525, which establishes the first statewide healthcare-specific minimum wage of $25 per hour, was spearheaded by SEIU-UHW membership, and sets the tone for PPPSW’s upcoming contract negotiations. Bargaining is set to begin in December 2023.
Solidarity and Next Steps
San Diego DSA supported PPPSW workers throughout their union campaign, allowing workers to air issues and campaign progress with the Labor Working Group. DSA members shared connections to elevate the PPPSW campaign in media at the local and national level. DSA members also participated in PPPSW union events, such as a Labor Day action and a mutual aid fundraiser.
As the PPPSW union moves into negotiating its first union contract, DSA members will continue to support the campaign by pressing the employer to bargain in good faith and participating in worker collective actions as they arise.
Adams & Parker Accused of Assault + Adams Approval Rating Dips
The NYC Thorn is a weekly roundup of local political news compiled by members of NYC-DSA.
Eric Adams Scandal News
The deadline for the Adult Survivors Act (ASA), which was passed by the state legislature last year and extended the statute of limitations for civil suits related to sexual assault, saw a flurry of new suits filed, including one against Mayor Eric Adams, for alleging assaulting a woman in 1993—an allegation Adams has denied. An NYPD officer is also suing her union representative. And State Senator Kevin Parker (District 21, Flatbush), who was challenged in 2022 by DSA-endorsed David Alexis and has a history of violent outbursts towards colleagues and reporters, has been accused of rape in a suit made possible under the ASA.
A new poll shows approval rating for Mayor Adams sinking, with more than half of respondents disapproving of his performance in office and more than 70% responding that they believe he did something illegal or unethical during his mayoral campaign.
New York's highest court is likely to decide in the coming month whether state Democrats will redraw the state's congressional map will be redrawn ahead of 2024 elections in a manner that could reverse some of the state party's losses in 2022.
A bill passed by the legislature to increase transparency among LLCs is one of many awaiting Governor Kathy Hochul's signature before the end of the year.
City lawyers are trying to recoup $474,000 from former Mayor Bill de Blasio to cover expenses incurred from his failed run for president in 2020.
Even as federal prosecutors are moving to strip the City of its authority over Rikers Island due to "dangerous conditions that perpetually plague the jails," Mayor Adams insists that the situation there is moving in the "right direction."
Despite the state's new HALT Solitary Confinement Act, which strictly limits the use of solitary confinement in New York correctional facilities, jails around the state are finding ways to circumvent the law.
Rideshare service Revel is ending its shared moped service in New York.
The NYC Local
We're excited to say that last month, Alex Chan, David Kim, and David Turner revived our chapter's labor newsletter The Local. It arrives every other week with a focus on labor organizing, bargaining, and local legislation that impacts NYC's workers. Give them a follow and thoughts about what you'd like to see from a socialist labor newsletter.
Revolutions Per Minute
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