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General Meeting

November 2020 General Meeting Recap

Banner for the Virtual Meeting

We extend our appreciation to everyone who came to our general meeting last Thursday! For those that don’t know, our monthly general meetings are where we gather to discuss ongoing meetings and conduct official chapter business. Our next general meeting will be Thursday, December 10. We hope to welcome you there!

Local News

Endorsements Committee

The Endorsements Committee has 7 openings up for election! This committee is responsible for screening candidates seeking our endorsement, and then presenting that information to the general body. The committee makes recommendations, and the membership then votes on endorsement. Elections for these positions will be held at the next general meeting on December 10th. Send all nominations (whether they be for yourself or someone else) to info@houstondsa.org before then!

Abolition Working Group Resolution

We passed a new resolution to recenter our Abolition Working Group’s efforts on targeting the surveillance capabilities of the Houston Police Department, specifically their ability to access the footage of Amazon Ring Doorbell surveillance devices. This is an important step on the road to abolition as we aim to inform our community about the dangers of these devices, divest HPD funds from these and other predatory technologies, and deepen our partnership with other local organizations while making winnable demands. Look for further information on how you can become involved with this new campaign!

Get Involved: Charter Amendment Campaign

We’re collecting petition signatures to make our city more democratic. Come canvass with us this weekend at Hermann Park! We have three separate shifts you should attend (Saturday at 10:30am and 1:30pm, and Sunday at 10:30am). We will be meeting at the North entrance of the park at the Mary Gibbs and Jesse H. Jones Reflection Pool. Look for our gray shirts! You may have difficulty parking, so arrive early.

The nearest rail stop is the Red line at Hermann Park/Rice U. Check Hermann Park’s website for parking. There is street parking Northeast of the park as well. Email the Steering Committee (info@houstondsa.org) if you have any questions.

As some backstory, our membership has voted in favor of a resolution to join a coalition aiming to amend the charter of the city of Houston in order to take some of the power of the Mayor of Houston and give it to City Council Members. Under our current system, the Mayor has complete control over the City Council agenda. Even if all 16 Council Members want to vote on an issue at a Regular Session, only the Mayor has the power to let that happen.

Fortunately, the people of Houston have the power to change this. Houston DSA is working with IAFF Local 341 on an amendment to the Houston City Charter that would allow any group of three Council Members to add items to the Council agenda. While mayors come and go, our City Charter stays the same. Let’s use our power to build a more democratic, more functional City of Houston where everyone’s voices are heard.

If you are interested in getting involved this weekend or beyond, please fill out this interest form. Contact the Steering Committee if you have any questions.

Upcoming Events

The end of the election cycle means the beginning of a new congressional session and the first stages of future campaigns. Join Texas DSA members and members of DSA’s National Electoral Committee Thursday November 19th at 7pm for a discussion of DSA’s electoral strategy and what we can take on next in Texas. Come and help us plan on how we’ll get more socialists in state office!

National News

We welcomed a bunch of new members as we continue to grow both locally and nationally as part of our goal of 100,000 DSA Members! At the National Convention in Atlanta last year, delegates established to goal of growing DSA membership to 100K by 2021. Nationally we’ve had over 12,000 new members join since October, and over 40 in Houston!

Again, we extend our joy welcoming all who came last Thursday! Be sure to subscribe to our local calendar and the DSA National Calendar for a full update of all upcoming events.

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General Meeting Uncategorized

October 2020 General Meeting Recap

Banner for the Virtual Meeting

We we glad to welcome everyone who attended the October General Meeting!

Local News

There were two Steering Committee positions up for election. The body reelected Dan D. as Internal Secretary, and elected Henry M. as Co-Chair, replacing Bryan L. Congratulations to all, and thank you to Bryan, who has faithfully served our chapter in an official capacity and will continue to do so as a rank and file member.

We debated a resolution for the creation of a Housing Working Group. This passed with 31 yes votes, 0 no votes, and 0 abstentions. You can read the text of the resolution here. They certainly will be doing good work soon, so make sure to keep an eye out for opportunities to help fight for housing justice in Houston.

National News

The membership committee ran a presentation on the DSA100K recruitment drive. At the National Convention in Atlanta last year, delegates established to goal of growing DSA membership to 100K by 2021. To meet those goals, Houston needs to increase our membership by 10%, or 78 members. We are asking all members to sign the pledge to recruit 3 new members by going to dsausa.org/recruit. The first 500 members to reach this goal will get a nifty DSA hat, and the next 1000 will be getting some swag as well! We’ll be having an in-depth training on how to ask people to join DSA Saturday, October 17th at 2pm. We’ll see you there!

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Reading Group

Reading Group/Author Talk with Mark Nowak and Social Poetics Recap

Reading Group: Social Poetics by Mark Nowak

In preparation for the Houston DSA Arts Collective and Political Education Committee’s author talk with Mark Nowak, the Reading Group met to read the introduction and first two chapters of Nowak’s new book, Social Poetics. The book uses Nowak’s decades of experience as a socialist cultural organizer—founding first the Union of Radical Workers and Writers, then the Worker Writers School—to explore the possibilities of building socialist culture today.

The Reading Group focused on the book’s historical sections, which offer a “people’s history” of left participatory culture in the U.S. and abroad. It focuses in particular on poetry workshops held with peasants in post-revolutionary Nicaragua, labor unions in South Africa, and prisons and working-class schools in the U.S. Discussion ranged from the student poems that came out of poet June Jordan’s poetry workshops in Harlem to the importance of art and culture in building community.

Author Talk with Mark Nowak

Then, Mark Nowak himself joined Houston DSA’s Arts Collective and Political Education Committee on Sept. 17 for a discussion of Social Poetics. Mark shared stories from his decades of socialist cultural organizing. These ranged from experiences holding poetry workshops for labor unions in South Africa, to his work with unionizing big-box bookstore workers in Minneapolis. Finally, he shared his story of founding the Worker Writers School’s ongoing workshops. These workshops featured domestic workers, taxi drivers, and other radical and union workers in New York City learning about poetry together.

We discussed the history of participatory socialist culture and what exactly Mark means by social poetics (“short for socialist poetics,” as Mark said). The landscape of left politics in the U.S. is changing, and it’s vital that we build up independent socialist cultural institutions.

“It’s important that our [poetry and cultural] workshops produce more than empathy,” Mark said. This sole emphasis on empathy, he said, struck him as a profoundly liberal idea of culture’s social role. Instead, socialist cultural organizing is about opening up spaces for communities to deepen working-class bonds, experience collectively, and build power. These are spaces developed alongside unions and left organizations that have their sights set on socialist world-making.

“Think small,” he said. “Three workers from a worker center” joining together for a writing workshop could be the start of something much bigger.

Mark Nowak

The discussion brought in DSA members and others from around the country, with Twin Cities and Chicago DSA both represented. At the end, Mark encouraged the Houston DSA Arts Collective to launch its own worker-centered cultural workshops. “Think small,” he said. “Three workers from a worker center” joining together for a writing workshop could be the start of something much bigger.

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General Meeting

September 2020 General Meeting Recap

We were glad to welcome people to our general meeting! It’s always great getting to see y’all’s faces. If you couldn’t make it this time, no sweat! That’s what this recap is for. We hope to see you at our next meeting, which will be Thursday, October 8th.

Local News

Two Steering Committee positions, Co-Chair B and Internal Secretary, are open for election in our October General Meeting. Nominations are open now, and will be closed during that meeting! For more information on these positions, you can read section 5.2 of our bylaws. If you would like to nominate yourself or someone else, send an email to nominations@houstondsa.org, or send a message to our nominations committee on Mattermost. You can only vote if you attend the next general meeting, so make sure to attend next month on October 8th to help shape our leadership and vote on these two positions!

The Houston DSA Org Chart

Our Solidarity Fund, as managed by the Mutual Aid Working Group, has given out around $2,500 to help our fellow Houstonians! Please continue to support them with donations here: https://houstondsa.org/solidarity-fund/

UFCW455 is battling with Kroger to get a fair contract that protects grocery workers, and they need your help! Our Steering Committee endorsed supporting their struggle, and last Thursday we had some members join the picket. We’d like to continue our support of local labor, so be on the look out for upcoming events to guarantee Kroger employees get good healthcare, hazard pay, and a seat at the table.

National News

DSA nationally is almost at 100,000 members! If you’d like to help close the gap, look out for the Membership Drive Kickoff Call on September 27th at 8pm, and consider joining Houston DSA’s Membership Committee. Talk to Will Lira for more information on that.

Meeting Events

We were honored to welcome Fred Glass of East Bay DSA. Fred spoke about California’s upcoming election on Proposition 15, a way of closing a corporate property tax loophole that has allowed giants like Google and Disney to get away with not paying their fair share for decades. Thanks to Fred for speaking with us! Learn more about EBDSA’s endorsement of Prop. 15 here: https://www.eastbaydsa.org/endorsements/

Lastly, we had three breakout discussion groups! In the Housing breakout group, we discussed how to use the current eviction moratorium to keep people in their homes. The Mutual Aid breakout group discussed ongoing efforts to assist after Hurricane Laura. Finally, our Welcome to DSA breakout group welcomed new members into the fold. All in all it was a successful general meeting! Again, we’d love to welcome you to these meetings, which happen on the second Thursday of every month! Next month’s is on October 8.

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Uncategorized

Support workers building the new dorm at UH

The University of Houston is spending $124 million to build a brand-new 1,200-bed dormitory to replace the aging Quadrangle. It’s a symbol of UH’s increasing popularity and growing prestige among Texas universities. There’s just one problem — UH isn’t making sure the general contractor or subcontractors on site are paying the workers who are building it the prevailing wages required by Texas Prevailing Wage Statute Section 2258

Both Federal and Texas state law mandate that publicly-funded projects pay workers the prevailing wage, similar to a minimum wage, specific to the work they are performing and the local area. 

Eight workers building the Quadrangle Housing Replacement to lay drywall for the project have filed a prevailing wage complaint, claiming they are being paid as general laborers, not drywall installers. This type of wage theft is called miscategorization, and it’s a common way for companies like Austin Commercial, the general contractor, to pad their bottom line by paying workers less for what should be higher-paid work.

While more workers have come forward than the eight workers who filed the complaint, even that small number of workers is owed over $43,000 in stolen wages — that’s more than $5,000 per worker. How would you feel if your boss paid you $5,000 less than you earned for your work?

The workers at UH aren’t alone: Texas workers lose $1.2 billion every year to wage theft, including one in five construction workers. We must stand with all working people who aren’t being paid what they earned and deserve. We all pay for the University of Houston, and our money should not sponsor worker exploitation–it must be spent fairly.

The University of Houston has until February 16 to respond to the workers’ prevailing wage complaint. Chancellor Renu Khator has the power to make the contractor pay its workers the money they’ve earned.

Call Chancellor Khator at 713-743-8820 and tell her that our public university must treat the workers building their institution fairly. She must fix this problem. 

Want to do more? Contact these two city councilors and ask them to urge Chancellor Khator to make sure Austin Commercial is in compliance with the law and get workers paid what they’re owed. 

MARTHA CASTEX-TATUM: call 832.393.3016 or email districtk@houstontx.gov
CAROLYN EVANS-SHABAZZ: call 832.393.3001 or email districtd@houstontx.gov
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Press Release

Houston DSA Resolution #13: Endorsing Metro Transit Authority Prop A, or “METRO Next”

WHEREAS the Harris County Metropolitan Transit Authority (METRO) has put forward Metro Transit Authority Prop A, a ballot measure to create bond authority for the implementation of a public transit expansion popularly known as “METRO Next”;

WHEREAS the METRO Next plan represents a $3.5 billion public investment in transit infrastructure, including 75 miles of new bus rapid transit service, 16 miles of new light rail service, 110 miles of dedicated regional bus transit, and 290 miles of improved local bus service;

WHEREAS unlike highway projects, which are imposed on our communities for the benefit of the wealthy business interests and real estate developers, METRO Next is designed to seek and incorporate input from the communities it impacts and make decisions based on public need;

WHEREAS increasing ridership and participation in public transit is a positive step toward raising public consciousness around democratic decision-making, public ownership, and the necessity of de-commodifying public spaces, and growing public demand for more equitable transit infrastructure, urban planning, and development geared toward communities and human need;

WHEREAS transit is inextricably linked to housing justice, as one’s proximity to employment, education, health care, and public services is a function of one’s access to transit and affordable housing, all while Houston’s dependence on highways and automobiles underpins an economic structure that creates wealth for developers and landowners at the expense of the working class;

WHEREAS eliminating dependence on fossil fuels and rapidly moving to denser, more sustainable models of development are key components to reverse climate change, equitably address those effects of climate change already present, and build an ecologically sustainable economy and society;

WHEREAS in advancing the above the METRO Next plan furthers DSA’s vision of a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, feminism, racial equality and non-oppressive relationships;

BE IT RESOLVED Houston DSA endorses a YES vote on Metro Transit Authority Prop A, METRO Next, and shall publicly advocate for this position through mass communication, voter contact, and other means.

Passed at the Houston DSA October 2019 General Meeting.

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Press Release

Houston DSA Resolution #12: Opposing Texas Prop 4, the Prohibit State Income Tax on Individuals Amen dment

WHEREAS, Texas Proposition 4, the Prohibit State Income Tax on Individuals Amendment, seeks to preclude future state legislatures from re-examining Texas’s tax policies via democratic discussion;

WHEREAS, Texas Proposition 4 intends to prevent a state income tax, a means of progressive taxation, from ever being levied, thereby leaving regressive methods of taxation as the only means for Texas to collect taxes;

WHEREAS, regressive taxation unfairly burdens lower-income and working-class families by having them pay a far larger share of their income than the upper class in taxation;

WHEREAS, regressive taxation, in particular sales taxes, exacerbate the rapid widening of income inequality between the elitist capitalist class and all others;

WHEREAS, Texas has the second-most regressive system of taxation amongst all states, with the current effective tax rate for the bottom 20 percent of wage-earners in Texas — more than quadruple the effective tax rate of the top 1 percent of wage-earners in Texas;

WHEREAS, states that utilize state income taxes come the closest to parity in effective tax rates across the income scale;

WHEREAS, states that rely on more progressive taxation are more likely  to experience the revenue growth needed to fund improvements to public goods such as schools, infrastructure, and healthcare programs;

WHEREAS, decisions regarding taxation should be made through democratic discussion  and should not be prohibited or made subject to dilatory tactics;

BE IT RESOLVED, the Houston chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (Houston DSA) opposes Texas Proposition 4, the Prohibit State Income Tax on Individuals Amendment.

BE IT RESOLVED, Houston DSA endorses a “NO” vote on Texas Proposition 4 for the 2019 General Election.

BE IT RESOLVED, Houston DSA seeks to maintain an unencumbered democratic process so that future generations of Texans may decide what system of taxation works best for them rather than being constitutionally prohibited from doing so.

Passed at the Houston DSA October 2019 General Meeting.

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Resolutions

Resolution #11: Houston DSA Supports Community Efforts Against I-45 Expansion

WHEREAS, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT)’s North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP) will displace households, reduce air quality, make flooding worse, and destroy parks.

WHEREAS, 428 of the 1,235 displaced housing units are low-income and homeless veteran units.

WHEREAS, increased traffic on the expanded I-45 thoroughfare will pose a distinct health risk to adjacent communities.

WHEREAS, TxDOT’s project does not meet City of Houston and Harris County standards for flood resilience.

WHEREAS, the expansion of freeways does not reduce traffic, but makes traffic worse.

WHEREAS, the approaching climate crisis requires a rejection of car-based transportation infrastructure and investment in public transportation.

WHEREAS, the only way to deal with this impending catastrophe is to stop it and send TxDOT back to the drawing board.

WHEREAS, STOP TxDOT I-45 and the Make I-45 Better Coalition have formed to address these concerns and oppose the project.

BE IT RESOLVED, the Houston chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (Houston DSA) opposes the North Houston Highway Improvement Project.

BE IT RESOLVED, Houston DSA endorses the work of STOP TxDOT I-45.

BE IT RESOLVED, Houston DSA endorses the work of the Make I-45 Better Coalition.

BE IT RESOLVED, Houston DSA and its members will assist the endorsed groups with opposition to the NHHIP through messaging uplift, canvassing, phone banking, and attendance at community meetings.

Passed at the Houston DSA August 2019 General Meeting.

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Press Release Resolutions

Houston DSA endorses Ashton P. Woods for Houston City Council At-Large 5

July 12, 2019 — Houston DSA announces its endorsement of Ashton P. Woods’ candidacy for Houston City Council, At-Large Position 5.

Woods, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Houston, long-time community organizer, and Houston DSA member, received the chapter’s endorsement at its July 11 general meeting.

“Ashton’s vision for making Houston a more equitable city aligns fully with DSA’s values,” said Hannah Thalenberg, Houston DSA co-chair. “His campaign is guided by and accountable to impacted communities, and sets an example of how one can remain a grassroots organizer as a candidate and elected official.”

Ashton’s campaign is being funded by grassroots donors, run with the expertise of experienced, paid staff, and is supported by activists and organizations across the country, including Democracy for America and the Free Thought Equality Fund.

Houston DSA’s work on behalf of Ashton is designed to be educational and focus on issues, to target communities that have been neglected by other candidates, and to connect people to organizations who are doing social and economic justice work on the ground — all things that Ashton plans on continuing to do when elected.

“We look forward to fighting alongside Ashton to advance our vision for a more equitable, democratic Houston — where working people are empowered in our institutions, workplaces, and communities, where no one is marginalized, and where everyone’s voice is heard.”

For press inquiries, please contact info@houstondsa.org.

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Uncategorized

May General Meeting POSTPONED to May 16 due to inclement weather, likely flooding

Due to the severe weather in tonight’s forecast and a flash flood watch taking effect this afternoon, we will be postponing the May 9th General Meeting to the following Thursday, May 16, from 7–9pm at the usual location, Gulf Coast ALF, 2506 Sutherland Street, out of concern for comrades’ safety.

Please keep an eye on weather forecasts and reports of street flooding as you make it through today, take whatever safety precautions you can, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help: by email info@houstondsa.org or  by text (832) 930-6583.

Stay safe, and in solidarity,
Houston DSA Steering Committee