Open Letter on Transparency in DSA

Building an effective national organization that creates opportunities for members to help shape decisions is critical. We need to do that responsibly, and without setting impossible-to-meet standards for our national staff.

DSA members meet at a Brooklyn Branch meeting

We are publishing a response from seven candidates for DSA’s National Political Committee to a request to sign a “transparency pledge.” The candidates strongly support the idea of building a more transparent DSA that helps members understand how decisions are made and creates more opportunities for members to help shape those decisions. But they felt they could not sign a pledge to very specific requests that could force an already overworked national staff to work on weekends and holidays, and that would not allow the national leadership to act quickly when a situation calls for a fast response from DSA.

We’ve decided not to sign onto the “Transparency Pledge” shared with us by Emily C. and Michelle B., even though we agree with the spirit of it, because we feel we’d be committing to specific actions on situations that we can’t predict. We believe that part of being a national leader is only making promises that you know you can keep.

We believe it’s very important for DSA members to have prompt access to agendas and regular budget reports, to know when National Political Committee (NPC) and Steering Committee meetings are happening, and for communications to be as accessible as possible. That said, there can sometimes be extenuating circumstances that necessitate emergency meetings or cause delays. For example, the NPC even has trouble getting regular reports on the state of the organization’s finances from national staff. NPC members often have to wait until a full quarter has passed to see a previous quarter’s income and expenses.

We will work our hardest to minimize those extenuating circumstances and delays, and we believe that as DSA adapts to our recent growth many of these issues will subside. We also know that there are lots of people, including volunteers and staff, involved in administrative tasks, and sometimes it’s preferable for things to take a day or two longer than for a staff member to have to work overtime or weekends. We are committed to working to solve — through, for example, fighting to get more staff — what we understand to be structural problems in DSA, stemming from our rapid growth over the past two years. We think that strict rules and requirements don’t necessarily address the structural nature of the issues.

All of that said, we understand that the spirit of the pledge is to ensure an NPC and a DSA that work in the best interest of all of our members, and that part of that is those members having access to the decisions of the NPC and contact with NPC members. We are committed to that mission.

Dave Pinkham
Marianela D’Aprile
Marsha Niemeijer
Megan Svoboda
Natalie Midiri
Rachel Zibrat
Sean Estelle

This is an open letter written by a group of DSA members.