At the January 14 DSA National Political Committee (NPC) meeting, the NPC voted 9-4 (with five abstentions) to pass a proposal that effectively suspended fundraising for the National Labor Commission’s Labor Solidarity Fund and redirected the Fund’s existing balance to the National Labor Commission’s (NLC) other work. This change was proposed by Socialist Majority Caucus member Colleen J., and was passed with a majority by SMC, Groundwork, and Red Star’s members on the NPC. This decision misapprehends the importance of DSA’s labor solidarity work to the health of our organization.
The Labor Solidarity Fund has been a vitally important organizing tool in DSA’s labor work in the last year. The Labor Solidarity Fund gave the NLC, which was coordinating the largest national DSA campaign since Bernie, the resources to ensure that campaign’s success on the ground. In 2023, dozens of chapters hosted Labor Solidarity Fund fundraisers to support the UPS Teamsters and UAW Autoworkers in two of the most important labor struggles of a generation. When chapter labor leaders spoke with non-DSA union members about our work, those conversations often started with, “DSA has raised thousands of dollars specifically to support you and your coworkers in your shop floor struggle.” When the UAW specifically sought out DSA’s support in the 2023 UAW Stand-Up Strike, the Labor Solidarity Fund gave us credibility and strength as a key community partner. The Labor Solidarity Fund was an example in real time of the role a socialist organization can play in a renewed labor movement. A role of genuine material solidarity and connectivity.
The stated justification for ending fundraising for the Labor Solidarity Fund was, counterintuitively, fiscal responsibility. Proponents argued that fundraising done for the Labor Solidarity Fund, and donations made to it, were not being done and given to DSA writ large. However, the Labor Solidarity Fund increases the total pool of money available to DSA rather than detracting from it. The Labor Solidarity Fund encourages more fundraising by drawing donations from comrades who already give money to DSA and can be convinced to give a little more for a specific goal. Further, much of the money in the Labor Solidarity Fund has been raised through Strike Ready fundraisers before or during major labor fights. For example, in New York City last summer, a few weeks before a possible UPS strike, NYC-DSA hosted a Labor Solidarity fundraiser with UPS Teamsters, striking Writers Guild of America workers, and workers from other unions who they had supported previously. Workers from different unions spoke about how important DSA Labor solidarity is and in the end the fundraiser raised over $7,000.
That successful event would not have worked had it been a fundraiser for DSA’s general fund. DSA would appear opportunist by asking community allies and DSA members to donate directly to DSA during these fights. Instead, DSA is able to encourage people to donate money for a specific purpose while still growing our organization and the socialist cause. This is akin to fundraising for DSA’s electoral campaigns, which funds outward facing work that grows our movement. Eliminating the Labor Solidarity Fund will not mean more donations will go to DSA generally. It will simply mean DSA is removing a key tool for funding our labor work. Indeed, it means that the money the NLC would normally be able to spend on labor solidarity work out of the Labor Solidarity Fund will have to be taken out of the general DSA fund. In other words, ending Labor Solidarity Fund fundraising will mean that the NLC will need more, not less, to be appropriated in the budget.
While the language of the amendment said that the Labor Solidarity Fund’s existing funds would not be immediately dissolved into the general fund, it does say that they will be used not for the specific purpose of labor solidarity, the purpose given when the money was raised, but for general NLC projects. Another proposal to the NPC also included taking money from the Labor Solidarity Fund to pay the stipends of the NLC Co-Chairs, a proposal which was, thankfully, defeated. It is, of course, vitally important that DSA’s financial stability is preserved and strengthened. However, eliminating the Labor Solidarity Fund is contrary to that aim, and undervalues the potential for DSA’s labor work to build our organization.
The Labor Solidarity Fund was launched on Labor Day 2022, and has raised nearly $150,000, with over $4,000 a month being made through monthly recurring donations. The Labor Solidarity Fund has been used to support a variety of labor struggles local to specific chapters. The NLC’s first grant from the Labor Solidarity Fund was to the United Mine Workers strike pantry to support the two-year-long Warrior Met strike in Alabama. The Labor Solidarity Fund made grants to support the 2022 strike at the University of California, to Erie DSA to support solidarity with WABTEC strikers, to DSA-LA to support UNITE HERE Local 11’s contract fight with Los Angeles’s hotels as well as to DSA-LA’s Snacklist solidarity project supporting writers and actors during the 6 months of the overlapping WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes
The attempt to use Labor Solidarity Fund funds for other purposes and the specter raised of dissolving the Labor Solidarity Fund into DSA’s general fund also raises legal concerns. The Labor Solidarity Fund’s donation page opens with the statement that the Fund “provides support to any DSA chapter involved with local labor struggle….” To use the money for other purposes raises would require serious legal scrutiny that was not done prior to the proposals passed at the January 14 NPC meeting. This is a concern not only for the money already donated, but also for those people who have a monthly recurring donation to the Labor Solidarity Fund. But those legal issues aside, there is also a moral and political problem with using the Labor Solidarity Fund for something other than this stated purpose. How can we expect people to trust us with their money, much less their free time and political commitment, if we undermine their trust like this?
The Labor Solidarity Fund has been a boon to DSA’s labor work over the last year, and NLC members have already been planning for the year ahead with its continued strength in mind. The decision of SMC, Groundwork, and Red Star is a disappointment to many of the members who took part in 2023’s Strike Ready work or who look forward to organizing with the NLC’s support in the years to come. We hope the NPC reconsiders its decision and ensures that the NLC is able to continue the project of the Labor Solidarity Fund, both as a source of material support and a sign of our commitment to supporting labor struggle, for years to come.