Invest in Organizing, Not Costly Consultants

We must invest more in organizing than consultants, which is why B&R NPC members are voting against a new and extremely costly contract with our national harassment grievance officer. They explain their decision and the need for more transparency around staff salaries.


The following statement was written by Laura Gabby, Sofia C., and Jake Colosa, the Bread & Roses members of the National Political Committee, and endorsed by the National Coordinating Committee of B&R.

This week the National Political Committee is voting on renewing the contract of the current National Harassment Grievance Officer (NHGO), a consultant who helps implement DSA’s grievance process and advises the NPC and local HGOs, among other responsibilities. All three NPC members in B&R are voting no on this motion, and we want to share the serious concerns we have with both the NHGO’s proposed contract and the process for approving it.

The proposed contract would allocate $540,000 in compensation for the NHGO for a term of 19 months — an annual salary of $360,000. This expenditure would represent a major chunk (approximately 5%) of DSA’s total budget and constitute a pay raise of 20% from the NHGO’s current compensation of $300,000 annually. We cannot support an expense of this magnitude on a single consultant in an internally-facing role given that this salary is wildly higher than the industry average for grievance officers.

As we confront the profound challenges ahead for the socialist movement, both within our organization and outside it, we imagine how $360,000 per year could instead be spent. Our labor, electoral, and campaign work would benefit greatly from more staff organizers. We could also hire one or multiple conflict resolution professionals to serve as NHGOs at a reasonable salary of $80-100,000. To be clear, we in B&R support making the expenditures necessary to maintain a trustworthy and functional internal grievance process, and we are not raising performance issues with the current NHGO. But we are troubled by the lack of critical thought given to whether an exorbitant consulting fee is the best use of our resources, especially as our external political campaigns — which should be the heart of DSA’s impact on the world — are in dire need of investment.

Such a weighty decision should be made in the context of an NPC meeting where concerns can be fully explored and debated rather than through a digital, asynchronous vote as we are doing now. In the past, other similarly consequential motions on the NPC have passed without due consideration because we were unnecessarily limited in time and access to information as well as the freedom to discuss the motion with comrades. NPC members are frequently told not to share the details in big decisions, which is the right call for sensitive matters like grievances. But we think members deserve transparency about staff salaries. That’s why we’ve chosen to publish this position article.

We urge other NPC members to join us in voting no on this proposed NHGO contract and taking steps in the future to improve our democratic practices as the highest leadership body in DSA.

Laura Gabby, Sofia Cutler, and Jake Colosa are members of DSA's 2021-2023 National Political Committee and the Bread & Roses caucus of DSA.