Welcome to Seattle DSA! We share a commitment to creating a more just world which is built around ensuring all people’s needs are met rather than concentrating wealth and power into ever smaller numbers of people. We believe that to make this happen, both the economy and society should be run democratically. In order to get closer to making this goal a reality we engage in a variety of activities, from electoral politics to direct action to education to labor organizing and much more.
There’s usually a lot going on within the chapter; between meetings, educational and social events, signature gathering, rallies, etc. there’s often upwards of 20 events a week. In addition, there’s a variety of ways members communicate, terms people use, and practices that may be unfamiliar at first. We want participating in Seattle DSA to be as straightforward as possible so we’ve designed this Member Handbook to try to help you find your footing and join in the work of bringing about a socialist society with us!
How is Seattle DSA structured?
Seattle DSA’s geographic reach is all of King County, not just DSA members residing within the City of Seattle. There are different types of groups within Seattle DSA that serve different purposes for our organization.
Working Groups are groups of members that engage primarily in external projects and campaigns designed to make a change in the world that advances our socialist vision.
Working Groups are formed around a broad issue such as housing justice, combating climate change, etc. or a specific campaign like getting a specific Seattle DSA-endorsed political candidate into office. As these groups publicly represent Seattle DSA, they must be formed and renewed through a specific process outlined in our bylaws.
Committees are groups of members that engage in internal work to create and maintain the infrastructure of the chapter.
If Working Groups are the “hands” of our organization which have the power to shape and affect the outside world, Committees are the internal organs which keep the body healthy and functioning. Committees handle things like maintaining our website, emailing / texting / calling members, and welcoming new members into the chapter so that our Working Groups’ campaigns can succeed. Committees are formed by the Local Council.
The Local Council is the elected leadership of the chapter.
Each March at our Local Convention, members elect three co-chairs, four elected organizers, a treasurer, and a secretary to help coordinate and advance the work of various groups and manage the day-to-day affairs of the chapter. The Local Council also plans the monthly General Membership Meetings.
Caucuses are groups of members in the chapter that advocate for a certain position or provide support for a specific subset of SDSA members. Most caucuses fall under one of the following two categories:
Ideological caucuses are groups that try to influence the political direction of the DSA. Some members feel the chapter should focus more on certain campaigns, others feel that structural changes within the chapter are most important to advance our goals – these groups gather together to plan ways to advance their ideas within the chapter and organization at large.
Identity-based caucuses are groups which exist to provide a space of support and advocacy within the chapter for members of a specific identity, such as parents, people of color, queer socialists, etc.
District Groups are geographically based groups in the chapter that – can put on events that are geographically convenient to members that live in a certain area of King County.
Sometimes District Groups organize events specific to their district, such as a rally to pressure their district’s council member or supporting local striking workers. These groups are mostly based on Seattle City Council voting districts, though any member can attend any district group’s gatherings. Please note that there are several districts and areas within Seattle DSA that don’t currently have District Groups.
Informal groups sometimes come together organically when members want to explore starting a new project, addressing an issue they see within the chapter, or creating a new working group, caucus, or committee within the chapter.
These informal gatherings can be really helpful for taking the temperature of other people in the chapter on a new idea and getting input before jumping into starting an official new group in the chapter. Some groups that have a very limited scope and require little to no support from the chapter, such as a book group, may opt to remain an informal group.
If you’re interested in starting a new working group, committee, district group, or any other type of formation in the chapter, reaching out to people on Slack is a great way to get started and see if others might be interested – sometimes a single post on #ask_anything or #bulletin_board asking “is anyone here interested in doing X activity?” is enough to get a dozen people to come out of the woodwork!
In order to make a group a formal part of Seattle DSA, and thus supported by the Local Council and committees of the chapter, please contact a member of the Local Council through the Local Council Request Form (which can be found on the private member resources page) – there’s an option in this form specifically for starting a new group.
How do I participate?
There’s a lot of different things you can do in Seattle DSA; below is a list of ways members participate in and contribute to the life of our chapter. Some members do a lot, others just focus on one thing.
If you would like to talk to a friendly human about how you can get involved, we have a crew of folks that are delighted to talk with you, answer your questions, and help you find a way to participate in Seattle DSA that works for you. All new members should be contacted with an offer for a 1-on-1 within a few weeks of joining, but if you’d like to expedite the process, simply send an email to the Member Engagement Committee and we’ll get you set up with a 1-on-1 meeting ASAP!
Attending General Membership Meetings (GMMs) is an important way to participate in the life of the chapter. GMMs are the events in which the largest number of members come together to hear about what the chapter has been up to recently, learn what is on the horizon and how to get involved, discuss ideas, and vote on how we should use our collective resources of money to achieve our goals.
More information on Rusty’s Rules, the process we use at these meetings , can be found here. While the Local Council plans these meetings, ideas for speakers, business to vote on, discussion topics, and announcements are often submitted by members. Requests related to General Meetings can be submitted through the LC Request Form which can be found on the private member resources page.
Contributing to the work of one of the many groups in our chapter is something we encourage all members to do – socializing and voting in large meetings is great, but contributing to the collective work of a group is what really allows us to get things done. The most direct resource for finding things to do is our chapter events calendar.
Our members collect signatures, call / text members about upcoming events, bring food to a rally, take notes at a meeting, add events to the calendar on our website, provide support for organizing workers, and much, much more. If you are new to the chapter, the easiest way to get connected with a group is to request a 1-on-1 meeting with an experienced member who can give you the lay of the land, tell you what opportunities to get involved in groups currently exist, and get you connected with the people who can tell you more about the things that interest you. You can also check out the list of groups in the chapter and drop in on one of their meetings (all meetings listed on our calendar are open to new folks) or join that group’s Slack channel.
Get on Slack! Slack is a messaging program in which members of Seattle DSA use various “channels” (message boards devoted to specific purposes) to discuss the work of various groups within the chapter, discuss topics of importance to the chapter, share funny memes, ask about dog sitting, etc. Slack can also be used to send direct messages (DMs) to other members.
If you are a member of Seattle DSA and would like to be added to Slack, go to our contact page and click “Join our Slack.” Once you are on, you will automatically be added to a few important channels, but be sure to explore the other channels and join anything that sounds interesting. To do this, hover over the word “Channels” on the menu on the left side of your screen and click on the “+” that appears to the right of it, then click “Browse channels.” If you find any channel is too much to keep up with or not as interesting as you’d hoped, you can always leave that channel later.
One of the most important channels on Slack is #ask_anything. This channel is for just what it sounds like: asking anything that you want to know about Seattle DSA. One piece of Slack etiquette – if you have a long post to share, in order to not have it immediately push all other posts out of view, use “threading” – post a short message saying what the topic of your post is, then post the full text in a reply to that message (the “thread”).
Becoming a member and paying dues is a very important way members contribute to our chapter. We spend money on a variety of things from web hosting fees, to legal fees, to printing posters and t-shirts, to direct cash contributions to struggles we are in solidarity with. Without members paying their dues, we can’t do much! Also, if you have not paid your dues in over one year you are considered a “lapsed member” rather than a “member in good standing” and are not eligible to vote on business at General Membership Meetings.
National and local dues – In order to become a member of Seattle DSA you need to join and pay dues to the national DSA organization (if you haven’t done this yet, you can do so here). Some of the dues go towards national DSA’s operating costs and some go to our chapter. Many members provide additional financial support to our local chapter by also paying local dues; you can become one of these wonderful people here.
Signing on to the Priority Pledge is a newer way for members to contribute which we’ve started in 2022 for the first time. In May of 2022, we selected three priority campaigns to give a significant financial contribution to as well as a commitment of time from a large number of our members in the form of the Priority Pledge.
If you are willing to support the democratically chosen campaigns our chapter has voted on, go to the private member resources page, click the link to the Priority Pledge form, and fill it out – leaders in the priority campaigns will get in touch with you about ways you can contribute that you’ve noted you are interested in doing on the form.
Meet and socialize with other members! While getting something done together as a group can feel great, it’s also nice to kick back and not get anything done with your fellow DSA’ers! Our relationships with each other are the glue that holds us together when the going gets tough, so definitely try to attend discussion groups or social gatherings! Check out our calendar to find upcoming social events.
This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of ways people can contribute to building socialism. From talking to people in your life about DSA, to forming a union in your workplace, to writing or creating videos on YouTube that get socialism to a wider audience, there’s a lot of ways to fight back against capitalism! Regardless of what you do, it’s really helpful to be a part of a socialist organization like Seattle DSA so you can stay connected to and engaged with local political happenings, continue learning, and build relationships with other socialists.
Are there rules? What should members do / not do?
While there’s a lot of freedom within how you can participate in Seattle DSA, there’s obviously some things we want to ensure don’t happen in our organization, such as harrassment, discrimination, or other harmful experiences, either online or in person. We try to promote ways of engaging in debate, discussion, and decision making that are democratic and encourage good relations among members. Here are some of the structures that ensure we can do this:
We have a Code of Conduct which we ask all members to read and abide by. It is a very short read and very important!
Harassment and Grievance Officers (HGOs) are the volunteers within our organization who are ready to help investigate and address issues of harassment, discrimination, or abuse between DSA members. If you have an issue you’d like to bring to their attention, please email [email protected].
Our bylaws outline the practices and rules which govern how Seattle DSA is run. They outline who can make decisions within our organization and when and how they can make those decisions, as well as describing the structure of the organization in more detail.
While it’s not the most entertaining read, we recommend members check it out or at least keep it bookmarked for when questions arise regarding the structure / policies of our organization. Changes to our bylaws can be proposed and voted on at our annual Local Convention in March. This can also happen at a regular General Membership Meeting, though there is a higher bar to clear for a bylaw amendment to be considered at these meetings – there must be at least 20 members who have agreed to sign their names in support of the amendment for it to be voted on outside of the Local Convention.
Rusty’s Rules are the rules of order used when members of Seattle DSA make binding decisions together as a group.
In a nutshell, Rusty’s Rules is a series of procedures that are designed to make sure members have a chance to give their input, get important questions answered, and have a clear way to address issues that can come up in the course of our meetings. These are also a little bit involved — if you don’t have time to check out the whole document or just need a quick refresher for how to participate in our business meetings, please read this short Rusty’s Rules “cheat sheet.”
How are decisions made? Who is in charge?
The members of Seattle DSA are the highest authority within the organization – any large decision about the direction of the organization must be voted on by 10% or more of the membership (“a “quorum” of members).
Let’s explore the process of getting a proposal presented, discussed, and voted on.
- Have an idea for something that Seattle DSA can do better – Often these ideas come out of casual discussions before or after meetings or at socials.
- Write your idea down in the form of a resolution – Once you have an idea, write it down as a resolution. Resolutions are broken into two sections; the “Whereas” section which explains the situation your idea is designed to address and the “Therefore be it resolved” section, which lays out what your idea is to address that situation. Some helpful guidance around writing an effective, clear resolution can be found here.
- Get feedback on your resolution – It’s very helpful to share the text of your resolution with some other members and ask for their feedback. Through this process, you will be able to refine, clarify, identify and answer questions, and get buy-in before it is voted on.
- Find signatories – Ask people if they would be willing to put their name on the resolution to publicly show their support. Always use first name and last initial for security purposes. In much the same way that a list of endorsements from trusted groups can help convince voters to support a candidate, it can make a big difference to show that several members in the chapter support your ideas.
- Submit your resolution to the Local Council – Use the LC Request Form (which can be found on the private member resources page) to submit your resolution. Google doc links are often used for sharing resolutions – if you do this make sure it is viewable by anyone with the link, not restricted. The Local Council will review the resolution and get it slotted into the earliest possible General Membership Meeting. Please note that our bylaws designate that the members need to be notified of business that will be voted on at upcoming meetings at least 14 days before the meeting so they have time to digest and discuss them – for this reason, resolutions need to be submitted at least 16 days before a General Membership Meeting, though more is always better!
- Preparing a motivation (ie. introduction) for the resolution – Once the resolution has been scheduled to be discussed and voted on in a meeting, you’ll need to prepare a statement that gives members an overview of what it is you are asking for them to vote on. Members are generally given about three minutes for this. You can also ask another supporter of the amendment to prepare this statement as well.
- Discussion of the resolution – Once the resolution has been introduced, people will be able to take turns speaking against the resolution and in favor of the resolution. We always start with someone speaking against, as “motivating” the resolution is considered a statement in favor. You should also be prepared to answer questions that members may have during this portion of the meeting in the form of “point of information” requests.
- Voting on the resolution – Since 2020 we have voted for resolutions online using a platform called “OpaVote.” Members in Good Standing (ie. members who have paid their dues in the last year) who are in attendance at the meeting are allowed to vote, usually for 48 hours after the meeting. After this time has elapsed, the person running the voting for that meeting will send out the results via email to all who voted. There will often be a post about this on Slack as well.
- Enacting the resolution – Should your resolution pass, the chapter has then made a commitment to whatever actions are outlined in it. The Local Council often helps to ensure that these things happen – if money is allotted, the chapter treasurer will disburse the funds. If support from a committee is called for, the Local Council member who is a liaison to that committee will help to ensure that the support is coordinated. If action doesn’t take place in a timely manner after the resolution passes, please contact the Local Council at [email protected] or the LC Request Form which can be found on the private member resources page – there’s often a lot of plates spinning for Local Council members so your patience and understanding are appreciated!
Amending the bylaws works in much the same way as the process described above with a few difference:
- Bylaws amendments must be submitted in the lead up to the Local Convention in March or have 20 signatories to be considered at a General Membership Meeting during the course of the year.
- The bylaws changes must be explicit about exactly where they fit in the existing bylaws and any text that will be deleted or replaced by the change.
- They must not conflict with any other existing bylaws.
If you’d like to run for Local Council, the elections are held at our annual Local Convention which takes place in March. Candidates are required to be members for at least three months prior to the Convention, and to be a member in good standing (ie. have paid your dues within the last year). The Local Council helps to put on General Membership Meetings, support and coordinate the work of the groups in our chapter, and encourage a lively and democratic culture within Seattle DSA. It’s a good amount of work but important and rewarding stuff for members who are deeply committed to the mission of Seattle DSA!
What resources are available to members?
If you are looking for more information than you are finding here there’s a few places you can learn more about the organization.
Our Website has a lot of useful information including:
- our events calendar,
- a list of groups within the chapter, and
- a member resources section (you’ll need to be on Slack to access the private area – instructions on joining our Slack can be found here.)
The #ask_anything channel on Slack is a great place to ask any questions about Seattle DSA you may have. Don’t be shy – ask anything!
The LC Request Form (which can be found on the private member resources page) can be used to make requests or inquiries to the elected chapter leadership.