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Portland DSA Welcomes Wrath of Landlords, Realtors in Fight To Lower Rents

photo of Portland DSA renters' rights canvassers

“But as socialists,

we welcome this fight.”

If you are a working person in Portland, housing is your major expense, and a constant struggle. Portland declared a ‘housing emergency’ in 2017, and the number of folks living on the street has only increased ever since.

The politicians’ response has been to call for the construction of ‘affordable housing’ — certainly needed and completely insufficient to the scale of the problem. Clamping down on rent speculation would seem a no-brainer, however any move in this direction unleashes the full wrath of the National Realtors Association, via our own Portland Metro Chamber of Commerce. 

But as socialists, we welcome this fight.

We created a Renters’ Survey and a Renters’ Rights Pledge. In the coming months, the Housing Working group will lead door to door canvasses to sign up hundreds of renters in support the Renters’ Rights Pledge. We will also demand that all local candidates for city council, and others, support of the Pledge. We will make Renters’ Rights the #1 political issue in our region’s politics. Join us and sign the Pledge!

On March 10, 2024, the Portland DSA General Assembly passed the Renter’s’ Rights resolution. The resolution was put forward by Portland DSA’s Housing Working Group after three months of door-to-door renters canvassing. The Housing Working Group based the resolution on the successful 2023 Tacoma 4 All ballot measure. To the six planks of the Tacoma 4 All platform, we added our own Eviction Representation for All demand, as well as a call for the State of Oregon to lift its ban on local rent control — and to raise the minimum wage so that one worker can pay for an apartment with not more than 30% of their income.

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A Democratic Socialist City Council

Portland DSA’s Plan to elect socialists in the Rose City

Portland DSA members met Sunday March 12th for our General Meeting, and ratified a new Endorsement Policy for the chapter. A slideshow explaining the policy can be found here. The authors of the new policy, Wallace Milner and Spencer Mann, explain their perspective on the policy and its purpose.

Sunday March 12th, Portland DSA took an important step towards electing socialists to City Council with the passage of a new chapter endorsement policy. This comes at an essential time for electoral organizing in Portland. With the implementation of city charter reform, instituting ranked choice voting and multi-member districts for City Council elections, the 2024 election cycle presents an extraordinary opportunity for Portland DSA to disrupt the capitalist municipal order, and our new policy enables us to meet the moment.

Our new policy is designed to enable the chapter to run committed, cadre candidates for office. It aims to help us run campaigns in a way which builds the chapter, leverage the rank and file power we’ve built through our orientation to labor, maximize the coalition work and field organizing we’ve done through ERA (Eviction Representation for All) and UPNOW (Universal Preschool Now), and elect socialists who will put forward a socialist vision for society and fight for our politics in state and city government.

Socialist representatives should be expected to build DSA, advance socialist politics, and draw a clear distinction between themselves and capitalist politicians. At the same time, we must also prepare our candidates to run competitive campaigns if they are going to take power. This endorsement policy aims to balance these two commitments, providing tactical flexibility and political accountability.

How Will Endorsement Work?

  1. To apply for an endorsement, a candidate will begin by filling out an application form on our website.
  2. When this application is received, the SC will share the information to the membership, and will also share a nominating signature form.
  3. If a candidate gets 25 nominating signatures from members in good standing, the candidate is sent a questionnaire, and the endorsement advances to a vote at a general meeting.
  4. At the general meeting, the candidate will present themselves to the membership and there will be a Q and A and then a debate. According to our chapter bylaws, a candidate will need 2/3rds of the vote to receive an endorsement.

Two Types of Endorsement

This new policy creates two paths of endorsement — an external endorsement and a cadre endorsement. When applying, a candidate picks which type of endorsement to apply for.

A cadre candidate comes from a background of organizing in DSA. Their campaign is run as a chapter project, and they are held to a very high standard. An external candidate is one where DSA is one part of a wider coalition supporting a candidate.

Cadre candidates have additional expectations. They are required to meet with the chapter twice a month, to brand themselves as a democratic socialist in all their literature, and to form a socialist caucus in the legislative body they are elected to. External candidates will be encouraged to do all these things, but they won’t necessarily be required to. They will be asked about their stance and plans on these topics, and the chapter will decide if their answers are acceptable.

External and cadre candidates will also be presented differently in public campaigns. Cadre candidates are expected to be fully and uncompromisingly representatives of DSA’s politics, platform, and decisions made through internal chapter democracy. For external candidates, DSA will be part of a coalition of other political forces supporting them, and DSA campaigns will have an independent orientation, simultaneously being a part of the coalition and being the best fighters for the cause, while also clearly and distinctly articulating our own socialist principles and building our organization.

This setup is designed to strengthen democratic debate in the chapter. It empowers the members to decide whether candidates meet the standard for endorsement at the cadre or external level and emphasizes electoral accountability. It enables the chapter to exercise tactical flexibility based on the nature of the campaign and ensures membership control over cadre representatives.

Socialists in Office Committee (SIOC)

Our new policy creates a socialists in office committee. Their job is to coordinate with campaigns, candidates, and officeholders in order to apply our standards and politics to nuanced situations, recommend suitable actions to leadership and membership, and empower our elected officials, candidates, campaigns, and membership to build socialist power.

The socialist movement faces two, twin challenges — the danger of sectarianism, where one fails to build up our movements beyond small isolated groups, and the danger of opportunism, where one prioritizes the short term gains of a campaign over the long term principles of a movement.

The role of the SIOC is to address these dangers by supporting candidates and holding them accountable. The committee will meet regularly with any endorsed candidates or elected officials. In these meetings, they will strategize, enforce DSA policy, and figure out how our actions can be coordinated. When an officeholder has a big campaign, the SIOC can help them figure out how to mobilize members. When the chapter has a big campaign, the SIOC can make sure the officeholder supports it.

If a candidate violates DSA values or policy, the SIOC is empowered to make a recommendation to a general meeting or the steering committee. Of course, the ultimate decision rests with a general meeting, which, as our highest decision making body, can decide to alter our relationship to candidates.

The SIOC will ensure a strong connection between the chapter and candidates/officeholders, making sure our actions are coordinated, our ideas are shared, and our goals are pursued.

Building Socialist Power in Portland

The left in the United States has been dealing with difficult conditions since 2020. While the resurgence of labor energy is one of the most optimistic trends in the past two decades, there has been a broad decrease in energy and participation since the height of the BLM uprising and the Sanders campaigns.

In this new political moment, socialists need to adopt more deliberate, public facing campaigns with clear strategies to build our organizations. Candidate accountability, a united front approach to coalition work, and the clear expression of socialist politics are the cornerstones of a successful socialist and movement building electoral strategy.

Our new policy will facilitate a series of powerful, principled, and bold campaigns for 2024 and beyond, which we believe will enable us to win elections, grow the chapter, and advance socialism in Portland. As socialists, we have a world to win. The 2024 City Council elections will be a key test for our movement, and the passage of this policy has begun to prepare us for the challenge.

The Shared Mission of Socialists and Unionists

Portland DSA Labor Working Group

Portland DSA members at the OFNHP Rally for Respect at PeaceHealth SouthWest in October 2022

Once in 2021 and again 2022, Portland DSA received political donations of $10,000 from the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. We want to express our deepest gratitude to OFNHP for trusting us to carry out our shared political goals, and we are honored to have worked in solidarity with OFNHP to fight the profit-seeking medical system. Health care workers take on some of the most unforgiving working conditions in order to fulfill some of the most essential roles in our society. Their dedication to preserving the dignity of that work through threatening a strike is an inspiration to us all. We want to explain what their donations mean to our organization and the socialist movement.

As socialists, we understand that there are fundamentally two competing sides: the working class and the ruling class. The working class is composed of most people you’ll ever meet – everyone who is forced to get a job to survive, or depend on someone who can. The ruling class is a tiny group of obscenely rich people who get to own and control resources and profit from our labor.

Union members understand this conflict intuitively. Although all working class people suffer under capitalism, few are organized enough to fight back and win. But through collective action, working class people can wield power. When we refuse to go along with management’s nonsense, when we stick together and demand respect, when we withhold our labor and go on strike – suddenly we aren’t at the mercy of the millionaires and billionaires. For a moment, we call the shots.

That’s why Portland DSA members are fully committed to building a strong labor movement – not just as fans on the sidelines, but as union members ourselves and on solidarity committees to rally the community.

But working class people don’t just want a decent pay raise or a longer break here and there. We’re tired of this whole inhumane system. We want a world where no one has to worry about going broke when they visit the doctor, or ruining their health in an unsafe and grueling job, or losing their home because they missed a payment, or staying in an abusive relationship because they have no safety net, or getting hurt in an environmental disaster created by corporate crime, or watching their neighborhoods and schools decay as legislators starve public services of funds.

For major, lasting transformation, we need an even greater level of power that reaches beyond a single workplace or a single union. We need political organizations that are loyal to working class interests and independent of our employers’, that can harness shop-floor power on behalf of people everywhere, and that can wage battles outside the workplace in public arenas. That is our mission as DSA.

Last year we used the donation from OFNHP to send DSA members in unions – many of whom joined DSA after meeting us on their own picket lines – to the Labor Notes conference in Chicago. There they met other like-minded rank-and-file organizers from around the world and shared notes on how to energize and democratize the labor movement. Going forward, we will be thrilled to use that money to expand the scope of our efforts, particularly on selecting and running our own candidates for public office who champion class struggle politics.

For years we have brought the power of the community to countless unions in their workplace struggles: nurses at Providence, healthcare workers at Kaiser, Starbucks baristas, City of Portland workers, Portland Community College faculty and staff, New Seasons workers, Burgerville workers, and many others. We will offer our support to any workers that are organizing for justice and a better life. And we hope you will join us in a shared mission to not just change our workplaces, but change the world.

Community Supporters to Join Striking City Workers in Light of Mayor’s Falsehoods and Strike-Breaking

Portland Democratic Socialists of America stands in full solidarity with the heroic struggle of Portland city workers on strike with LIUNA 483. We condemn Mayor Wheeler and Portland City Council for their refusal to address city workers’ economic plight in the face of our community’s affordability crisis.

Even more disturbing is the Mayor’s bald-faced effort to break this strike by bussing in strike-breakers, filing spurious legal claims, and asserting without basis to city employees that strikers engaged in acts of violence. These claims are outright lies and fabrications.

Portland DSA members joined city workers’ picket lines the very minute the strike began, and our mobilization has not wavered — we can attest without exception the Mayor’s claims about picket line conduct are without merit. Instead, Portland DSA members have experienced joy, celebration, triumph, and an unprecedented display of community and unity.

The unprecedented action by Mayor Wheeler shows his desperation. City workers who maintain our parks, roads, and wastewater treatment facility are essential workers. But the Mayor’s attacks on their right to strike represent an attack on every worker facing unjust working conditions.

Portland DSA members are city workers. Grocery and restaurant workers. Delivery drivers. Teachers and healthcare workers and more. Together, we recognize the righteous struggle of city workers, and we see their fight as our fight.

The Mayor’s attempt to injure striking workers is an injury to us all.

Join us on the picket line and take your place in this struggle for the future of our community, when we gather on Sunday, February 5 at 5:30–6:30pm, near the Wastewater Treatment Plant, 5001 N Columbia Blvd.

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What: Community to Mobilize in Support of Striking CIty Workers

Where: Wastewater Treatment Plant, 5001 N Columbia Blvd

When: Sunday, February 5th 5:30p — 6:30p

Who: Portland DSA and community supporters

Statement on the Murder of Tyre Nichols

The Portland Democratic Socialists of America expresses our outrage at the murder of Tyre Nichols by the Memphis Police Department. This murder is part of the systemic violence of police everywhere against people of color and the working class. We offer our condolences to the Nichols family, and we stand in solidarity with the black community of Memphis and with all others protesting for an end to police brutality and racist violence.

55 years ago, civil rights leader and democratic socialist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis while organizing with striking sanitation workers. As socialists, we recognize the essential task of grappling with the profound interactions of capitalism and racism. We believe that anti-racist organizing rooted in class struggle is how we can fight back.

Police are the armed wing of the capitalist state, and their role in society is to enforce exploitation. It is police who break strikes, evict families from their homes, harass the houseless, jail the poor, and attack those who are suffering. Police do not act as a service for public safety, but rather as an occupying army, hurting those who need help, and defending those who cause harm.

The only way to rid our society of the capitalist police is the self emancipation of the working class into a socialist society. Protests, no matter how powerful, will not be enough. To win black liberation, the working class and oppressed people must organize and take control of society. The best way forward is an alliance between organized labor and the movement for black liberation — the coordination of an independent, anti-racist, working-class movement that fights to overturn racial -capitalism at the workplace, in the streets, and on the ballot line.

To meet this moment, protest energy must develop into political movement which can sustain itself. We cannot rely on the ruling class to deliver reforms.

To that end, Portland DSA calls for the following initial steps:

  1. The immediate reallocation of 50% of the PPB budget to fund housing, community services, education and healthcare
  2. The immediate establishment of a democratically elected oversight board empowered to investigate officers and hold the PPB to account
  3. End the war on drugs and tough on crime policies, provide full addiction care, and decriminalization of drug use
  4. An end to the sweeps of homeless encampments and the public provision of shelter to those in need
  5. The establishment of a labor slate for the 2024 city council elections, unified around proposals to reallocate money from the bloated police budget to provide for public services and fund housing, food, education, and healthcare.

This work must begin with public support for protests, and a movement to improve the lives of the most marginalized and oppressed. We must build a fighting socialist movement for black liberation.

Organized workers can overturn the racist, capitalist system. They can provide the winning leverage to Black Lives Matter.

The only way to win justice is to expand these protests into a mass movement. To achieve this, we must convince workers to join the struggle — unions and workers must become the strongest opponents of racism. This means a conscious project of reform within existing labor unions, and a coordination with organizations rooted in communities of color. We must also create our own, enduring socialist structures. And we must wholeheartedly support this protest movement.

With solidarity and shared struggle to guide us, a better world is possible.

In solidarity,

Portland DSA Steering Committee

Tax the Rich: building on our successes, plotting a course for the future

Tax The Rich is a seasoned Portland DSA working group where we think about how to move money and power from the rich to the working class. We’re a rag-tag group of amateurs and academics – all levels of expertise (or lack thereof) are welcome! We have several main categories of the work we do: wealth taxes, work on the city budget, supporting coalition campaigns, and tax education.

So far, our wealth tax work has been remarkably successful! In 2021-2022, we saw the first $208 million dollars flow from the wealthy to fund universal preschool. Our universal preschool campaign, which we worked on beginning in 2018 and through the passage of the Preschool For All measure in November of 2020, is good for kids, families, and workers. Through our work on the preschool campaign, we learned that although the tax code is famously skewed in favor of the wealthy, given the democratic choice, Multnomah County voters are more than ready to change that.

We’re also not slowing down in our ballot measure and taxation policy work! We’re already working on our next wealth tax, which would tax extreme “intangible” wealth, which includes stocks and bonds. This type of wealth is currently only taxed when it’s sold, or sometimes through the estate/inheritance tax, which means that the wealthy hold onto their money tax-free. That’s not very fair when the rest of us pay taxes on our wealth via income taxes and property taxes.

Our proposed intangible wealth tax (or an “extreme wealth tax”, as we’ve taken to calling it),  would be a 1% tax on extreme wealth over 10 million dollars, bringing  in about 2.6 billion dollars in revenue annually. But, we still have work to do: most importantly, we’re still trying to figure out what the tax should fund. Our research crew has discussed what $10 million would mean for housing, preschool and education, mental health and addiction services, and more, but we’re still mulling any and all possibilities. If you have ideas of what this tax should fund, please reach out and tell us about them!

When we’re not coming up with new taxes, we’re working on other projects. One of our long-standing traditions is advocating around the city budget. Each spring, we do our best to let Portlanders know what’s in the proposed budget, and encourage people to take action. We make shareable and easily digestible social media content, create phone scripts that Portlanders can use to call the councilors, as well as template emails for the phone-shy. Some people even get empowered to testify in front of the council!

We can’t afford to step away from the budget work this year. Over the last few years, our conservative city council has decided to spend our hard-earned tax dollars in ways that make the Portland Police Bureau and the Portland Business Alliance very happy. With this year’s even more conservative city council, the budget is probably going to reflect their cozy relationships, rather than finding ways to serve the actual needs of Portlanders. Join us for our annual deep dive into the budget, and brainstorm ways to tell our council to fund a budget that serves all of us, not just the rich and powerful.

Of course, the fight towards economic justice is too big to do alone, and so we’re proud to support all fights that work towards a more just Oregon. We helped our friends at Eviction Representation For All by developing a capital gains tax that will fully fund legal representation for all renters in eviction court, as well as other tenant services. We’ll be doing our part to ensure that their measure is successful on the ballot this spring. Additionally, we’re finding ways to support OPAL’s very cool fareless Trimet campaign, which you can learn more about here.

Lastly, our educational work is central to much of what we do. Our goal across our social media pages is to make tax policy interesting and maybe even fun. We mostly do that through social media content: we’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! After all, it’s hard to convince people that we need to change tax policy unless they understand how and why it’s broken in the first place.

If any of this work sounds interesting to you, we’d love to have you! We’re really excited about our February social, which is at 8pm on Thursday, February 9th at Worker’s Tap: come hang out! Of course, we also have our regular meetings every second Thursday of the month at 6:30pm. These meetings are hybrid, so you can join us in person at the IWW, or virtually over Zoom, whichever works better for your schedule.  If you have any questions or comments for us, feel free to reach out to co-chairs Emerson or Lauren on Mattermost, or email us at taxtherichpdx@gmail.com!

From Socialist Job Fair to Socialist Workers Support Group

By Jamie Partridge, secretary PDX DSA Labor

For years now, the Portland DSA Labor group has sponsored Socialist Job Fairs, about every six months. Up to fifty socialists, half DSA members and half we are just meeting for the first time, show up to connect with about fifteen workplace organizers, looking for the right job. A job organizing with other socialists: to form a union or energize an existing union.

We manage to place about ten participants each time. At organized companies like UPS, Hyatt Hotel, City of Portland, Maletus Beverage, US Postal Service, Burgerville. etc. At unionizing companies like Starbucks and Amazon. And of those ten, some don’t stick around.

Now we are launching a Socialist Workers Support Group, to provide regular mentoring, group support and workplace organizer training and political education about socialists in unions.

In previous eras socialists were often respected workplace leaders. These radicals helped organize workers into a collective force that went beyond workplace fights and into the political arena. That is much less common today. The left often finds itself on the outside looking in when workplace struggle erupts. Socialists are more likely to be organizing strike support than leading strikes.

This divide has weakened both workers’ movements and the left. The socialist movement is stronger when tied to workers’ movements, and vice versa. Rebuilding the link between them is key to revitalizing both, and to keeping our movement grounded in the reality of workers’ lives.

Socialists should root themselves in the labor union movement. Not as supporters from afar or paid staff, but as rank-and-file workers. Not as saviors with all the answers, but as organizers for what Marx called the “self-emancipation of the working class.”

Consider the advantages of a union job that matches your talents, and of choosing one together with fellow DSAers. The pay is decent, and the work itself may be fulfilling, too. All our political work isn’t shunted off to nights and weekends; you can be talking with your co-workers every day. There’s no mismatch between your political life and what you do to keep body and soul together.

Find us at https://tinyurl.com/pdxdsalabor

Portland DSA Endorsement of Portland City Charter Reform

Portland DSA is proud to endorse the proposed Portland City Charter reforms. Portland’s dysfunctional and unrepresentative government structure has played a major role in preventing workers and popular movements from taking power in City Hall.

It is the view of Portland DSA that these reforms will create greater opportunities for candidates who represent workers and oppressed communities, allow BIPOC neighborhoods to elect representative and accountable councilors, and challenge the concentrated power of the downtown, westside business elite.

An expanded city council, a more democratic voting system and geographic districts will allow for greater representation on the council for BIPOC, LGBTQ, and immigrant Portlanders. It will allow the working class to run candidates with strong local connections, making it easier to face the financial advantages of conservative business candidates.

These reforms represent just a first step. Ultimately, the inequality in our city is attributable not just to governing structure, but to the governing class. Big business uses city government to offer tax breaks to the rich, spend millions on militarized police, and attack the houseless, while doing nothing to protect the thousands of Portlanders suffering from poverty, exploitation, and food insecurity.

In order to make our government truly representative and put power in the hands of the working class, we need a socialist majority in City Hall operating with strong & militant workers’ organizations in a mass movement. The undemocratic city council is a major roadblock to building socialist power, yet these reforms represent a direct confrontation between the people of Portland and the business association elite.

More information about the city charter campaign can be found at portlandunitedforchange.com/

You can get a link to the next Portland DSA Electoral Working Group meeting here: https://actionnetwork.org/events/portland-dsa-electoral-working-group-october-meeting/

We will soon announce further details on how members can get involved.

Portland DSA’s Statement Against Collaboration with Police

Portland DSA reaffirms our chapter’s commitment against collaborating with police.

In 2017, when our chapter was less than a year old, Portland DSA participated in the Portland United Against Hate coalition to counter-protest rising far-right activity in our region. The coalition asked Portland DSA to act as police liaison; two members of our chapter joined with one other coalition partner to fill that role.

After this event, our chapter developed a non-collaboration policy for police engagement to guide our membership and keep our community safe. This policy remains in place today. The key points are:

  • Portland DSA does not coordinate with the police in direct actions and rallies without explicit permission from our steering committee
  • DSA members should not speak to the police about DSA without explicit permission from our steering committee
  • DSA members may not volunteer to act as police liaisons in coalition events unless explicitly authorized by a chapter co-chair
  • Any authorized interactions with police should be documented and reported for transparency and accountability
  • No law enforcement officer or prison guard is permitted to be a member of Portland DSA

As socialists, we recognize that police exist as a tool of capitalism to maintain inequality and protect the interests of the ruling class. In the name of “safety,” police oppress, criminalize, and terrorize the most marginalized people in our community — especially communities of color, the houseless, the undocumented, the disabled, queer and trans people, and people experiencing mental illness. We affirm that none of us are safe while others live under the threat of police violence.

Since we launched the Portland chapter of DSA, our membership has actively organized against police and private security in varied ways. We have mobilized hundreds of community members to testify against continued police investment and community disinvestment at City Council budget hearings. We worked in coalitions to divest from police and private security. During the summer 2020 uprisings, we distributed more than $10,000 worth of gas masks and protective gear to the Portland community. We stood among thousands of our neighbors night after night — many experiencing physical violence firsthand — to demand justice and an end to the military occupation of our city.

As we persist in this fight, Portland DSA vows to continue demonstrating our commitment through not only statements but also action. We are proud to stand in solidarity with the many organizations, coalitions, and community members working to abolish the police and establish a world where every person is healthy, cared for, and truly safe.