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.