St. Louis rechartered its local DSA chapter in early 2017, and in the year since we’ve been actively engaged in a number of different statewide and St. Louis-specific campaigns. In all of these, we strive to uphold the goals and values of our local chapter and the DSA organization: delivering meaningful material improvements that help build our organizing capacity, fighting back against corporate dominance of the political agenda, and building powerful coalitions of the working class.
In August we scored a major victory with the repeal of Missouri’s Right to Work law. Experience teaches us that states which enact Right to Work see marked declines in salaries, benefits, and the ability to organize; this repeal reverses a serious threat to workers’ rights throughout the state. In the lead-up to the repeal initiative, St. Louis DSA hosted a voter registration drive and a rally with local union, community, and political leaders speaking on the dangers of Right to Work laws. We had members canvassing and phonebanking to ensure Right to Work was soundly defeated at the polls.
Looking forward, there are two other statewide initiatives we have been supporting since their early stages. The CLEAN Act is a state constitutional amendment that includes much-needed campaign finance, election, and lobbying reforms. In addition to bringing candidate donation limits more in line with federal standards (there is no limit under current Missouri law), it radically limits lobbyist donations, closes loopholes that allow big money donors to hide in shell corporations, and moves congressional redistricting authority to a non-partisan board in an attempt to reduce gerrymandering. There is also an initiative to increase the statewide minimum wage to $12 an hour—important not only for the increase in compensation for thousands of workers across Missouri, but also as pushback against a state legislature that has overturned municipal attempts to set their own minimum wage.
On the local level, we are engaged in a two-pronged effort to fight our city’s increasing trends toward neoliberalization and gentrification. First, we are involved in the organizing coalition behind the STL: Not For Sale campaign that is combatting local attempts to privatize our airport. Instead of letting a small group of developer-friendly politicians decide the fate of our municipal assets, our strategy is to let the voters determine the future of our shared public resources. While the airport is the first staging ground, our hope is to build a strong coalition able to resist future attempts to gut other utilities, such as water, sanitation, or parking. Finally, in conjunction with local community organizations and other leftist organizers—and under the umbrella of the national Homes for All coalition—we have started working with tenants and residents to stand up and fight against predatory landlords, developers, and outside investors that are working to shape our communities without our input.
There is an adage that “action is the oxygen of an organization.” While we agree that practice is important for any meaningful socialist organizing, we also recognize the importance of making sure our values are articulated clearly in all of our work. This mutual relationship between actions and values is the strongest basis for building working class power and a socialist future.