DSA-LA Bylaws: Timeline & FAQ on Proposed Revisions & Expansions

Since our May election, one of the interim Steering Committee's top priorities has been the collaborative development of policies that aim to strengthen our organization and embody our commitment to transparent, democratic decision-making and the safety and inclusion of all of our members.

The Steering Committee is currently piloting a full set of procedures and organizational guidelines, and we’re excited to share these proposed policies with the full membership over the next several weeks. The next weeks will offer a number of opportunities for members to ask questions and provide feedback on these policies both online, and in-person, followed by online votes. 

In October, we’ll hold a formal vote to incorporate this set of proposed policies into the DSA-LA bylaws. We’ve developed this timeline and FAQ to ensure clarity and transparency throughout this chapter-wide decision-making process.

We’re looking forward to working together in this next phase of building and strengthening our chapter together, and invite you to reach out with any questions!

What will members be voting on in advance of the October bylaws vote?

One proposed addition to the DSA-LA bylaws is the annual development and ratification of democratically determined Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities for the chapter, and for individual Committees and Working Groups..

Before the formal bylaws vote, members will have a chance to pilot this proposal, by voting on the following:

  1. A set of DSA-LA Chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities, designed to complement and build on the national mission of DSA.

  2. Individual platforms developed by each Committee and Working Group in DSA-LA. Each platform will be comprised of a mission statement and at least 3-5 specific goals for that specific committee/working group. The mission statement will articulate a ‘big picture’ vision of what success would look like for each group, and each goal will outline specific, shorter-term activities, or types of work the group wants to engage in over the next year.

During this interim pilot phase, the Chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities, as well as the individual Committee & Working Group platforms, will each require a simple majority vote by the chapter for ratification. However, recommended revisions to bylaws will propose a super-majority for ratification of future Chapter-wide Mission Statement and Organizational Priorities and Committee/Working Group platforms.

For more details, refer to our Chapter Structure Proposal, which identifies categories of action groups within DSA-LA. This proposal is a draft and may be modified ahead of our formal bylaws revisions. It is intended to center our diverse committees as the most significant working unit of DSA-LA, rather than emphasizing a chapter led by top-down leadership.

 

Why create and vote on chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities and committee/working group platforms?

Articulating and democratically determining these priorities and platforms together is a way to collectively ensure that:

  1. All aspects of the chapter’s work reflects the preferences and politics of the membership.

  2. Sufficient resources and time will be devoted to our organization’s short-term and long-term goals.

  3. We engage in work that strengthens both our organization’s internal capacity and contributes to our political goals.

The Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities will also enhance transparency and democratic input into the work our chapter undertakes, by guiding chapter decision-making at all levels, across all issues--from electoral endorsements, to coalition-building, educational efforts, trainings, agitprop, and much more.

For more details on working group platforms, please refer to our Guidelines for Commitee and Working Group Platforms.

 

What role will the committee/working group platforms play in chapter decision making?

After the first ratification vote, we will consider ratified committee platforms to have meaningful political power. Therefore, committees that propose new initiatives will have those initiatives evaluated within the context of those platforms. If new initiatives clearly fit within the democratically-ratified platforms, then the corresponding committee will be empowered to work on those initiatives without needing another chapter-wide approval vote.

We will continue to ensure that the entire membership has the opportunity to contribute to and vote on issues that require DSA-LA to provide a large amount of time, and/or political or financial resources, including  analyses of candidates, ballot measures, and policy endorsements.

For more detail, review our proposed decision-making flowchart and examples. Please note that this document is a draft, and will be further revised ahead of the formal bylaws vote.

 

What role will the chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities play in chapter decision making?

In the event that a particular endorsement (or other action or activity) is proposed that does not clearly fall within the parameters of any chapter-ratified committee or working group platform, the members making the proposal will be asked to produce a written analysis. This analysis should demonstrate how the proposed endorsement supports chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities, and members will be asked to evaluate and vote on it accordingly. These chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities should also guide the day-to-day work of the chapter’s elected leadership.  

For more detail, review our proposed decision-making flowchart and examples as well as our proposed Chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities. These documents are structured to intentionally center our committees and membership as the central political bodies of our chapter, and to avoid having a single leadership body determining top-down political decisions. Please note that these documents are drafts, and will be further revised ahead of the formal bylaws vote.

 

What happens if a proposed initiative doesn’t fall under a particular committee or working group platform?

Members may still propose campaigns and initiatives that don’t fall under a ratified platform. If the proposal has reasoned analysis about how the initiative falls under the ratified chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities, and the proposal gets the signature of ten (10) members, then the relevant leadership committee will put the proposal to a chapter-wide vote. For guidelines on developing the proposal and analysis, check out our draft Framework for Endorsement Proposals and Analysis.

For more detail, review our proposed decision-making flowchart and examples, as well as our proposed Chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities. These documents are structured to intentionally center our committees and membership as the central political bodies of our chapter, and to avoid having a single leadership body determining top-down political decisions. Please note that these documents are drafts, and will be further revised ahead of the formal bylaws vote.

 

What happens if a committee or working group platform is voted down?

The individuals involved with the committee platform will collect feedback from the chapter, revise the proposed platform, and put a revised platform up for a vote at the next chapter meeting. In the meantime, members will be able to make proposals using the above process. Ratified platforms may be further revised in the future (after the formal bylaws revision) through a similar chapter-wide ratification process. For guidelines on developing the proposal and analysis, check out our draft Framework for Endorsement Proposals and Analysis.

 

When will these upcoming votes be, and how can I have input?

There will be three major chapter-wide forums where members will have the opportunity ask questions and provide feedback. Each forum will be followed by an online vote. Relevant dates are listed below:

 

Chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities

  • September 2nd: Presentation and discussion on proposed chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities (there is an opportunity to provide feedback online in advance of meeting)

  • September 2-8: Steering Committee makes any necessary revisions or updates to chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities as determined by feedback and discussion from 9/2 meeting

  • September 9-16th: Online “up or down” vote on chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities

 

Committee & working group platforms

  • September 23rd: Presentation and discussion of proposed committee & working group platforms

  • September 23-25: Committees and working groups make any necessary revisions or updates to their platforms as determined by feedback and discussion from 9/23 meeting

  • September 26- Oct. 1: Online “up or down” vote on each individual committee & working group platform

 

Formal revision to bylaws:

  • October 1: Full proposed revisions to bylaws are released for public comment

  • October 14: Chapter forum on proposed revisions to bylaws

  • October 15-20: Steering Committee makes any necessary revisions or updates to proposed revisions to bylaws as determined by feedback and discussion from 10/14 meeting

  • October 21- 31: Online vote on revisions to bylaws  

 

How can I access a copy of the current bylaws?

For reference, you can access a current copy of the chapter’s bylaws here.  

 

What will the revisions and expansions to the bylaws revisions entail?

Broadly, the bylaws revisions and expansions are expected to incorporate the following components:

  • Requirement for annual, democratically determined chapter-wide Mission Statement & Organizational Priorities

  • Formalized organizational structure & requirements for committees / working groups (i.e. annual elections and platforms)

  • Decision-making criteria (i.e. Decision-tree & Framework for Endorsements)

  • Structure of elected leadership body and election processes

  • Code of Conduct

  • Misconduct Policy

 

Will any resolutions or recommendations related to a branch structure be incorporated into this process?

Steering Committee, with the help of Resource Groups, will be developing resources to share with groups, and piloting some projects targeted at making it easier to organize across the disparate regions of Los Angeles over the next few months. However, at this time we don’t anticipate proposing a formal branching structure as part of our revised bylaws. We may also share draft proposals at various stages during this process, particularly with an eye towards balancing the need to make our chapter’s work accessible with the value of not siloing or fracturing our committees.

 

What is the role of finance in the upcoming bylaws revisions?

This month, we’ll be piloting a process for groups to request and receive funds from the chapter account, but we anticipate that any bylaws revisions around finance will be relatively vague, to give future treasurers and finance committees leeway to grow and adapt as our chapter continues to expand. However, at the end of our term, we will have robust recommendations which align chapter expenditures with the policies and procedures we seek to codify, with the goal of informing and guiding financial decisions undertaken by the next elected body.