Final Report: Study Committee on Organizational Structure

Authors: Jedidiah Slaboda, Mary Migliozzi, Scott Jenkins, Syne Salem, Sam Chenkin, Alex Nagle

Approved in Committee March 1, 2019 (6 yes - 1 no - 0 abstain)

Committee: Jedidiah Slaboda (chair), Mary Migliozzi (secretary), Scott Jenkins, Syne Salem, Sam Chenkin, Alex Nagle

Submitted to the Co-Chairs for inclusion on the agenda for the March 2, 2019 General Meeting

Adopted by general membership at March 2, 2019 General Meeting

Section 1. Executive Summary

The following is an executive summary of the final report of the ad hoc Study Committee on Organizational Structure of the Philadelphia Local of the Democratic Socialists of America (hereinafter, “SCOS”; “the Local” and “DSA,” respectively). This report concludes the business of the SCOS and includes a description of the work done by the committee in its attempt to carry out the instructions referred to it by the Local in Resolution 4:18:03 (see Appendix A). The report includes six sections in addition to this summary. The report provides an overview of the initial formation of the committee and its strategy for achieving its goals; a description of the research conducted by the committee and a summary of its findings; the committee's recommendations for revising the bylaws of the Local; other notes and recommendations of the committee; an appendix containing the meeting minutes of the committee and other important documents referred to in the report.

The most important section of this report is Section 4. If this report and its recommendations are approved by the Local these will become the official bylaws of the Local. These contain substantial revisions to the current bylaws of our Local and if approved will require changes be made to the organizational structure and new procedures of governing and accountability be observed. Several important considerations shaped these recommendations including the responses of members to our surveys and interviews, the exponential numerical growth of our membership, the formation of new DSA Locals in our area and the formation of two suburban branches within our Local; rules governing the Local’s Political Action Committee (“the PAC”); and the absence of references to important requirements that govern the relation of the Local to DSA. There were numerous ways in which our current bylaws were found to be inadequate to meeting the needs of the Local of a membership greater than a few dozen people. These included a failure to account for the actual administrative responsibilities of officers and the Steering Committee (“SC”) and to provide structures to ensure essential functions are not neglected; the absence of adequate provisions requiring accountability on the part of officers and the SC to the Local for fulfilling their administrative duties; the absence of adequately flexible disciplinary procedures; the inadequacy of financial reporting provisions; and provisions for the members to determine procedural and other standing rules. In many cases, however, the recommendations clarify rules that were obscured to members unfamiliar with Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised (“RONR”) or which were stated in an ambiguous manner in the current bylaws, and which frequently were the cause of frustration in recent years. The inclusion or clarification of these rules in the recommended bylaws will increase awareness of them in the Local and, if desired, provide the impetus to amend them or remove them.

These SCOS recommendations are a thorough attempt to increase the organizing capacity of our Local for meeting the new challenges and exciting prospects of our growing membership. Approving them will certainly not ensure that we will exert a stronger political influence more effectively, but failing to address the issues summarized above will ensure that we do not. This committee makes these recommendations because we believe that they represent a substantial improvement to our current structure and provide a framework for continuing to build on those improvements as needs arise.

The final section of this report includes other recommendations and items relevant to the improvement of the Local’s organizational structure or to our committee’s work.

Section 2. Formation.

Resolution 4:18:03.

A resolution (resolution 12:17:5) to form a committee to study the organizational structure of Philly DSA and other similar chapters in DSA and report back with recommendations for bylaw revisions at the first General Meeting of 2019 was submitted to the members for deliberation at the December 3, 2017 meeting. The resolution was tabled at that meeting as well as at the subsequent February 10, 2018 General Meeting. The author withdrew the resolution before the April, 2018 in light of the fact that several of its sponsors submitted a competing but substantially similar resolution (resolution 4:18:03) for deliberation at the same General Meeting. That motion passed and set the wheels in motion for the formation of the committee and the beginning of its work. The membership appointments to the committee were required by the resolution to consist of up to one member elected by and from each of the Local’s committees. The first step was to ask the committees to elect an appointee. The Steering Committee appointed Jedidiah Slaboda (the author of the original Resolution 12:17:5), Political Education appointed Scott Jenkins, LILAC appointed Sam Schwartz (later replaced by Sam Chenkin), Social appointed Mary Migliozzi, the EEC appointed Alex Nagle, Canvassing appointed Syne Salem and Outreach appointed Jeremy Wheatley.

Committee Norms and Strategy.

When The committee was convened by Dustin Guastella on behalf of the Steering Committee on June 21, 2018. At that meeting the committee elected Jedidiah Slaboda to serve as Chair and Mary Migliozzi to serve as secretary. The committee agreed to set stated monthly meetings on the second Wednesday of each month. The committee met at eight stated meetings and at two additional called meetings.

The strategy proposed by the chair and approved by the committee required two stages. The first stage was devoted primarily to orienting committee members to the current rules of the Local, legal requirements, the relevant attitudes and experience of our members and the bylaws and structures of other DSA chapters. After gathering information and sharing what we discovered the committee planned to move into the drafting phase of the work. During both stages the committee agreed to form subcommittees consisting of 2-3 members whenever possible in order to manage the division of labor and ensure that areas of special interest were handled by the most appropriate persons. By the end of August, 2018 the Committee began shifting attention to drafting bylaw revisions. Existing articles and proposals for new articles were referred to subcommittees and individuals who reported back to the committee at each meeting with recommendations for inclusion in a “master draft” document. Whenever possible the committee sought consensus and often referred a given article back to its subcommittee repeatedly because a draft sparked disagreement or the subcommittee expressed a desire for input and improvement before moving to a vote.

The chair reported at the December, 2018 meeting of the Steering Committee that the committee was nearing the completion of its bylaw revision recommendations and requested they a date for the first General Meeting of 2019 at which they were mandated to be presented by the Local when the committee was approved. The Steering Committee discussed several important concerns. The first of these was to ensure that the members had adequate time to review the recommendations before deliberation at an assembly. Many proposals were discussed including different approval timelines and the relative potential for unnecessary disruption to the ongoing campaigns and projects of the Local if and when the recommendations were to be approved. It was decided that the earliest approval before the 2019 convention of the Local would minimize disruption and organizing headaches as well as provide members with the necessary time to adequately prepare for a more participation in what will be the most significant convention in the Local’s history if they are approved due to their increase in convention activities and the growth of our Local since the 2017 convention. The Steering Committee approved a March 2 General Meeting and placed deliberation of this report and its recommendations on the agenda as a Special Order. It also asked this committee to submit the bylaw revision recommendations by February 1st to ensure that they could be forwarded to the membership with at least 30 days’ time for review before the General Meeting. Finally, the Steering Committee asked this committee to plan a hearing for the members of the Local to be able to ask questions about its work and the implications of the bylaw revisions.

After receiving the plan for the March General Meeting the committee met for its December and January stated meetings and at two called meetings in order to ensure that its bylaw revision recommendations were ready. A final deliberation of the drafted bylaws was scheduled in committee to take place over three days. Committee members were given a deadline to submit amendments to our draft. After that deadline the committee scheduled a vote to be held on each article after a 48 hour window for discussion and debate of the draft and several new amendments. The committee vote was held on January 31st and the results of these votes is included in the recommendations in this report for information.

Section 3. Study and Research.

Study of Governing Standards and Rules

A foundational aspect of the committee’s preparation included study and discussion of the Constitution and Bylaws of DSA and the Bylaws of the Local. These were compiled by the chair and copies were uploaded to an online folder accessible for review and commentary by all members of the committee in advance of discussions held at our standing meetings. Members of the committee identified significant areas of ambiguity, inadequacy and even contradiction as part of the foundation for reviewing the structure of other chapters, member opinions and preparing revisions. They also noted items that were believed to be significant and yet unknown to members of the Local.

The committee studied and discussed RONR, Chapter XVIII on the rules and best practices of democratic organizations in relation to Bylaws and bylaw revisions during this initial stage of its work in order to ensure committee members were aware of the requirements and purposes bylaws should serve.

Researching Other Chapters

A subcommittee appointed to research the bylaws and organizational structure of other DSA chapters of similar size to our own conducted extensive research in the first stage of the committee’s work. Members of this subcommittee each researched the bylaws of large chapters in a given region of the country. Special notice was given to chapters that had recently revised their own bylaws. This involved reading each chapters’ bylaws and reporting on similarities and differences between them, reaching out to their steering committees and other chapter representatives to ask them about their considerations in drafting or revising the bylaws (if they were recently drafted or revised) and how their chapters operated on the ground and their relationship to their bylaws. The subcommittee developed a questionnaire that it distributed to chapters similar to Philly DSA in geographical and membership size. Relatively few (10) chapters responded to our requests for an interview, however, but we nonetheless were able to get a sense of how different chapters’ bylaws are structured and how they address Local issues and supplemented these extensive reviews with reading those bylaws and rules available on DSA Local websites.

In their reports to the committee the subcommittee noted characteristics of bylaws differing from our own in several specific areas, especially in the following:


● Officers: most chapters with relatively recent bylaws revisions required highly differentiated officer positions and a clearer division of labor within their Steering Committees.
● Bodies of the Local: other DSA chapters have a wide variety of definitions of committees, branches, working groups, and other bodies, and in many cases no clear definitions at all. The use of common terms did not always align with the way the same terms were used in other chapters either.
● Quorum: Philly DSA’s quorum was relatively higher with respect to other chapters. Chapters with a higher frequency of meetings (e.g. monthly) had the lowest quorums and reported that membership attendance of 20% would be inconceivable. Some chapters have a system where either a percentage or an absolute number can represent quorum (e.g. 20% or 100 members) to try to encourage a higher attendance but avoid failing to meet quorum requirements.
● Electoral endorsements: Most branches engaging in electoral work had detailed requirements in their rules concerning electoral endorsements, including restrictions, disclosures, and a higher vote threshold than a simple majority.
● Campaigns: We found no examples of bylaws that specified what a campaign is, despite the frequency and importance of that term for the work of a DSA Local. The committee agreed to attempt to address this lacuna in an effort to build greater clarity of purpose and procedures for our members.

Researching Member Opinions

Research Method:

To gauge member opinions on the current bylaws and organizational structure, a subcommittee was created to draft and distribute a survey for committee chairs to pass on to their committee members. The survey gave committee members the opportunity to raise issues with and praise virtues of the current bylaws and organizational structure, offer recommendations for bylaws amendments, and request follow-up phone calls and meetings. The survey was sent out in early July. After an initial tepid response rate the chair requested that each of the committee members remind their respective committee members of the survey and make our invitation to meet. The chair also invited the chairs of each of the committees to do the same and informed them that our committee was available for more in depth interviews via emails to all the committee chairs and at bothe the July and August all-committee conference calls. We received 30 responses by the time the research phase closed on August 8th. Of those 30 respondents, 3 requested and were given individual follow-up interviews and one member was given a phone interview.

Findings:

Due to the response rate and the fact that few of the respondents provided new or unexpected information, the data gathered from the survey was both limited and in many ways predictable. But it was valuable to the committee to confirm the important fault lines as well as to consider areas of consensus. There were several common strains amongst respondents, though few positions were universally held and many conflicted with others. The most commonly mentioned topics were general meetings and committees, although the experiences and solutions to problems of respondents were often opposed to one another.

With regard to assemblies, respondents focused on confusion and frustration with deliberative procedure or frustration with what they viewed as disruptive behavior at general meetings. The committee saw this as an important finding and hoped to clarify and simplify commonly misunderstood or unknown rules, encourage further education, and create procedures that will allow members to ensure consistent application of rules. While respondents often focused on GMs, it’s important to note that there was no consensus in the responses about the nature or causes of problems nor what needed to be done to address them. The most difficult aspect of analysing member opinions was that though there was often clusters of responses that identified a common area of concern, the effects this problem was said to cause were often widely divergent and contradictory.

As an example of this, there were six respondents who believed General Meetings are not held frequently enough. Their perceptions of the problems this creates in the Local varied widely, however. The infrequency of meetings was felt to create unnecessary delays by many. But some felt it got in the way of committee work because members at GMs showed more interest in debating controversial motions but frequently tabled what they felt were essential administrative resolutions. Some felt it impeded member-based initiatives because only individually submitted resolutions are debated at GMs. Others felt that the number of GMs had the opposite effect, rushing deliberations and thus diminishing the quality of our political culture.

Infrequent GMs were also associated by some of these 6 respondents with power imbalances. Once again, however, they conflicted with which group benefited. Some believed infrequent meetings gave too much control to individual members who are able to “clog” GM agendas, re-litigate committee deliberations, and delay implementing purely administrative policies. Others felt that infrequent meetings gave the Steering Committee unwarranted power, stating that the SC delays and postpones deliberation of initiatives it does not support. And yet the frequency of GMs was felt by another to give general members too much power over the initiatives of individuals.

Regarding committees, respondents largely differed between two positions. One set of respondents believed the committee structure stifled organizing work with procedure and a lack of autonomy, while another set felt that committees were insufficiently defined and acted territorially rather than cooperatively as a result. The committee was impressed with the importance of clarifying rules and the process for approving or changing rules, clarifying the function and role of committees, and ensuring that the decisions of the SC, officers and committees are subject to the democratic review and approval of the membership especially in light of the fact that the majority of respondents stated they were new members of DSA and had little to no experience working in a member-run and democratically governed organization. These insights and concerns were the primary concerns the committee brought to the second phase of its work. Further data related to the survey, including response rates by committee, can be reviewed in Appendices G and H.

Section 4. Recommendations.

Recommendation 1

The committee recommends that the Local adopt the revision of its bylaws attached to this report as Appendix A and, upon approval, refer them to a style commission consisting of Jedidiah Slaboda, Scott Jenkins and Mary Migliozzi that will be responsible to ensure that the approved bylaws are free of typographical and grammatical errors and are stylistically consistent on or before April 1, 2019.

Recommendation 2

That the Steering Committee be charged with compiling policies and procedural rules that have been approved by the Local since its installation in 2017 for inclusion in a Standing Rules, Policies and Procedures of the Local document.

Recommendation 3

That the Steering Committee present for approval of the Local any rules for governing meeting procedures and committee that are not currently included in the standing rules or governing standards of the Local or which it believes to be in the best interest of the Local to adopt.

Recommendation 4

That the bylaws and standing rules of the Local be published on an easily accessed page or downloadable document on the website of the Local.

Recommendation 5

That new members be directed to review the bylaws and standing rules in any new member orientation materials and that new member orientation meetings devote a portion of time to educating new members about how the Local is governed and carries out its purposes through democratic deliberation and delegation.

Recommendation 6

That notification of General Meetings and Conventions refer members to standing rules governing meeting procedures.

Recommendation 7

That the local express its gratitude to the members of the committee, each of whom devoted substantial time to this project but especially to Mary Migliozzi for her help as our secretary in addition to the normal duties each member took on, to Alex Nagle for sharing his expertise on campaign finance law, to Sam Chenkin for jumping in the deep end with us to fill a vacancy late in the project and often moving the committee to reconsider its position to better serve the Local, and to Scott Jenkins for his generous invaluable contributions on some of the more difficult articles in the bylaws and for keeping the project moving when we occasionally lost steam.


Appendices

Appendix A. Recommended Revision of the Bylaws of the Local (Adopted)

Appendix B. Resolution 4:18:03 to Establish an Ad Hoc Study Committee on Organizational Structure

Appendix C. FAQ and Hearing Summary

The following FAQ was drafted by the chair in order to respond to frequently asked questions in the aftermath of the release of the committee’s bylaw revision recommendations. Note: this document was not drafted in committee and does not represent the views of the committee.

Why do we need Bylaws and why are they being revised?
Bylaws are the democratically agreed upon norms that govern member-run organizations. They are required by the state under corporate law and they provide a reference point for fairness, accountability and guiding purpose within an organization. Good bylaws should facilitate effectively achieving the purposes of an organization. They can be changed if the organization, its resources or its purposes change over time. They are not comprehensive and should focus on addressing questions that commonly arise within the practical experience of a democratic organization. After a significant growth in the membership of DSA and our Local members found that the current bylaws did not reflect certain norms in the Local or help address the administrative requirements and organizing capacity of the Local today. The members appointed a committee in 2017 to research these issues and make recommendations for new bylaws at the first GM of 2019.

What are some the of the major questions that the revision addresses?
How can we make our rules meet the needs of our organization more effectively today? What are areas where there has been regular confusion, misunderstanding or inconsistency in our rules and their application? What are the responsibilities of the officers and the Steering Committee and how are they accountable to the members for carrying out their responsibilities? What are the financial and administrative responsibilities of officers? What are committees for and what is their relationship to the GM and the SC? What exactly are General Meetings and Conventions, and what is supposed to happen at them? What are the roles of committees, and what functions should be enshrined as "permanent" as opposed to ad-hoc? What are campaigns and how are they carried out? How to handle disciplinary cases that do not rise to the expulsion or that should not be brought before the entire membership for adjudication (e.g., harassment cases)?

Does the phrase “Philadelphia, PA” in the article on members mean I will have to live or work in the City Limits to be a member?
The “precise geographical boundaries” of Philly DSA are defined by the National organization. Removing the term “area” from our bylaws eliminates current conflicts with area Locals established in the Philadelphia area in recent years and ensures that the creation of future Locals won’t require bylaws amendments.

To improve the language of the recommendations and ensure there is no confusion on this point the committee will recommend grammatical and stylistic edits wherever possible. The Local should also approve a standing rule that includes the following or similar language: “Standing Rule on Membership: The geographical area of the Local includes the following zip codes/townships/districts: XXXXX, XXXXX, XXXXX…”

Why don’t geographical branch chairs have a seat on the Steering Committee?
This was discussed in committee but ultimately rejected. Communication between branches and the SC is highly important but requiring branch chairs to work as members of the SC seemed to place too high of an expectation on branch chairs who essentially are organizing what will become independent Locals if they are successful. SC members are also all elected by the entire Local at Conventions. We believed the members of the branch will be best equipped to appoint officers and would be potentially hampered by the convention schedule. Finally, part of the rationale for encouraging new branches to form is that it is more difficult for suburban members to regularly participate in the administrative responsibilities of the Local than members who are more centrally located. For these reasons we recommend that branch chairs be given the freedom to serve the SC in an advisory capacity. Branch chairs are also free to run for at-large SC positions if they desire and their position would certainly boost their credibility in an election.

The requirement of 30% of the members residing in an area to sign a petition in favor of founding a branch seems too high. Won’t this make it impossible to form new branches?
The 30% requirement was, believe it or not, based on the old rules that required minimum numbers of 5 to put forward “grassroots” initiatives in the Local. It appears that 5 members was somewhere in the range of 20%-30% of the members imagined as a minimum when the current bylaws were drafted. We changed from a hard number to a percentage because membership grows (and may shrink) in waves. The 30% might prove to be too high but it should be a little difficult (not impossible) to organize a petition drive because operating a healthy branch will require substantially more time and effort and we do not want frivolous proposals that will sour members against forming effective branches. If 30% does prove to be prohibitive we should lower it but we won’t know until we test it out. We had to start somewhere.

Remember, branches will be expected to engage a large number (hopefully more than 30%) of the members living/working in a given area. 80/20 is a common passive/active member engagement statistic in volunteer organizations. Healthy organizations aim to get more than 20% of their members actively engaged. A 30% petition is low commitment bar to test member support and organizer preparation. Doesn’t demand much from members to sign a petition. Will require organizers to set up infrastructure and develop skills needed. Lastly, Budget commitments to branches will probably be correlated to number of potential or actually engaged members (this is already naturally happening this year as branches and the officers ask what the right financial commitment is to each of our two existing branches.

There’s another easier pathway available if reaching 30% proves too difficult, namely, appealing to the SC to approve one. This may be the simplest way forward but isn’t the most desirable. This is how the Delco and Buxmont branches came about. There is no reason to think SCs doing their duty will oppose forming new branches if they clearly meet the criteria established in the new bylaws and yet cannot meet the 30% threshold.

Does the order of business in (Art. V.3) and other reporting requirements in the recommendations mean that we will have to spend a lot of time at our General Meetings listening to boring reports from every officer and committee?
No! This rule mandates the order in which business must be done, not the kind of business that must be done, much less how that business must be done. Not every committee or officer is required to report to every General meeting. See the rules for reporting under officers, steering committee, permanent committees and temporary committees. More importantly, reports given at a meeting does not mean that they must be read at the meeting. Most often this refers to a written report being availability for review and approval by the members.

What this rule does require is that reports of activity and decisions since the previous GM for officers, the SC and the permanent committees will be sent out ahead of time for review and a vote will be taken at each GM to do so before other business is taken up. This can most likely happen as one lump vote to approve all the reports as long no one objects.

If we approve these recommendations does what will happen to our current ad hoc committees?
These rules will not have any immediate effect on our ad hoc committees because we are already preparing for our stated bi-annual convention. These new rules will require permanent committee chairs to be elected at conventions. The new permanent committee chairs, the officers and the SC will have a period to plan and prepare for the new administration after the convention as usual. Their terms will begin in September. Even under our current rules temporary committees should not last beyond the installation of a newly elected executive administration (a rule in RONR that has been inconsistently applied in past years). This rule has been included in our bylaws to make this clear. That means that current ad hoc committees will have until September to discuss and make plans. The ad hoc Outreach, Education and Social committees will be “dissolved” when the new permanent committees begin to operate in September, however, as their duties will be handed to the new permanent committees.

Even though nothing will change until the months after the convention, (when things would have changed anyway) if these recommendations are accepted members should begin planning for the upcoming convention. The members and chairpersons of the Outreach, Social, Education and the old Electoral committees should begin discussing the upcoming elections and their willingness to serve in the newly formed committees with fellow members who will be running. It is never too early to begin planning to run for a position and talking amongst members about your ideas. Ad hoc committees which will not become permanent committees will want to begin assessing whether or not their committee’s work should be extended to a new term after the installation of new officers and a new SC in September. If they believe so, they should prepare a resolution to be deliberated at an assembly at or soon after the Convention and begin discussing their case for it to the new administration even before the installation.

How will the bylaws revisions be implemented if they are passed?
The timing of these recommendations is tied to the timing of our upcoming convention intentionally. If we were to adopt them at some other time in our calendar we would need to plan a special convention to hold elections to the new positions. Thankfully we will not need to do that, however. After the convention our rules grant a transition period to allow the former SC and officers to hand things over as smoothly as possible to a new administration. This will be the time during which implementation plans can be made more concrete.

Beyond the built in schedule of our convention and transition months, implementation will be up to the members and officers. There will certainly be new requirements that have to be fleshed out via standing rules or customs, such as the deadlines for officer reporting and SC communications before GMs. At any time members can raise points of order in meetings or in between meetings if they do not believe the rules of the Local are being followed. Our Local is run by volunteers, however, and we share a common understanding that rules are meant to strengthen the organization and preserve democratic governance, but not to make volunteer leaders weary or put a chokehold on organizing around the purposes of the organization. Implementing rules and norms is work of art that the officers and SC have to carry out to their best ability. The rules are not the point, the point is to build working class political power and advance the agenda of DSA in and around Philadelphia.

What is a styles committee, how is it appointed, what can it do?
Our committee will ask the Local to approve a styles committee if the bylaws are approved. The duties of the committee will be to make sure the document is free of typos, grammatically clear and that unnecessary ambiguities (points of common confusion not inherent to the rule intended by the bylaws committee) are removed.

Many articles reference “standing rules” -- how will these be decided, and what will they contain?
Standing rules will be a collection of policies, resolutions and rules that are determined by the majority voting at an assembly of the Local. The SC can develop standing rules and present them for approval at GMs or members can present them as new business by submitting them in advance of a GM. They can be amended in the same way. This was to require the SC to improve communication and education of the norms and rules in the Local and to make sure that the Local can exercise oversight of its rules. As currently, in the absence of a standing rule the rules governing the Local are RONR.

Appendix E. Summary of Important Bylaw Changes in Each Article

The summary below is not a comprehensive itemization of the changes recommended. It was prepared by the chair with help from committee member Scott Jenkins in preparation for the hearing related to bylaws changes. It is also not elegantly written but a “quick and dirty” look at the biggest changes.

Article I. Name.

We added “Philly DSA” to the list of AKA names.

Article II. Purpose.

Most edits here were for clarity, style, consistency and brevity. The committee agreed to focus on essential values of democratic socialism as they have been advocated in DSA. This approach was important to us because these Bylaws refer to themselves and the constitution of DSA as “governing standards” and often refer to “the purpose of the Local as defined in these bylaws” as the only criteria allowable for disciplinary charges, the criteria for defining and limiting officer and committee responsibilities, and for approving campaign proposals. Language from the purpose articles of DSA’s bylaws and constitution and was also borrowed to make the relationship of our organization as a Local branch of the National organization more visible and tethered to a national project.

Article III. Membership.

We removed a reference to the “Philadelphia area” in light of the formation of new chapters in the Philadelphia area and added reference to the authority of DSA to determine the boundaries of the Local. We moved rules for member responsibilities to a new “Duties” section and edited them for style. We moved disciplinary language to a new and expanded Article on discipline (see below). We combined a redundant dues section and the article on member dues.

Article IV. Officers.

Substantial changes are recommended in this article. We recommend that a Secretary become an elected officer (this was an inconsistency in the current bylaws and practical needs). While retaining an emphasis on reaching consensus, we recommend a chair/vice-chair distinction between co-chairs because we can imagine in a much larger chapter with expanded administrative responsibilities that the Local can expect dissent to become more of a regular feature of our organization even between co-chairs. The committee recommends restricting the election method for appointing officers and the SC members at conventions to that of a counted ballot; we recommend a restriction against consecutive term number limits especially as the new Steering Committee and the duties of officers are increasingly focused on administrative duties and less on exercising political guidance or deliberative executive powers; we recommend expanding the equitable gender ratio requirement to all the offices; we recommend adding rules for both the removal of officers by discipline or by a called convention in order to distinguish between recall efforts based on simple dissatisfaction or changing political circumstances vs. recall efforts on the basis of malfeasance or incompetence which are grounds for removal by discipline this will allow members to seek a recall without prejudice or forcing them to seek chargeable offenses in order to remove a person from office; we recommend a new procedure for filling officer vacancies in which the SC may only appoint replacements if the vacancy is under 6 months; we recommend an expansion of the duties of officers for clarification to members on what will be required especially when considering candidacy; we recommend including reporting requirements for officers for increased accountability of officer decisions to members and the SC; we recommend clarification of ex officio relation of officers to committees; we recommend reference to the identification of the officers as the officers of the PAC.

Article V. Assemblies.

There are substantial changes recommended in this article in addition to many edits for style or for clarification. This article (and other related bylaw articles) implements a consistent technical use of “deliberative assemblies” to distinguish between the meetings of assemblies and committees of the Local at which the Local (or its appointed members) exercise governing power to direct the Local’s activities in distinction from other kinds of meetings; the use of “special” in the place of “emergency” for called assemblies was combined with rules for calling special meetings is recommended to encourage greater use of called meetings that may ease the burden placed on quarterly General Meetings; There is an expansion of the stated purposes for which a Convention is held to reflect National rules, current practices in the Local and the effect the increased size of DSA locally and nationally has had on internal organizing. There is an inclusion of the order of business (currently obscured by common ignorance of RONR) to explicitly limit SC powers over agenda and mandate increased transparency of the actions permanent committees, the SC and elected officers to the membership; the criteria for called meetings is amended to be a percentage and not a small number reflecting the growth in membership size; stricter requirements for the SC for giving notice of special assemblies and of the agendas of meetings are incorporated to ensure that members have ample time to read items of business; a higher minimum threshold for General Meeting quorums is recommended due to larger membership; specific recording requirements are stated and the requirement to submit minutes to DSA are also recommended for transparency.

Article VI: Steering Committee

Changes from previous version: Chairs of permanent committees (who are elected at the local convention) are given seats on the Steering Committee. Minimum standards of participation for nominations are introduced. Adds language to include oversight over new deliberative bodies introduced in Article VII. Adds section defining the responsibilities of at-large members of the committee. Includes, in the section on removal, specific grounds under which a removed SC member may appeal their removal to the membership. Sets a minimum number of SC meetings and increases standards of notice for regular and special meetings. Substantially, requires vacancies to be filled in the same manner as officer vacancies.

Article VII: Committees, Commissions, and Geographical Branches

Large new article that absorbs Articles VII and VIII from the current bylaws and attempts to better define existing types of subsidiary deliberative bodies and create new ones such that the type of body defined is appropriate to its task and to fill gaps in the local's political life and culture. Committees can now be either permanent or temporary. The former is: reserved for those committees which are essential to the functioning of the local and are enshrined in the bylaws as such; has chairs who are elected at local conventions and sit on the SC; and has strict rules around committee size, nomination process, etc. The latter is for achieving specific tasks that require sustained work but which do not qualify as permanent committees, and include mechanisms for dissolution. Commissions are now defined in the bylaws and are given definite reporting responsibilities. Branches are now exclusively geographical, which was done to clarify the purpose of this type of body. Branches now also have a more detailed process for establishment, with much of that process being shifted to the standing rules. Finally, a new type of body is defined which is neither subsidiary nor deliberative, but which may nonetheless be formally recognized by the local as an affiliated body. This section grants no rights to such bodies and leaves the determination of their rights and privileges to the standing rules.

Article VIII: Permanent Committees

New article written to explicitly define the permanent committees created in Article VII. The four committees defined were decided to cover the functions necessary to the running of the local. Note that the committees defined do not necessarily map one-to-one onto existing committees (for instance the Member Engagement committee would combine some functions of social and outreach).

Article IX: Campaigns.

New article written to define campaigns, connect them to the purpose of the organization, and to define the means through which campaigns are brought about.

Article X: Electoral Endorsements.

New article defining the process for electoral endorsements.

Article XI: Nominations.

Revises article XI of current bylaws for clarity. Makes more explicit some elements of the responsibility of nominations committees. Clarifies responsibilities of Steering Committee. No Major Changes.

Article XII: Standards and Rules

Revises Article XIV “rules of the local” in current bylaws. Clarifies the relation of priority of different sets of rules and standards; clarifies genesis, function, and role of standing rules.The standing rules will be determined by a majority vote at an assembly of the Local. The SC can develop standing rules and present them for approval at GMs and members can present them as new business by submitting them in advance of a GM. They can be amended in the same way. This was to require the SC to improve communication and education of the norms and rules in the Local and to make sure that the Local can exercise oversight of its rules. As currently, in the absence of a standing rule the rules governing the Local are RONR.

Article XIII: Discipline

This is a substantial new article. The committee is recommending that three forms of discipline be available to members of the Local: censure, suspension, and expulsion. Currently only expulsion is provided for in the bylaws. Adding suspension was required by DSAs Harassment policy. Each of these forms of discipline is defined and the process for imposing them is set out. Note first the importance of “governing standards” for determining the criteria for leveling charges. This limitation is intended to restrict frivolous or schismatic abuse of disciplinary procedures. Note also the limitations placed on the grounds for appeals. This rule is intended to prevent litigious behavior and appealing until one gets the desired outcome regardless of the merits of a case. Appeals can be made either to the GM or to the NPC as desired by the interested parties. This is recommended because the committee believed that different kinds of cases may require either adjudication by a close or distant body in order to be fair in the eyes of the parties involved and because there is more than one way a case can be dealt with at the local level. We recommend the addition of grievance “commissioners” to handle charges. This is required by DSA’s harassment policy. The use of “commissioner” instead of “officer” is recommended in order to avoid confusion over the use of a technical term (officer) for a role that is not given to an officer of the Local. A commission is the most apt term for describing what “HGOs” in DSA’s harassment policy are responsible to do. Note a recommended change to multiple paths Grievance Commissioners can recommend a case be dealt with. This was to allow the Local freedom when cases require different kinds or levels of oversight or accountability to meet standards of justice. (For example, in cases when an officer or SC member is charged vs. cases involving highly personal circumstances between two members who desire confidentiality or which one’s personal dignity is put at risk by a public hearing. Currently our bylaws only allow a general assembly to decide cases of discipline. DSA’s harassment policy and the recommendations of the HGWG are that chapters allow the SC to decide cases of harassment. The committee discussed the various pros and cons of both paths and voted to allow GCs to recommend the best course for dispensing with a charge. The committee was concerned in the end, not to hamstring the Local on this matter, requiring a hearing at a GM for all cases, or as some chapters do, referring all cases to the SC. Note the difference in requirements for charges that are related to a member’s views vs. those related to a member’s behavior. The goal is to prevent a SC from disciplining a member for political views without the approval of the members at an assembly.

Appendix F. Questionnaire for similar chapters

The following was developed and sent to DSA chapters around the country to learn more about their organizational structure as the basis for follow up conversations and deepening our knowledge of how Locals are functioning.

Stock contact:

Hi,


My name is X and I am a member of an ad-hoc committee that Philly DSA has convened in order to make recommendations to the local on chapter organizational structure and bylaws. As part of our research, we are reaching out to a number DSA chapters that have similar features in order to better understand the different models that chapters use and what has been successful and not-so-successful in them. Please let me know if there anyone or a group of people that I can speak with in your chapter who have first-hand experience with administering your chapter’s organizational structure, processes, governing rules and bylaws. I can be reached at X. Thanks, Solidarity, X

Interview Script:


Has your chapter updated bylaws since 2016? If so, why?
What role does elected leadership play in your chapter?
How are active campaigns organized and managed in your chapter?
How has chapter growth affected your quorum requirements for general meetings? How has this been handled and do you think your path has been effective?
What part of your bylaws is most frequently consulted in running and organizing your chapter?
How are campaigns organized and managed in your local? How do they originate, how are they related to committees,
How is the provision of chapter resources (funds, membership data, communication channels) handled in your local? Have you had any issues in this regard?


Appendix G. Survey Distributed to DSA Philly Members

This survey was sent to committee members and the general membership of Philly DSA between July 10 and August 10.

DSA Philadelphia ad hoc Committee on Organizational Structure and Bylaws Survey

Philly DSA passed Resolution 2:18:3 at its February 10, 2018 General Meeting, calling for the creation of an ad hoc committee on organizational structure. The primary task of this committee is to make recommendations to the Local on any necessary revisions to our Bylaws and organizational structure. We must also ask the members of DSA Philly's various committees for their input on what needs to be done.

If you would like to provide such input you can start by filling out this short questionnaire. There are only two main questions.

Please note: 1.the identity and committee membership of respondents will be kept anonymous in our reports. 2. If you do not wish to respond to any or all of these questions that is fine but all ideas are welcome at this stage so do not be afraid to share them or fuss too much over how you word your responses.


Biographical Info
Please include the following so we can track any significant trends in responses. Your contact information, identity and committee membership will be kept anonymous in our reports.

Organizational Strengths
As our chapter has grown exponentially over the last two years the Steering Committee has worked hard to make improvements to our capacity to effectively fulfill our mission. What are ways our current structure has benefited your work and participation? What should be preserved? Has your committee or the General Meetings increased in ability to get things done, share responsibility, practice democracy, increase participation? What do you think the reasons are? Don't feel the need to use formal language. Don't be afraid to speculate if you aren't sure.

1. How long have you been a member of Philly DSA? (approximate)
2. How many years, if any, have you served on DSA committees over the course of your membership? (approximate)
3. What committees, if any, are you currently serving as a member? (N/A if does not apply)
What has worked well in Philly DSA or in your committee? What aspects of our current bylaws, structure and practices do you believe need to be retained or strengthened in order to ensure DSA Philadelphia effectively carries out its efforts?


Organizational Weaknesses
There are many ways member participation can be frustrated in a democratically run volunteer organization like DSA. These can include rules, standards, expectations and structures that are not known, inconsistent, impracticable, unfair, or inconsistently applied. If unaddressed such problems create unnecessary frustration for members who want to participate in the work of our Local, increase the burden on volunteers and and increases the likelihood of abusive and unethical behavior. Your response can include (but is not limited to) your experience of obstacles or concerns in the following areas: finances, communication, the scope and limits of committee responsibilities, officer job descriptions, democracy in decision making, accountability of members and officers.

1. What, if any, organizational structures and/or institutional practices in DSA Philadelphia have proved to be an obstacle to completing the work of your committee or your participation in the Local effectively?

2. What changes to our bylaws, committee structure, standing rules or regular practices could potentially remove the issues or obstacles described above or improve the work you or future members of your committee are committed to doing?

Other Input and Follow Up
Anything else? Can we contact you to follow up on any questions we might have about your responses?
Do you want our committee to schedule:

A.) a face to face meeting to follow up or clarify anything in our questionnaire or in your responses? Skip to question 15.
B.) a collaborative discussion of these issues at your next committee meeting? a phone call with one of our members? Skip to question 19.
D. I'm all good. Stop filling out this form. Stop filling out this form.

Schedule for Your Next Committee Meeting
If you indicated that you would like a member of our committee to attend your next committee meeting for a collaborative discussion of these issues please provide the following information and we will contact your committee officers to work on a possible date. If you made that selection in error please select the "back" button at the bottom of this page.

What is the name of the committee you would like us to attend?
What is the date of your next committee meeting, if known?
What is the location of your next committee meeting, if known?

Schedule a Face to Face Meeting
If you indicated that you would like a member of our committee to schedule a face to face meeting to discuss these issues further please provide two potential dates with the times and locations that would be convenient for a meeting and we will contact you with a confirmation as soon as possible. If you made that selection in error please select the "back" button at the bottom of this page.

What is the soonest available date and time to schedule a face to face meeting?
What, if any, is the most convenient location on that date?
What is the next best date and time?

Schedule a Phone Call
What is the soonest available date and time to schedule a phone call?
What is the next best date and time?
What phone number would you like us to use to call you?


Appendix H. Subcommittee report on the Critical Responses from Interview and Survey Data.
Member Interviews and Survey Results

Survey Responses
30 respondents as of August 8, 2018.

DSA Experience

Committee Responses and Rate

● LILAC: 14
● Canvassing: 8
● Political Education: 6
● Social: 5
● Outreach: 4
● Electoral Evaluation: 2
● Steering: 3
● Labor Branch: 1


Perceived Obstacles and Problems
Respondents to our survey were asked the following question: “What, if any, organizational structures and/or institutional practices in DSA Philadelphia have proved to be an obstacle to completing the work of your committee or your participation in the Local effectively?” What follows is a summary of their responses as they relate to DSA Philly’s organizational structure and procedural norms. There were many concerns raised. Those which were overlapping have been condensed and categorized under several headings. Respondents’ perception of problems are divided into two categories: 1.) problems that are general and related to all members or committees; and 2.) problems that are related to the work of one of our committees. Because there is overlap between these categories especially as they explicitly (or implicitly) implicate the responsibilities of the Steering and Outreach committees in relation to their delegated responsibilities.

General Problems

Problems related to General Meetings
By far the greatest consensus in responses and interviews was that Philly DSA’s General Meetings (GMs) as they currently operate present obstacles to effective work and participation. There were some general comments including feeling that meetings are too long, boring, hot, or simply incapable of meeting important needs for socialization, education and discussion. The majority of responses, however, were more detailed and pointed. These are summarized below. While respondents focused on GMs, it’s important to note that there is no consensus in their responses about the nature or causes of these problems nor what needs to done to address them.

The Frequency of General Meetings
There were six respondents who believed General Meetings are not held frequently enough. Their perceptions of the problems this creates varied widely. The infrequency of meetings was felt to create unnecessary delays by many. But some felt it impeded committee work as members show more interest in debating controversial motions and frequently tabled administrative resolutions. Some felt it impeded member-based initiatives as individual resolutions are only debated at GMs. Others felt that the number of GMs had the opposite effect, rushing deliberations and thus diminishing the quality of our political culture.

Infrequent GMs were also associated by respondents with power imbalances. Once again, however, they conflicted with which group benefited. Some believed infrequent meetings gives too much control to individual members who are able to “clog” GM agendas, re-litigate committee deliberations, and delay implementing purely administrative policies. Others feel that infrequent meetings gives the Steering Committee an unwarranted power, stating that the SC delays and postpones deliberation of initiatives it does not support with the excuse of time constraints. Relatedly, the frequency of GMs was felt to give general members too much power over the initiatives of individuals. Others, however felt that referring initiatives to the general membership subjects addressing the needs of the few but active members to a largely inactive and uniformed body. Those concerns were also related to concerns about entryism (see below).

Entryism
Related to some of the concerns above, several members expressed concern that the work of Philly DSA is vulnerable to opportunistic “entryists” who, under our current rules, join and vote with the sole intention of influencing deliberations at a GM, such as whether or not to endorse an electoral candidate. Some believed this should be addressed by raising the thresholds for important decisions. Others encouraged implementing a waiting period before granting voting credentials.

Discipline of disruptive members
Some members expressed concern that Philly DSA does not appropriately censor disruptive and disrespectful behavior in GM deliberations. They believed this not only slows progress but turns away new members who often attend a GM before experiencing less contentious aspects of the chapter participation.

Deliberative Procedure
The most widely cited problem respondents identified were not only about GMs but specifically about deliberative or parliamentary procedures. Once again, these are varied and sometimes contradictory, however. While one respondent advocated abandoning parliamentary procedure, it can be concluded that the majority of the respondents would favor simplification, education and an accessible orientation to deliberative standards and the reason behind them. These responses can be summarized as follows:

Personal knowledge: Some members stated that they were confused, inexperienced and daunted by the use of Robert’s Rules (RONR) at GMs, though they differed in whether this indicated a need for more experience, chapter-wide educational programs, or a change in the standard because they are too difficult to learn.

The knowledge of others: Some members complained that GMs are dysfunctional or inadequate because potential or new members do not know how to participate. However, while some felt that this presented a socio-economic barrier in recruiting new members who, they believed would not be able to participate, others felt that the lack of experience or knowledge of standards presented a problem for those seeking to accomplish an initiative fairly and democratically.

Consistency of application: A few members believed that the SC inconsistently, unfairly and deliberately applies standards and rules for deliberation especially in relation to making motions, submitting resolutions and amendments.

Bad for culture: Some members believed that the use of RONR makes meetings boring, unappealing to minority populations, sterile, unnecessarily contentious, stifles open discussion and debate and will drive members to leave.

Unfair to new members and minorities: One member expressed concern that the use of RONR for GM deliberations grants an unfair advantage or privilege to those who have greater knowledge of its stipulations. They speculated that this would contribute to screening out minority populations and minority political tendencies as well.


Problems Related to Structure and Committees
In addition to concerns about GMs, members showed concern for the organizational structure of the Local especially with regard to the role of committees, committee effectiveness, and the relation of committees to each other and the general membership. These are summarized here.

Oversight, Bottlenecks and Committee Powers
Many respondents complained that work in the Local is unnecessarily or unfairly delayed and obstructed, though the blame for this was attributed to different sources. As stated above, some felt that too much work is referred to the general membership for approval and that this weakens or delays committee and individual initiations because meetings aren’t frequent enough.

Others felt that delays and bottlenecks are primarily the result either of committees acting territorially or of the SC unfairly manipulating what makes it to the floor of GMs. At least one member believed that the SC enforces a single political and strategic agenda on the rest of the Local unfairly (see below) in this way. Others saw less malicious intent but still believed the SC is inconsistent in the decisions it refers to the general membership, other committees, commissions and what decisions it makes on its own, as well as unclear what rationale or standard they use to determine their actions. Some shared similar concerns about ambiguous powers of committees and GMs in the Local but instead attributed this to inadequacies in the current bylaws.

The perception that the SC has too much power was often paired with complaints that the GM has too much power either through reference to proceduralism or obstruction and delay.

Others, however, believed that the role of committees should be strengthened in relation to the GM since committees are where most of the administrative, educational and political work are done in a large chapter.

Establishing Committee Roles, Responsibilities and Membership
Closely related, many members believed that organizing in the Local is not set back due to SC control or the general membership but to the absence of institutionalized and clearly defined committees. Some felt that the Local needs to establish standing or permanent committees in addition to the SC. Others similarly felt that committee responsibilities and delegated powers are not stated anywhere and should be explicitly established to eliminate overlap, encourage collaboration with other committees and individual members and also to clarify their specific powers. Equal standards and expectations for transparency, reporting and accountability for all committees were also felt by many to be inconsistently applied and opaque.

Many respondents felt that vague or undefined committee membership creates existing or potential problems. One felt that a specific committee has become too large. They attributed a tendency to duplicating existing efforts and failure to effectively carry out its delegated responsibility to unwieldy size. A similar concern was that voluntary membership on committees makes them vulnerable to entryism. Others felt that the membership standards of committees simply need to be clarified for all committees.

Finally, a member expressed concern that the distinction between branches, committees and working groups (in LILAC) is confusing and needs to be clarified or simplified.

Problems Related to Specific Committees or Committee Tasks
While many of the concerns are understandably implicitly or explicitly directed at the SC, the specific mention of other committees and their work is worth highlighting for the purposes of this effort. These are included verbatim in what follows.

Steering
“The biggest obstacle to completing the work of my committee has undoubtedly been the Steering Committee, their opposition to or interference with all of LILAC's resolutions, and the fact that in order to do work with the imprimatur of Philly DSA you must pass a resolution at a General Meeting chaired by a SC member.”

“The role of the steering committee as a political and organizational gatekeeper has made member-initiated organizing difficult.”

“I have found leadership to use soft pressure to intimidate and socially isolate people who disagree with them.

“Whatever personal offenses have arisen from miscommunications should be dealt with with maturity and patience, since we are all ultimately on the same side. I would like to look to the SC for leadership on this point.”

“Meeting minutes and committee reports can be hard to find and aren't distributed in a timely manner."
“An inability to communicate with the steering committee about direct action resulted in the Local not mobilizing seriously for the anti ICE demonstrations in the city."

“ ...a broken line of communication between LILAC and Philly DSA's leaders”

“lack of disciplinary action against disruptive members at meetings;”

“The lack of a well-maintained email list that includes all (consenting) members of Philly DSA has made it very hard to organize.”

Outreach/Communication with Membership
Because Outreach, like the SC, is responsible for many of the areas members complained about, relevant comments are included here as well.

“Lack of an online member forum for discussing resolutions or other issues or simply sharing information.”

“unofficial channels of communication among members have an unclear status (activist list, socfem email list)”

“lack of strong outreach process and structure makes it more difficult to publicize events

“Website not maintained.”

“Meeting minutes and committee reports can be hard to find and aren't distributed in a timely manner."

“outreach badly needs better practices. How short-notice events are announced via the website, email, and social media often impedes people's ability to participate. Results of general meetings aren't updated on the website until months after the fact... despite its flaws, members value the activist listserv because once added, members can easily access a pool of active and enthusiastic members to kindle discussions and plan DSA's involvement in local actions on short-notice. Yes, people do need to be more self-reflective and realize that even a great and easily-accessed activist listserv would only help the organization if people could follow-through, be more strategic, and use email to begin conversations that come to fruition offline. But there needs to be a platform that's easy to join for members to share ideas online and that includes a much bigger portion of our membership.”

“Hard to find out what opportunities there are to get involved in between General Meetings, or even to know who is doing what. Where do I go to find out what is going on, and know that it is consistent, up-to-date, and comprehensive? Facebook? Email list serves? Website?”

“I've felt that no standard way to contact committees has made it difficult for me to understand how to approach committees for collaboration and has made my own attempts to collaborate undemocratic and subject to arbitrary standards.”

“An inability to communicate with the steering committee about direct action resulted in the Local not mobilizing seriously for the anti ICE demonstrations in the city."

LILAC
“This chapter struggles to direct the efforts of the LILAC. Working groups within this committee frequently develop ideas that don't fit with the vision of the chapter's leadership. Although the structure of LILAC guarantees this conflict, I think it serves a purpose: LILAC provides a space for local campaigns to build momentum before being debated at general meetings. Such a space must be managed carefully to make sure that members direct their energies to projects that advance the socialist cause... I sense a broken line of communication between LILAC and Philly DSA's leaders which is preventing this from occurring.”

“Participation in LILAC is more stressful than it needs to be. I, and many others, voted for its creation because we expected that a body which creates proposals for local campaigns could be a good benefit for the organization. meetings can be run in a patronizing way… the actions suggested so far have been sparse and milquetoast. There are no standards for campaigns being held against timelines or tangible goals. The activities in the beginning and ends of meetings are patronizing and unnecessary (you can leave the meeting early but it's hard to know when to show up so you don't have to participate in the opening activity). The resolution that created it indicates that they will choose campaign proposals with ranked voting but that's not happened in meetings I've attended. Furthermore, the amount of people participating in LILAC meetings and online discussions around campaign proposals creates a very aggravating organizing culture in which people who don't hold a personal stake in a campaign, or won't even participate in executing it, feel they have the same right to a say in how campaigns should be carried out than those doing all of the grunt work. It has never felt like holding campaign proposals that have come through LILAC to a vote has ever done anything beneficial - in the past, some of the campaign proposals that LILAC voted to submit almost unanimously have been very flawed indeed, so clearly the deliberation and voting done by meeting attendees didn't catch those problems.... I feel that committees are superior to working groups as they have official democratic sanction and thus have some accountability built in… most of our useful work is done through committees, I think the bylaws should reflect that and strengthen them. I want the more stringent membership standards for committees, lest we get overrun with people trying to co-opt us (think Democratic Party entryists).”

EEC
“The EEC endorsement process should become more strict, and also I don't think general membership should be able to submit recommendations for endorsement to the general. We need a standardized vetting process, and EEC should be tasked with that. Without that, there shouldn't even be the prospect of a general membership endorsement vote. If due diligence is not done, we could end up endorsing a racist or an abuser or something.”


In Relation to Potential Bylaw Amendments

Quorum Requirements (Article IV)
Many respondents expressed concern with the current general meeting quorum requirement of 20% of Philly DSA membership (Art. 4 §4). Some were specifically concerned that it would become logistically difficult to meet quorum at general meetings if Philly DSA continues to grow at its current rate. Others simply stated their preference of 10% without elaboration (this number in particular appeared multiple times). Two respondents proposed a 10% quorum or the average of the last three general meetings, whichever was lower. Some requested online voting with a set time period as an alternative to quorum requirements, or a way to make not meeting quorum a non-issue.

Committee Rules (Article VIII)
There were two different flavors of recommendations for revising Article VIII (Committees). One set of respondents favored revising the current committee structure while another set wished to replace it with a “working group” model.

Those who favored revising the committee section almost universally recommended creating a category for standing committees (i.e. committees that do not exist for a limited and explicit duration, but operate continuously). Canvassing, the EEC, and Outreach were all mentioned as committees that might benefit from standing status.

Respondents also recommended creating more uniform rules or guidelines for committees. The suggested rules included: making committee membership lists public and requiring minutes to be posted promptly; requiring committees to adopt charters with their official functions enumerated; implementing uniform committee membership standards; limiting an ad-hoc committee’s duration to one year; both reducing and increasing barriers to committee membership or listserv access; and requiring committee chairmanship to change every six months; capping committee membership at a certain number.

Those who favored the working group model proposed a system in which any autonomous group of five could form a working group around a particular topic. This working group would be free to use the Philly DSA name and request funds from the local unless stopped by a 2/3rds majority. It is unclear whether those who support this model would want to eliminate the committee structure entirely, though it seems the intention is to at least partially move logistical functions of the chapter that outreach typically performs to the Steering Committee. Some recommended allowing autonomous working groups without enumerating their rights to chapter funds, use of the Philly DSA name, or membership information.

Steering Committee (Articles V and VI)
Several recommendations were given for revising the articles on the local leadership. Some recommended that the Steering Committee only be elected for one year terms and that the election procedure be enshrined in the bylaws (this included the delegate nomination process). At least one person recommended requiring special elections for vacant steering committee seats. Some requested that policy making abilities be completely taken out of the Steering Committee’s hands (Art. VI §2) or implied this strongly.

General Meetings
Article IV §2 requires at least four general meetings per year. Many respondents have requested monthly or bimonthly general meetings (12 or 6 per year). Along the same lines, one member requested that general meeting dates be planned out and set well in advance to better plan for things like our participation in electoral cycles.

Another common theme was criticism of RONR. While some presumably favored elimination of the standard in Article XIV that requires the usage of RONR if a member requests it, others requested more RONR training opportunities to be coupled with the requirement. Some requested explicit statement of standing rules or an explicit statement allowing floor amendments and motions. Some wanted more clarification on the role of the resolutions subcommittee or an end to the practice.

Some members recommended methods for disciplinary action for those who continually disrupt general meetings.

Electoral
A few respondents requested that electoral endorsement processes be in the bylaws. These recommendations included that no candidate should be voted on without EEC deliberation, that a 2/3rd majority and/or Steering Committee approval be needed for endorsement, and that same day registrants should not be allowed to vote at generals to prevent entryism. One member recommended requiring identification as a socialist and ideological agreement with some set positions to be enshrined in a bylaws section on endorsement.

Other
Many members agreed that the Articles on local dues and branches and youth sections (Articles XIII and VII, respectively) were threadbare and needed to be fleshed out.

Join Philly DSA

Isn't it time to do something? Get involved with the Local.