New Member Handbook

Welcome to the Democratic Socialists of Salt Lake! (DSSL)

This document is specific to our local, the DSSL and does not go into much depth about the workings of the national DSA. For questions about the national, refer to their FAQ. You can always contact them directly. If you haven’t already, check out our educational resources on socialism.

You should have already read our About page and if you have just joined, followed the steps on our Contact page. It’s good to read up on the national bylaws as well as our local ones before joining. Also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date on all things DSSL.

After you join, you will be able to vote in chapter meetings as long as your dues are current. You will receive a New Member Survey and after you submit it, a Co-Membership Coordinator will reach out to you for a 1-on-1 onboarding. You will be contacted once per month for a check-in, to update your membership information and help you into a more fitting role within DSSL.

Meetings

General Meetings. Where all of the committees present a status report. Where bigger things get voted on like amendments, committee formations, etc. Meetings for committees generally follow the same process as general meetings.

Special Sessions. When something needs to get done quick! Article 4, Section 3 of our bylaws state that: “When an urgent and important matter requires deliberation outside the purview of regularly scheduled meetings, the Coordinating Committee or ten (10) individual members may call a Special Session of the Local on five (5) days notice”. Reasons for holding a special session may include:

Local Conventions. An annual meeting coinciding with our elections between May 1-15. Members will get a 3 weeks written notice with the agenda. It’s where we set official policy and can adopt an annual budget. The highest legislative body of our local.

Our Social Contract. Meetings are more productive — and more fun — when the conversation includes everyone. Respectful discussion guidelines are helpful for keeping things focused too. You can read these before meetings and forums.

Assume good faith in your fellow comrades

Assume good faith in each other. Please try to speak from experience, speak for yourself (use “I” statements), and actively listen to each other. When someone makes a point, repeat what you heard, summarize, and ask clarifying questions like “did you mean X” or “what makes you say that” to get more information. Encourage yourself and others to maintain a positive attitude, honor the work of others, avoid defensiveness, be open to legitimate critique and challenge oppressive behaviors in ways that help people grow. We want to “call each other in” rather than calling each other out — in other words, if you are challenging someone’s ideas or behavior, do it respectfully, and if you are being challenged, receive it respectfully. Remember, mistakes will be made, nobody is perfect.

Know whether you need to “step up” or “step back”

Help create a safe and inclusive space for everybody. Please respect others by recognizing how often, much, and loud you’re speaking and whether or not you’re dominating the conversation. Step back to leave space for others to voice their opinions and feelings. If the facilitator of the meeting asks you to wrap up, recognize that you should step back. This especially applies to participants who have privileged backgrounds. On the other hand, if you don’t often speak up, we encourage you to do so now!

Please ask yourself “Why am I Talking?”

We have a limited amount of time for discussion and to accomplish the tasks before us. When in discussion, please ask yourself “Why am I talking (WAIT)?” Consider whether or not what you want to say has already been said, whether what you want to say is on topic or if there’s a better time and place to say it, and other methods for showing how you feel about the conversation (nodding your head, etc.)

Please recognize and respect other’s feelings, background, and cultural differences

Many people have different levels of experience, knowledge, and feelings in social justice and radical activism and all participants should respect and embrace this diversity. Many people from different backgrounds have different definitions of what it means to be an “activist” or “radical.” While we all don’t have to agree on everything, we should respect our diversity of opinions. Recognize that everyone has a piece of the truth, everybody can learn, and everybody has the ability to teach and share something. Don’t use language that’s clearly oppressive or hurtful. Please, refrain from using acronyms or complicated language that could exclude others.

We have “one mic” so do not interrupt or speak while others are talking

Many of us will have different opinions on matters. However, speaking while others are talking or adding comments when they cannot respond appropriately does not build community. If you have a disagreement, wait for your turn to address it. This is basic politeness.

Respect the facilitator when they use Progressive Stack

Progressive Stack is a form of leading discussions which involves a facilitator keeping a list of names of people who wish to speak. The facilitator scans the group during the discussion, and if someone wishes to speak, they raise their hand and catch the facilitator’s eye. The facilitator nods and makes eye contact to indicate the person is now put on the list to speak, and then the person can put their hand down so it does not distract other discussion participants. However, the facilitator does not simply write a list of names in the order that people raise their hand. Rather, if someone who has not spoken raises their hand, they go to the top of the list. If someone who is of an oppressed group raises their hand, they go to the top of the list unless they have already contributed significantly to the discussion.

If you have the permissions to edit an agenda and see where it needs improvement, feel free to take the initiative!

Robert’s Rules of Order

We (try to) use Robert’s Rules to help us run votes and debate. Having an agreed on set of procedures allows us to make decisions as efficiently and fairly as possible. Example Source link.

Voting. As mentioned before, only members who have current dues may vote. Some examples of what we vote on: bylaws amendments, Coordinating Committee, delegate positions, whether we sponsor an event, and endorsements for ballot measures and candidates. We use online voting for time-sensitive and less contentious items like event endorsements and sponsorship.

Steps for a basic vote

The member rises and addresses the chair.
The chair recognizes the member.
The member makes a motion.
Another member seconds the motion.
The chair states the motion.
The members debate the motion.
The chair puts the question, and the members vote.
The chair announces the result of the vote.

Motions. When that light bulb goes off in your head and you have a great idea, you make a motion to get your idea discussed and a decision made. Until a motion is made, seconded, and stated by the chair, no discussion is in order. This rule of “motion before discussion” saves valuable meeting time. When you start off with a definite proposal — “I move that . . .” — your group discusses the motion’s merits and all the details necessary to make a decision. And during the discussion, you and the other members are free to alter your motion as much as necessary before reaching the final decision.

Amendments. Don’t like something in the bylaws? Add the idea to our reforms list. Write out your amendment, link it to the reforms list. Submit it to the CorCom 1 month before it would be voted on at a General Meeting.

Committee Formations

The Local may establish standing and ad hoc committees for specific organizational functions, political issues, or campaigns, or any other reason approved by the membership. Members who wish to form a committee must submit a statement to the Coordinating Committee that includes 

  1. a committee name; 
  2. a mission statement and objectives; 
  3. the scope of the committee’s work;
  4. and at least five (5) committee members. 

A proposed committee may be created with the approval of the Coordinating Committee or General Meeting. Mission statements for proposed committees may not conflict with these Bylaws or with the charters of existing committees.

Chapter Elections

These happen every May 1-15th.

Nominations. Nominations for Coordinating Committee Members and delegates to the National Convention will be opened 10 days before the election. The call for nominations will be announced to members in advance of the General Meeting.

Running for CorCom. Ideally, you will be trained in your desired position BEFORE you run for it. Then, there should be a 2 month “mentoring” period where previous CorCom helps ensure the proper functioning of new leadership.

How to get training: Reach out to the person in your desired position and ask when they would be available for a 1-on-1 training.

Before you run for a CorCom position, get training and find a way to make time for your new responsibilities. Ask yourself, “Can I do this for a whole year?”

If you are running for CorCom, get elected, and soon find that you are too busy to perform your duties, you NEED to let the chapter know. Prioritize what you need to get done, make it work, or step down. This helps us avoid the awkward situation of petitioning for someone’s removal from a position of leadership. We understand that people get too busy sometimes. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Capitalism takes it’s toll. Don’t beat yourself up over it.

How to recall: Any three (3) committee members may request the recall of a committee officer via written petition to the Coordinating Committee, after which time new committee elections will be held in a timely manner. If a position is uncontested, the nominee will be declared elected by acclamation. Members may petition for the removal of a Coordinating Committee Member or for the dissolution the entire Coordinating Committee. Such a petition requires signatures from at least five (5) percent of the membership and will be delivered to the Coordinating Committee.

Vacancies and Special Elections to fill them. In the event of a vacancy of a Coordinating Committee Member position, a special election for the remainder of the vacant officer’s term will be held within sixty (60) days after the opening of the vacancy, unless the remaining term of the former officer is less than two (2) months. Written notice of the special election and solicitation of nominations will be published to all members of the Local no less than two (2) weeks before the date of the special election. A special election may take place at a Local Convention or a General Meeting.

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