Bylaws of the Austin Local of the Democratic Socialists of America
Last amended December 18th, 2018
Article I. Name
The name of the Local shall be the Austin Local of the Democratic Socialists of America.
Article II. Austin DSA Strategy
As Democratic Socialists, we believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically to meet human needs, not to make profits for a few. We envision a society based on racial and gender equality and a fair distribution of resources.
Austin DSA strategy is to unite all democratic socialists into DSA. There are hundreds of democratic socialist sympathizers that live in the Austin area. Our goal is to actively ask them to join DSA so that Austin DSA is not a small group that believes in an idea, but a large organization that actually can affect the work for social and economic justice. Austin DSA agrees with the national DSA in supporting workers’ rights, civil rights, environmental rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, immigrant rights, and disabled rights. We encourage our members to actively support and participate in the work of their labor unions and advocacy groups on those issues. Austin DSA sees our members’ efforts in these organizations as the direct work of democratic socialists. America needs a strong labor movement and a strong left to win social justice. Austin DSA is committed to working on the above-mentioned issues and supporting the efforts of labor unions in our area.
DSA thinks that justice for the people of the U.S. is directly linked to justice for people throughout the world. Austin DSA will look for ways to take on international issues like the fight against the Trans Pacific Pact.
We choose to build a democratic socialist organization that can fight for a fair and just economic and political system. We recognize the need to overcome divisions of race, gender and class in order to confront economic and social injustice. With so many facing the pain inflicted by a capitalist system with gross inequalities of wealth and power, we choose to fight for a socialist alternative. We are Democratic Socialists of Austin.
- Monthly meeting advertised and open to members and supporters. All non-members who attend will be asked to join.
- Organizing co-chairs. We will have co-chairs elected on an annual basis. We will have an election in November to affirm them for one year or to replace. The co-chairs will be responsible for making day-to-day decisions for Austin DSA and overseeing Austin’s growth.
- Austin DSA committees. Our members work on issues every day in their various left issue groups. When an issue arises that our DSA members feel strongly about, a committee of volunteer DSA members will work on the issues. The Austin DSA co-chairs will coordinate with the issue committee co-chairs on the work. Austin DSA will form committees organically that reflect membership interests and avoid pro-forma committees.
Article III. Membership
Section 1. Membership
Members of the Austin Local DSA will be those individuals whose dues to national DSA are paid in full, who reside and/or work in the Central Texas area. It will be the responsibility of members to approve policies and guidelines for the operation of the Austin DSA, to elect delegates to the national convention, to vote on matters related to national policy, and to make recommendations on issues and other matters to the National Political Committee of DSA.
Section 2. Dues
The local chapter may establish a local pledge system of voluntary donations for its members.
Article IV. Local Meetings
Section 1. General Meeting
The Austin DSA Local will have monthly meetings every month if at all possible.
Section 2. Rules
Austin DSA shall be run according to procedures approved by the members, except that the presiding chair shall make all reasonable efforts to reach a consensus of those members present at the meeting. If, in the opinion of the presiding chair, a consensus is not possible, the chair may entertain a motion on the matter at hand. The motion shall be disposed of according to Robert’s Rules of Order, normally a majority vote.
Section 3. Special Meetings
In addition to the regular general meetings, Austin DSA can elect to have occasional special meetings when necessary to deal with pressing chapter business that cannot be effectively handled within the context of a general body meeting. Special meetings must be called and run in accordance with the following provisions:
- The Leadership Committee can, at any time, call a special meeting by a two-thirds vote.
- The general body can, at a regular general body meeting, call a special meeting by a two-thirds vote.
- The scope of special meetings will be limited to the specific topic or topics named in the call for the meeting. At a special meeting, no business can be disposed of, and no decisions made, that aren’t directly related to the specific subjects or issues.
- Special meetings shall be chaired and have the agenda set by the co-chairs and Leadership Committee in the same fashion as regular general body meetings, except in the case of clear conflicts of interest, in which case the member who made the initial motion and the Leadership Committee shall agree on a neutral party to chair and set the agenda for the meeting.
- To ensure that attendance of special meetings is broadly representative of the entire body of Austin DSA, quorum for a special meeting shall be two-thirds the average attendance of members in good standing at the previous three general body meetings. Otherwise, a meeting can be held, but no decisions made during the meeting shall be binding on the chapter.
- The date, time, and location of any special meeting shall be disseminated to the membership through all normal communication channels in use by the chapter at that time. At no time will a special meeting be held without 72 hours advance notice.
Article V. Leadership Committee
Section 1. Members and Terms
The Leadership Committee of the Austin DSA Chapter shall be the Officers (these will be two Co-chairs, the Secretary, the Treasurer, the Communications Coordinator, and the Membership Coordinator), and any At-large members. All positions shall be elected annually at the chapter convention.
Members of the Leadership Committee shall serve one year, or until their successors are elected. The term of the Leadership Committee begins on the first day of the next month following the annual chapter convention.
In the time between the annual convention and the start of the next Leadership Committee term, the sitting leadership committee will be considered an interim body and will be prohibited from approving expenditures of chapter funds greater than $100, outside of regular, recurring expenditures without prior approval of the general body.
Elections for the Leadership Committee will be held according to the rules set forth in Article IX (Nominations and Elections) and Article XIII (Chapter Convention). All positions shall be elected at-large. The Officers and the At-large members are determined as follows:
- The Nominations and Elections Committee shall tabulate the result of the contest and rank the candidates from most to least-approved-of or highest to lowest-scoring, according to the method selected by the membership.
- The two-highest ranked candidates shall be offered Co-chair positions, however, at no time shall two men be Co-chairs. If the top two candidates both identify as male, then the male with the higher rank is offered a Co-chair position, and the highest ranking candidate who does not identify as male is offered the other Co-chair position. Should an elected candidate wish to decline the position, the next-highest ranked candidate will be offered the position until a member accepts and the diversity requirement is met.
- The remaining candidates shall be seated in descending order until no vacancies remain.
- The remaining Officers are determined by vote from within the Leadership Committee-elect. However, if the Leadership Committee determines that no one on the Leadership Committee is qualified to fill the Treasurer role, then the Treasurer role may be appointed from the general membership. At that point the appointee assumes the title, duties, and authorities of that Officer role but shall not have a vote in Leadership Committee meetings, nor count towards meeting the diversity requirement defined below.
- The remaining seated candidates not selected for an officer position become At-large members of the Leadership Committee.
Section 2. Diversity Requirements
- No more than half of the Leadership Committee shall be men and at least five members must be people from traditionally marginalized groups, such as those based on race, ethnicity, sexuality, ability, religion, nationality, etc., as self-identified.
- n the event that the results of the election do not meet the diversity requirements as defined above, the Elections Committee and chapter Co-Chairs will determine who is seated on the Leadership Committee. Because candidates may fit into multiple categories named in the diversity requirements, there may arise times when multiple possible solutions exist to meet the diversity requirements. The chapter will use the following procedure to make sure the Leadership Committee meets the diversity requirements.
- The Elections Committee will determine the number of spots by which the election results fall short of the various diversity requirements.
- The Elections Committee will identify the highest scoring candidates who are part of the categories from the diversity requirements that are not reflected in the results of the election
- The Elections Committee will identify the lowest scoring candidates within the top 11 who do not meet the categories from the diversity requirements.
- The Elections Committee will identify a way of meeting the diversity requirements by unseating the fewest possible candidates within the top 11 and replacing them with the highest scoring candidates available who are part of the categories from the diversity requirements. The Elections Committee will present their decisions to the chapter co-chairs for verification.
- If the chapter co-chairs and Elections Committee disagree on the proper way to meet the diversity requirements, the chapter will make a decision at the next scheduled general body meeting. The co-chairs and Elections Committee will each make recommendations to the chapter, who will vote on which to approve by secret ballot.
Section 3. Responsibilities and Quorum
- The Leadership Committee shall meet as a whole at least once per month if possible (in person, by conference call, or electronically). Meetings shall be open to chapter members unless the committee goes into executive session to discuss sensitive financial or personal matters by two-thirds vote of the committee.
- The Leadership Committee shall concern itself primarily with establishing program activities and proposing guidelines for consideration by the general membership.
- The Leadership Committee shall be responsible for providing the organizational infrastructure required for the Chapter’s meetings and for members to accomplish projects and tasks within working groups and committees.
- The Leadership Committee is responsible for organizing efforts to satisfy DSA’s priorities within Austin DSA’s jurisdiction, as determined by the general membership.
- The Leadership Committee shall be responsible for acting on the organization’s behalf between the Annual Convention and General Meetings, and may establish standing rules to govern its activities.
- Quorum for the Leadership Committee shall be at least seven members.
- Should a member of the Leadership Committee request leave in writing, become incapacitated, or for whatever reason become unable to perform their duties as defined in this article, the committee may appoint a member in good standing to act for the absent elected member for a period not to exceed 60 days. Should the committee member not return to their elected position after 60 days have passed, the position shall be considered vacant and the acting member will continue to hold the position until an election for a permanent replacement can be held, per Section 10 of this article.
Section 4. The Co-Chairs
The Co-Chairs will be the executive officers of Austin DSA. They will preside over Austin DSA meetings. The Chairs will initiate such actions and policies as the Austin DSA’s general welfare may demand and they and their designees will be the official public spokespeople for Austin DSA.
The Co-Chairs will be responsible also for coordinating the day-to-day operations and political work of the Chapter’s committees with their several chairs.
The Co-Chairs will ensure effective communication with the National DSA.
Section 5. The Secretary
The Secretary shall take the minutes of Austin DSA meetings, distribute the minutes of those meetings to the membership, and handle administrative tasks as directed by the Co-chairs or at the request of fellow Leadership Committee members.
They shall collect and distribute the contact information of Leadership Committee members to facilitate the business of the chapter.
Section 6. The Treasurer
The Treasurer shall, as directed by the Leadership Committee, have care and custody of the general funds, securities, properties, and assets of the chapter.
They shall prepare and present a yearly financial report for the January meeting.
Section 7. Membership Coordinator
The Membership Coordinator shall ensure that records are kept of membership, both from membership rosters provided by the national DSA and from outreach of Austin DSA.
They shall be responsible for outreach and communication with new members, inquiries concerning membership or interest in Austin DSA, and any other tasks concerning growing, maintaining, or enhancing membership determined by the Leadership Committee or the Membership as a whole.
Section 8. Communications Coordinator
The Communications Coordinator shall be responsible for handling press inquiries, preparing press releases, and otherwise serving as the primary deputized spokesperson and media liaison for Austin DSA on behalf of the Co-chairs, and perform other duties related to external media and public outreach as assigned by the Co-chairs and fellow members of the Leadership Committee. They shall also establish procedures and coordinate external communications for committees, working groups, and members.
Section 9. At-Large Members
There shall be five At-Large Members of the Leadership Committee, who are elected to provide counsel and advice and complement the experience and diversity of the Leadership Committee.
At-Large Members may chair and serve on any committee required by the Leadership Committee or the Membership as a whole.
Section 10. Vacancies
All vacancies of Officers or members of the Leadership Committee, whether resulting from death, resignation or otherwise, may be temporarily filled through appointment by the Leadership Committee until a vote of the general membership can be held.
Section 11. Removal
Any Officer or member of the Leadership Committee may be removed by a two-thirds vote of the general membership. Any Officer or member of the Leadership Committee may resign in writing. An Officer may resign without ceding their place on the Leadership Committee.
Article VI. Committees
Section 1. Duration
The Local will have Committees, when needed. The Committees will have co-chairs appointed by the Chapter co-chairs and then approved or replaced by committee members.
Article VII. Delegates to National, Regional, and State Bodies
Section 1. Convention
Local delegates and alternates to the National Convention will be elected by full members of the local chapter of DSA. Elections for the National Convention delegation shall be held on the schedule announced by the national organization.
Article VIII. Prohibited Activity
The Austin DSA shall not engage in any activity prohibited by resolutions adopted by DSA’s National Convention or DSA’s National Political Committee.
Article IX. Nominations and Elections
Section 1. Nominations and Elections Committee
A three-member Nominations and Elections Committee shall be established at least one month prior to every election by vote at a Regular Meeting. It shall solicit and receive nominations for the positions to be elected, and tally the votes of the contests.
Section 2. Nominations Process
Nominations for any contest shall be opened one month in advance of the election. Nominations can be taken up to the election including the election meeting.
Section 3. Elections Process
Approval Voting: For all elections, the default voting method shall be approval voting where each voter may choose as many candidates as desired. The winner is the candidate chosen by the most voters.
Score Voting: By majority vote, the membership may choose to use score voting for any election using a 0-2 scale. For each candidate, a voter may choose 0 to indicate disapproval, 1 to indicate neutral, or 2 to indicate approval of that candidate. The winner of an election conducted with score voting is the candidate with the highest score. A voter who casts an incomplete ballot (does not indicate a score for every candidate) will be assumed to have voted 0 for any unmarked candidates. When counting ballots which contain all votes not clearly indicating a 1 or 2 (e.g., a check or X), votes for a candidate shall be counted as the highest score on the scale.
There shall be no proxy votes permitted, with exceptions made on a case by case basis by the co-chairs for members with disabilities or other mobility issues.
Article X. Amendments
Section 1. Annual Convention
Proposed amendments to these bylaws will be considered at the annual chapter convention. For a proposed amendment to be considered, it must include all specific language to be added, removed, or changed, have 20 cosponsors, and be submitted to the leadership committee not more than 90 days and not fewer than 30 days in advance of the annual convention. Amendments to these bylaws require a two-thirds vote and become effective on the first day of the next month following the annual convention, unless provided otherwise.
Any bylaws amendment necessitating a change in leadership composition must include timing for those changes to be made. Those changes, and any elections mandated by those changes, must take place no later than the second general body meeting after passage of the bylaws amendment or the chapter convention, whichever is sooner.
Section 2. Emergency Amendments
While every effort should be made to deal with bylaws during the annual convention, occasionally these bylaws may need to be changed between conventions. These bylaws may be amended at any other time with at least 30 days notice provided the submission meets one of the following criteria:
- An amendment is submitted to the Leadership Committee with 20 members in good standing signing as co-sponsors, and is accepted by a two-thirds majority for consideration at the next general meeting
- An amendment is submitted to the Leadership Committee for consideration at the next general meeting with 25 members in good standing signing as co-sponsors, with no more than 30 days having passed between the initial co-sponsor’s signature and the 25th co-sponsor’s signature.
Members will receive notice of any proposed amendments from the Secretary in a timely fashion after the change has been submitted in accordance with this article. Emergency amendments may be adopted by a two-thirds vote, and become effective immediately unless provided otherwise.
Section 3. Co-sponsors
All co-sponsors for bylaws amendments must be members in good standing. All names of co-sponsors must include the date and time of co-sponsorship. Co-sponsorship must take place after the specific language of a bylaws amendment has been finalized, and any subsequent changes to the bylaws amendment cannot be made without co-sponsors re-affirming their co-sponsorship with an updated date and time.
Article XI. Rules of the Local
Section 1. Rules
Austin DSA will run on majority rule and with an opportunity for minority opinions to be heard. Members in good standing who attend a meeting can vote. There shall be no proxy votes or bullet votes permitted.
Article XII. Jurisdiction
The Austin DSA area shall be Austin, Texas and Central Texas from Waco to San Antonio. The core area of Austin DSA will include Austin/Travis County, Bastrop County, Williamson County, Burnet County, Blanco County, Hays County, and Caldwell County. Austin DSA will accept members from the Waco, Temple, Killeen areas until such time as DSA members can form a DSA Organizing Committee in the Waco, Temple, and Killeen areas. Austin DSA will accept members from the San Antonio area until such time we can help form a San Antonio Area Organizing Committee.
Article XIII. Chapter Convention
Section 1. Purpose
A chapter convention, distinct from the general body meetings, will be the chief opportunity for the entire chapter to make decisions that will guide the chapter’s work for the coming year. At the chapter convention, the general body votes on the chapter’s Leadership Committee for the coming year, the chapter’s priorities for the coming year, and any amendments to these bylaws the general body deems necessary.
Section 2. Notice and Timing
When possible, the chapter convention shall be held each January to avoid overlapping with major elections or holidays. The chapter convention shall be held on a Saturday or Sunday. Notice of the location and rough agenda for the convention will be sent to the membership at least 14 days before the convention through all normal communication channels in use by the chapter at that time.
Section 3. Accessibility
Since the chapter convention will hold considerable importance to the chapter’s work, every effort should be made to make the convention accessible. The convention will be held in a location accessible for people with disabilities. Childcare and food should be provided. To ensure a high level of participation, signed proxy voting will be allowed for the convention. All signed proxies must be submitted to the Leadership Committee at least seven days in advance, and no member will be allowed to serve as more than one member’s proxy.
Section 4. Amendments to the Bylaws
At the annual convention, bylaws changes will be voted on by members of Austin DSA in good standing in accordance with the rules set forth in Article X of this document.
Section 5. Priorities Resolutions
At the annual convention, priorities resolutions will be voted on by members of Austin DSA in good standing. Priorities resolutions are intended to guide the chapter’s activities for the following year, but will not serve as strict limits on the chapter’s activities or the activities of its leadership.
All priorities resolutions must be submitted to the chapter’s co-chairs with at least 20 members in good standing signing as co-sponsors. No member shall co-sponsor more than two sets of priorities resolutions. All resolutions must feature at least two, and no more than five, individual internal or external priorities for the chapter’s activities for the upcoming year. Resolutions shall be voted on as entire documents, not as individual priorities.
Section 6. Leadership Committee Elections, Special Provisions
The chapter’s elected leadership as described in Article V shall be elected by secret ballot at the annual chapter convention per Article IX of these bylaws except for the following provisions:
- Nominations for the Leadership Committee will open 30 days before the annual convention.
- All nominees must be members of DSA in good standing.
- Nominees must be nominated at least five days in advance of the annual convention, and must confirm their willingness to serve and supply a photograph and a statement at least five days in advance of the annual convention.
- Any ties that may occur during leadership elections will be settled by a runoff election at the next general body meeting.
- The terms of the Leadership Committee currently serving (as of August 16, 2018) shall be extended as an interim body to allow for elections at the inaugural chapter convention. Between December 1st, 2018 and the inaugural chapter convention, the current Leadership Committee shall be considered an interim body and shall be held to the same restrictions regarding expenditures as described in Article V, Section 1.