May 1, 2020 Weekly Update

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UP FRONT

In this month’s edition of the Washington Socialist
On International Workers Day, May 1, we have the whole sweep of history around this date on the calendar. Current efforts of working-class uprising are recounted in “No Jobs? No Rent!”, which covers an active rent-strike ongoing in Alexandria, VA. National currents in charting the response of the far-right to economic and public health crisis are charted in “COVID-19 and the Assault on Democracy”, as MDC endorsed, insurgent candidate Mckayla Wilkes comments on the state of her race in an “Interview with Mckayla Wilkes”.

Understanding how workers, organizers, and socialists mobilized to confront economic hardship and exploitation are essential for any proper celebration of May Day. From the past: offerings ranging from Kurt Stand’s recounting of socialist roots in Maryland, to an archival article from the Fall 1987 issue of this newsletter exploring the common factors of all economic-crash recessions (keying on Reagan’s second-term slump).

As reflections continue to grow on Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, a recounting of MDC’s efforts to assist in political change are provided in “How did DSA Build Out of Bernie?” In thinking about how the political left will rebuild itself, “Navigating the Left-wing Rift” examines how the once friendly interactions between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren dissolved into hostility. And MDC members solicit ways they stay informed in “Podcasts on the Left”.


THE WEEKEND

Friday, May 1 | 10 AM to noon
May Day Car Rally - Southern Towers Rent Strike
4949 Seminary Rd, Alexandria VA 22311
On International Workers Day, we are rallying in solidarity with hundreds of tenants at Southern Towers who are demanding their landlord cancel rent during the pandemic.


BRIEFS

The April MDC DSA General Body Meeting was packed with info and action; here is the slide deck for the agenda. The meeting included a detailed financial report with advances in the participatory budgeting process, updates from NoVa and MoCo branches, a detailed presentation on the work of our chapter’s Ecosocialist Caucus, and last but hardly least info on the chapter wide, 2020-2021 Steering Committee election – for which emailed ballots went out to our paid-up members just this morning (12:01 AM May 1). If you believe you should have received a ballot but did not – after checking your spam folder, email tempelectionwg@mdcdsa.org

The Bernie campaign alters as conditions have changed, but as the co-chairs of our MDC DSA local chapter’s effort here declare, it was always about building a movement and still is. Here is their thank-you to comrades who knocked so many doors, and a salutary request to strengthen our local chapter’s work as we move into the next phase of struggle.

From Union City, newsletter of the DC Metropolitan Council AFL-CIO:

MoCo Council passes labor-backed rent freeze. A bill to freeze rent increases in Montgomery County during the COVID-19 emergency passed the County Council unanimously on Thursday. Bill 18-20 was supported by the Renter’s Alliance and the local labor movement. “Protecting renters and keeping rental housing affordable and stable is always critical for working families, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gino Renne, president of UFCW Local 1994, which represents more than 8,000 county employees. “The passage of Montgomery County’s Bill 18-20 requiring landlords to keep rent increases to the county guidelines will help ensure that our workers who live in rental housing won’t be prompted to move when staying at home and social distancing remain critical to public health.” The bill would still allow landlords to charge late fees. Councilmember Tom Hucker also offered an amendment that codifies the County’s voluntary Rent Increase Guidelines to cap rent increases at 2.6% and would extend the provisions of this measure for 180 days after the emergency has been lifted.
-David Stephen

In last week’s Update (April 24) we noted that on our day of publication Maryland would launch a one-stop unemployment insurance website to ease residents’ access to help as the pandemic’s grip has tightened on the state’s economy. In an oversight, we neglected to include a link to the highly touted new site. We thought that was a goof until now, but it appears the site has been swamped with applicants and plagued by crashes, as you see here. Published later, another account says a chunk of applicants are actually getting through, but as many or more are still frustrated. Neither article actually included the link to the site, which is given here, but warns applicants that it is operating slowly and has scheduled down times for maintenance. Maryland Matters’ reporter Danielle Gaines had this report Tuesday about the continuing issues with the site.

Also for Marylanders, the progressive state-based Job Opportunities Task Force has a handy how-to to make sure you get your share of stimulus support for families, whether you filed a tax return in the last two years (with or without SSI), didn’t file then or have never filed. Get chapter and verse on all variations here.

The co-authors of a core text for DSA’s ecosocialist Green New Deal – A Planet to Win – have gotten skilled at coordinating a real-time discussion of the book and it’s on display in a webinar and Q&A that ran last Sunday evening (April 26). Here is the recording with three of the four co-authors participating.


MDC DSA CALENDAR OF EVENTS FOR MAY AND BEYOND

Friday, MAY 1 | 10:00 AM to NOON
May Day Car Rally - Southern Towers Rent Strike
4949 Seminary Rd, Alexandria, VA 22311
On International Workers Day, we are rallying in solidarity with hundreds of tenants at Southern Towers who are demanding their landlord cancel rent during the pandemic.

Friday, May 1 | 6:30 PM
Socialist Night School: Socialists and the Labor Movement
The session will be led by Sam Nelson, MDC DSA Labor Working Group coordinator and a member of the Communications Workers of America. Virtual event

Friday, May 1 | 7:00 PM
NOVA Branch DSA May Day Celebration
Still feeling the BERN? Join the Northern Virginia Branch (NOVA) of the Metro DC Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) to celebrate May Day and learn how to direct your energy to organize in our local community!

Sunday, May 3 | 2:00 to 4:30 PM
MoCo DSA 🌹General Branch Meeting
The MoCO DSA branch will be connecting virtually for their monthly meeting.

Sunday, May 5 | 8:00 PM
MDC DSA Steering Committee Meeting
Metro DC DSA’s regularly scheduled Steering Committee meeting. For access, please check the #steering Slack channel or contact secretary@mdcdsa.org to obtain the password.

Thursday, May 7 | 6:30 PM
Socialist Night School: Neoliberalism
What is neoliberalism and how did it become hegemonic around the globe? How did the United States government use international financial institutions to push neoliberalism on other countries?

Sunday, May 9 | 3:00 to 4:30 PM
MDC DSA Ecosocialist Caucus
We’ll give updates on our No Pepco campaign, talk about what we accomplished during the Earth Day to May Day actions with ShutdownDC, and continue our reading club. New and old members welcome! Virtual meeting

Sunday, May 17 | 3:00 to 4:30 PM
MDC DSA General Body Meeting
Time provisional, and additional details to follow

Thursday, May 21 | 7:00 PM
NOVA Branch DSA Organizing Meeting Our monthly NOVA DSA organizing and planning meeting. We will be welcoming new members and continue discussing planning for our current actions and campaigns as well as expanded efforts to connect with local groups. As always, we will address any current issues from our communities and allied organizations, including efforts against the alt-right.


NATIONAL DSA EVENTS

Sunday, May 3 | 3:00 PM
DSA Ecosocialist Working Group: Decommodifying Survival during COVID-19

Tuesday, May 5 | 8:00 PM
Beyond Bernie: DSA Electeds on Building Power with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez
How can democratic socialists use elected office to organize around COVID-19 and chart a path forward for the Bernie movement? DSA elected officials cover the territory.

Thursday, May 7 | 8:00 PM
We Own the Future: A virtual Discussion with Kate Aronoff, Sarah Leonard, and Bill Fletcher Jr.
Leading socialist thinkers and activists come together to examine the United States’ own democratic socialist history and how we might achieve a world where every human being is guaranteed a life of safety, health, dignity, and even joy, free from the commodification of basic necessities.


EVENTS BY OUR ALLIES IN THE DMV

Friday, May 1 | 7:00 to 8:00 PM
NOVA Coalition to Repeal RTW welcomes Harold Meyerson, author and columnist, who will discuss labor and progressive movements in this time of pandemic and economic crisis in observance of May Day, International Workers’ Day! A virtual event; for access info, email [VirginiaDiamond24@gmail.com]

Friday, May 1 | 5:00 PM
ONE DC May Day Webinar
To commemorate International Workers Day, celebrating the struggle for workers’ rights. creating a space for community members to share and discuss the results of our COVID-19 survey and the impact of the pandemic on employment and housing, plus political education around racial capitalism and solidarity economics.

Friday, May 1 | 5:00 PM
Labor Notes – May Day: System In Crisis virtual discussion
Celebrate May Day with a discussion from leading labor voices about how we can build a radical working class response to the current crisis.

Friday, May 2 | 11:00 AM
Our Revolution Maryland Statewide Monthly Meeting
Our Chair Bob Muehlenkamp - a legend in the labor movement - is sitting down with Our Revolution Chair Larry Cohen - former CWA President, top Bernie Sanders advisor, and a legend in his own right - for an in-depth discussion on the direction of the progressive movement in Maryland and across-the-nation.

Friday, May 8 | 10:00 AM
MontCo/PG COPE legislative briefing
The MoCo/PGCo Committee on Political Education of the Metropolitan Washington Council will host a Legislative Briefing where the following elected officials will provide legislative updates related to Labor and COVID-19 from their purview.


INFO ACCESS

WG and campaign leaders: the Friday AM Update is built throughout the week in a Google Doc that can be shared with you on request, as it is with other campaign leaders. To get edit access, contact us at thesocialist@mdcdsa.org or in our #publications Slack channel.

Like all our working groups, the Pubs WG needs pitch-in from members: writing on subjects close to our socialist hearts (including what your WG/caucus/campaign has been doing or plans to do); editing, design, creating ‘zines and one-off flyers for our work, and doing website work to keep our MDC DSA profile on the new site dynamic. So fill out our contributor’s form and we’ll be in touch.

PUBLICATIONS SCHEDULE: May Updates will be sent Fridays, May 8, 15 and 22nd and the June issue of the Washington Socialist will be published Friday, May 29 with an article deadline Saturday, May 23. As always, submissions are welcome at thesocialist@mdcdsa.org. We welcome all comments, questions, or observed issues with the new site from members; please send notices through the Red Desk or notify us in our #publications slack channel.


COVID-19 NEWS

Click here to view our page dedicated to compiling local COVID-19 relief and resources links. We will begin collecting news and updates for COVID-19 relief and benefits specific news in this section of the Weekly Update.

April 27 - Bowser has announced leadership for the ReOpen DC Advisory Group. The plan asserts three phases of reopening: (1) emergency response; (2) stabilization - relaxing restrictions but closely monitoring and responding to negative metrics; and (3) long-term recovery, which will be started when a vaccine becomes widely available.

The Advisory Group should be an institution in the eyes of MDCDSA, as the group includes many large businesses and establishment politicians who may not have the best interests of the working-class in mind. The Group includes:

  • Michael Chertoff, founder of global security advisory firm Chertoff Group
  • Susan Rice, National Security Advisor under President Obama and US Representative to the United Nations from 2009-2017.
  • Jeff DeWitt - DC’s CFO.
  • Former DC Mayor Adrian M. Fenty
  • DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson
  • Beverly L. Perry, Senior Advisor to Mayor Bowser.
  • Former DC Mayor Anthony Williams

April 27 - Mayor Bowser has awarded $25 million in grants to 10 hospitals, to be distributed May 1, 2020. The Mayor also announced that the District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would convert the Convention Center into an alternate care facility to support the District’s response to COVID-19.

April 27 - A situational report released by the Mayor has noted 185 deaths related to COVID-19 - all of which are heavily concentrated among DC’s Black residents.

April 28 - DC government is taking steps to reach 100% coverage of grocery workers - and the plan has attracted support from UFCW Local 400.

April 29 - ReOpen DC has a survey available and is asking for input. A great way to make sure the city knows it needs to ensure its priorities lay with keeping the city’s workers safe.

April 29 - In national news, Trump had recently signed an executive order compelling meat processors to remain open through invocation of the Defense Production Act. Although the order is more bluster than significant policy action, the action demonstrates the fault-lines in the economic debate surrounding the “reopening” of the economy.


GOOD READS

Eric Dirnbach’s roundup in Medium, boosted in Portside, displays a terrific panorama of labor and workers (organized and otherwise) responding to the coronavirus pandemic. This single paragraph:

There’s been great reporting on labor struggles in Labor Notes, Organizing Work, PayDay Report, In These Times and other outlets. Let’s take a look at what’s happening around the labor movement.

will lead you to more coverage than you can get through in an unencumbered week; the full article includes some great meta-analysis of the landscape of workers struggling in the midst of ruin.

” In the midst of an economic crisis, can ‘degrowth’ provide an answer?”– Degrowthers are susceptible to caricature – but their ideas raise important questions about how, how much, and why we work, a New Left Review editor explains in The Guardian.

Nicholas Tooze, the best chronicler of the botched aftermath of the Great Recession, asks important questions about the post-Covid debt. “We know that there will be a towering pile of IOUs left from the bills run up during the crisis. When it is over we will have to figure out how to repay them – or whether to repay them at all. That question will decide the complexion of our politics, and the quality of our public infrastructure and services, for years to come. Unless we tackle this issue, coronavirus debts will be the battering ram for a new campaign of austerity.”

Not a big surprise, but while the big megabanks were stiffing small businesses to help giant franchise businesses leech off the stimulus money intended to sustain their smaller competitors, the banks also managed to pocket some of the goodies themselves.

An informative article on the scale of Covid deaths, despite everything that is being done to combat its spread. Covid now kills more than cancer in the United States.

One of the early GND-plus-recovery proposals from someone in government who can help bring it about. This proposal from a California congresswoman was brought to our attention by a local Maryland activist.