Bylaws of the Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America

These bylaws have been updated to reflect the amendments passed at the Pittsburgh DSA Founding Convention on June 3, 2017 and an amendment related to quorum passed at the November 2017 General Meeting.


Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists of America (hereinafter “Pittsburgh DSA”) is a local chapter of the national organization Democratic Socialists of America.

ARTICLE II. Purpose.

The Pittsburgh Local of the Democratic Socialists of America seeks to facilitate the transition to a truly democratic and socialist society, one in which the means/resources of production are democratically and socially controlled.

DSA rejects an economic order based solely on private profit, alienated labor, gross inequalities of wealth and power, discrimination based on race and sex, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo.

DSA envisions a humane social order based on popular control of resources and production, economic planning, equitable distribution, gender and racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships.

Our conception of socialism is a profoundly democratic one. It is rooted in the belief that human beings should be free to develop to their fullest potential, that public policies should be determined not by wealth but by popular participation, and that individual liberties should be carefully safeguarded. It is committed to a freedom of speech that does not recoil from dissent, to a freedom to organize independent trade unions, women’s groups, political parties, and other formations — recognizing these as essential bulwarks against the dangers of an intrusive state. It is committed to a freedom of religion that acknowledges the rights of those for whom spiritual concerns are central.

We are socialists because we are developing a concrete strategy for achieving that vision. In the present, we are building a visible socialist presence within the broad democratic left. In the long run, we hope to build a majority movement capable of making democratic socialism a reality in the United States. Our strategy acknowledges the class structure of the U.S. society. This class structure means that there is a basic conflict of interest between those sectors with enormous economic power and the vast majority of the population.

ARTICLE III. Membership.

Section 1. Membership

Members of the Pittsburgh Local DSA, also known as Pittsburgh DSA, will be those individuals whose dues to national DSA are paid in full, who reside and/or work in the Pittsburgh area. It will be the responsibility of members to approve policies and guidelines for the operation of the local chapter, 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. Removal of Members

Members can be suspended or expelled if
* they are found to have harassed or acted violently against another member
* they are found to be in substantial disagreement with the principles or policies of the organization
* they consistently engage in undemocratic, disruptive behavior
* they are acting in a concerted manner in the DSA under the directive of any self-defined democratic-centralist organization

In any of these cases, the Local may vote to expel the offending member from DSA. In order for such a finding to be made, another DSA member must formally proffer written charges against the member in question to the Local Steering Committee, which shall set the date of a Local meeting for deliberations on the charges. The member in question must receive a copy of the written charges and notice of the meeting a minimum of two weeks before that meeting takes place. Expulsion of a member or affiliate member requires a two-thirds vote of the Local meeting. An expelled full member may appeal to the National Political Committee of DSA.

Section 3. Voluntary Dues.

The Local chapter may establish a Local pledge system of voluntary donations for its members. Payment of local dues is entirely voluntary, and not a condition for membership in Pittsburgh DSA.

ARTICLE IV. Local Meetings.

Section 1. Local Convention.

The Local will hold a minimum of one Local Convention every year, and all members of the Local will receive three weeks written (or electronic mail) notice and an agenda of the Local Convention. The Local Convention will elect Local officers and may adopt an annual budget. In general, it is the highest legislative body of the Local.

No less than 30 days before a Local Convention, the Steering Committee must via email solicit bylaw amendment proposals from the general membership. Proposed amendments to these Bylaws must be made by written resolution, endorsed by five members of the Local chapter of DSA, and submitted to the Steering Committee no less than 15 days in advance of the Local Convention. The amendment must be approved by a majority vote of the Local Convention.

Section 2. General Meetings.

The Local will hold General Meetings at least four times annually, the time and place of which shall be set in a schedule published and distributed by the Local Steering Committee. The General Meetings will set Local policy and work priorities, and will include political education sessions.

The Local Steering Committee will set the agenda for General Meetings.

Section 3. Emergency Meetings.

The Local Steering Committee may call an Emergency Meeting of the Local on five days notice when an urgent and important matter requires deliberation.

Section 4. Quorum.

A quorum of 15% of the members (but not fewer than 5 persons) is required for General or Emergency Meetings to transact business.

ARTICLE V. Local Officers: Powers and Duties.

Section 1. Officers and Terms

The officers of the Local will be the two Co-Chairs, the treasurer, the secretary, and up to 7 additional at-large members who form the Local Steering Committee. The term of office will be one year, and shall run from 1 October to 30 September of the following year or until successors are elected; for the period following the first Local Convention of the Pittsburgh DSA, the term will run from 1 July 2017 through 30 September 2018.

Section 2. Vacancies.

In the event of a vacancy of any of the officers, the Steering Committee may vote to elect a new officer in replacement for the remainder of the term.

Section 3. Co-Chairs.

a) The Co-Chairs will be the chief Steering officers of the Local. They will preside over Local and Steering Committee meetings or will appoint a substitute to assume the powers and duties of the presiding officers as specified in Robert’s Rules of Order. The Co-Chairs will be the official public spokespersons for the Local, and will initiate such actions and policies as the Local’s general welfare may demand.

b) The Co-Chairs will be responsible also for coordinating the day-to-day operations and political work of the Local’s branches and committees.

c) The Co-Chairs will report to Local General Meetings on the business of the Steering Committee Meetings, at which time a copy of the minutes of those meetings will be available for inspection.

d) At least one of the two Co-Chairs must be a self-identified woman.

Section 4. Secretary

The Secretary will be responsible for recording minutes of the general and steering committee meetings. The Secretary will lead a committee responsible for managing the Local’s membership database

Section 5. Treasurer.

The Treasurer will be responsible for the funds and financial records of the Local. All funds collected by the Local will be turned over to the Treasurer, who shall deposit them in a bank account under the name of the Local. The Treasurer will be responsible for ensuring that membership dues are paid up-to-date. The Treasurer will prepare the annual Local budget, and deliver the Local financial report to the General Meeting of the Local, as well as periodic progress reports as requested by the Steering Committee of the Local.

Section 6. At-Large Members.

The Local Steering Committee may elect up to seven (7) At-Large Members to the Local Steering Committee as representatives of the Local and its diverse political views.

At-Large Members will be responsible for any additional duties and responsibilities that the Local Steering Committee determines are necessary, including participating in Local Committees, fundraising, developing campaigns, planning educational programming, acting as representatives of the Local, networking with other organizations or activists in the region, etc.

ARTICLE VI. Steering Committee.

Section 1. Composition.

The Local Steering Committee will be composed of the two Co-Chairs, the secretary, the treasurer, and up to seven (7) At-Large Members. No more than 60 percent of the Steering Committee members may be self-identified men.

Section 2. Duties.

a) The Steering Committee administers the affairs of the Local and oversees the implementation of the decisions of the General Meetings; it may also create policy in-between Local Conventions. It shall have the power to receive reports of any Committee and advise thereon, to call emergency meetings of the Local, and to act on any matter that requires immediate and urgent action. The Steering Committee is the regular Steering body of the Local, and thus subordinate to its Legislative bodies, the Local Convention.

b) The Local Steering Committee will be responsible for establishing program activities for the Local chapter, for proposing guidelines and policies that will subsequently be voted on by full members of DSA, and for acting on the organization’s behalf between Local meetings.

Section 3. Termination of Steering Committee Members.

The Steering Committee may vote to remove a member from the committee in the event that the member is unable or unwilling to perform their duties. Grounds for termination include: missing more than two (2) Steering Committee meetings in a row, failure to participate in at least one (1) additional local ad hoc committee, mismanagement of funds, etc. The Steering Committee must notify the member in writing of the termination and may request to appeal the decision at a meeting of the full Local. Reinstatement of a terminated Steering Committee member requires a two-thirds vote of the Local meeting.

Section 4. Meetings.

The meetings of the Steering Committee will be held at the call of the Co-Chairs at such intervals as may be determined by a prior Steering Committee Meeting or by consultation with any three members of the Steering Committee. All members of the Steering Committee must (ordinarily) be given four days oral or written notice of regular Steering Committee Meetings; a 24-hour notice may be given under special emergency circumstances.

Section 5. Quorum.

A quorum of five members of the Steering Committee is required for the transaction of Steering Committee business.

Section 6. Confirmation.

a) At least one General Meeting must be held between the Local Convention and the beginning of the newly-elected officers’ terms. Following the election of officers at a Local Convention, the four officers-elect may nominate up to seven (7) at-large Steering Committee members to serve in the term in question. The proposed Steering Committee must be confirmed by a 60 percent vote of a General Meeting before any officers may take office for the term in question. The proposed Steering Committee members must be announced in writing to the membership at least seven (7) days in advance of this meeting.

b) If the Steering Committee votes to additional at-large members and/or fill any vacancy during the course of their term, these votes must also be confirmed by a 60 percent vote at a General Meeting no more than 30 days after their appointment.

ARTICLE VII. Branches.

Section 1. Definition.

A branch is a subgroup of the Local consisting of at least five full members in good standing with national DSA. Branches may be defined by geography, work site, constituency (e.g., labor, minority, feminist), or area of political work (e.g., peace action, environmental movement). The chairs of branches will hold membership on the Local Steering Committee.

Section 2. Youth Sections.

Branches established on college campuses and consisting of students will be called Local Youth Sections. Youth Sections must have at least five full members in good standing with national DSA. The chairs of Local Youth Sections will hold membership on the Local Steering Committee.

ARTICLE VIII. Committees.

Section 1. Duration.

The Local will have Ad Hoc Committees, which will exist for a limited and explicit duration. Ad Hoc Committees may be established by a vote of full members at a General Meeting of the Local or by the Steering Committee.

Section 2. Duties.

Chairs of Ad Hoc Committees will keep the Steering Committee and the General Meetings of the Local informed on the activities of the committee.

ARTICLE IX. Delegates to National, Regional, and State Bodies.

Section 1. Convention.

Local delegates and alternates to the National Convention will be elected by the members of the Local. Elections for the National Convention delegation shall be held on the schedule announced by the national organization.

ARTICLE X. Prohibited Activity.

The Pittsburgh Local shall not engage in activity prohibited by the IRS guidelines established for 501 (c) 4 organizations or similar rules established by the state of Pennsylvania; Nor shall the local engage in any activity prohibited by resolutions adopted by DSA’s National Convention or DSA’s National Political Committee.

ARTICLE XI. Nominations.

Section 1. Nominations Committee.

A three-person Nominations Committee shall be established at least one month prior to every election by vote of a Local Convention. It shall solicit and receive nominations for the positions to be elected.

Section 2. Nominations Process.

Nominations for Local officers and delegates to the National Convention shall be opened 30 days before and closed 5 days prior to the Local Convention. The call for nominations shall be announced to full members of DSA in advance of the General Meeting.

The local Steering Committee will release an application for nominees that must be submitted to the Steering Committee no less than 5 days prior to the Local Convention for candidates to be eligible for the election.

No member may join the Steering Committee until they have been a dues paying member and participated in the local for 6 consecutive months. For the Local’s first Steering committee, the requirement will be 3 consecutive months.

Section 3. Uncontested Positions.

If a position is uncontested, the nominee will be declared elected by acclamation.

ARTICLE XII. Amendments.

Proposed amendments to these Bylaws must be made by written resolution, endorsed by five members of the Local chapter of DSA, and submitted to the Steering Committee a month in advance of a General Meeting. The Steering Committee is required to provide the Local membership with two weeks’ written notice of the proposed amendments. The amendment must be approved by a majority vote of a General Meeting.

ARTICLE XIII. Voluntary Local Dues.

The Local reserves the right to collect voluntary quarterly dues from full members, in addition to the dues paid by members to DSA nationally. The amount of voluntary local dues will be voted on in the budget during the Local Convention or set by the Steering Committee. Local dues will be collected at the General Meeting. Payment of local dues is entirely voluntary and not a condition for membership in Pittsburgh DSA.

ARTICLE XIV. Rules of the Local.

Section 1. Rules.

The Rules contained in Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, shall govern this Local in cases to which they are applicable and in which they are not inconsistent with these Bylaws. Consensus decision-making is desirable where feasible, but meetings must submit to Robert’s Rules of Order upon the request of a member.

Section 2. Action Out of Order.

Any action taken by an officer or member of the Local in contravention of these Bylaws is null and void.

Article XV. Provisions for a Vacant Steering Committee.

Should the steering committee be for any reason vacant, including in the time period before the founding convention of Pittsburgh DSA, the following clauses go into effect:

1. The Organizing Committee, open to all members as defined in Article III, shall conduct itself according to The Rules contained in Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised. The Organizing Committee shall seek to carry out any necessary functions enumerated for the Steering Committee in these bylaws, but may be overridden in all cases by a simple majority vote of attendees of a General Meeting.

2. Within 30 days of the existence of the vacancy, a date for a local convention, including the election of officers and the bylaw amendment process spelled out in Article IV, must be set.