Statement on Pittsburgh DSA Endorsement of Mik Pappas

Earlier this week, Judge Ron Costa, Sr. circulated to the residents of the 31st Magisterial District a letter about the candidacy of Mik Pappas, an independent progressive candidate for judge who received the Pittsburgh DSA’s endorsement. In this letter, Costa referred to the Democratic Socialists of America as a “splinter group that has called for the elimination of prisons and police as well as drastic changes to our laws” and wrote that a judge’s job is not to “rewrite” or “interpret [laws] to suit themselves.”

We were surprised to see the amount of ink dedicated to the DSA, but we can conclude that it’s a reflection of the energy our chapter has put into supporting Mik Pappas’s campaign. Our members have given hundreds of volunteer hours and knocked on hundreds of doors, and in the process we are building real power by having important conversations with our friends and neighbors about the impact that district judges have in our communities.

Referring to the DSA as a “splinter group” is meant to sound scary, but it’s not accurate. The DSA isn’t a splinter of anything—we are a national political organization over 30,000 members strong, with chapters in every state, representing the vibrancy of the American left. The Pittsburgh DSA has almost 400 members, and we’re growing every day. Because at the heart of our politics is a vision for a fully democratic system, in which decisions about our economy and our society are made democratically to meet public need, not to enrich a select few.

At the DSA’s convention this past August, the largest gathering of American socialists in generations, delegates from around the nation voted to endorse a resolution that read: “While reforming prisons to improve the conditions of those currently incarcerated is a worthwhile goal, we must keep in mind our eventual goal is the abolition of prisons.” What does prison abolition mean? It means that we recognize the inherent injustices in the United States carceral system, and it means that we seek to combat the rising tides of eviction and the criminalization of addiction in our neighborhoods. Prison abolitionists organize around reforms like ending solitary confinement and capital punishment and building different ways of resolving societal conflicts that do not lock people away, especially when relying on a cash bail system that punishes those who can’t pay up, leaving them to languish in prisons for months while they await a trial.

The Pittsburgh DSA endorsed Mik Pappas because we believe he will analyze each case that comes before him on its merits—recognizing that there are disparities inherent in our justice system—rather than rubber stamp eviction notices, or lock up non-violent offenders in an effort to look “tough on crime.” The Pennsylvania Code of Judicial Ethics requires that a judge “uphold and promote the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary,” but it also calls for judges to “[promote] understanding of and confidence in the administration of justice” and to “promote access to justice for all.”

Mik Pappas has said that he will serve as a district judge in order to be a peacekeeper in our communities. The Pittsburgh DSA stands behind its endorsement of Pappas for district judge in the 31st District, and we will continue to organize in Pittsburgh for our vision of a more just society.

In solidarity,

Arielle Cohen and Adam Shuck, Pittsburgh DSA co-chairs

Single-Payer Campaign Statement on Trump ACA Subsidies Order

We, the members of the Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, believe healthcare is a universal human right, and are committed to the fight for health justice. As socialists we recognize that the interests of the private health insurance industry are in conflict with the needs and rights of the people. The profit motive of the industry leads inevitably to the exploitation of the sick and is a hindrance to the efficient and equitable delivery of quality care for all.

With this in mind we condemn Donald Trump’s “Executive Order Promoting Health Care Choice and Competition Across the United States” along with his decision to stop federal payment toward ACA cost-sharing subsidies.

Although the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act does not eliminate private interests from our health care system, it does provide significant protections. Among other things it prohibits discrimination by insurers against those with pre-existing conditions, provides cost-sharing subsidies for the economically disadvantaged and virtually eliminates “junk insurance” plans by setting “minimum essential coverage” standards. Donald Trump’s executive order undermines these ACA protections.

The executive order opens the door for limited-duration insurance (a type of insurance meant to fill temporary gaps in coverage) and association plans to “compete” in the market with ACA compliant plans. These plans may attract individuals and small businesses with their low premiums, but can effectively bar patients with pre-existing conditions (one-in-four Americans) with prohibitively high costs or even refuse them coverage altogether. Prior to the ACA “junk insurance” plans like these typically had high copays and deductibles and were notorious for denying claims.

If healthier individuals opt for these cheap plans with poor coverage, those who remain in the ACA exchanges will face increasing costs. Insurance companies may decide to leave the exchanges as they are faced with an insurance pool consisting of a higher percentage of sick patients. The future of the ACA exchanges would be jeopardized. It is no secret that this is the exactly the result that Donald Trump and many other republicans are hoping for.

Trump promises relief, but for whom? Insurance companies will be relieved from their responsibility toward patients and free to pursue profit and investor interests, while many of us will face serious barriers to the healthcare we need and could lose access to that care entirely.

In our commitment to fight for health justice, it is imperative that we help defend the health care access of millions of our fellow citizens. To that end, our chapter is reaching out to ACA and Medicaid navigators to help folks with precarious coverage, or no coverage at all, get signed up for the best plans available at an upcoming DSA event.

We fight to defend the healthcare rights that we have, but we recognize that any healthcare system that treats illness as a commodity is bound to fail. As long as there is profit to be made in healthcare, there cannot be health justice. To be able to fight for the health and wellness of all people we must win a truly universal, single-payer healthcare system that guarantees coverage to all people. Presently millions of poor and underpaid workers who currently go without coverage, or never utilize the coverage they have because of prohibitive costs.

A single-payer system will empower the labor force of this country by decoupling health insurance from employment, freeing American workers from having to take or remain at jobs they hate due to fear of losing health benefits, and improving the leverage of organized labor during collective bargaining with employers.

And despite the false accusations of establishment politicians and corporate media, a single-payer system will be significantly more cost effective than our current one, and is the only way to effectively reign in the skyrocketing, market driven costs of healthcare in this country.

Access to quality healthcare is one of the most fundamental rights of all people. Winning a single-payer system is central to our fight for health justice.

Join us as we continue to educate, agitate, and organize to win single-payer healthcare!

In solidarity,

Pittsburgh DSA Single-Payer Campaign

Pittsburgh DSA Statement Regarding Danny Fetonte


We, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, call for Danny Fetonte to voluntarily step down from the DSA National Political Committee.

Failing that, we urge the rest of the NPC to remove him from office in accordance with the existing procedures.

In solidarity,

The Pittsburgh DSA Steering Committee on behalf of the general membership of the Pittsburgh DSA, as adopted August 14, 2017

Statement on Reproductive Justice

Pittsburgh DSA statement on reproductive justice

“Reproductive Justice (is defined) as the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” source: SisterSong

We believe reproductive justice exists when all people, in all communities, have the resources and power to make informed and independent decisions about their genders, bodies, sexualities, and families. We recognize that the barriers to safe and healthy reproductive lives are not alone a matter of legal restrictions but are deeply rooted in social, political and economic systems of power. Reproductive justice is a transformative framework, and our vision centers the leadership of the communities most impacted by reproductive oppression to remedy power inequalities and create long-term, systemic change.

The reproductive justice framework recognizes that all individuals are members of families and communities and that our strategies must lift up entire communities in order to support individuals. Intersectional feminism and reproductive justice are central to our ideals as democratic socialists. We are committed to reproductive health and autonomy in all its dimensions, including the economic dimension, which too often restricts the scope of reproductive choice and harms the well-being of individuals and families.

The current political climate has highlighted that vulnerable populations include patients, their families, clinic escorts, healthcare professionals and abortion providers. Specifically, abortion providers and their staff have faced harassment, threats, and violence for many years and have endeavored to make their clinics as safe and comfortable as possible for their employees, volunteers and the people who rely on their services. In particular, Pittsburgh’s chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America recognizes two essential agencies providing reproductive health care in Allegheny County: The Allegheny Reproductive Health Center and Planned Parenthood of Western PA.

We condemn the dubious practices of Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which spread dangerous misinformation, prey on low income families, and target communities of color throughout the region. We believe that comprehensive health care providers, their committed staff, and reproductive rights organizations that center the needs of people in our communities are the foremost authorities on reproductive justice. For this reason, we look to the leadership of these organizations in our efforts to protect and expand abortion rights and other reproductive rights. The occasion of patients’ appointments should never be a staging ground for conflict, and to treat them as such would only place yet another barrier between those in need of safe, affordable, and legal care and the agencies able to provide that care.

As we fight for reproductive justice, we aspire to amplify the voices of our community composed of patients, their families, clinic escorts, healthcare professionals, community organizers and abortion providers. The Pittsburgh DSA affirms a strong commitment to all fighting for reproductive justice.