Carl R. Opposition to Bylaw Amendment 2022-05-BA01: Expand the PEC and ensure branch representation


I am opposed to “Bylaw Amendment 2022-05-BA01: Expand the PEC and ensure branch representation” for a number of reasons that I think are important to highlight for our membership.

  1. Firstly, as the current chair of the Political Engagement Committee, I think this is the wrong time to introduce structural changes to the PEC. At this moment, we are currently in the middle of an application process to fill two seats on the body already, at one of the most sensitive times during our electoral work. If this bylaw amendment were to pass, we would need to go through another application process for the body, again during Get Out The Vote season. I do not think chapter resources, especially on a body directly tied to our electoral work, should be spent on internal organizing at this time—it is more important that we elect the two socialists running in Montgomery Country rather than focus on finding new members for the PEC. Passing this amendment now would, in my opinion, weaken the current electoral work undertaken by the Montgomery County Branch. Additionally, I think changes to chapter structures need to happen at convention. This is the best way to ensure that we have the broadest buy-in to our bylaw changes, and was the process taken in setting up the PEC back in 2020. I don’t think it’s good practice to try and avoid that buy-in. Combined, I think going through this bylaw change at this time is bad for the chapter.
  2. This bylaw amendment is internally inconsistent, and could result in a situation where the Steering Committee cannot follow the bylaws. As written, the PEC would have a set number of members—3 on the Steering Committee, and 4 who are not. But it also requires that the Steering Committee seat a member from each branch. If, in the future, the chapter organizes to have 8 branches, a new bylaw amendment would be required to change the number of seats on the PEC or to remove the rule requiring there must be one member from each branch simply for a bylaw-compliant PEC to be seated. Additionally, if there are not applications from members of each branch, it might be impossible to fill the PEC according to the bylaw—and if only one member from a branch applies, the Steering Committee may be forced to place someone on the PEC who is not the best option. This weakens the PEC, and our organizing in general, setting us up to less successfully campaign in the future.
  3. As written, the current bylaw for the PEC serves its purpose more effectively. Requiring representation of each of the jurisdictions serves a key purpose—it means that the PEC is aware of the legal and political environment in which our electoral organizing takes place. But requiring specific branch representation weakens this. If DC were to organize branches based on ward, we could easily see a situation in which PEC members are incentivized to fight for their branch’s interests, rather than the electoral interests of the chapter as a whole. By focusing on jurisdictions, we lessen this impact. And this matters: recommending which campaigns to endorse should be done with a focus on what the chapter as a whole will be able to actually win, not on what a specific part of the chapter would like to see happen. We are most effective when we direct our resources efficiently, and this bylaw amendment could weaken our ability to do that.
  4. I think this bylaw amendment lessens the democratic accountability of the PEC. As it currently exists, the PEC has a majority membership that has been elected by the general body—and who is directly responsible to them. This is a good democratic norm for the chapter to uphold! This bylaw amendment, however, would lessen the accountability of the PEC to the general body, as a majority of PEC members would not have had to win an election to serve on the PEC. I think this weakens our democratic structures.
  5. Finally, I believe this bylaw amendment was introduced with a lack of good faith. I don’t say that lightly, and I try to do my best to assume that all of us are always engaging with each other comradely, even when we disagree. Firstly, I know of at least one chapter member who was listed as a sponsor of the amendment, without being asked if they’d like to be one in the first place. After I followed up with the member, they were surprised they had been listed as a sponsor—and asked to be removed. That is not appropriate, from anyone in this organization. Secondly, the introducer of the bylaw amendment (comrade Abel A.) claims its purpose is to “ensure branch representation.” This is entirely at odds with Abel’s behavior as chair of the PEC. During that time, the PEC member from Virginia did not attend a single meeting of the body. Abel never once raised this as an issue either to the PEC or to the Steering Committee. To claim now that we need to reform the body in order to ensure branch representation, in my opinion, cannot be understood as done in good faith—Abel did not take the responsibility to ensure that same representation when chairing the PEC. In the third ‘Whereas’ paragraph in the resolution text, Abel claims that the committee has found it hard to manage its workload with only five members. I can’t judge if this is true or not, because we have been operating as a four person body this entire term (without Abel doing anything to rectify the situation when chairing the PEC), and I recommend chapter members take this ‘Whereas’ with a grain of salt. I urge all members to take this seriously; it’s important that we always act in good faith with one another.

It’s for these reasons that I encourage the general body to vote NO on this bylaw amendment.