Angela Xiao

Close to a hundred people gathered in a conference room on Sunday afternoon to discuss Democratic Socialist politics and their visions for Connecticut’s future.

The Central Connecticut chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA, met at the Planned Parenthood of Southern New England on Whitney Avenue for their monthly general assembly meeting. The group became an official chapter of the nationwide organization between its March meeting and Sunday. Individuals from various branches of the socialist chapter across the state and related organizations attended the meeting to discuss the upcoming presidential election and their stance on minimum wage in Connecticut.

“It starts with the fact that we know that our enemies — bosses and big corporations and other members of the capitalist class — are extremely organized and have a statewide strategy,” Becky Simonsen, a member of the chapter’s steering committee, told attendees. “The strength of our organization relies on our size, our unity and our ability to influence public policy and to exert power in whatever campaign we’re running.”

Attendees discussed “Fight for 15,” which describes the legislative effort to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the state. Connecticut’s current hourly minimum wage is $10.10 — almost $3 more than the national figure. A bill regarding an increase in minimum wage to $15 — a figure widely cited by progressive activists throughout the country — has already passed the Connecticut General Assembly’s Labor and Public Employees Committee. The resolution is awaiting a hearing date before the entire General Assembly votes on it.

The proposal for a higher minimum wage reflects the group’s values and hopes for an “end to austerity and class inequality, end to patriarchy and end to white supremacy,” said Puya Gerami, another member of the steering committee.

The issues that matter in Connecticut, speakers said, matter at the national level too. Despite the fact that Connecticut is a relatively small state, both in footprint and in population, organizers claimed that local popular organization could impact national outcomes.

Kevin Burgos, who leads the Fight for 15 in Hartford, rallied the group and told its members that Connecticut is “big about the people” despite its small population.

The national DSA recently officially endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The Independent senator, who challenged Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, is running again in 2020. The DSA was an early supporter of Sanders’ first bid for the nation’s top office. Now, with early primaries still months away and the Democratic field for president increasingly crowded, the organization has again jumped in to endorse Sanders.

Members of the chapter steering committee emphasized to attendees that the national endorsement of Sanders did not dictate individual chapter’s endorsements, since local chapters can determine among themselves whether or not to actively support the national endorsement. If the chapter decides to back the endorsement, members can also determine to what extent they want to contribute to Sanders’ campaign.

The Democratic Socialists of America is an organization founded in 1982 with roots in the Socialist Party of America. The Central Connecticut chapter of the organization began in New Haven and now has branches in various nearby towns, including Wallingford, Middletown, Bridgeport and Hartford.

The group emphasized its goal of building a political coalition throughout Connecticut’s 169 towns in an attempt to create more “equality” in what they described as one of the nation’s wealthiest but also most unequal states.

The Democratic Socialists of America were founded in 1982 by Michael Harrington.

Angela Xiao | angela.xiao@yale.edu .