The leadership of Penn Justice Democrats voted to rebrand their organization as Penn Young Democratic Socialists of America.
Penn YDSA representatives said that they made the change in August with the goal of facilitating collaboration with other leftist organizations. The group is now able to work with DSA chapters across the country, including Philly DSA and YDSA chapters at other universities.
Penn YDSA organizing director, former staffer at The Daily Pennsylvanian, and College senior Ben Moss-Horwitz said that the club hopes that this change will allow them to further their original policy goals.
In a press release sent to the Penn Justice Dems listserv on Aug. 17, the club leadership stated that the group "remain[s] committed to our policy goals and ideology of Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, education for all, housing for all, and justice for all."
“A lot of people used to think we were just a left segment of Penn Dems,” Moss-Horwitz said. "We had to be for something as opposed to just relatively left of something else.”
The club was formed during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary elections as Penn for Bernie. They raised over $1,000 to send five students to canvas in New Hampshire ahead of the state's primary election. After Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) dropped out of the race, the club became known as "Penn Justice Dems" in April 2020.
PJD decided to rebrand as Penn YDSA because the club members were no longer satisfied with the national Justice Democrats organization and the candidates that the Justice Democrats were supporting, according to Communications Director and College senior Matthew Liu.
“We felt that the National Justice Democrats organization has been a little bit ineffective,” Liu said. “And the politicians that the National Justice Democrats have endorsed in the House and Senate have oftentimes not been quite as effective as we wanted them to be.”
Penn YDSA plans to be involved in the midterm elections and labor organizing this semester, Liu said. He said this includes supporting Starbucks employees around Philadelphia who are fighting for union recognition.
Penn YDSA has been active in supporting the Coalition to Save the UC Townhomes in recent months and plans to continue supporting this movement. Members of Penn YDSA were involved with the protest during first-year convocation on Monday, interrupting Penn President Liz Magill's speech, according to Moss-Horwitz.
Penn YDSA also plans to “include more community organizing and activism to a broader scale that the club hasn’t seen in a while,” College sophomore and recruitment chair Pavel Castillo said.
Castillo added that Penn YSDA is planning to strengthen relationships with other Penn organizations, such as Fossil Free Penn, Police Free Penn, and Penn Students Against the Occupation this semester.
While the goals of Penn YDSA are similar to that of PJD, the club members are hopeful that rebranding as YDSA will help further their agenda.
“I think that by embracing this new label of YDSA, we’re able to communicate what binds together the broad left agenda, which is working class politics,” Moss-Horwitz said. “There is a labor movement sweeping this country, and I am excited for us to be a part of it.”