Amy Zachmeyer

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Amy Zachmeyer



Amy Zachmeyer is the co-chair of the Houston Democratic Socialists of America. She is a CPS Specialist I at Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. She is in a relationship with James Morris. She attended Texas A&M University.

Living socialism in Houston, with Amy Zachmeyer

Amy Zachmeyer was profiled by Sarah Jaffe at TruthOut[1] in September 2017 as a part of the Interviews for Resistance series, "a project of Sarah Jaffe, with assistance from Laura Feuillebois and support from the Nation Institute.

Excerpt:

"Today we bring you a conversation with Amy Zachmeyer, the co-chair for the Houston Democratic Socialists of America.

[...]

"Absolutely. That is something that I spoke about a little bit before we had any idea that this would happen. I spoke at the Democratic Socialists of America Convention about red state organizing. One thing I wanted people in blue states to understand is that when we talk about a socialist social safety net that we are describing something, to people in a red state, that has never existed for them or at least hasn’t in a very long time.
"We have massive privatization efforts here to privatize our social services, to privatize human suffering, essentially. When you try to explain to someone that we want more social services, they are thinking of a broken system that doesn’t really help anyone and doesn’t do what it is supposed to do. When we talk about things like Medicare for All, and now, again, in this case, people are seeing a lot of issues with receiving FEMA assistance and even just their food stamps — the system keeps going down. They are trying to get unemployment for their lost wages. That system keeps going down. In places like Texas, where our social safety net is extremely underfunded and privatized as much as possible, the help just isn’t there.
"When you are out on the ground, who are you seeing out in the neighborhoods doing the work besides DSA? Are you seeing the Red Cross? My experience after Sandy was that there is a lot of security and not a lot of service in a lot of places.
"During the curfew, I would see police out at night. Mostly, on my way home. I do not live in a wealthy neighborhood, but I drove through one to get home from downtown. The police would be lining the wealthy neighborhood watching who was coming in and coming out. Other than that, I haven’t seen a large law enforcement presence. Then, they had to make calls to civilians to bring out their boats because nothing like this was anything that I think any city could plan for. This flood was completely unexpected and catastrophic in a way that Houston has never seen.
"But, as far as who I have seen out helping, it has not been the Red Cross. I have not seen the Red Cross anywhere. I did not go to the George R. Brown shelter, which is one of the ones that they were running; but, I do hear a lot of stories coming out of that shelter now that it is kind of devolving into chaos. Then, a different group called BakerRipley is running the NRG Stadium shelter. It is, supposedly, running much more smoothly. I know some people that have family members staying there and they are reporting that it is very nice and that people feel safe.
"I have not seen the Red Cross out in the field doing any work in any way. I have seen Black Lives Matter Houston out doing what are called “muck and gut” operations at homes. I know unions have been out doing the work. The AFL-CIO here has been coordinating some efforts, as well as individual unions like the Texas State Employees Union and UNITE HERE. I have also seen churches out and about. A lot of people delivering food. A lot of people in teams literally going door-to-door, saying, “What can we help you with?” But, no, not government agencies and not the Red Cross. I have also seen insurance salesmen out and about.

[...]

"When this started, we knew that we were going to want to offer some sort of community service to Houston, but we had no idea, one, how bad it would get and, two, how much support we would receive nationally. We set our original fundraising goal at $10,000 and in our wildest dreams, we thought we would raise about $20,000 if things went extremely well. At this point, I think we are at about $113,000 raised so far. We immediately had to figure out how to put together something really big.
"I have been incredibly proud of our chapter and our national organization in that we have worked with disaster relief professionals to come up with a plan and do education within our chapter so that we are doing the right things and we are doing the most efficient things. Then, we have made a three-part plan. Our first goal is to [attend to] the undocumented community, because they do not qualify for federal funds and are in an extremely politically hostile environment with things like Senate Bill 4, which luckily did have a stay. But, until the last minute, you still had border patrol doing checkpoints and that kind of thing. We pledged to make a sizeable donation to an organization working specifically with the undocumented community, and we have been able to do some individual aid for undocumented families, as well.
"Then, our second plan is to direct aid through supplies and even some just straight financial aid, because we know that food and water is one thing, but there are lots of other needs and each family knows their own needs and we trust them to do that. We have no problem giving financial aid. Our third thing is doing our “muck and gut” operations, which is the largest amount of work. This is the most work I have done in my life, both physically and just as far as time goes. That is where you go into the home and you help remove all of the flood-damaged belongings, which is both a physical labor and an emotional labor, because you have a traumatized family who is watching and helping remove all of their objects. Everything they have worked hard for their entire lives. Every sentimental picture, ticket stub, all the things that they kept just being put in a huge pile on their lawn. So, there is a lot of emotional labor with that, as well.
"Then, after you get all the stuff out of the house, you figure out how high you need to remove the drywall and you remove all the drywall that you can, all the insulation you can, then spray it with a chemical. It is a ton of work and it is hot. You have to wear respirators. I have been extremely impressed with the outpouring of support that we have received through volunteers willing to do that.
"I want to talk about the importance of doing mutual aid work like this as DSA, as a left organization, and how that helps you build in the community.
"We are definitely reaching communities that probably don’t subscribe to Jacobin. It is not the same people that we reach via social media. So, to a certain extent, we are running into people who may not ever realize that they know a socialist. It is not part of the conversation. So, to have socialists out there wearing shirts that say “Houston DSA” on them and doing the work, showing that we are here to be in solidarity with them, that we believe that working people have to stick together and do work for working people to make sure we are all OK, and really living socialism in that way, has been amazing for us.
"I am hoping that, even if these people don’t immediately go and say, “Oh, now that my house just had all the drywall removed, let me sign up for the Democratic Socialists of America,” … [they will realize] that we are not just this thing that people complain about on Fox News….
"You mentioned that undocumented folks in the area are not eligible for federal aid. I wanted to ask about the connections between, of course, what people are facing in terms of “natural” disaster and the disaster that is the Trump administration for undocumented people in this country.
"It is just very scary. It has already been scary. It is extremely stressful for people. The fear is there that if you get pulled over or if ICE shows up at your house, you are going to get sent away. I don’t know if you have seen, but it has been reported that a DACA recipient actually died doing rescue here in Houston. People were willing to put themselves on the line. At the same time, we have to be willing to recognize that, regardless of citizenship status, the diversity of Houston is what makes Houston great and that the most vulnerable people are those who are not in a situation to be helped because of fear of our government. That is what happened with the Trump administration.
"But, even beyond that, our current governor, Greg Abbott, and our lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, they are just really at war on the undocumented. They do a lot of dog whistling and a lot of rhetoric around immigration and borders and walls and all of that. That has been going on here in Texas for some time. We have to make sure that people who feel vulnerable, people who are unprotected, and people who are under attack have a barrier between them and the government. I think DSA really hopes that we can help support that and give them aid without having to put them at risk.

[...]

"There are things that we can work to address politically. Then, there are ways that we can work to build outreach in the community so that our networks are better, were this to happen again, and we will be able to have an even greater reach. But, politically, there are things that I have been made more aware of — things that people always talk about, like housing or affordable housing being in flood plains. We always talk about these kinds of things, but now I see actionable items that have been highlighted by this disaster.
"Moving forward, we will be working with our city council and our mayor to educate them and push them to do the right things for the people of Houston, not just the developers in Houston, who have currently been the only people who have received any attention from them. Then, we will also be making sure that there are ways that we can reach out to people who are in need in Houston not just in times of crisis, but for the foreseeable future."

DSA

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In 2016, Houston Democratic Socialists of America Organizing Committee contact was Amy Zachmeyer.[2]
Amy Zachmeyer, James Morris

Endorsing Fetonte

Houston Democratic Socialists of America members who endorsed Danny Fetonte when he ran for DSA NPC in 2017 included Amy Zachmeyer, Connie Vazquez, Karina Quesada, Jerry Lynch, Judy Graves – Houston.[3]

Medicare for All

Democratic Socialists Medicare for All leaders, as of March 19 2018;[4]

Organizing Subcommittee

  • Amy Zachmeyer

#SunshineStateSocialism

Orlando DSA, June 5 2018;

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We were proud to host our socialist comrades from throughout the state of Florida to train together to work towards a better future. Thanks Hannah Allison, Ryan Mosgrove, Jill Hakemian, Amy Elizabeth, and Curtis Hierro for facilitating! #SunshineStateSocialism

DSA staffer

Amy Zachmeyer will be joining Democratic Socialists of America, beginning January 2019 staff as our newest Field Organizer, based in Houston. Amy is stepping back from her roles as co-chair of Houston DSA and national DSA Medicare for All campaign organizing committee member to bring us her experience from her work organizing with the Texas State Employees Union. Amy will work with DSA and YDSA chapters in the Southwest and Texas, the Plains and Midwest, while Anna Bonomo will work with chapters and OCs in Michigan..[5]

References