iBrattleboro Contributor and Local AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen In Hot Water For November General Strike Vote

As a sometime reader of Counterpunch, I occasionally run across items of local interest. This time, it’s an article highlighting a voice iBrattleboro readers know well — Vermont-chapter AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen. Van Deusen has been posting articles on iBrattleboro about local labor issues, and I’ve always been surprised by how refreshingly “left” this union rep sounds — why he’s almost a firebrand! Which is why I was unsurprised to learn that not everyone finds his labor radicalism so appealing.

The article, entitled “Why is AFL-CIO So Worried About Its Vermont Affiliate?” details recent friction between Vermont’s local chapter of the AFL-CIO and the national leadership of the parent organization. It all stems from a local resolution to call for a general strike if there was any protracted attempt on the part of the Right to keep Trump in office illegally.

In a nutshell, the AFL-CIO doesn’t seem to like the Vermont chapter’s politics. Their current plan is to investigate the Vermont chapter for “wrongdoing” which would give them grounds to remove its leaders. Look out, David Van Deusen. According to author and labor activist Steve Early:

…Last November, Trumka [national AFL-CIO president] tried, unsuccessfully, to block any state convention discussion of a general strike contingency plan in the event of a constitutional crisis (of the sort which did occur on January 6). When Vermont delegates debated the issue anyway and passed a related resolution, Trumka deemed this to be a violation of national AFL-CIO rules applying to local affiliates. In addition, Trumka claims that “internal divisions within the State Labor Council” pose a threat to the “strong unity” needed during “a critical moment of opportunity” for the labor movement. In a March 5 letter, he informed Van Deusen that the AFL-CIO is investigating the council’s “recent conduct” and warned of “further action,” which local activists fear may include removing their elected leaders from office and putting their council under trusteeship. — Steve Early, Why is AFL-CIO So Worried About Its Vermont Affiliate?

There is a tendency to equate labor unions with pro-worker advocacy and progressivism. To the extent that’s ever been fully true, it is arguably less so today, when unions are frequently accused of pushing through contracts more favorable to management than to workers. Just recently, Amazon workers declined to be represented by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). Many on the left blame the election process and Amazon’s union-resisting efforts but given the final tally, it can’t be dismissed that workers voted against the union by a better than 2-1 margin.

Vermont’s chapter of the AFL-CIO had given me hope that unions — at least locally — could be the honest advocates of local workers that we always thought they should be. If our Vermont affiliate’s national bosses pull back control from our progressive local reps, they will just be proving what union skeptics have thought all along — that when push comes to shove, the union is not on your side. Is that really the message the AFL-CIO wants to convey right now? Time will tell.

Read it here: Why is AFL-CIO So Worried About Its Vermont Affiliate? by Steve Early

Comments | 2

  • ugh

    This is the reality of present-day USA union politics. Vermont is and I hope always will be, a Progressive state. We actually care, sometimes grudgingly, how our fellow humans are doing. In my experience, the unions don’t always do the right thing. There are many reasons for this, none of them palatable to me.

    Mr. Van Deusen has been doing an exemplary job. He’s a strong leader and the best voice for labor in this state. I’m ill to see this response from the nationals.

  • Trumka has it backward

    Agreed. I’ve been impressed with Van Deusen’s leadership and the actions taken so far. I’m not in the union, but if I was, this is the type of active, tough leadership I’d support.

    It was a critical moment of opportunity in need of strong unity… why didn’t Trumka stand with us? : ) I think he’s in violation of our local assumptions about the national affiliates. We may need to have him removed and put his office under trusteeship.

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