Vermont AFL-CIO Empowered To Call For General Strike If Trump Seeks To Carry Out Political Coup – Vote Overwhelmingly In Support!
At today’s Vermont AFL-CIO Convention (held over zoom due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Non 21), aprx 100 Delegates, rank & File union members, and select allies converged to consider the defense of democracy should there be a Trump coup. After much discussion, the assembled delegates overwhelmingly voted to authorize their elected Executive Board to call for a Vermont General Strike if democracy comes into crisis.
This historic authorization vote makes the Vermont AFL-CIO the first State Federation in the country to be on record ready to carry out a General Strike to defend democracy if Trump refuses to leave office.
This Convention, save for 2019, marks the largest Convention of the 10,000 member Federation in decades.
Following the Strike Vote, Vermont union members conducted a workshop on how to build stronger Locals, more solidarity among unions, and on the need to more rapidly develop a statewide network of shop floor leaders.
Also at the Convention, by two thirds majority votes, the body of delegates adopted bylaw changes which increase internal democracy. Changes include a major expansion of the elected Executive Board, significant increases in delegate allotments, and an increase to the weighted voting threshold requirements. Also adopted was the removal of Cold War era anti-communist language, with new anti-fascist and anti-racist language taking its place. These bylaw changes need to be approved by the National AFL-CIO before they go into effect.
Attending this historic convention as observers were members of non-AFL-CIO unions such as VSEA United!, the Carpenters, UE Local 255, National Writers Union, and representatives from RTM (transit workers) from the UK. Also present were representatives from Migrant Justice, Rights And Democracy, 350VT, Vermont Progressive Party, Democratic Socialists of America, and The Movement For A People’s Party.
The Vermont General Strike Authorization Resolution is as follows:
Vermont AFL-CIO Resolution: Protect Democracy
November 21, 2020
WHEREAS, the Vermont AFL-CIO and our affiliates are committed to the defense of democratic rights and the institutions of democracy, regardless of the party affiliations of those in power;
WHEREAS, the Vermont AFL-CIO recognizes that democracy in the United States is hobbled by the archaic structure of the Electoral College and entrenchment of the two-party system;
WHEREAS, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have refused to acknowledge the results of the election in multiple key states and continue to mount frivolous lawsuits and various political interventions in a baseless attempt to overturn the November 3rd results;
WHEREAS, President Trump has refused, on multiple occasions, to denounce the activities of white supremacist militias and organizations that have stated desires to overthrow American democracy and instead has conveyed support for their actions;
WHEREAS, the Trump administration and Republican allies have conducted a concerted campaign to obstruct, sabotage, and reject a fair and complete count of presidential ballots by creating barriers to voting, targeted at people of color, immigrants, women, and young people. These tactics include intimidation of BIPOC voters at polling places and requirements to have two people sign a ballot that hurt women voters, as well as dismantling key infrastructure such as the U.S. Postal Service;
WHEREAS, the Constitution requires voting results and Electoral College tallies to be completed and submitted to Congress by the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, and the new 2021 Congress to validate the results, and voters should be determining the results, not courts;
WHEREAS, Trump has denied science, resulting in more than 250,000 Americans dying from COVID-19, and millions more facing deep economic pain due to ongoing impact from the virus, and can do irreparable harm during a lame-duck session;
WHEREAS, the extreme risk currently posed to the historic institutions of democracy in our nation may require more widespread and vigorous resistance than at any time in recent history;
WHEREAS, the labor movement and trade unions have played a proud and vital role in protecting democracy and opposing authoritarianism in many nations throughout the world;
WHEREAS, the most powerful tool of the labor movement in our history has been the power of the general strike;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Vermont AFL-CIO is empowered by the delegates at the 2020 state convention to call for a general strike of all working people in our state in the event that Donald Trump refuses to concede the office of President of the United States.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont AFL-CIO will work with allies in the antiracist, environmental justice, feminist, LGBTQ+, immigrant rights, and disability rights movements to protect our democracy, the Constitution, the law, and our nation’s democratic traditions;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont AFL-CIO will call on city and county governments to pledge to protect protesters defending democracy, and commit to not using police action or curfews to curtail these activities, and to use all available resources to stand up against any effort by the Trump administration to steal the presidential election.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont AFL-CIO commits itself to the long-term goal of winning genuine democracy through the abolition of the Electoral College and two-party system, through the collective action of our affiliates and allied organizations.
*Adopted by the seated Delegates at the November 21, 2020 Vermont AFL-CIO Convention
David Van Deusen
VT AFL-CIO President
Addressing Vermont State Labor Council Convention Prior To The VT General Strike Authorization Vote:
“Union Brothers, & Sisters, Allies, Working People, Vermonters…
“There are times when the decisions we make, the actions, together, we agree to carry out or not, define us as a people, as a Union, and as a Labor Movement. Today we may be standing on the precipice of one of those great historic moments…
“No matter who you voted for in the U.S. election, the results are in. Trump lost by any measure. And while I am not now nor ever have been an acolyte of the neo-liberal policies of the national Democratic Party, I am a firm and unapologetic believer in democracy. And even while I see with clear eyes the great short comings of our democratic Republic (from systemic racism, sexism, xenophobia, and economic elitism to name but a few) I also know, as the Vermonter John Dewey once said, that ‘the only solution to the problems of democracy is more democracy.’
“So I do not come before you today to ask only that you steel yourself for the defense of this election and this outcome; nor do I suggest that our problems as a working class and as a Labor Movement will somehow dissipate because one man lost an election while another won; far from it. The fact is, no matter which wealthy elite sits in the White House, we, as Labor, must unequivocally grasp that it will only be through our unity, through our solidarity, through our collective action as a Labor Movement and as a working class that the economic chains that bind us will once and for all be shattered. And towards that day we, together, endeavor.
“But make no mistake…
“The Trump Administration persists in its refusal to accept the election outcome and seeks, even now, to retain their hold on power. At this very moment machinations are being hatched which aim to send delegates to the Electoral College who choose to NOT represent the will of the people. Instead these plotters seek to give form to the will of the present Administration alone and the billionaires that stand behind him. And if by hook or by crook this Administration, which has told armed neo-fascists to “stand-by”, manages to maintain its hold on power, the vestiges of democracy which persist in this Republic shall be extinguished for a generation if not more. We must not, cannot, and shall not allow this to happen.
“And my friends, we are NOT weak. When united, when not divided by contrived notions of race, national origin, or gender, we are STRONG; UNION STRONG. After all, it is only through our labor that our State and our Nation constitute themselves. As Big Bill Haywood once said, “all [working people] have to do is to put their hands in their pockets and they have got the capitalist class whipped.”
“So my Brothers and Sisters…
“At this historic Convention you will have a Vermont General Strike Authorization Vote put before you in the event of a political coup in Washington. This resolution, which is recommended by your elected Executive Board, if passed, does not order you to strike. Rather it asks for your permission to allow your Executive Board to call for a strike and to do the hard work of organizing one if our democratic Republic is threatened. Understand that if vested with this authority your leadership board will be judicious in exercising this power. It is only our intent to make this call if the democracy which we hold dear comes under a clear and imminent threat…
“Over the last 20 years it has been my absolute honor and privilege to walk on picket lines with many of you, shoulder to shoulder. I have organized with you. I have sat at the bargaining table, shared in your struggles, dreams, losses, victories, and maybe even tipped a few jars of whiskey along the way. And I have never known you to back away from that which you know to be right.
“So I ask you, as a Union member and as a Vermonter, to consider the question of the collective defense of our democratic republic, and do not take this question lightly. I ask that you put aside any partisan leanings and that you ponder the resolution that will be considered later without fear or favor. I ask that you think simply about what is the right thing for us to do, together, should democracy come into existential crisis. And here let us reflect on the words of Hanna Arendt when she says, “The sad truth of the matter is that most evil is done by people who never made up their minds to be or do either evil or good.” –And Brothers and Sisters, it is my firm assertion that we are not those kind of people.
“But defending the democracy we have now, alone, is not enough.
“If we are to claim the mantle of ‘champions of democracy’ we must live by that credo; and here we must seek to not only build a more direct participatory democracy here in Vermont, but also, through our Unions, more economic democracy whereby working people have the security to not only live, but to live well!
“If you work 40 hours a week, you should not have to struggle to pay the bills. We don’t just need livable wages, we need prevailing wages. We need healthcare as a human right, and not as a benefit we have to defend in each round of bargaining. We need to know that our kids have a clear path to college and technical training without going into debt for the rest of their lives. In brief, we need free tuition for our State Colleges (and we can’t be closing down any campuses!). We also need to secure the tools required to Unionize more shops, and for this we need card check. And we need to rebuild our COVID shattered economy through a New Deal, a Green New Deal. And while we struggle through the pandemic, putting our lives on the line, we need adequate PPE, safer working conditions, and hazard pay. And most of all we need to come together, be internally organized, UNITED, and ready to support each other, each Local, when we are compelled to bring the fight to the bosses to achieve our aspirations, and in order to see our UNITED program come into being.
“And of course, we also need to practice what we preach…
“So as we defend democracy, struggle to build a more participatory democracy, seek to enlarge our Town Meeting rights, and as we fight to expand our economic democracy, we must also re-examine our own bylaws and our own Vermont AFL-CIO Constitution so as to make ourselves truly a democratic labor organization. And friends, it is your Executive Board’s hope and expectation that today, at this 2020 Vermont State Labor Council Convention, that UNITED we will see through a number of democratic reforms which will vest more power and more authority with you, the rank and file.
“In conclusion, I thank you for the honor of serving as your President. I ask that you and your families be safe and vigilant during this COVID-19 pandemic, and I thank you for standing UNITED in defense of the better ideals of the Republic and for the kind of democratic change we know working people both desire and demand.
David van Deusen
President of the Vermont AFL-CIO”
The following is a link to the Vermont AFL-CIO’s platform; Ten Point Program For Union Power (known also as “The Little Green Book”): https://vt.aflcio.org/news/vermont-afl-cio-ten-point-program