Northeast Kingdom, VERMONT: Today the progressive UNITED! Slate overwhelmingly won their third straight election for leadership positions within the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO at their annual Convention. United! prevailed in winning 18 of 19 Executive Board positions including David Van Deusen for President (2nd term), Dwight Brown for Executive Vice President (1st term), and Danielle Bombardier for Secretary-Treasurer (2nd term). United! also won elections for the Chair of the Rank & File Presidential Advisory Committee (Damion Gilbert), and for President of the Green Mountain Riders Union Motorcycle Club (Dan Brush). The election results are viewed as a mandate by the incoming leadership to keep moving in a more progressive direction.
UNITED! was formed in 2019 in response to the continuing decline of the labor movement happening all over the country, including right here in Vermont. Union density — the percentage of workers who belong to a labor union — has been hovering around 10% nationally, a record low. In Vermont, union density is 11.8% as of 2020, but has climbed in 2021 due to new organizing by UFCW, AFSCME, and AFT. The Vermont State Labor Council now has over 11,000 members.
As we near the 2021 Vermont AFL-CIO Annual Convention (September 18 & 19 at Jay Peak, Northeast Kingdom) I again ask our 11,000+ Union members to support the full United! slate in our internal elections, including Ron Schneiderman (UFCW) for VP At-Large, Danielle Bombardier (IBEW) for Secretary-Treasurer, Dwight Brown (AFSCME) for Executive Vice President, and myself, David Van Deusen (AFSCME) for re-election to the office of President of our State Labor Council.
Since United! took power in 2019 (and again swept elections in 2020) we have transformed the Vermont AFL-CIO into the most progressive State Labor Council in the United States. Through United! we have also seen the Vermont Labor Movement invigorated with our rank & file taking an active part in Conventions and Political Summits (COPE) at levels not seen in decades. Over the last two years:
Today 6/29/21] I received a formal letter from National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. In the letter Trumka confirmed that the investigation against us for passing a General Strike Authorization Resolution has concluded and that he asserts we engaged in misconduct based on his (dubious) reading of national bylaws. Trumka also used the letter to attack us for developing a relationship of solidarity with the progressive rank & file caucuses within the non-AFL-CIO VSEA (Vermont State Workers United!) and NEA (Vermont School Workers Action Committee). But in the end, he stated that he would NOT take any disciplinary action against us at this time. This is a major win for Union democracy within the AFL-CIO, and the Vermont AFL-CIO is proud of our conduct, commitment to social justice Unionism, relationship building within the broader pro-Union left, and our fidelity to the defense of democracy. We may be one of the smallest and most rural States in the nation (with a population of just over 600,000), but here in Vermont our membership is growing and we are not afraid to lead. And lead we shall!
As political storm clouds gathered in the aftermath of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election, on November 21, just 18 days after Trump LOST, the 10,000 member Vermont AFL-CIO anticipated that a fascist coup could be on the horizon. To better prepare for the defense of our democracy, the Vermont State Labor Council brought to its rank & file a General Strike Authorization Resolution empowering the democratically elected eleven member Executive Board to call for such an action across the Green Mountains if events demanded.
This film (approximately one hour in duration) is now being made available to the public for the FIRST time. The film documents the full discussion, debate, and vote as it unfolded at our Convention (held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Leading up to the Convention we had 72 Delegates & Alternates register for the event from 28 Locals involving 15 Internationals. With additional rank & file members attending (along with invited guests) the Convention had upwards of 100 Vermont Union leaders and political allies from all corners of the State in attendance. With the passage of this resolution (overwhelmingly supported by seated Delegates), the Vermont AFL-CIO became the ONLY State Labor Council in the Nation to take such a stand in defense of democracy.
10/25/2020, Montpelier, Vermont – The Executive Board of the VT AFL-CIO, representing 10,000 unionized public and private sector workers across Vermont, shall hold a General Strike Authorization Vote at its November 21, 2020, Convention should the U.S. Presidential election deliver a winner, but should the losing candidate refuse to commit to a peaceful transfer of power on Inauguration Day, January 20th, 2021. To our west, In New York, the Rochester and Troy Central Labor Councils of the AFL-CIO have already called for the National AFL-CIO to call for a General Strike in the event of a coup.
For months, Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in the event that Democrat Joe Biden wins the election. Trump has also made the irresponsible claim that the only way Biden can win is if the election is “rigged.” Trump is presently losing in the polls to Biden in a majority of battleground states, and is behind in national polls by 8.1% (with a national approval rating of just 44.4%). Trump has also told violent neo-fascist organizations to “stand by” while previously saying that “good people” marched with the KKK and other extreme right groups in Charlottesville. It has further been reported by The Atlantic that Republican officials in a number of states, including Pennsylvania, are discussing having state legislators send pro-Trump delegates to the Electoral College even if voters in their state give Biden the win. Together, these actions give the appearance of what amounts to a potential Trump led coup attempt following a Biden win on November 3 (or when all the votes are counted thereafter).
9/21/20, Burlington, Vermont – For the last six weeks, the Vermont AFL-CIO and the Vermont Building & Construction Trades Council of the AFL-CIO have been in active discussions with CityPlace developer, Devonwood to formalize a partnership for phase 1 of the Burlington project. Partnership talks have included the Washington DC based National AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust (HIT). HIT acts as a financer for major affordable housing projects across the United States. HIT expressed an interest in the project pending approval from HUD. Devonwood is now working with a HIT recommended Mortgage Banker who will assist Devonwood in navigating the HUD process. Once HUD backing is secured, and pending the National AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust commitment to financing the project, the final development agreement would guarantee that all construction jobs on the CityPlace project be union jobs. The CityPlace project, in its present form, is projected to create 89 affordable housing units (20% of the total), 300-400 construction jobs, with 500,000 labor hours. CityPlace shall also be constructed with strong energy efficiency standards (LEED Gold standard). Phase 1 of the project is estimated to cost $175 million to complete.
Being the first Tuesday in March, it is Town Meeting Day in Vermont. Here, unlike much of the world, there are only two layers of government; state & local. And for the vast majority of our 246 towns & cities, local government is composed of a legislative branch that includes EVERY citizen as may gather at an annual (and special) Town Meeting. Most communities introduce, amend, and pass all agenda items (like the town budget, tax rates, election of officers, ordinances, etc.) through a (public) floor vote by all the assembled citizens. This is our traditional Town Meeting system. And having ALL the citizens included in the legislative branch of local government lends itself to working people (who are the great majority) being more informed and more thoughtful about the positions they take (as their opinions, under such a system, very much matter). Vermont is a better place for it.
VERMONT AFL-CIO UNITED!
A TEN POINT PROGRAM & SLATE FOR WORKING CLASS POWER!
VT AFL-CIO United! Candidates For Executive Committee
President: David Van Deusen, AFSCME
Vice President: Karl Labounty, AFSCME
Secretary/Treasurer: Danielle Bombardier, IBEW
Member-At-Large: Tim LaBombard, IBEW
Volunteer In Politics: Omar Fernandez, APWU
Montpelier, VT, 5/10/19 -The Vermont Republican Party has invited Wisconsin’s former union-busting Governor, Scott Walker, to speak at a fundraiser in Burlington’s Hilton Hotel on May 30. On April 26, AFSCME-Vermont called for Scott Walker to be met with labor/community picket lines. To date, 22 VT labor unions (representing over 17,000 union members) have endorsed the picket, along with 5 allied community organizations, and 5 political groupings. More endorsements are expected in the coming days.
“To labor unions, woman’s groups, racial justice organizations, and pro-union progressives of all stripes, Scott Walker represents the worst of the worst in terms of the wrong direction the extremist-anti-union-right would like to take our country if given the change. Walker believes workers should have NO collective bargaining rights, that our education system should be privatized, that women should not control their own bodies, and that the wealthiest 1% should receive massive tax cuts (at the price decimating our social services).
Montpelier, Vermont 4/3/19 -Vermont AFL-CIO Unions including AFSCME, AFT, IBEW, USW, & PFFV, have been fighting all winter to get legislators to advance H.428 & S.36, card check recognition for public sector workers. The bills were introduced in the House by Progressive Brian Cina, and in the Senate by Democrat/Progressive Phillip Baruth. If passed, card check would establish that whenever a majority of workers sign a Union card in any given public sector shop, their Union would be immediately recognized. Despite Labor’s united front on this issue, the Vermont Senate and House (which is overwhelmingly composed of Democrats) has yet to hold hearings on the bills, let alone move them out of committee.
UNION ACTION ALERT: Castleton DPW workers with AFSCME Local 1201 of the AFL-CIO (those that plow the roads and operate the wastewater plant) have been without a contract or raises for over two years. While these Union members continue to fight for justice, we need to let the Castleton Select Board know THIS IS NOT OK and Local 1201 does not stand alone (and that Vermonters from all over the state stand with them). Please contact the Castleton Select Board today and leave a message for Selectman Jim Leamy. Tell Jim: “Jim Leamy, I am a working Vermonter too, and I stand with DPW Union employees. Fair contract now!”
By Karl Labounty
As President of AFSCME Local 1343 and as Vice President of the Vermont AFL-CIO, I take the rights of working people seriously. Like most Vermonters, I believe our democracy is best served when workers have more (not less) opportunities to vote on the issues which directly impact their lives. I myself labor for the Burlington School District as part of their maintenance staff. My fellow union members serve as custodians, bus drivers, food service workers, as IT specialists, and in number of other critical positions. In short, we are the backbone of public services. As a union member I take pride in the fact we democratically elect the bargaining teams that negotiate our contracts, and no contract is final until it is voted on by our members and approved by elected representatives of our communities. This, in part, is what it means to have workplace democracy, and this is a right that many generations of Vermonters have benefited from.