COVID-19 has brought on an economic crisis not seen in the US since the Great Depression. And as with all historic financial disasters, it is far from inevitable that the working class-left will emerge from the chaos with a progressive agenda moving forward. Another competing force is the far right. Such reactionaries will use the crisis to seek to implement privatizations, cuts to social services, elimination of environmental regulations, and even more tax cuts for the rich. There will also be those on the extreme right who will use the crisis to argue for a neo-fascist re-ordering of society.
We, the Labor Movement, must recognize the opportunities and dangers the crisis presents. We must also be sober in our analysis that the future is unwritten, and the outcome undecided. And here, we shall only emerge as the victors and we shall only have the ability to move a progressive program forward if we are able to build the power required to overcome the other. And right now, the battle over the United States Postal Service is the front that has been opened by the Trump Administration, and therefore constitutes one of the major fights we must engage in.
On Wednesday, April 15th, 2020, Champlain Valley Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) hosted a Zoom panel discussion with organizers from several labor and social justice groups in Vermont and around the U.S. Panelists discussed the pandemic-related challenges they are facing in their communities and workplaces and, most importantly, how they are seeking to overcome these challenges and advance bold left demands for workers’ rights and economic and social justice [and a Union based Green New Deal].
Following the panel discussion, DSA opened up the floor to questions from participants. The goal of the call was to strategize ways to coordinate our work more closely, develop shared demands and provide concrete ways for people to tap into these current campaigns and actions.
It’s important to keep up morale during the emergency. One way to do that is food. But what to do when you hit those days when your delivery order isn’t ready yet, your curbside pickup order isn’t till tomorrow, or you just don’t feel like going to the grocery store yourself? This kind of circumstance can lead to a lot of bean and rice dinners, and who’s to say that’s a bad thing? It brings us back to basics, enduring a little hardship in what is, after all, a life and death situation. On the other hand, simple, noble cooking can be seriously boring if you really like food.
I think the key for me is to have on hand a few basic meals that we actually like to eat. That way, we can always make something reasonably appetizing. It’s important to keep meals appetizing because boredom and depression can diminish appetite and you want to keep eating, within reasonable bounds. Food makes us feel good, and it’s good to feel good, especially during an epidemic, because feeling good boosts our immunity.
An employee at the Brattleboro Retreat is “presumed positive for COVID-19,” according to a story in the VTDigger.org today. The employee is in quarantine at home at this time. However, the same is not true of other Retreat workers who may have come in contact with that employee. They’ve been instructed by the Retreat’s HR Director that they should come to work or be terminated. However, if they “become symptomatic i.e. dry cough and/or fever,” they have been told to contact the HR Director.
The Brattleboro Selectboard held its first-ever virtual public special meeting. It’s also the first time the newly-configured board has taken up new business. They discussed… you guessed it… coronavirus, of course.
Notes from this historic meeting are below.
Much progress has been made in the Green Mountains since the start of the Coronacrisis. And we should all recognize the rapid pace at which it was achieved. Together, as Vermonters, we have:
* Unemployment Insurance: Greatly lowered the qualifying thresholds for unemployment insurance;
* Worker Safety & Health: Seen most unionized cities and towns take meaningful steps to better protect the health and safety of workers;
* Feeding Low Income Children: Secured food for low income children;
The Coronavirus public health crisis is rapidly becoming an economic crisis for the working class. In this interview (WGDR 91.1 FM) Vermont AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen discusses the steps already taken to address the needs of working people, what still has to be done in the here and now, and the need for a Green New Deal to rebuild society after the immediate danger passes.
Click on the below video link to listen to the full interview:
I would challenge anyone to find a single instance were VT Representative Cynthia Browning voted in favor of any piece of major legislation that benefited Vermont workers or was supported by Organized Labor. And this week she challenged the quorum of the House thereby compelling 100 lawmakers to converge on the Statehouse, despite the rapid spreading virus, in order to enact emergency voting procedures desired on a tri-partisan bases during the crisis. The Vermont AFL-CIO celebrates Browning’s removal from the powerful Ways And Means Committee and encourages Speaker Mitzi Johnson to not appoint her to any committee. We further call on the Vermont Democratic Party to continuously reject Browning as a recognized member of their Party and thereby refuse access to their Party lists, endorsements, and assistance during the November General Election. And frankly, the Vermont AFL-CIO asserts that such actions should have been taken years ago.
Because rubbing alcohol, disinfectant spray, and hand sanitizer are still difficult or impossible to find, here are two ideas:
1. Grain alcohol – BE CAREFUL, IT IS VERY FLAMMABLE! and it’s not cheap ($19- $21), but these are unusual circumstances!
Everclear Vodka is 151 proof (75.5% alcohol) available at NH Liquor Stores. Here is link to the current supply on hand at each store, and what’s on order: https://www.liquorandwineoutlets.com/products/detail/1692/everclear_151
Back in my childhood, paper towels were regarded as an expensive commodity, to be used rarely, if at all, and only on the most spectacular of spills. For a spill to be worthy of a paper towel, a Paper Towel Emergency had to be declared unanimously by all present. Otherwise, we were supposed to use the kitchen sponge or a dish cloth to wipe up the offending area.
Montpelier, Vermont – In the seven days since the Vermont AFL-CIO put forth a list of demands to State government on behalf of ALL working class Vermonters, we have seen meaningful progress. The following steps have either already been taken, or are in the process of being implemented:
· Our Labor and Health: An overwhelming number of Unionized employees of Towns & Cities continue to receive full pay and benefits even if ordered home (and in many communities older or health compromised workers have been afforded the right to go home with said pay, even when their job responsibilities are important to base line operations);
“Scientists at… Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security modeled a hypothetical pandemic on a computer as part of research last October- three months before the deadly outbreak in China. The exercise was not intended as a prediction – but rather served to highlight how governments and industry would respond in the case of a very severe pandemic.”
Dr Aviva Wertkin on DJ pockets’ “buttahmilk” radio program this Tuesday, March 17th, at 6pm.
Learn about the corona virus and what you can do to boost your immune system. Tune in 1n 107.7fm and online to wvew.org
The United States Government and the State of Vermont are operating under State of Emergency declarations issued by President Trump and Governor Scott related to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. While a separate local State of Emergency is not necessary in Brattleboro at this time, the Town of Brattleboro has implemented a variety of emergency actions and is planning to scale-up local emergency actions, if necessary.
Fire Chief Mike Bucossi, who also is the Town’s Emergency Management Director, is in close ongoing communication with Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, Rescue Inc., and other emergency health service providers. Chief Bucossi and Town Manager Peter Elwell are in daily communication with the Vermont Department of Health and Vermont Emergency Management. Through this coordination, they are not only ensuring the preparedness of Brattleboro town government but also assisting in the preparedness of first responders throughout southeastern Vermont. All other members of the Town’s senior management team are maintaining similarly close contact with their colleagues in State government and others to ensure that the Town’s actions are taken in concert with similar actions to protect the public throughout Vermont and beyond.
The following summary of the Town’s actions on this matter are separated into “Emergency Services,” “Non-Emergency and Administrative Support Services,” and “Representative Town Meeting and Other Meetings”:
There may be a bright side to the current COVID 19 pandemic, at least in terms of showing how the current U.S. for-profit health care system fails people when they get sick. In the political debate about a Medicare for All plan the defensive posture is to tell people not to support it because they will have to give up their current health insurance.
Last time I checked I couldn’t find people who tell me they love their current health insurance plan and that they would never give it up. As things stand now for people who have private insurance that they pay for in part, or in whole, contracting a serious case of COVID 19 could mean bills anywhere from $10,000 to one million dollars depending on the type of insurance they have or don’t have.
With the flurry of cancellations and postponements in the area, would it be smart to postpone Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting?
On one hand, Brattleboro hasn’t had any confirmed cases. And there is a bit of time pressure on representatives to pass the budget before the fiscal year ends. Perhaps it would be best to get this out of the way early and hold it as scheduled.
As Vermonters, we have heard the warnings to avoid crowds and unnecessary travel. We have heard the recommendation to wash hands frequently. And now we are hearing that some institutions, like Vermont Law School, Middlebury College, & Champlain College are closing their campuses. We also hear rumblings that school districts and perhaps even aspects of State Government will follow suit if and when the infection rate grows. We are being told that this is to diminish the transmission of the Coronavirus and therefore to save lives. What we have NOT heard is how 10,000s of workers are expected to survive with no wages and a limited access to healthcare if and when more workplaces shutdown.
So if I work for private non-union shop that closes its doors in reaction to the virus, and if I am receiving no pay, and if I have no healthcare, how I am expected to feed my family, pay rent, get medical care, and not face an economic disaster? Conversely, what if my work stays open but my kid’s school closes down? Without public (or affordable) childcare how am I suppose to care for my children? Where is the plan to protect working people not only from the virus, but also from economic ruin? Must we as workers decide between exposure to a deadly disease or total economic collapse? Or will that bad choice be made for us?
Update: We continue collecting notices of cancellations, postponements. You are encouraged to add information for your business or organization. Since just about everything is now shut down, we’ll remove this from being featured soon.
We are being bombarded with information, misinformation, warnings and all kinds of reports about the spreading coronavirus. How do you know which information is factual and how do you know what to do to be able to deal with an outbreak of the virus in your community or in your home? Should you be concerned, or is there just too much fearmongering and hype to take this new disease outbreak seriously?
The only accurate, factual and up-to-date information is being provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases (NCEZID which is part of the CDC) and infectious disease specialists and clinicians who work for state health departments throughout the U.S.