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.
South Burlington, VT— This weekend, in its largest convention in two decades, the Vermont AFL-CIO elected a progressive reform leadership for its approximately 10,000 members statewide. The fourteen newly elected members of the slate aim to revitalize Vermont’s labor movement through organizing new unions, promoting activism among rank-and-file workers, and championing a Green New Deal to combat environmental crisis and economic inequality.
Said Liz Medina of UAW Local 2322 and new District Vice President for Washington/Orange Counties, “I am excited to be part of a rank-and-file slate that has a bold vision for the future of the labor movement.”
Asserting that they are not afraid of strikes, the newly elected members to the AFL-CIO state leadership pledge not to support political candidates in Montpelier who do not fight for union and social-justice interests.
The Brattleboro Selectboard held their only meeting of July. Despite objections from many landlords, the board approved a new rental housing inspection program, and despite numerous statements of support they put off deciding on how best to deal with issues of sustainability.
New tax rates for FY20 were set, a 3-month day work pilot program was funded, Groundworks received $100,000 for housing, and more.
Burlington, Vermont, 5/30/19 –Today 500+ Union members and allies picketed the GOP fundraiser in Burlington which featured extremist Union-buster Scott Walker and Vermont Republican Governor Phil Scott. The picket was organized by AFSCME-VT, IBEW Local 300, The Vermont Buildings Trades, and dozens of other Unions & pro-Labor community/political organizations. Labor appreciates the support received by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders who reached out to supporters yesterday to express his backing of the picket and to encourage Vermonters to demonstrate alongside us.
The demonstration was electric! Speakers included AFSCME Local 1343 President Damion Gilbert, myself [VT AFL-CIO District Vice President/AFSCME Local 2413 member David Van Deusen], IBEW Organizer Danielle Bombardier, President of APWU-Vermont President Omar Fernandez, and many other Labor and community leaders (*see below for full list of speakers).
Cabot, Vermont -In 2017 they told us, “we can’t do right by working Vermonters because we don’t have the votes to override the Governor’s veto.” Then we gave them enough votes to do just that… And on Friday the Vermont Speaker of the House sought to adjourn without achieving a livable wage. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Vermonters continue to labor 40-60 hours a week at poverty wages (many thousands without healthcare). And throughout the five months during which the General Assembly was in session, they could not even be bothered to hold one single hearing on card check (S.36). But this should not come as a surprise…
Over this past weekend [1/26/19], the Vermont AFL-CIO held its annual COPE Convention at the Old Socialist Labor Hall in the granite City of Barre. The day was spent strategizing Labor’s approaches to seeing a $15 an hour livable wage, paid family medical leave, and card check recognition becoming Vermont law in 2019. By passing card check recognition (S36), anytime a majority of public sector workers in a single shop sign Union cards, they would immediately be recognized as a Union without having to go through a drawn out and bureaucratic Labor Board election process (a process that provides anti-Union employers an unfair advantage and time to use scare tactics against employees). Passing card check in Vermont is a concrete way that Labor can begin to go back on the offensive here in the Green Mountains.
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!”
Why Are We Picketing?
We are staff at the Brattleboro Retreat and we are here to let the community know what is happening. In a time of crisis the administration has consistently chosen to make life for the direct patient care staff more difficult. According to the administration there is a staffing crisis at the Retreat which has led to a financial crisis. Staff have been leaving, and hiring has been challenging. There is a shortage of nurses, mental health workers, social workers and doctors.
An open letter to Senators White & Balint,
It is my understanding that the appointment of Karen O’Neill as a “neutral” on the Vermont Labor Relations Board is pending confirmation by Senate. I am writing in opposition to that appointment.
The applicable law states that “‘Nominees with neutral backgrounds’ means individuals in high standing not connected with any labor organization or management position, and who can be reasonably considered to be able to serve as an impartial individual.” 3 V.S.A. § 921 (B)