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.
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:
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);
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).
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).
Rutland, Vermont, 2019 -The Vermont Republican Party has invited former Union-busting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker to talk at a private fundraiser on May 30th, in Burlington at the Hilton Hotel on Battery Street. And while Vermonters are struggling to win a basic $15 an hour livable wage for all, wealthy VIP donors will be paying $1000 a seat to hear how Vermont too should follow his anti-Union lead. This is unacceptable.
Scott Walker is rabidly anti-Union. While Governor he rolled back foundational Union rights for workers in Wisconsin, making that state “right to work,” and essentially stripping all meaningful collective bargaining rights away from public sector workers.
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.
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.
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.