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!
Cabot, Vermont, 6/15/21 – With over 80% of Vermonters having received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 72% of us fully vaccinated, today [6/15/21] the Governor declared an end to the State of Emergency and the termination of pandemic related social restrictions. It is significant that Vermont is the first U.S. State to reach an 80% vaccinated rate. It is also significant that throughout the pandemic Vermont suffered only 24,339 known COVID infections and 256 total deaths; both our infection and mortality rate were the least in the Nation compared to the 49 other States. And while even a single death is a regrettable tragedy, stacked against Alabama’s half a million plus cases and 11,000 (and counting) fatalities, it’s clear that we fared better than most. And while we are not out of the woods yet, we have also emerged with the 5th lowest unemployment rate in the Nation at 2.9% (Texas by comparison is at 6.7% while Florida is at 4.8%).
How did we do this? Well, while much of the South and other parts of the country fretted about masks being an infringement of civil liberties and the vaccine being part of some insane conspiracy, Most Vermonters from the get go cared about their communities, abided by social distancing, wore masks (even before any mandates came into effect), and worked collaboratively in making our society resilient in the face of hardship.
As a sometime reader of Counterpunch, I occasionally run across items of local interest. This time, it’s an article highlighting a voice iBrattleboro readers know well — Vermont-chapter AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen. Van Deusen has been posting articles on iBrattleboro about local labor issues, and I’ve always been surprised by how refreshingly “left” this union rep sounds — why he’s almost a firebrand! Which is why I was unsurprised to learn that not everyone finds his labor radicalism so appealing.
The article, entitled “Why is AFL-CIO So Worried About Its Vermont Affiliate?” details recent friction between Vermont’s local chapter of the AFL-CIO and the national leadership of the parent organization. It all stems from a local resolution to call for a general strike if there was any protracted attempt on the part of the Right to keep Trump in office illegally.
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.
*Trump Vacates Whitehouse;
*Democratic Joe Biden Assumes Presidency;
*Threat of Fascist Violence Remains;
*The Left Must Now Advance a Progressive Agenda;
*Labor Must Continue To Defend Democracy!
Today, as the American voters directed, Democratic Joe Biden took the oath of office for United States President. Joe Biden was endorsed in the November election by the National AFL-CIO, received seven million more votes than Trump, won in key battleground States, and claimed an overwhelming victory in the Electoral College. Despite Trumps treasonous claims to the contrary, there were ZERO examples of significant voter fraud (or evidence of such) concerning the November election.
When Ben Franklin exited the room where the future of the United States was being decided, he was asked what kind of government we would have. He answered “a Republic, if you can keep it.” More than 200 years later, Just days ago, we witnessed a challenge to that democratic Republic. Fascists, at the direction of Donald Trump, attempted to subvert our Republic by legislative process and by violence in the streets and in the halls of Congress. That coup was defeated.
In the aftermath, our Vermont Governor, Republican Phil Scott, denounced the coup, defended democracy, and called for the immediate removal of Donald Trump from the office of Presidency. So too did our Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy and our Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders. In the VT General Assembly, a tri-partisan resolution overwhelmingly passed in the House and Senate (supported by Republicans, Democrats, and Progressives) demanding Trump to be removed from office. Further, Vermont’s Attorney General, TJ Donovan, demanded the immediate termination of a VT State Trooper who publicly voiced support for the coup. As President of the 10,000 member Vermont AFL-CIO I also denounced the failed rightwing insurrection (and our State Labor Council again confirmed our commitment to a General Strike in the event that a transfer of power does not take place on January 20th). And unlike in Washington DC and various State Capitals around the nation, demonstrations of support for the coup have been near nonexistent in the Green Mountains. In brief, Vermonters, regardless of party affiliation or political differences, remain united in our support for democracy. I am proud to call these Green Hills my home.
Today [1/6/21] thousands of neo-fascist Trump loyalists converged on Washington with the aim of forcing the annulment of the November election (which Democrat Joe Biden won by seven million votes). There they were met by Donald Trump himself who addressed the mob, falsely claiming that he won, that he would never concede defeat, and encouraging them to fight to keep him in power.
Meanwhile, Inside Congress Republican Representatives and Senators from the extreme right issued formal challenges to the Electoral College vote (which also spelled overwhelming defeat for Trump). Like their neo-fascist counterparts outside the Capital Building, these anti-democratic, anti-union law makers were actively seeking to carry out a coup against the majority will of the American people.
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.
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).
We have a long way to go before we can claim the transformative victories for Organized Labor and the working class that our dreams, desires, and needs demand. And we know that with the continuing pandemic and the economic crisis we will have many challenges before us. Even so, over the last 365 days we have made tremendous progress in making the Vermont AFL-CIO a more powerful labor organization and the most progressive State Labor Council in the North America. We have done this by diligently advancing the goals and principles articulated in our Ten Point Program For Union Power [https://vt.aflcio.org/news/vermont-afl-cio-ten-point-program]. Since your new leadership came to power in September 2019 [and again through a special election in 8/20] we have taken the following actions:
COVID-19: From the start of the pandemic we aggressively advocated for immediate actions at the State level to mitigate the worst potential consequences of the virus and the subsequent shutdown. As part of this effort we, working with allies, saw through expanded access to unemployment insurance, free childcare for essential workers, free food provided to working families, a moratorium on evictions, and crisis pay being provided to many Vermonters including the 8000 home healthcare workers organized into AFSCME Local 4802. We also stood with our healthcare workers from AFT and OPEIU when they demanded adequate PPE and safe working conditions.
Two nights ago, at the first 2020 U.S. Presidential debate, Americans of all political leanings should be alarmed and sickened by the spectacle that was Donald Trump. Trump, when asked point blank if he condemns white supremacists, refused; instead he told an armed neo-fascist organization to “stand-by.” He further verbalized a series of lies seeking to undermine confidence in the U.S. election system. Together these assertions give strong inclination that Trump expects to lose the popular vote & the electoral college, to be defeated by Joe Biden, and yet to position himself in a way that will allow him a public argument as to why he must remain in power. Never in modern U.S. history has such an extreme rightwing Presidential candidate come so close as to telegraph a coup.
Democratic candidate Joe Biden, for his part called for massive re-investment in America’s infrastructure, building out our renewable energy production, for the creation of millions of new prevailing wage jobs, and for a collective effort to find redress to systemic racism. Biden, who is endorsed by the National AFL-CIO, presently leads Trump in national polls by 6.4%.
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.
9/4/20, Montpelier, Vermont – The Executive Board of the Vermont AFL-CIO, representing 10,000 Union members across the Green Mountain State, have unanimously voted to recommend the entire Progressive Party slate for the 2020 VT House & Senate elections. This unprecedented General Election move highlights an emerging solidarity and coordination between the Vermont AFL-CIO and the Vermont Progressive Party on the Vermont Left.
Vermont AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen States: “As we continue to struggle through the pandemic, the continuing economic crisis, systemic racism, attacks on the working class, and a rise of neo-fascism on the national stage, it is clear that politics-as-usual is insufficient in addressing the dire challenges that we are facing. We cannot mitigate a new economic depression through more austerity and cuts. Rather we must seek bold systemic solutions both to racism and economic hardships. The Vermont Progressive Party has time and again been a reliable ally in this fight. We know that with a strong Progressive presence in the Vermont General Assembly, with Progressive David Zuckerman as our next Governor, we will be well-positioned to implement a Union-led Green New Deal. The Progressives have stood by us on Card Check and on every issue we have given priority to in 2019-2020. In turn, we know our 10,000 Union members are ready to stand with the Vermont Progressive Party. Together we can and must build a movement capable of delivering a Vermont whereby the needs of working people come first.”
June 28, 2020, Montpelier, VT – Black Lives Matter. The Vermont AFL-CIO understands and recognizes that the United States of America is a nation which has long been governed by a ruling class whose power (social and economic) is rooted in slavery, racism, inequity, and oppression. We further see with clear eyes that Black people, whose ancestors were brought to this country in chains, have suffered (and continue to suffer) oppression on a massive and inexcusable scale. Such facts are made plain by not only looking at history, but also by looking at contemporary unemployment figures, poverty rates, average household income, incarceration rates, and through policing data. People who are Black are also murdered by American police officers with sickening regularity. George Floyd was not an exception. He, like Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Terence Crutcher, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray (to name but a few), was one of the latest in a long line of martyrs going back hundreds of years (and accounting for thousands of taken lives). We must not become numb to these murders. We cannot accept that Black families must educate their children on how to not become the target of unprovoked police violence. We cannot allow systematic racism and police violence against Black people to continue as the regularity that it has always been. Rather, we must resist.
June, 2020, Burlington, Vermont – On Tuesday June 9 in Burlington, 45 Vermont Labor Unions and allied organizations answered the call issued by AFSCME Local 1343 to picket for job security and a New Deal economic recovery. In a powerful display of progressive Labor unity AFSCME City workers, led by Local President Damion Gilbert and Vice President Jesse Greeno, insisted that the Mayor guarantee that workers and public services come first during these hard times. 1343 further urged the City Council to support a charter change to allow for a wealth tax on the richest residents to better fund public services, and that if cuts need to be made that they come from Police Department equipment & brass and by way of cutting high paid political appointee positions.
Demand a New Deal – No To Racism – No To Austerity – Union Yes!
“An Attack On One Is An Attack On All”
WE DEMAND A NEW DEAL!
NEW DEAL: We demand the Federal Government, the State of Vermont and municipalities commit to a economic recovery effort through a progressively funded NEW DEAL that puts the working class first, and gives rise to a more directly democratic society free of racism, discrimination, oppression, and economic exploitation of the laboring classes;
Tonight, over 2000+ Vermonters converged on the Burlington Police Department in protest of the racist murder of unarmed Black man George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis PD. Over the last 48 hours, rebellions & demonstrations have broke out in a multitude of US cities. In Minneapolis citizens overran the police department building where the officers responsible for the killing were based. Violent confrontations have flared between protesters and law enforcement in many urban centers outside Vermont. President Trump has called for looters to be shot, and has threated to mobilize the U.S. military.
In Burlington, the demonstrations were lead by Black Lives Matter. Amongst the many protesters were VT AFL-CIO District Vice President Dwight Brown, AFSCME Local 1343 President Damion Gilbert, and Progressive State Representative Brian Cina (who is also a member of DSA).
Last week I, as Vermont AFL-CIO President, talked with WGDR’s Carl Etnier (a UAW member) about COVID-19, the health concerns of Early Childhood Educators, the fight of Burlington City workers (AFSCME) to defend their pay and benefits (while not suffering layoffs), the need to rebuild the economy through a more directly democratic Green New Deal, and Labor’s support for Progressive David Zuckerman for Governor.
It is beyond the pale that while we continue to struggle and suffer during the pandemic, that the elite and many politicians are calling for cuts to social spending, the closing of colleges, for workers to lose their jobs or suffer wage & benefit reductions, and for the wealthy among us to continue benefiting from the massive tax cuts reaped under the Trump Administration. All the while tens-of-thousands of Vermonters are out of work (40 million across the Nation). Thousands are already lining up at Vermont National Guard bread lines! And yet the rich, and too many politicians who they wield influence over, want to protect their comfort and privilege by asking YOU to tighten YOUR belt. The Vermont AFL-CIO rejects this basic premise!