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!
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.
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.
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);
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?
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.
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.
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
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).