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!
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?