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).
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.
Waterbury Vermont, February, 2019 – Michael Alexander, a guest of the Green Mountain Central Labor Council AFL-CIO, recently spoke to Equal Time Radio (WDEV 550AM) about his experience serving as a volunteer soldier in the YPG. The YPG & YPJ are the military arm of the revolution in the northern Syria. The revolution, which is ideologically influenced by the writings of the Vermont philosopher Murray Bookchin, is seeking to establish a secular Town Meeting-like direct democracy in Rojava (Syria). Alexander, a native of Ohio USA, served as a heavy machine gunner on the Raqqa front.
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.