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).
The Vermont AFL-CIO finds these Trump assertions to be gravely troubling and unprecedented in contemporary U.S. politics. The Vermont AFL-CIO is not alone in having these dire concerns. Our own U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders has also been warning of the possibility of Trump seeking to hold on to power even if he loses the election. Further, dozens of allied Vermont community and labor organizations, such as Rights And Democracy, are already mobilizing in the event that a Trump coup needs to be resisted. In such a worst case scenario, the Vermont AFL-CIO will do its part in defending democracy, making sure all votes are counted, and resisting any attempt to usurp the democratic will of the American people.
Vermont AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen states: “The Vermont AFL-CIO will do its part in the defense of democracy should there be any attempt at orchestrating a coup. We will therefore seek a Vermont General Strike Authorization Vote from our members at our November Convention. This authorization, if passed, would empower the elected VT AFL-CIO Executive Board to call for mass work stoppages throughout Vermont in the event that any political faction seeks to undermine the democratic process upon which this nation is predicated. If a strike is called for, we will look to coordinate such actions through a Popular Front of pro-democracy forces from all Vermont parties in order to maximize participation and support, and to make sure core essential public services are not unduly interrupted. However, even if ratified by our members, the authorization vote will not be acted upon until and unless unfolding political developments require it. In brief, the VT AFL-CIO leadership will be clear-headed and judicious with the power vested in us by our rank and file membership. The VT AFL-CIO will be closely monitoring political developments throughout the U.S. from Election Day [11/03/2020] through Inauguration Day [1/20/21]. But let us be clear: labor must not and shall not tolerate the ascension of an extra-constitutional authoritarian regime in the United States. We shall be prepared to resist and we invite all working Vermonters (be they Union or non-Union) to join us.”
Vermont AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Tristin Adie contends: “If Trump and his junta seek to stay in power even after losing this election, they will be met with resistance from Organized Labor. The Vermont AFL-CIO will not stand passively by while basic democracy unravels. We have power as workers: businesses and government only work because we do. If the extreme right takes steps to carry out a coup, the Vermont AFL-CIO will do everything in our power to stop them.”
Tim Labombard, the VT AFL-CIO Vice President for the Building Trades echoes: “Given the extraordinary and dangerous circumstances that may come into being post-election, it is necessary for labor, whether private or public sector, to put aside differences and fight together in order to protect the future of our way of life. The Building Trades will stand side by side with our Union brothers and sisters in defending our democratic right to a fair election to the extent necessary to ensure that process.”
Omar Fernandez, VT AFL-CIO Vice President for Postal Workers asserts: “The modern incarnation of my own union, APWU, was predicated upon a national wildcat strike in the 1970s. Organizing that strike was the right thing for us to do back then. Today, if our very democracy and Constitution comes under threat, labor will be morally and politically compelled to put down our tools, take to the streets, and defend the Republic against a tyranny in waiting.”
Helen Scott, VT AFL-CIO Vice President for AFT Workers states: “The General Strike has always been the most powerful tool of the Labor Movement. If Trump loses the election but refuses to leave office, or if he and his supporters attempt to subvert the results of the election in any way, workers have the right to make use of the strike in order to defend democracy. The Vermont AFL-CIO would support all unions and workers in Vermont who take action to protect our democratic rights.”
Acting Vermont AFL-CIO Executive Director Liz Medina, a member of the UAW, adds: “Unions have suffered at the hands of the present administration. We have felt the consequences of rabidly anti-union Justices being placed on the U.S. Supreme Court and advocates for the bosses being appointed to the National Labor Relations Board. We will not allow this Administration to take the next step, should they seek to, in abolishing the vestiges of democracy we now have. We cannot allow for a rightwing anti-union coup to go unchallenged. The Vermont AFL-CIO shall seek to work with allies and community partners in organizing an effective resistance should that step become necessary.”
The Vermont AFL-CIO will hold a General Strike Authorization Vote at its November 21, 2020 Convention. The Convention, in addition to organizing towards an external defense of democracy, will also have the focus of further internal democratization of the labor federation itself whereby more power and decision making ability will be divested back to the rank and file.
The Vermont AFL-CIO is also endorsing the demonstration in defense of democracy at on the Statehouse lawn [Montpelier] on November 7, 2020.