Open Letter From New Leftists to AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka: End Attacks on Vermont Labor

Mr. Richard Trumka, President AFL-CIO,

We, as organizers and members of various movements and organizations in the New Left of the 1960s and 1970s (and their allies)—who organized for economic and social justice and against racism and war— wholly support the direction the AFL-CIO Vermont Leadership Council and other progressive unions are taking in support of those same goals in 2021. We call on the AFL-CIO national leadership to back off from its threats and intimidation of these labor organizers and join in developing a national movement for economic and social justice now.

2021 is a year of change, potentially great change. It is also a year of continuing crisis. The COVID 19 virus shut down much of the world beginning in march 2020. The economy dove, leaving millions of workers without work for months. In spite of a slight recovery, millions remain unemployed with increasing debt. Despite some efforts to minimize the economic pain from Washington, the future remains uncertain. Meanwhile, the world’s wealthiest people have seen their wealth magnify exponentially.

Besides the economic situation, the onslaught against Black Americans by police forces around the United States continues unabated. In one of the most brazen murders by police, George Floyd was asphyxiated by Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin. After months of popular and militant protests by US residents of all ages and skin tones, Chauvin was tried and convicted of all charges.

Immigrants continue to be treated poorly at the southern border–the change in national leadership seems to make little difference.

Although Donald Trump lost the presidential election in November 2020, he and his followers did not go quietly. Indeed, the fear that Trump and his clique would refuse to leave the White House on inauguration day 2021 was a very real fear. This fear was enhanced when thousands of his followers took over the US Capitol building on January 6th, resulting in the deaths of at least six people. The far right and white supremacists supporting Trump continue their efforts to destroy remaining democracy in the United States.

The nature of this situation cries out for a movement dedicated to economic and social justice. That movement requires the support of mobilized labor, social movements and individuals from throughout US society. The Vermont union movement supports the leadership of the Vermont AFL-CIO Leadership Council in its attempts to provide an approach for labor unions to be part of this movement; to be in the leadership of such a movement. To this end, they have stepped up organizing unrepresented workers, opened up their meetings to all members, support the demands of Black Lives Matter and those working for immigrant rights. Furthermore, after an overwhelming convention vote, the Council called on workers around Vermont to walk out if Trump refused to leave the White House. This is what organized labor should be doing during times like this. Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO national leadership need to get on board.

(organizations for identification purposes only)

Paul Atwood, Retired faculty University of Massachusetts Boston, Veterans for Peace

Sharon Black, Peoples Power Assembly, former UFCW Local 27 & Meatcutter shop steward

Peter Bohmer, Economics for Everyone, faculty emeritus, The Evergreen State College

Keith Brooks, UFT, National Writers Union, Director New York Unemployed Committee (1990-’96)

Paul Buhle, historian of the Left and US labor movement

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiiz, professor emeritus, California State University.(AFT)

Max Elbaum, activist and author

Robert Ferraro – Univ. of MD SDS, retired shop steward, UFCW Local 400

Jon Flanders Past President, IAM 1145 retired

Henry Harris, Center for Grassroots Organizing, Marshfield VT

Jeff Jones, Former Director of the New York State Apollo Alliance, climate and environmental justice activist

George Katsiaficas, Author and president, Eros Effect Foundation

Kira Kelly, National Lawyers Guild

Fred Klonsky Local President IEA/NEA retired

Nancy Kurshan, LCSW, Chicago School Social Worker & member of Chicago Teachers Union (retired)

Fred Magdoff, Emeritus Professor and former member of the faculty union at UVM

Claude Marks, Co-Director Freedom Archives

Patrick McCann, lifetime NEA/AFT member, former IAM(AW) member, past national president of Veterans For Peace

Joseph Moore, former UAW member and UVM United Academics organizer

Richard Ochs, U.of Md. SDS, retired Shop Steward, IUMSWA, Local 24, pensioned GCIU

Jonah Raskin, professor emeritus Sonoma State University

Russell Shoatz III, Ankh Restorative Justice/Diversity Content Creator

Craig Simpson, former Executive Director Washington Metropolitan Council AFL-CIO, retired member Almagated Transit Union 689, UFCW 400 retired

Tom O. Smith, Shop Steward UE-Local 120; Building Rep., AFT-Baltimore; VT State Rep, General Assembly (2 terms)

Netdahe Stoddard, co-director of Building Fearless Futures Cabot, VT

Bob Tomashevsky, SDS, NYC Taxi Driver’s Organizing Committee, Local 100 TWU.

Ron Jacobs, President AFSCME Local 1343