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The AFL-CIO Can Be Reformed, Locally And From The Bottom-Up!

Changing the leadership, structure, or functioning of any U.S. labor organization is no easy task. Activists and experts have long argued about whether dysfunctional unions are best reformed from the top-down, bottom-up, or some mix of the two approaches.  For the past 65 years, the main locus of union democracy and reform struggles in the U.S. has been local unions, which hold leadership elections every three years and are closest to the membership. Thousands of rank-and-file workers have campaigned for more militant unionism by running for and winning local office.  Some have had the backing of national networks of like-minded dissidents, including Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) and Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD), a TDU-inspired reform caucus within the United Auto Workers.

Vermont’s New AFL-CIO President Is A Democratic Socialist, Labor Reformer

Unlike some local and national unions, the AFL-CIO’s state and local bodies rarely hold contested leadership elections with opposing slates offering alternative strategies for reviving the labor movement. Yet in Vermont, there have been two such contests for the state federation in the last four years, both producing a mandate for change. In 2019, a group of local union officers and staff members created a reform slate called “Vermont AFL-CIO United!” Fourteen of its candidates got elected — taking all the top officer jobs and forming a majority on the state labor council’s executive board. Their goal was to revitalize a moribund organization through membership education, mobilization, and direct action, plus greater independence from the Democratic Party.

In A New Climate Reality, Community May Be A Farmer’s Greatest Resource

The 10th of July had been a typical day at work for Caroline Hauser until she received an urgent email from the Intervale Center and its farms. They were calling for volunteers. The Intervale Center, a nonprofit farming cooperative in Burlington, Vermont, was bracing for intense rains and flooding forecasted to hit in the next 24 hours. It needed all hands on deck to harvest everything they could before disaster struck. Hauser messaged her manager to say she needed the day off. Hauser has been a Burlington resident since 2015 and a regular volunteer at the Intervale Center since 2019. She and her husband are summer and winter CSA members—she estimates that 80 to 90 percent of their food comes directly from the Intervale’s seven organic farms.

Disaster Recovery Efforts Can Serve More Than One Goal

In the aftermath of last week’s floods, my home state of Vermont faces a daunting path to recovery. Flooding damaged homes and businesses. Roads and bridges washed out, and communities have been cut off from the rest of the state. Vermont has walked this path before, after Tropical Storm Irene, and we are not alone in facing a recovery now. As the climate crisis deepens, more places will be spending more time in recovery mode. Recovery isn’t just a difficult task. It’s also one with lasting consequences. Rebuilt infrastructure will — hopefully — stand for decades to come. Over its lifetime, it will influence climate resilience, carbon emissions, health, well-being and social equity.

Growing Worker Co-ops In Vermont

Bret Keisling is joined by worker-owners Alex Fischer and Andrew Stachiw who discuss USFWC's (US Federation of Worker Cooperatives) efforts to network and grow worker co-ops in Vermont to further societal goals including economic, racial, and social justice, and working in business as anti-capitalists. Alex and Andrew share their individual and combined passions for democratized workplaces and their beliefs that changing the very structures of jobs, equity and community will transcend society. Each guest also shares their EO A-ha Moment. Further show notes, and all of our past episodes, are available on our website.

Governor’s Claim That He Is Powerless To Stop F-35 Just Got Shown Up

A leak of thousands of gallons of fuel from the US Navy’s aging underground storage tanks at Pearl Harbor contaminated drinking water and poisoned and sickened thousands of people, including children, driving 3,500 families from their homes, as reported by The Washington Post, January 10, 2022. The fuel-storage facility sits 100 feet above Oahu’s main freshwater aquifer. Did Hawaii follow in the footsteps of Vermont’s Governor Phil Scott and foist wrongful actions by the military or the military-industrial complex on civilians while claiming to be powerless? Just the opposite. Health authorities in Hawaii promptly stepped up to require the Navy to stop the abuse. The state issued an emergency order. Then, when the Navy at first contested, the state held a public hearing.

Why Is The AFL-CIO So Worried About Its Vermont Affiliate?

For as long as Richard Trumka has been a national AFL-CIO leader—more than a quarter of a century—his labor federation has been encouraging its local affiliates to revitalize themselves to help reverse union decline. Now nearing retirement as AFL-CIO president, Trumka was part of a “New Voice” slate that challenged old guard officials for control of the organization in 1995, via its first contested election in a century. New Voice candidates promised to work with state and local AFL-CIO councils to make labor’s political action and workplace solidarity more effective. Among the reforms they implemented was hiring more staff to promote picketing and protests by union members under attack by hostile employers.

Medicare-For-All Is Good For Our Towns

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, 30 million people in the U.S. had no health insurance, and about 50 million were underinsured. The pandemic has caused millions more to lose coverage because of losing their jobs. Indeed the pandemic has given us perspective on an array of injustices in our health care delivery system — including the lack of an adequate public health infrastructure, the racial disparities in access to care, the rationing of care based on ability to pay, and hospitals’ concentration on lucrative cardiac and orthopedic services rather than mental health and primary care. The U.S. spends twice as much per capita on health care as other high-income countries that provide universal coverage, and yet our health outcomes are worse.

“This Isn’t Just Something Happening Elsewhere”: Protesters Rally Outside Vermont ICE facility

Hundreds marched through the rain Sunday afternoon to protest outside the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Williston. The demonstration was put on by the combined force of dozens of local activist groups including Women's March Vermont, Migrant Justice and the Peace and Justice Center. “If you’re taking children away from their mothers and leaving them in a room with no one to care for them, you need to quit your job,” said Bob Fishel, of Burlington. 

Northgate Apartments Celebrate 30 Years Of Resident Ownership, Affordability

Burlington, Vt - Vermont's largest affordable housing community marked a special milestone Saturday with a neighborhood-wide celebration. The Northgate Apartments in Burlington's New North End is celebrating 30 years of housing affordability and resident ownership. "We're celebrating 30 years of ownership, resident ownership," said Linda Romeo, a longtime resident. Romeo has lived at Northgate for the past 48 years. She raised her family there and can remember a time when conditions were poor.

Internet Provider Groups Sue Vermont Over Net Neutrality Law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Five industry groups representing major internet providers and cable companies filed suit on Thursday seeking to block a Vermont law barring companies that do not abide by net neutrality rules from receiving state contracts. An AT&T logo is pictured in Pasadena, California, U.S., January 24, 2018. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Vermont by groups representing major providers like AT&T Inc (T.N), Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O) and Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N). It followed a lawsuit by four of the groups earlier this month challenging a much broader California law mandating providers abide by net neutrality rules.

Vermont Puts Prisoners Out For Bid To Slave Labor Corporations

Since the budget summary was written, Vermont has removed all its prisoners from the Michigan facility. In its place, Vermont used the Pennsylvania state facility at Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, where four Vermonters have died, one from untreated cancer with no palliative care. Now Vermont negotiators have reportedly agreed to a contract to send Vermont prisoners to Tallahatchie, Mississippi, to be housed in a 2,672-bed facility run by CoreCivic, Inc. (formerly known as the Corrections Corporation of America), the largest private prison company in the US (2018 second-quarter profit $42 million on revenue of $449 million). The Vermont contract is currently secret. The ACLU opposes the contract sight unseen.  State and corporate officials have refused to discuss it in any detail, but promise it will be made public once the necessary parties have signed it to make it binding.

Vermont’s Striking Nurses Want A Raise For Nonunion Workers Too

Especially for professional workers, when your main strike issue is pay, attracting public support can be a challenge. Savvy employers paint union members as spoiled. They like to point out that you’re already making more than many of your nonunion neighbors. Yet when 1,800 nurses and technical staff struck for better wages July 12-13 at the state’s second-largest employer, the University of Vermont Medical Center, the people of Burlington came out in force to back them up. “We had policemen and firefighters and UPS drivers pulling over and shaking our hands” on the picket line, said neurology nurse Maggie Belensz. “We had pizza places dropping off dozens of pizzas, giving out free ice cream.” And when a thousand people marched from the hospital through Burlington’s downtown, “we had standing ovations from people eating their dinners,” she said. “It was a moving experience.”

#RedforMed: 1,800 Vermont Nurses Are On Strike Demanding Their Hospital Put Patients Over Profits

Ranked 47th for pay in the nation. High turnover, stagnant wages, and chronic staffing shortages—sound familiar? You’d be forgiven for thinking these figures refer to the working conditions of West Virginia teachers, or those in any of the red states that erupted in strikes during this spring’s teacher rebellion. But, in fact, these figures describe the daily realities confronting nurses in none other than the widely-hailed progressive state of Vermont. On Thursday, 1,800 nurses and 300 health professionals at the University of Vermont Medical Center (UVMMC) began a two-day strike to demand more for themselves and their patients. At the center of the strike are issues related to safe staffing, competitive pay and calls for a hospital-wide $15 minimum wage.

How Vermont Changed From Red To Blue

Donald Trump’s fear mongering about Mexicans and Muslims, Haitians and Africans, and other foreigners is hardly sui generis in U.S. history. In the mid- 19th century, nativists on our east coast regularly sounded the alarm about barbarian invasions from famine-stricken Ireland. Their west coast counterparts warned for many decades of the “yellow peril” spreading across the Pacific Ocean from China to California. Yvonne Daley’s new book about the late 20th century transformation of Vermont, reminds us that even domestic population shifts involving native-born whites can be easily demonized—if the physical appearance and social customs of the “outsiders” in question are sufficiently strange and they are not depicted as law-abiding. One of the highlights of Going Up the Country: When the Hippies, Dreamers, Freaks, and Radicals Moved to Vermont is Daley’s re-creation of a minor panic triggered by Playboy, when it had millions of readers.
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