Vermont AFL-CIO supports abortion amendment, endorses Progressives, names new leader

Vermont Business Magazine On Saturday the Vermont AFL-CIO held its Convention at the Old Socialist Party Labor Hall in Barre. There, the State Labor Council voted to prioritize passage of the Reproductive Liberty Amendment, endorsed the entire Progressive Party slate of candidates running for Statehouse, and appointed Katie Harris to fill the vacant position of Executive Vice President.

Assembled Union members also took part in a workplace organizing workshop and engaged in discussions about building a more powerful Labor Movement over the coming year.

Following a debate, delegates overwhelmingly voted to back the Reproductive Liberty Amendment and to put resources towards seeing this Constitutional Amendment adopted by Vermonters in November.

Vermont AFL-CIO President David Van Deusen states: “Organized Labor must do more than just support members at their worksites. We must also engage in those fights which affect working people generally, throughout all aspects of society. And here we must not and will not sit idly by while women’s rights are rolled back by a reactionary Trump-appointed Supreme Court. Rather we must fight back! The adoption by our members of the Abortion Rights Resolution, and the commitment to use PAC funds to support the Reproductive Liberty Amendment, is the right thing to do. This is a fight we shall win!”

Executive Vice President Katie Harris stated: “This is a critical moment in the fight to uphold reproductive rights in our state and our country. We are reminded that social justice issues are inherently working class issues and Organized Labor is a driving force for progressive change"

Reflecting the continuing left turn of the State Labor Council, members also voted to endorse the entire Progressive Party slate for Vermont House & Senate. This marks two election cycles in a row where the Progressives, whose genesis goes back to when Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders was Mayor of Burlington, received the complete backing of the AFL-CIO in a General Election.

In addition to the Progressive slate, a total of eight Democrats (and no Republicans) gained AFL-CIO support for their respective VT House and Senate races. This is the least amount of endorsements issued for Democratic Party candidates in the history of the Vermont AFL-CIO. In addition to an affirmative vote of the delegates, such endorsements required a 2/3rds vote of the elected Executive Board in order to override a moratorium on Democratic Party endorsements as a result of the Party willfully failing to advance AFL-CIO labor law reforms in the Statehouse such as Card Check Elections, also known as Majority Sign-Up.

Those Democrats receiving labor backing are as follows: for VT Senate, Kesha Ram and Anne Watson; for VT House Conor Casey, Mary Howard, Chip Troiano, Kevin “Coach” Christie, Emilie Kornheiser, and Mari Cordes.

Also receiving endorsements were Progressives David Zuckerman for Lt Governor and Doug Hoffer for Auditor. The State Labor Council declined to make an endorsement in the Governor’s race, for additional statewide offices, or for Congress.

In another major development, following an indicative vote by the assembled membership, Katie Harris, who also chairs the Women & Gender Equity Network, was appointed to fill the vacant Executive Vice President position, thus making her the third highest-ranking officer in the Vermont AFL-CIO. She will serve the remainder of the position’s term, which ends in September of next year. At 30 years old, Harris, a member of AFSCME Local 1674, is now the youngest Executive Vice President for any State Labor Council in the United States. Previously Harris held the position of VP for AFSCME affiliated Unions. Appointed to fill Harris’ vacated spot on the Executive Board was Damion Gilbert of Local 1343. Both Harris and Gilbert are aligned with the United! reform slate. All other Union offices, including Van Deusen serving as President, remain unchanged. The next VT AFL-CIO Executive Board election will be held in 2023.

The Convention included over 85 registered delegates, alternates, & guests. The Convention is the State Labor Council’s highest decision-making body and meets annually. Since 2019, the great majority of VT AFL-CIO’s elected leadership board, which governs the Union organization between Conventions, comes from the leftist United! caucus. The VT AFL-CIO represents over 11,500 members and has been in a state of growth for the past three years.

Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. 8/20/22, Barre, Vermont