Union workers elect all women executive committee at record-breaking convention

Photo: Danielle Bombardier of IBEW 300. Courtesy photo.

Photo: Danielle Bombardier of IBEW 300. Courtesy photo.

VermontBiz A record number of union delegates – 153 in total – gathered at Jay Peak resort this past weekend and elected Katie Harris, Ellen Kaye, and Danielle Bombardier as the the next leaders of the largest labor federation in this state: the Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO. It was a test of the Labor Council's Ten Point Program and cross-union reform caucus, United, which has won every election since winning its first in 2019. It was also a chance for workers across Vermont to come together, get to know each other better, and raise a glass to the working-class – all while democratically debating what workers need to do to build power.

Running against United candidates Katie Harris of AFSCME 1674, for President, and Ellen Kaye of UVM Staff United, for Executive Vice President, were Larry Moquin of LIUNA 668, for President, and Aimee Towne of VSEA, for Executive Vice President. Incumbent Danielle Bombardier of IBEW 300 ran unopposed for Secretary-Treasurer.

Photo: Katie Harris of AFSCME 1674 and Ellen Kaye of UVM Staff United. Courtesy photo.

Photo: Katie Harris of AFSCME 1674 and Ellen Kaye of UVM Staff United. Courtesy photo.

All candidates passionately care about working people. During a debate held three days before the Convention, Larry Moquin proudly stated, “the union is in my blood.” The difference between United and their opponents was strategic rather than moral.

Moquin believes workers' power comes from being in the state house and working with lobbyists to pass bills favorable to workers. Harris and Kaye of United think workers' power comes from workers taking action themselves, which requires prioritizing organizing. “We want politicians in the state house to listen to us because we have power,” commented Harris. “We have pushed the VT PRO Act [S.102] very successfully over the last year. We will continue to do lobbying and legislative work. But success at the statehouse comes from the power that we build locally.”

Of course, the need to organize in itself is not controversial in the labor movement, but the questions of strategy and funding continue to be debated. The labor movement has been growing, and its largely due to women taking on the task of organizing. “Over the past decade, about 60 percent of newly organizing workers have been women,” according to a recent study by Cornell University.

Women will now be leading Vermont's labor movement. After a long weekend of debating, caucusing, and voting, Harris and Kaye came out victorious, marking United's fourth win since its inception. Danielle Bombardier, a master electrician and teacher, was re-elected to Secretary-Treasurer. Under Bombardier's sagacious leadership, the Labor Council has grown financially,

“Electing a three-woman Executive Committee this September makes women's leadership in the labor movement visible. It doesn't begin it. It makes it visible,” said Kaye. “It's a step toward opening the door for greater diversity in the labor movement, which must overcome its legacy of racial and gendered exclusion, to truly unite working people and build power together.”

This past weekend, that step was taken. The door is open. Now, it's up to the newly elected leaders to build relationships with all workers who share this vision – at work and in our communities – and welcome each other in. Said President Harris, “It takes a lot of time and effort, but building a diverse and powerful labor movement in Vermont is worth it," Kaye added, “it could even be fun.”

The new executive board members of the VT AFL-CIO are the following:

  • President: Katie Harris, AFSCME 1674
  • Executive Vice President: Ellen Kaye, UVM Staff United
  • Secretary-Treasurer: Danielle Bombardier, IBEW 300
  • Vice President of AFT: Jack Roberts, UVM Staff United
  • Vice President of AFT: David Feurzeig, United Academics
  • Vice President of IBEW: Jeffrey Wimette, IBEW 300
  • At-Large Vice President: Beka Mendelsohn, Scoopers United
  • Vice President of VSEA: Robert N. Stone, VSEA
  • Vice President of VSEA: Morgan Ouellette, VSEA
  • Vice President of VSEA: Liona Watt, VSEA
  • Vice President of VSEA: Melissa Hurt, VSEA
  • Vice President of VSEA: Tyrel, Kerr, VSEA
  • Vice President of Postal Workers: Paul Montague, APWU 759
  • Vice President of Federal Workers: Elizabeth Harkins, AFGE 2604
  • Vice President of Building Trades: Greg Gove, Building Trades Council
  • District Vice President of Franklin & Grand Isle Counties: Devry Langlois, USW 340
  • District Vice President of Chittenden County: Martin Gil, IATSE 919
  • District Vice President of Lamoille County: Sarah Williams, AFSCME 3977
  • District Vice President of Washington & Orange Counties: Traven Leyshon, Green Mountain Central Labor Council
  • District Vice President of Rutland & Addison Counties: Jeremy Rathbun, AFSCME 1201
  • District Vice President of Bennington County: Dan Cornell, AFSCME 490
  • District Vice President of Windham & Windsor Counties: Renee Neid, UFCW 1459
  • District Vice President of the Northeast Kingdom (Caledonia, Essex, Orleans): Ruben Serrano, AFSCME 2413

Photo: 2023 Convention Group photo. Courtesy photo.