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Vermont AFL-CIO 10 Point Program

By various - Vermont AFL-CIO, October 14, 2019

Organized Labor has been the most powerful force for change in the History of the United States of America. From the 8 hour day/40 hour work week, the establishment of the weekend, livable wages (in Union shops), to workplace safety standards; Labor has won these foundational victories through collective action and solidarity. However, for some decades Labor, nationally, has been on the decline. After endorsing Bill Clinton for President (1992), Clinton and the Democrats in Congress sent our manufacturing jobs to low wage (super exploited) nations through NAFTA and other free trade agreements (agreements which we opposed, and which we still oppose). And with these good manufacturing jobs, so went thousands of Union jobs.

Today in Vermont (2019), the 10,000 member strong AFL-CIO continues to be a major force within the Labor Movement, but few would rationally deny that we have largely stagnated. This stagnation comes as President Trump and his increasingly far-right Republican Party have launched existential attacks on Labor. The most dire of these include the politically motivated Supreme Court ruling outlawing fair share dues in public sector Unions, the Administration’s so- called rule change outlawing even voluntary dues through payroll deductions for most Unionized home healthcare providers, and the appointment of corporate stooges to the National Labor Relations Board. This is not the time for Labor to stagnate…

This wilting of Labor does not have to be. We can (and must) be a social and political power once again; one capable not only of defending against the attacks we now face from DC, but also of going on the offensive and delivering positive life altering changes for working people. But we will not achieve our potential if we stay on the road more traveled. We cannot continue to do what we have always done and expect a different result. Nor can we be satisfied with candidates that run for Union office who support all the good things, but who neglect to tell us how we will get there. Instead we must be bold, we must experiment, and we must forge a way forward which not only transforms the Vermont AFL-CIO, but also delivers a powerful Labor Movement with the muscle needed to transform Vermont as a whole. And here, the Vermont we intend to deliver is one wherein working class people not only possess the means to live a secure and dignified life, but one where we, as the great majority, wield the democratic power required to give social and political expression to the many. Such a transformative potential presupposes first a unity around an effective program, and second the development of our immediate political power.

Read the report (PDF).

Excerpt from the new book, ‘On Anarchism: Dispatches from the People’s Republic of Vermont’

By David Van Deusen - It's Going Down, January 18, 2018

What follows is an excerpt from the new book On Anarchism: Dispatches From The People’s Republic of Vermont. Dispatches contains works written by David Van Deusen, and in some cases, the Green Mountain Anarchist Collective. This excerpt is the introduction to a strategic plan that was put forward by the Green Mountain Anarchist Collective in 2004. The proposal, until now, how never been made available to the public.

The Old Socialist Labor Hall, Barre, Vermont 2004 – The current social and political dynamic within North America, and much of the western industrialized world, is one of both growing hope and an escalation of capitalist oppression.[1]  While workers are being attacked by the forces of capital, and while the U.S. ruling class embarks upon imperialist campaigns of war, conquest, and cultural-political-economic homogenization, a mass movement is building within the very walls of the empire.

The 1999 Battle of Seattle witnessed the coming together of a great and diverse new American left.  As the anti-globalization movement matured, culminating in the 70,000-100,000 strong Battle of Quebec City in 2001, a mass anti-capitalist, pro-democracy movement was in full swing.  This momentum was effectively stalled due to the hesitation demonstrated on the part of the left immediately following the tragic September 11th terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers, and the four civilian jetliners.

However, momentum against the empire not only became reinvigorated, but grew to massive proportions with the people’s movement against the imperialist invasion of Iraq.  Let us not forget the more than half-a-million people who marched in opposition through New York City on February 15th.  Nor should we forget the tens-of-thousands of others who marched in hundreds of other North American cities and small towns.[2] Let us also remember the 13 million people who took part in sister demonstrations across the world, making February 15th, 2003, the largest day of global protest in the history of humankind.

While we did not succeed in stopping the war, we did, temporarily, make the neo-conservative’s scale back their rhetoric about invading other nations such as socialist Cuba, communist Korea, Ba’ath controlled Syria, and Islamic Iran. And like in the streets of Seattle, DC, and Quebec, this opposition included millions of union workers (i.e. U.S. Labor Against The War), socialists, anarchists, students, environmentalists, and many others.  In short, while the audacity of the ruling class grows, so too does our movement towards socialism and direct democracy. It is with this in mind that NEFAC must begin to up the ante, and develop a coordinated strategy with the end goal of popular victory.

What is this popular victory?  While it would be arrogant to state exactly what a post-capitalist, democratic, socialist world would look like (as this will be defined by the people themselves), we can, at minimum, say that it will be one where communities are organized by directly democratic assemblies, industry and agriculture will be coordinated by directly democratic unions, and all people will have (among other things) access to food, housing, healthcare, higher education, childcare, jobs, and social security.

How Milk with Dignity got a historic agreement

Enrique "Kike" Balcazar interviewed by Owen La Farge - Socialist Worker, October 19, 2011

WHAT WERE the most important victories that came with the signing of the Milk with Dignity agreement Ben & Jerry's?

FOR MANY years, the priority of dairy workers here in Vermont has been to improve working and living conditions on the farms. We had to build our way up to winning this agreement. First, we organized to secure things like drivers licenses for immigrants in Vermont and stopping the collaboration of police with immigration authorities.

In 2014, we started to speak with Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream about how they could behave more responsibility and lead the way in improving working conditions. The workers designed a program called "Milk with Dignity."

The program was created and led by dairy workers in Vermont. It has five essential elements, including a code of conduct that sets out standards that establish respect and dignity for workers in the areas of decent wages, hours of work, health and safety, and dignified housing.

AND ALL of this is included in the agreement that Ben & Jerry's signed?

YES. IN addition to the code of conduct, the program establishes a plan to educate workers when they start so they can learn about their rights and how to defend them.

Another important element of Milk with Dignity is that an independent third party will interview the workers and oversee the execution of the program. Farmworkers will also be able to call a 24/7 hotline to make complaints and to improve communication inside the dairy farms.

WHY DID Ben & Jerry's sign the agreement two years after initially saying that they supported the agreement?

WE ORGANIZED well, and we defined what we wanted clearly, and we knew that Milk with Dignity represented a new day for the workers. So we never stopped organizing, and with the support of students, faith groups, sister organizations, consumers and workers, we pushed Ben & Jerry's to sign the deal.

Ben & Jerry's has taken steps towards social responsibility in areas such as the environment and animal rights. So I believe Ben & Jerry's understood it was time to do right by the workers.

Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes

By Michael Colby - CounterPunch, July 21, 2017

It was twenty years ago last month that Food & Water published our report on Vermont’s atrazine addiction, a toxic herbicide that is banned in Europe but continues to be used in abundance on Vermont’s 92,000 acres of GMO-derived feed corn – all for dairy cows. We used the report to get the attention of Ben & Jerry’s, and it worked. We thought when the doors swung open to the offices of Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield themselves that we’d be able to make the case to them.

Our plea at the time was the same as it is today: Ben & Jerry’s should practice what it preaches and help transition its farmers to organic production. If they took the lead, we argued, the entire state could begin a transition away from the kind of industrial, commodity-based dairy system that is wreaking so much havoc with Vermont’s agriculture – and culture. It’s a system that is doing exactly what it was designed to do: chase small farmers off the land by de-valuing production. And so it has been, for decades, an economic death spiral in which less and less is paid for more and more of the commodity product, in this case: milk.

We thought the obvious imbalance – and even direct, outright hypocrisy – between what Ben & Jerry’s was doing and what they were saying would be enough to get these do-good hippies to do the right thing. We were using logic. Because, certainly, the corporation that wanted to “save the planet” and “put the planet before profits” would want to stop being one of the state’s top polluters, right?

Wrong.

We were told at the time, by Ben himself, after a year’s worth of meetings and even an offer of a job to me “to work with us instead of going after us,” that Ben & Jerry’s was not going to transition to organic because it wouldn’t allow them to “maximize profits.” Quick, throw another tie-dyed shirt to the crowd! Or launch a new flavor! Send some ice cream to the schools! Anything, just get the attention off of what Ben & Jerry’s is doing to its homeland, and our homeland – all to maximize its profits.

This was all before they sold out to Unilever, when Cohen and Greenfield still had all the power they needed to do the right thing. But, even then, the harsh reality of profits over ideals was firmly in place, with the belief that if they could convince people that eating ice cream would bring world peace, they could convince them of anything. There was nothing that a little groovy marketing couldn’t fix.

It has, of course, only grown worse under Unilever in terms of corporate accountability and transparency. All the big decisions regarding Ben & Jerry’s are now made from Unilever’s London headquarters, where it also shepherds more than a dozen other billion-dollar-plus brands. But its corporate stand on most everything associated with the gross injustices of its dairy sourcing – from migrant labor exploitation to cow abuse to rural economic plunder – remains exactly the same: stay wedded to cheap, commodity milk, reject an organic transition, and keep relying on marketing to trump the nasty realities. Free cones!

Turns out, those free-cone days that Ben & Jerry’s rolls out every year for Vermonters aren’t so free, nor are the grants they provide to so many environmental and economic justice groups. With each lick and each cash of the foundation check, Ben & Jerry’s expects loyalty to its carefully orchestrated charade: the consumption of high-fat, pesticide-laden, climate-threatening, cow-abusing ice cream produced with the labor of exploited migrant workers all leads to social and ecological justice for all! Come on, people, really?

But let’s keep looking behind the curtain.

Poverty Wages, Deportations, Wage Theft, Cockroaches: Farmworkers Demand Dignity From Ben & Jerry's

By Jonathan Leavitt, Truthout - July 12, 2017

More than 200 farmworkers and allies marched on the Ben & Jerry's factory Saturday, June 17, to demand that the ice cream corporation with $600 million in annual revenue implement "Milk with Dignity." On their 13-mile march from Vermont's statehouse to the tourist-laden ice cream factory, farmworkers told of illegally withheld wages in the Ben & Jerry's supply chain, 40 percent of farmworkers not getting minimum wage, 40 percent not getting a day off a week, exhaustion from insufficient sleep, a lack of clean water and cockroach-infested housing.

"Take our 30-minute guided factory tour and learn how we make ice cream and how we put our values into action at every step of the process," beckons Ben & Jerry's. Yet, just past the police SUVs, the discontinued ice cream "flavor graveyard," families of out-of-state tourists, and Ben & Jerry's employees in their corporation's iconic tie-dyed t-shirts, Migrant Justice members told subaltern stories of hardship -- once invisible labor made visible. Victor Diaz, a farmworker in the Ben & Jerry's supply chain, says the hugely profitable ice cream giant has a responsibility to do something for farmworkers like him who work 13- to 14-hour days. "I can tell you there's still no dignity and justice in the Ben & Jerry's supply chain."

Since the Milk with Dignity campaign began in 2015, farmworkers have streamed into Migrant Justice's assemblies deep in rural Vermont, having heard of the promise of "the bonus" -- the funding which Ben & Jerry's would pay to ensure dignity in their supply chain. That promise has turned to frustration with a corporation as famous for its social justice image as its Cherry Garcia ice cream that has yet to implement Milk with Dignity, the "worker defined social responsibility" program, which the multinational ice cream giant pledged to enact in July 2015.

"The three weeks I was detained [by Immigration and Customs Enforcement], and the time my compañeros were detained affected me personally, but we've come out of it even more committed to keep fighting," said Miguel Alcudia, a member of Migrant Justice, walking beside Vermont's bucolic Route 2.

An ancillary benefit of the march for Alcudia is, "to let consumers know that inside Ben & Jerry's supply chain, there's injustice and exploitation of workers." Like so many Vermont migrant farmworkers, Alcudia had his wages illegally withheld. Redolent with pest infestations and cockroaches, Alcudia's precarious housing is just above the dairy cows themselves.

With individual farm owners being subject to monolithic ice cream and cheese corporations' milk pricing, farmworkers are left to organize not just inside a single workplace but on an industrial scale to win justice, a classic example of what labor journalist Josh Eidelson describes as the "Who's the Boss" problem. Just as fast-food strikes have brought about joint employer liability for McDonald's for the labor conditions inside its franchise restaurants, so too, farmworkers have used direct actions in an attempt to leverage the largest corporation in the Vermont dairy industry to raise standards across the supply chain.

Farmworkers' capacity to win justice is complicated by a racialized exclusion from the National Labor Relations Act, the bureaucratic legal framework which regulates the labor movement. Following the Trump administration's executive orders on immigration, emboldened Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents have used the mass deportation infrastructure created under the Obama administration to target prominent Migrant Justice organizers.

Migrant Justice has a history of people-powered victories which expand rights for farmworkers, of developing transformative leaders, and defending their leaders from ICE deportation proceedings.

EcoUnionist News #53

Compiled by x344543 - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, June 23, 2015

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

The following news items feature issues, discussions, campaigns, or information potentially relevant to green unionists:

Lead Story:

Bread and Roses:

An Injury to One is an Injury to All:

Carbon Bubble:

Just Transition:

Other News:

For more green news, please visit our news feeds section on ecology.iww.org; Twitter #IWWEUC; Hashtags: #greenunionism #greensyndicalism

Why Passengers Cheered a Vermont Bus Strike

By Ellen David Friedman - Labor Notes, April 22, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

An 18-day bus drivers’ strike in Burlington, Vermont, ended in a win April 3 when drivers ratified a new contract 53-6.

Strikes are rare these days, and fewer still result in victories—so why was this one different? What generated public support for the strike, despite management’s aggressive plan to blame drivers for the loss of bus service for nearly three weeks?

This strike succeeded through a powerful combination of workers organizing on the job and organized community solidarity, the roots of which go back to at least 2009.

The Fine Print I:

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