Unions back a general strike against Trump if he refuses to accept Biden victory

Posted on October 30, 2020, 6:09 pm
5 mins

Unions in the US have initiated discussions on the idea of a general strike if Donald Trump does not accept an outcome of the election in favor of the Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

Measures such as this would be unprecedented in the modern era as the last general strike took place in 1946, and that too was just limited to Oakland, California.

The local labor federation in Rochester, New York, was the initial union group to officially support the notion of a general strike. Union federations in Seattle and in western Massachusetts have followed in their footsteps, supporting resolutions saying a general strike should be adopted if Trump tries to undermine the results of the election.

Dan Maloney, president of the Rochester-Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, said his 100,000-member group approved the resolution to get people talking about the idea – from local unions to the AFL-CIO, the country’s main labor federation which represents more than 12.5 million people.

On 8 October, the Rochester federation voted to back the preparation for and holding “a general strike of all working people, if necessary, to ensure a constitutionally mandated peaceful transition of power as a result of the 2020 presidential elections.” The union leaders chose to stand “firmly in opposition to any effort to subvert, distort, misrepresent or disregard the final outcome” of the election.

This discussion sparked debate in many other unions which started to deliberate on the idea of a general strike, though some labor leaders are of the view that the action would be drastic and hard to materialize. “The idea has gotten a lot more legs than I ever thought it would,” Maloney told the Guardian. “Our democracy is in jeopardy of a wannabe dictator. It’s time to be counted and do whatever it takes to remove him from office if he attempts to retain power against the will of the American people.”

Maloney, however, conceded that a general strike would be a bizarre measure. “In drastic times, you need drastic measures,” he said.

The Rochester federation’s resolution states: “The extreme risk currently posed to the historic institutions of democracy in our nation may require more widespread and vigorous resistance than at any time in recent history.”

The AFL-CIO’s executive council, approved a resolution on October 19 saying: “Democracies are not, in the last analysis, protected by judges or lawyers, reporters or publishers. The survival of democracy depends on the determination of working people to defend it. And America’s labor movement is indeed determined to defend our democratic republic.”

Michael Podhorzer, a senior Trumka adviser, said: “We believe democracy is stronger than Trump. We are not looking for a fight. We want the election results to be respected. We’re getting ready if they’re not respected because of what he said. We believe this is a country where what voters say matters.”

Podhorzer, who was previously the AFL-CIO’s political director, said: “The thing that is really striking is that Joe Biden and the labor movement are doing everything they can to win the election, and Donald Trump is doing everything he can to defeat the election.”

Podhorzer added that currently, “a general strike is a slogan, not a strategy”.

Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, was also in favor of a general strike if Trump does not respect the election results. “What we’ve seen is people going about our business during the day and conducting mass protests at night, and that’s not going to be enough to make this president move,” Nelson said. “He will use those protests to further divide the country. We will have to do the one thing that takes all power and control from the government or anyone with corporate interests in keeping this person in office, and that is withholding our labor.”

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