Steven Greenhouse reports:
US unions have begun discussing the idea of a general strike if Donald Trump refuses to accept an election result showing a Joe Biden victory.
Such a move would be unprecedented in the modern era. There has not been a general strike in the United States since 1946 – and that was restricted to Oakland, California.
The local labor federation in Rochester, New York, was the first union group to officially support the idea. Union federations in Seattle and in western Massachusetts have followed suit, approving resolutions saying a general strike should be considered if Trump seeks to subvert the election outcome.
Dan Maloney, president of the Rochester-Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, said his 100,000-member group adopted the resolution to get people discussing the idea – from local unions to the AFL-CIO, the nation’s main labor federation which represents more than 12.5 million people.
On 8 October, the Rochester federation voted to support preparing 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 voted to stand “firmly in opposition to any effort to subvert, distort, misrepresent or disregard the final outcome” of the election.
The Rochester move spurred discussion and debate of a possible general strike in union after union, even though some labor leaders see it as a drastic, hard-to-pull-off action. “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 said that in a 22 October call with labor leaders, Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO’s president, stressed that until 3 November, unions should overwhelmingly focus on maximizing voter turnout for Biden. After that, Trumka said, unions can focus on what to do if Trump resists a peaceful transition.
The AFL-CIO’s executive council, approved a resolution on 19 October 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.”