If Donald Trump refuses to accept the election results if Democratic nominee Joe Biden wins unions across the U.S. have been discussing a general strike in response.
If Trump refuses a peaceful transfer of power a massive union strike would be unprecedented in this modern era. There hasn’t been a general strike since 1946 and at that time the strike was only in Oakland, California.
Several unions have already approved a resolution to consider a general strike if Trump does not step down peacefully. So far, unions in New York, Seattle, and Massachusetts are on board.
The president of the Rochester-Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation, Dan Maloney, has stated that his union, which has 100,000-members has adopted the resolution so that other unions from local to AFL-CIO, which represents 12.5 million people will begin discussing the idea.
The Rochester federation voted back on October 8, 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.
There are some labor leaders that see the idea as a drastic and a hard-to-pull-off action.
“The idea has gotten a lot more legs than I ever thought it would,” Maloney recently 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 adds that “in drastic times, you need drastic measures,” he said.
The Rochester federation’s resolution reads: “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.”
Maloney shares that on October 22, he spoke by phone with labor leaders and that, Richard Trumka, the AFL-CIO’s president, stressed that until November 3, unions must focus on maximizing voter turnout for Biden. Trumka then added that after that the unions could then focus on what steps to take if Trump refuses a peaceful transfer of power.
On October 19 the AFL-CIO’s executive council approved a resolution that states: “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 advisor to Trumka stated: “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 added, “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.” He added that at that moment “a general strike is a slogan, not a strategy.”
Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants, called for a general strike in January of 2019 to end the government shutdown. Many leaders credit her with helping to force Trump to end the 35-day shutdown over border wall funding.
Nelson agrees that a general strike would be a good move 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,” she 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.”
She also adds that a strike to ensure Trump honors the election results would also result in “improving our jobs” including “our job security and safety at work.”
“Donald Trump remaining in office puts all of us in jeopardy,” she adds. “This directly relates to our basic safety and financial security.” Nelson has repeatedly criticized Trump for doing too little to help unemployed workers and the ailing airline industry. Such a general strike, she said, would be “firmly grounded” in what’s best for workers.
Nelson does acknowledge that pulling off a successful general strike will not be an easy task. She says that there needs to be “a spark that lights the fire,” as well as “people to lead the fight.”
“Do I think the labor movement is prepared to conduct a general strike? No,” Nelson said. “Can we do it, though? Can we organize quickly? Can we define the urgency of the moment? Absolutely.”