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Unions Representing Hundreds of Thousands of Workers Prepare for General Strike If Trump Subverts Election Results

"Paired with people in the streets, a strike could help stop a GOP coup."

A protester holds signs that say, "Refuse Fascism" in front of the George Washington Statue in Union Square, New York on July 18, 2020. (Photo: Ira L. Black/Corbis via Getty Images)

Dozens of labor unions have resolved to consider a general strike after Nov. 3 should President Donald Trump refuse to accept the results of the election or sabotage the counting of ballots, with organizers calling a work stoppage "the most powerful tool the movement has" to protect democracy.

The 100,000-member Rochester-Genesee Valley Area Labor Federation in New York was the first union federation to adopt a resolution this month stating that it would prepare for and hold “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 resolution also stated the federation would lobby other labor organizations including the AFL-CIO, which represents 12.5 million workers, to consider a general strike if the president attempts to subvert the election results.

"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."
—Sara Nelson, Association of Flight Attendants

The group passed the resolution as Trump has repeatedly refused to commit to accepting the election results if he loses and after several federal court decisions have sparked fears that hundreds of thousands of voters could be disenfranchised.

MLK Labor in Seattle, which represents 150 unions and 100,000 members, approved a resolution last week stating it "will take whatever nonviolent actions are necessary up to and including a general strike to protect our democracy, the Constitution, the law, and our nation’s democratic traditions," and Western Mass Area Labor Federation in Western Massachusetts voted on a similar resolution last Monday.  

"We joined a growing number of labor organizations around the country and passed a resolution making clear that should Donald Trump and his administration attempt to obstruct, subvert, sabotage, overturn or reject a fair and complete count of presidential ballots (essentially a coup against democracy), that the labor movements must respond with nonviolent action to defend the democratic process, the Constitution and an orderly transfer of power that is one of the historic hallmarks of American democracy," the federation wrote on its Facebook page last week. 

"The labor movement must be ready to defend our democracy and use our collective power to ensure that every vote is counted," the group added.

The AFL-CIO's executive council has so far only committed to "defend our democratic republic," and President Richard Trumka told labor leaders on Oct. 22 that the labor movement's focus up until Election Day is to get out the vote for Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. After the election, Trumka said, the AFL-CIO will determine how it will fight back if Trump or the judicial system moves to stop the counting of votes or otherwise stands in the way of a peaceful transition of power. 

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Even a work stoppage in certain parts of the country would be historic; the last time a general strike took place in the U.S. was in 1946 when workers in Oakland, Calif. staged a walkout over low wages, forcing all businesses except for grocery stores and pharmacies to shut down for one month.

"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," Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants, told The Guardian on Friday. "[Trump] 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."

As labor leaders across the country are considering a work stoppage, advocacy groups are preparing a growing number of direct actions to demand that election officials protect the results of the election. Led by Indivisible and Stand Up America, the Protect the Results coalition is so far planning at least 435 demonstrations across the country, up from 375 on Tuesday.

"If Trump declares victory prematurely or tries to undermine the results of the election, the American people must be ready to rise up and protect the results," wrote Leah Greenberg of Indivisible and Sean Eldridge of Stand Up America at Talking Points Memo on Friday. 

"With a combined membership in the tens of millions, the Protect the Results coalition continues to build a national activist network that could mobilize quickly to demand that election officials, the Electoral College and Congress honor the accurate, final vote count," they added. "By mobilizing across the country, our groups hope to ensure that any corrupt political pressure from Trump is met with far greater pressure from the American people to follow the rules and preserve our democracy." 

A work stoppage combined with rallies at government buildings and other public places starting on Nov. 4, should the president sabotage a free and fair election, "could help stop a GOP coup," said organizers.

"Spread the word. Contact your union," tweeted Protect the Results NYC. "And if you haven't, commit to taking the streets."

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