On Jan. 6 Anniversary, Congress Must Act to Strengthen Our Democracy

On Jan. 6 Anniversary, Congress Must Act to Strengthen Our Democracy

On the anniversary of the Jan. 6 insurrection of 2021, AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler called on Congress to defend against assaults against our democracy and strengthen voting rights for all Americans.

In a statement, Shuler said:

One year ago today, we watched in horror as a violent mob, many carrying banners proclaiming white supremacy and anti-government slogans, attempted to block the peaceful transfer of power by storming the U.S. Capitol. On that day, so many of us felt powerless watching the violence unfold. But we are not powerless, and the lesson of the Jan. 6 attack cannot be forgotten. The very people who witnessed firsthand our democracy under assault now have the opportunity to strengthen our system of government, not weaken it. Congress must pass the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 and the Freedom to Vote Act to protect the right of every American to cast our vote and have that vote counted so that every eligible voter has a say in who represents them. 

If we learned anything from that day a year ago, it is that democracy is fragile and must be protected. Our 12.5 million members are motivated, we are mobilizing and we are organizing to hold our elected officials accountable to defend voting rights and democracy for all. 

Shuler also released the following video:

Other labor leaders, representing millions of working people, also weighed in on the anniversary of 1/6…

Actors’ Equity Association:

It has been one year since a violent mob stormed the Capitol in an effort to overturn the results of a free and fair election. At the time, Equity called for accountability, not just for the rioters but for the politicians who incited or condoned their actions. 

We support the continued prosecution of the insurrectionists. However, this does not address what precipitated the events of January 6, leading to severe injuries and deaths, the desecration of our seat of democracy and a nation watching as white supremacists marched the Confederate flag through its hallowed halls. We urge that the Congressional investigation continue, and that anyone who aided or abetted the insurrection, wherever they may be, also face justice. 

Crucially, this assault showed us that there are ways in which our democracy is vulnerable. The right to vote is sacred and Congress must protect it. We urge the passing of the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. 

Continued action is necessary to ensure our government is one that serves all of its constituents, and not those who show the most force.

AFGE National President Everett Kelley:

On this day last year, I called the events of January 6 what they were—a desperate attempt by a desperate man to use political violence to cling onto power after a clear defeat at the ballot box. Every patriotic citizen was outraged by that brazen effort to deny our fellow Americans that most fundamental, God-given right—to choose our own leaders—and instead leave our nation in thrall to a fantasy and an impostor to the presidency.
 
But the attack on our democracy, on our unalienable rights, and on truth itself did not begin on January 6, 2021. Neither did it end among the shattered glass on the steps of the Capitol building. For years, the ringleaders of the January 6 attacks spread lies about America’s government and the public servants who make it work. They set about to destroy the independent unions, like mine, which represent those law enforcement officers, food inspectors, doctors and nurses, case workers, emergency response personnel, and so many more. 
 
They told Americans that if government scientists produce a report that politicians don’t like, those politicians shouldn’t deal with the truth. They should ignore it, censor it, or have the scientists’ jobs shipped to another state. They told us that government workers don’t need a merit system, or due process, or union rights, or a contract, because their only qualification should be loyalty to the president.
 
They told us that if the predicted path of a hurricane wasn’t politically expedient, it was just fine to take out a marker and change it. Sure, they said, others may have facts, but we’ve got alternative facts. Every step of the way, as they got more Americans to go along with these smaller, less significant attacks on the truth, they became more confident they could get away with one last big one. 
 
Instead, they failed. Today, these same malign actors are once again hard at work, spreading more lies and discord, trying to guarantee their own success by sabotaging our democracy, propelled forward by no higher purpose than their own lust for power and fear of accountability.
 
In this, they will fail again. In 2020, we turned out in record numbers to make sure our votes were counted, and the will of the people prevailed. That is our story. That is who we are as Americans. In this country, the voters decide the outcome of our elections. Not a handful of politicians, and not a violent mob. 
 
We the people will never surrender our democracy.

Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) International President John Costa:

A year ago today, insurrectionists attacked the foundation of our democracy, the U.S. Capitol, and the certification of our free and fair elections. That day now lives in infamy. While we were all shocked by the violence of the insurrection, democracy nevertheless prevailed.

The work ahead consists of doing whatever we can to defend and protect it. We must continue to summon the courage to stand up to all the hate and extremism that attempts to divide our country. We must treat each other with respect and decency, regardless of our differences. Working together as one, we can continue to recover from this pandemic, fight for justice, and ensure voting rights for all.

We must never forget that we’re better as a country than what took place on January 6th.

The ATU offers our thoughts and prayers to everyone still mourning the loss of their loved ones who defended our democracy that day.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders:

On January 6, 2021, when a violent mob stormed the U.S. Capitol because they didn’t like the outcome of a free and fair election, democracy itself came under attack.  

This attempt to disrupt the peaceful transfer of power was not an isolated incident. It was part of a larger movement to undermine our governing institutions, to spread dangerous misinformation, to restrict access to the ballot box and disenfranchise millions of Americans.  

One year later, we must remain vigilant about defending the pillars of our system. And that means giving more citizens a voice in the political process, so that the government reflects the truest, fullest will of the people. That’s why AFSCME is fighting for swift passage of both the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Arcane U.S. Senate rules should not prevent a majority of senators from protecting and enhancing our most precious rights as Americans.  

These issues matter to AFSCME members, who have historically sustained our democratic infrastructure as champions for voting rights, civil rights and workers’ rights. And last January 6, AFSCME Council 20 members who work at the Capitol were put in harm’s way but continued to serve with pride even as their lives were threatened.  

The insurrection that took place a year ago today was a reminder that survival of American democracy can never be assumed; it must always be safeguarded and strengthened, no matter how difficult the struggle.

American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten:

One year ago today we witnessed firsthand an attack on our country: an insurrection by political extremists at the U.S. Capitol.

I was in Washington, D.C., blocks from the Capitol building, which I can see from my office. I watched on television, along with the rest of the country, as throngs of violent protesters, intent on stopping the certification of the 2020 presidential election, defaced our government and threatened the very core of our democracy. I knew that it was a pivotal moment for America and our fundamental promise of free and fair elections.

We’re one year out from that treacherous day, and Congress has yet to pass meaningful reforms to secure the right to vote and protect the integrity of our elections. Meanwhile, states and counties are passing their own laws meant to disenfranchise voters and undermine those who are responsible for counting votes and running fair elections. If we care about our democracy and our way of life, we can’t sit idly by.

I’m a civics teacher who has the honor of serving as the president of the American Federation of Teachers. As I reflect on what the anniversary of the insurrection means, I’m grounded in those two things. At Clara Barton High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., I taught about the values underlying our democracy. The people are supposed to decide who governs them: Eligible Americans get to vote, their votes are tallied, and win or lose, we respect the outcome of the election. One of the many great things about America is that, despite our differences, we believe in peaceful protest, peaceful transfer of power, and the right to vote. And my students, who fiercely debated these fundamentals, learned that debate can be fierce but still respectful, based on ideas and facts, not bullying or misinformation.

But Donald Trump and his enablers went into overdrive when the 2020 election was called for Joe Biden, determined to undermine these precepts of our democracy. They are trying to choose who can vote because they don’t like how the majority of people voted. They are trying to make it harder for those they think will vote by restricting access to voting. They actively tried to throw out legitimate votes, mostly votes of people of color, because they didn’t like how they voted. They’re trying to redraw districts so that they choose the voters, the voters don’t choose them. And now they’re bullying and threatening election officials across the country—because of supposed voter fraud that didn’t happen.

Trump’s claim that the election was stolen—his “big lie”—is a fabrication. There is no evidence to support that claim; in fact, the evidence refutes it. It’s been rejected by the courts. It’s been disproven by independent experts. His supporters’ plan is to repeat the lie so often that people start believing it.

That’s the lie that laid the groundwork for the insurrection. Thousands of people believed Trump and stormed the Capitol in an act of domestic terrorism that caused millions of dollars in damages, led to several deaths, including of Capitol police, and hurt our nation. And that is the lie that fuels potential future violence against our democracy and the people who tend to it.

As Congress continues to investigate the attack on the Capitol, I want to be clear that our commitment to democracy is as strong as ever. That’s why we’re fighting for key pieces of legislation that will help make America better. We need the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to ensure the right to vote is protected for all Americans. Arcane Senate rules like the filibuster must not stand in the way of securing these fundamental rights. We need the Protecting Our Democracy Act to secure our nation from future abuses of power like Trump’s. We need the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act and the Build Back Better Act to help workers across the country recover from this pandemic. And we need to support the full investigation being done by the bipartisan Jan. 6 committee.

There are people across the country wondering what they can do right now to help protect our democracy. Here are a few places to get started:

First, write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Tell them that the Senate needs to pass voting rights legislation now. Our tool will help you do that.

Second, for educators and parents who want to teach and learn about democracy, there are free lesson plans and resources from Share My Lesson.

Third, call your senators and tell them it’s time for the Senate to work on behalf of the American people. Tell them they cannot let a handful of politicians hide behind obscure Senate bureaucracy to block votes to protect our elections and our fundamental freedoms. It’s time to fix the Senate and protect our right to vote. Call now: 202–224–3121.

Finally, make sure you read up on fascism and how democracies fall. For the last few years I’ve recommended Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny. It’s a great starting point for people who want to learn more and be able to discuss what’s happening in this country.

I hope we all take time to reflect on the events of last Jan. 6—the day our democracy almost died—and recommit ourselves to fighting the misinformation and lies that make this a perilous time for our way of life.

American Postal Workers Union (APWU) President Mark Dimondstein:

One year ago, on January 6th and 7th, Congress, under the intense pressure of the organized, seditious and violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, rightfully completed its Constitutional duty to certify the election results of the 2020 presidential election. The aim of the attempted coup, including the intent by some in the mob to hang the sitting Republican Vice-President and the Democratic Speaker of the House, was to overturn the results of the election and disenfranchise tens of millions of voters. The APWU joins with the entire labor movement and all justice-minded people regardless of their political affiliations, in condemning this violent anti-democratic insurrection.

The siege of the Capitol was the direct result of the “big lie” promoted by former President Donald Trump that the election was stolen. While all the facts and evidence, from multiple court rulings to election audits, prove there was virtually no election fraud, the refrain of this “big lie” grows louder and continues to drive our country toward authoritarian and fascist rule.

Over the last year, the “big lie” has been the fuel for a frenzied wave of voter suppression efforts. Eighteen states have passed new laws that will make it harder for working people to vote, with new restrictions on vote by mail, early voting and drop boxes. This is all designed to suppress the powerful African-American and Latino vote, but also directed against the cherished voting rights of all working people. When the voice of working people is reduced and suppressed, Wall Street and Corporate America are the winners.

History shows us that these attacks won’t end with attempts to strip us of our right to vote. For example, just months after taking power in Germany in 1933, the Nazi fascists banned trade unions, jailed union leaders, crushed workers’ rights, exposing the fascists’ true corporate agenda. Today, our other democratic rights—the rights to free speech, to assemble, to join and form trade unions or other organizations, and more—are on the line as well. Yet, the voting rights issue is fundamental to all these other democratic rights and is thus a critical fight for our time.

Current voting rights legislation—including the For the People Act, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Freedom to Vote Act—would ensure early voting, maximum access to mail ballots, and easier voter registration, is stalled in the Senate, blocked by anti-democratic filibuster rules.

In the 2020 election, postal workers proudly carried out our civic responsibility to the people of this country by timely and securely moving millions of ballots. I urge all our members to take that same spirit to the streets and to pressure Congress, united with the AFL-CIO, community allies and the American people to protect and expand voting rights and our other democratic rights.

Our APWU family is made up of 200,000 members with varied political views and affiliations. It is one of our strengths. But whatever our diverse opinions, we should remain vigilant and united in re-committing ourselves to the struggle to advance democracy and win social and economic justice for all postal workers and working people.

Bricklayers (BAC) President Timothy Driscoll:

A year ago, we witnessed an outrageous effort to eradicate the most fundamental tenet of our country’s representative democracy—that Government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. That consent is determined through elections, where citizens across our country exercise their voice in determining their representatives. The citizens of our country exercised their most essential right in November of 2020, and collectively and definitively determined that Joe Biden would be the 46th President of our nation.

The assault on the U.S. Capitol by rioters on January 6, 2021, was an effort to extinguish the will of the voters of this country by undermining the lawful election process that has governed us for more than 200 years. In the last year, hundreds of the rioters have been arrested and their trials are ongoing.

It is imperative that the elected and public figures who were also responsible for the attack also face justice. They are culpable due to their dishonest and baseless claims, spreading lies and misinformation to confuse, anger, and divide millions.

Former President Trump, as well as his enablers and other elected officials who joined in disseminating conspiratorial falsehoods and challenging the certification of the Electoral College results forfeited their right to participate in the governing of our nation. They should no longer be able to hold public office and face prosecution where warranted.

In the last year, the falsehoods and misinformation about the 2020 election were used as justification by many state legislators pass anti-democratic legislation, undoing historic laws that strengthened our right to vote. We support the passage of voting rights legislation by Congress as soon as possible, to protect every American’s voice in their government. Without the consent of the governed, we would no longer have a democracy.

Communications Workers of America (CWA) President Chris Shelton:

The January 6 attack on our Capitol was a betrayal of our country, not just by the extremists who directly participated in the assault but also by the elected officials who spread lies about the election and encouraged the violence. We cannot let these bullies silence and intimidate us. The Senate majority must pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to create national standards that protect our rights, ensure that trusted local election officials count every vote, and prevent partisan politicians from sabotaging the results of our elections.

Farm Labor Organizing Committee (FLOC):

A year ago, the attack on the U.S. Capitol called attention to the fragility of American democracy. Today, as the country reflects on how to safeguard institutions and political processes, agricultural workers across the nation will face brutal exploitation at the hands of corporate supply chains, while states simultaneously legislate against farmworkers’ rights to unionize. Defending democracy requires passing voting rights legislation, overhauling the systems designed to marginalize workers, and holding retailers and corporations accountable for abuse in their supply chains. On the anniversary of the January 6th insurrection, FLOC continues working to uphold democracy through fighting for farmworkers’ freedom of association and organizing against injustice.

International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) President Matthew Biggs and Secretary-Treasurer Gay Henson:

IFPTE President Matt Biggs: “IFPTE marks this solemn anniversary by remembering the workers that protected our Democracy last year as our Nation’s Capital was being attacked. We commend the U.S. Capitol Police, Metropolitan Police Department, and other law enforcement professionals who put their lives on the line. We thank the D.C. National Guard, who were finally given an order to help bring calm to the Capitol. We thank and honor the maintenance and service workers, and the staff on Capitol Hill, who also had their lives threatened, and who experienced extreme mental and physical consequences just for doing their jobs. In doing so, we must also acknowledge that those who incited this attack, including the former President and some elected members of Congress, continue to promote dangerous and purposeful distortions of reality, which have led to the weakening of our most sacred right—the right to vote—particularly in Black and Brown communities. As we remember that tragic day, IFPTE urges Congress to do everything in their power, including doing away with the filibuster, to protect every American’s right to vote, and to help bring accountability to not only those who stormed the Capitol, but also to those who planned and incited the deadly insurrection one year ago.”

IFPTE Secretary-Treasurer Gay Henson: “As a labor union we must remind everyone that our ability to protect and advocate for a Workers First agenda is dependent on a robust Democracy. IFPTE is proud to be a union that recognizes and appreciates the diverse political views of our membership, which we believe mirror the views of the larger population. We also take pride in our ability to work with elected leaders of all political stripes, putting forward the issues of importance to our members. Sadly, what happened last year was not about differences of opinion on issues. Rather, it was an attack on our Democracy and must never be allowed to occur again.”

Machinists (IAM) President Robert Martinez Jr.:

One year ago, we watched as violence overtook the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop our nation’s sacred tradition of a peaceful transfer of power. Everyday citizens, first responders and elected officials were put in harm’s way. It was an image many of us never thought we would see in the United States of America.

As a U.S. Navy veteran, like so many others who served our country, it was especially disturbing to see our democracy under attack. What happened that day was an affront to everything we stand for as a nation and as a union. While we encourage passionate debate and the right to disagree with one another, violence and hate are never the answer.

We must never forget this day. We must always protect our freedom and our democracy. Let’s move forward to protect the rights of all citizens and our sacred duty to make our voices heard at the ballot box instead of through violence.

Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P) President Don Marcus:

The crimes that took place on January 6 must not go unpunished. The attempted theft of the last Presidential election demands accountability. Those in our own government who encouraged and facilitated this disgraceful episode in U.S. history must be held no less accountable than the rioters who stormed the Capitol. Any other outcome would be equivalent to blessing a dry run on the future destruction of our democratic process.

National Nurses United (NNU) President Deborah Burger and Executive Director Bonnie Castillo:

Burger: “It is also imperative that we acknowledge the unresolved roots of this horrific assault on our nation, fueled by far-right, anti-democratic ideology, married with racism and a willingness by many of its supporters to use violence to achieve their goals, that continues to pose a substantial danger to all people in the United States. We must commit ourselves to not only repudiating the extremist conspiracy theories and rhetoric that drove this assault, but additionally to enact meaningful reforms at the federal and state levels to protect our democracy and our fundamental rights without which our nation cannot survive. Jan. 6, like Dec. 7 and Sept. 11, is truly a day that will live in infamy, one whose actions will be repeated unless we act.”

Castillo: “Priority number one is for the U.S. Senate to change its filibuster rules to allow for the passage of the voting rights bill to protect the 2022 midterms. We applaud Majority Leader Schumer for scheduling this vote by Jan. 17 and strongly urge every senator to vote to change the Senate’s antiquated rules to allow the voting rights bill to be passed into law. Given the repeated attacks on our elections by Republicans in multiple states, our very democracy hangs in the balance. Nurses know that we must have a basic commitment to a humane, multicultural society, premised on respect for everyone of all backgrounds, and a peaceful resolution and accommodation of political and cultural differences, and respect for our elections where everyone has the right to vote. That means full rejection of racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, homophobia, and other attacks on people based on their ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status. That is the only way we can begin to achieve the healing, the recovery, this nation so desperately needs.”

Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU):

As we mark the one-year anniversary of the dark day in American history when militants stormed the U.S. Capitol in a deadly attempt to overturn the will of the people, we must renew our commitment to protecting truth and democracy by ensuring voting rights for all Americans.

We must also hold those responsible for the attacks accountable, from every rioter who desecrated our Capitol to those politicians who spurred them on and continue to spread hate and extremism. We can accept nothing less than full accountability for those who continue to threaten our democracy by brazenly spreading lies about our elections and government to serve their own self-interests. 

We must protect our fragile democracy by preventing partisan politics from sabotaging our elections. We demand our senators exercise their majority and pass the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to create national standards that protect every Americans’ right to vote, ensure every vote is counted and prevent partisan politicians from sabotaging the results of our elections.

UAW President Ray Curry:

Democracy can never be taken for granted. We must all, every one of us in this great nation of ours, work to protect and preserve our great Democracy. What we saw at the Capitol last January 6 was a truly sad day for our nation, but we must remember that there is much more that unites us than divides. I urge of us all to work together to move forward.

UNITE HERE:

One year ago today, over 1,000 UNITE HERE housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers & airport workers—who are mostly women & people of color—wrapped up months of full-time canvassing in Georgia. It should have been a day to celebrate an extraordinary triumph for our union—but instead we watched in fear along with our fellow Americans as our democracy was shaken to its core.

Our fight in 2020 felt like a David & Goliath struggle—our union, 98% out of work in the early days of the pandemic, helped defeat Trump in Nevada, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, and then turned on a dime to Take Back the Senate. Georgia’s Jim Crow past had always ensured that runoff elections favored Incumbents.

The stakes couldn’t have been higher. COVID relief was on the line. The future of our freedom to vote was on the line. Losing in Georgia was not an option. UNITE HERE members knew it. So, we knocked on 1.6 million doors as part of a larger 9 million-knock statewide effort to win the vote for Reverend Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Since then, politicians have proposed hundreds of anti-voter laws to try to push us all backward—and hurt working people and people of color most. We deserve a democracy where all of us have a say in the decisions that affect our lives—no matter our race, zip code, or income. We cannot afford to go backwards. We already have enough of an uphill battle ahead of us.

We took back the Senate and it’s going to take ALL of us to hold the line in both chambers in 2022 so we can get the work done in D.C. that working people need, NOW. Si, se puede.

Utility Workers (UWUA) National President James Slevin:

Today we remember the brave Capitol police officers who died as a result of the violence that took place on January 6. We are also thinking of all of the individuals who defended democracy and upheld the election results but are experiencing pain as they relive the trauma perpetrated that day.

We strongly condemn the violence that took place one year ago. As Americans, we have incomparable freedom to voice our opinions through protest and free speech. However, we cannot resort to violence, and we cannot allow ourselves to become wrapped up in the divisive rhetoric and mistruths that surrounded the 2020 election. Facts matter; the truth matters. As leaders in our communities, we remain committed to upholding America’s great democratic ideals.
 

Kenneth Quinnell
Thu, 01/06/2022 – 15:30

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Updated: January 13, 2022 — 9:59 am