Few days have combined the highs and lows of Wednesday, the sixth of January, 2021.
Today started with moments of hope and possibility. Two candidates supported by SEIU members won the run-off U.S. Senate election in Georgia, securing a narrow majority in the upper chamber of Congress for a working family agenda that supports good jobs, affordable healthcare, and the chance for all people to thrive. This represents a historic breakthrough and a vindication of organizing. As we know from experience, too many working people are alienated from politics. We know healthcare workers who say: What’s the point of participating in a campaign or even voting in elections? Yet in Georgia, ordinary people did something extraordinary. Years of work to educate and register voters paid off. In November and now again in the January run-off elections, voters from every community turned out and fundamentally changed the balance of power in our nation’s capital.
By evening, the tenor of the times had shifted. At the urging of Donald Trump, still the sitting President of the United States despite his defeat in November, hundreds of armed insurgents descended on the US Capitol building. They climbed the walls, burst through gates, overwhelmed police officers, smashed into Congressional offices, and occupied the chambers of the US House and Senate. At least four people died as result of this aggression.
The President sought to hold on to power even after losing an election by a majority of the popular vote and a majority of votes cast in the Electoral College. These results are upheld in rulings rejecting specious objections in over sixty judicial hearings across the country by judges appointed by administrations from both major parties. Thwarted at the polls and in the courts, Donald Trump turned to a militant minority to overthrow the will of the majority.
Even at the height of the Civil War, no rebels reached the Capitol. Today, elected US Representatives and Senators fled as armed men assaulted the halls of Congress. Some carried the infamous Stars and Bars slaveholder flag of the Confederacy with them.
If we have learned anything during the four years of the current administration, it is this: the norms and practices and rules of our system of government count for nothing unless we embody them in democratic action. If we want a country where every vote counts, where rights are respected, and where every person matters, we have to stand up. We must participate. We have to hold elected officials to account. We need to build strong unions and community organizations so that a rich, deep, democratic civil society reflects the will of all our people.
Today, it does not matter how you voted in November. I say to each Democrat, this is about Democracy, and to each Republican, this is about our Republic. If you want your vote to count, and the votes you will cast in the future to matter, you have to stand up today for the popular will and against armed force.
Today was a test of our body politic under stress. The President and his collaborators in the US House and Senate are on one side, and the demonstrated majority will of the people are on the other. The integrity of our democracy is at stake.
As president of our union, I pledge that I will do everything in my power so that we may live up to our founding by-laws which pledge us “to maintain, preserve, and extend the democratic processes and institutions of our country.”
I call on President Trump to resign and transfer power immediately. If he fails to do so, the Cabinet must invoke the 25th Amendment to the Constitution and remove the President from office.
Every US Representative and Senator who supports this sedition should resign with him.
Every trade unionist who believes in freedom and justice for all must now answer that old question: which side are you on?
-Matthew Yarnell, President, SEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania 1/6/2021