Protecting Collective Bargaining

Wednesday night I attended the rally in Burlington to stand with the VSEA and a coalition of labor unions. One Legislator (myself), workers and unions rallying together to make sure the message is loud and clear to union busters from outside Vermont, such as Priebus, that destroying “collective bargaining” is off the table here in Vermont.

Though collective bargaining in Vermont is not directly threatened, our public workers are feeling increased pressure to make concessions because of the fear and uncertainty of their jobs. You might ask why. Well, the threat lies in the following argument: to protect their bargaining rights, public workers must be prepared to make concessions over wages, benefits etc..

Every time unions agree to lower wages and benefits – make concessions — as they have been doing for the last 4 years, here in Vermont — they weaken themselves internally, therefore opening the way for further, deeper attacks.

I, for one, am convinced that labor unions must mobilize together in their communities and demand “No Concessions; no more cuts to pay, pensions or health benefits” for all public workers because the fight to protect collective bargaining can only be won if public workers believe that collective bargaining will save their wages and benefits. The two must not be separated.

Labor unions must mobilize and push back for pro-worker solutions, like balancing the budget by closing tax loopholes, taxing corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share and by guaranteeing universal health care. Scare tactics like the rich will leave our state are just that, scare tactics because there is no data to back it up. Scare tactics that lead to concessions. Not all Vermonters are against all tax increases.

So, unions in both the private and public sector who have been making concessions over this recession, must ask, “Were concessions required when we bailed out Wall Street?” No!

If our Governor is going to continue to ask our public employees to do their part to get us out of our fiscal problems, then I think it is high time our Governor asked the top 5% of folks who saved $190 million from the bush tax cut extensions, to do their part. In the words of our Governor, “To do less is harmful to the collective bargaining process that has strengthened the middle class in Vermont.”

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