Many of these questions are not applicable in my role as Secretary of State (SoS) but I will do my best to answer. My support of labor and my voting record as a City Councilor, State Senator, and now as a SoS is excellent.
Q: Should the work of a State Government be performed by a State Employee?
A: YES! Example – The year before I took office as SoS, the SoS used 29 temporary positions. This past year we were down to 3. I am a firm believer that staff needs must be met to complete the mandates the legislature provides.
Q: As an elected official, how would you approve the overall safety of state employees?
A: Each Agency should be required to complete a Security Risk Assessment so they know exactly what needs to be completed – the results should be prioritized (high, Medium, and Low) with cost estimates. Here at the SOS agency we completed such an assessment in 2014 and have taken steps to improve security for our staff..
I also worked hard as a leader at VTrans to ensure that our workplace was a safe and respectful workplace for employees, irrespective of their gender, ethnicity, age, race or gender identity. When I learned that there had been a history of sexual harassment (including allegations of sexual assault) at some of the VTrans garages, I worked hard to make the workplace safe for women. I made sure that employees knew that we had a “zero tolerance” policy for discrimination or harassment of any type and established an Affirmative Action Task Force to try to increase diversity in our workforce. I am proud that under my leadership the number of women in the Maintenance Workforce doubled. I also established lactation facilities for nursing moms so that they would not have to choose between work and nursing their babies (as I did when I was a new mom).
I know that every day of the year, a State employee, whether snow plow driver, a police officer, game warden, health inspector, or social worker, among many others, find themselves in situations in which their physical and emotional health are at risk. I also know that the work environment for many of our State employees has not been sufficiently maintained with basic systems such as those for security, ergonomics and ventilation not functioning at a satisfactory level.
I saw firsthand during the State’s response to the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene the many State employees who worked long and hard in stressful and frequently dangerous situations to help Vermont’s communities get back on their feet. I both appreciate this kind of sacrifice, so common in Vermont state government, and am committed to ensuring that the State responds to the desire of State employees to serve the public with a commitment to their safety and health. I was pleased to see the passage of S.154 with increased criminal penalties for attacks against State employees and H.74 requiring all state agencies to develop and implement safety protocols.
I favor working actively across all State agencies to ensure that we have good systems, physical and operational, for protecting the health and safety of State employees. While we can all decry the rise in violence in today’s society, we cannot and must not deny that we face an ongoing risk of the kind of attack that occurred in Barre last year when Lara Sobel was murdered. If elected, I will continue the important work that followed her death to ensure that such a tragedy is not repeated.
Q: What is your plan to make the health care system more fair and equitable for working Vermonters?
A: I support moving to a universal model where ALL Vermonters are eligible for healthcare.
Q: Will you support collective bargaining and vote against “Right to Work” legislation in any form?
A: As a City Councilor, State Senator, and now SoS, I have always supported collective bargaining. As a State Senator, I chaired Senate Gov Ops with responsibility for labor issues. In fact, with VSEA, we rewrote SELRA to make improvements and I have always supported full funding of the Pay Act and full funding of the Pension Actuarial recommendation.
Q: What do you see as the role of State employees and how would you support them in their role?
A: State Employees are vital to the function of state gov’t and to serving Vermonters. State employees serve a critical role providing a safety net to Vermonters to protect their health and well-being.
Q: What mechanisms would you put in place to avoid budget shortfalls?
A: I must follow directives of the Legislature – however, I am serious about good budget management and look to take steps to meet budget shortfalls WITHOUT staff layoffs as this would be shortsighted in the interest of serving Vermonters’ needs.
Q: What approach would you take to make higher education more affordable for Vermonters?
A: This is not an issue for my office directly HOWEVER I do believe it is an issue for Vermonters as the cost of higher education continues to escalate – it seems that senior management have very high salaries in comparison to regular staff.
Q: What would you do to ensure the viability of the state college system?
A: Again, this is not an area of authority for my office – however, when I was Chair of Senate Education in 2003-2004, I requested that VSC look at how they can improve their processes, reduce duplication of service so as to provide better service and opportunities for Vermonters.
Q: Do you support a livable wage for Vermonters? If so, what do you think that amount should be?
A: YES! $15.00 with a COLA – Throughout my Senate career , I supported increasing the minimum wage – and was very pleased to support the COLA.
Q: Briefly state why the VSEA should endorse you and describe the type of assistance that you would be seeking from a VSEA endorsement.
A: As I stated earlier, during my elected career as a City Councilor, State Senator, and now as SoS, I have always supported collective bargaining, fair contracts, healthcare, full funding of Pay Act, and full funding of Pension Actuarial recommendations as well as opposing Right to Work – i.e. I have an excellent labor record. During my Senate career, I worked WITH VSEA and other labor groups to provide the recognition needed. I believe that our state employee workforce provides for the services and needs of Vermonters – and they should be respected and compensated for.
As a result, I am asking for VSEA’s endorsement, support for “get out the vote”, and any financial help you may provide.
Please feel free to contact me for any reason.
Jim Condos for VT Secretary of State
84 Chestnut Hill Road
Montpelier, VT 05602