Meet Norma Gregory, a Reach Up and Workforce Investment Act Case Manager who works for the Department of Labor in Newport.
"…my next door neighbor—a thick-skinned, retired state employee—was outraged and disgusted when I told him I was being cut. He doesn’t think the State knows what its doing, and I agree, especially when you’re cutting jobs that help Vermont’s unemployed in a time when the DOL’s help is needed most.”
Career Development Facilitator
Department of Labor
State Employee Since 1979
Orleans County has the unfortunate distinction of having Vermont’s highest unemployment rate, so imagine 30-year state employee Norma Gregory’s shock when she was told that her position in the Newport Department of Labor office was being cut by the Douglas Administration.
“No matter what the ‘official reason’ is for cutting my position, it makes absolutely no sense,” says Gregory. “In the Northeast Kingdom, the number of people signing up for unemployment is continually growing. It’s going to be an even more difficult transition into the job market for these people if we keep cutting their resources.”
Gregory, who works half her time in the DOL’s Reach Up Program and the other half as a Workforce Investment Act case manager, is right to be concerned. Federal budget cuts in 2003, 2006 and 2008 had already forced the DOL to pare down the Newport office’s services and personnel. Some Vermont DOL employees thought the federal government’s cuts were a way to privatize services, and Gregory thinks that may be what the State is trying to do now.
“We’re being cut up here, and, after we’re gone, there will still be private contractors working right here in the same building, doing the same jobs we used to do,” explains Gregory, adding, “It’s a sad day when private entities have more protection and job stability then long-term state employees.”
Gregory says that after the news of her cut was delivered to her, she went numb, not hearing much after “your Reach Up position is being eliminated.”
“I tried not to take it out on the messenger, but it was tough,” says Gregory. “And it remains hard now, but my family is trying to be optimistic We’re sharing a lot of emotions…denial, anger, grief, all of them.” says Gregory. “My friends have been very supportive too. In fact, my next door neighbor—a thick-skinned, retired state employee—was outraged and disgusted when I told him I was being cut. He doesn’t think the State knows what its doing, and I agree, especially when you’re cutting jobs that help Vermont’s unemployed in a time when the DOL’s help is needed most.”
Gregory and her co-workers are holding out hope that the Vermont legislature will do the right thing in the end and protect services and jobs from being cut.
“I hope our legislators recognize that the level of cuts being proposed by the State make absolutely no sense,” says Gregory. “I hope they will protect our services and our jobs and allow us to keep doing what we do so well.”