Hello Everyone, Happy May Day! My name is Aimee Towne, she/her pronouns and I am the President of the Vermont State Employees Association.
First, I want to thank, applaud and recognize the many who helped organize this event today, entertained us with their music, inspired us with their words and fed our souls with this delicious food.
Labor family, I am proud to be standing with you all on International Workers’ Day. Coming together on this day and showing our strength is a great tradition for working people that goes back over a century. But I’ve got to tell you, when I think about this day and what it means, I think that too many people out there do not understand that when it comes to keeping this state running, workers like us should not just be valued on one day; we’re out there, doing the work, every single day.
State employees are doing the work: we’re plowing the roads, we’re running the courtrooms and college campuses, we’re performing tests and working in our labs, we’re processing historically high applications for benefit programs and unemployment. We are protecting our water, Vermont’s children and caring for Vermont’s veterans.
We’re risking our lives, every day, performing COVID testing and vaccinations, staffing our state’s correctional and psychiatric facilities, and reporting for duty to unsafe worksites where we know that we’re in danger every time we clock in.
When we saw ourselves faced with proposals that would have gutted our pensions we did what we always do, we went to work. We didn’t agonize, we organized. We stood shoulder to shoulder with many of the people here today, with our sisters and brothers from the Vermont-NEA and the VTA, and we said “we matter.” And we made sure that our voices were heard loud and clear. And that means all workers including the workers who have been marginalized, discriminated against or ignored.
That fight isn’t over and it’s not our only battle. We continue to fight for funding a sustainable state college system, worker safety and security, and a variety of other solidarity issues.
We are not the same union we were a year ago. We are getting stronger and stronger each day as our members are finding their voices.
Our work is never over. But when I look out all of you today, on our day, do you know what I see? I see strength, resilience and perseverance. I know, without a doubt, that there is nothing we can’t overcome if we stand together.