VSEA Member Speaks For Thousands At Montpelier Solidarity Rally

Reminding that while Vermont is in okay shape compared to some states, VSEA member Leslie Mathews spoke to the crowd about the sacrifices already agreed to by VT state employees and the continued need to protect VT services and employees, saying:

“Vermont has lost 10 percent of its public workforce and the people of Vermont are suffering.”

Well done Leslie!

Article published Feb 27, 2011
Vermont workers rally for unions
By Daniel Staples
Staff Writer
MONTPELIER — More than 250 people rallied on the steps of the Statehouse Saturday as part of a nationwide effort to support Wisconsin public employees.

In Montpelier, supporters waved banners and chanted in support of the workers who could lose collective bargaining rights under legislation proposed by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The legislation is being delayed by Democratic members of that state’s senate who have gone AWOL to strip the Republicans of the quorum of members needed to vote on the controversial law.

Many members at the rally expressed concern that if the legislation in Wisconsin is passed it could have a domino effect for public employees around the country. Legislation similar to that in Wisconsin is being considered in Ohio and Indiana.

“It’s important for people all over to gather in support of solidarity,” said Progressive Sen. Anthony Polina from Washington County.

“In tough economic times public workers get pay cuts, people in need get service cuts and the wealthy get tax cuts,” Polina said.

“Being anti-union is anti-American,” Polina said, adding he is not only a champion of unions, but a champion of the organized worker.

“The way to find a solution is for the people to unite and find their voice,” said Polina to the cheering crowd. “Organization is what America is about.”

The event in Montpelier, which was organized over the last two days by Laurel Green of Brattleboro, was not the only one in the state as people also gathered in Burlington.

Green said she had no idea she’d be organizing the event — she just began by looking for carpool options for an event she heard might happen — and when she heard no one had filed for a permit to have the rally, she decided to.

The first speaker at the rally, Steve Croft of Brattleboro, spoke about the American dream.

“Once liberty is in motion, it can not be stopped,” Croft said. “We need to set and reach goals that are sustainable, but we need them to be sustainable for everyone.”

JoAnne Edwards, a Vermont State College Union member and librarian at Johnson State College, spoke about her experience organizing bus drivers in New Jersey who worked in “deplorable conditions and in buses that would not pass inspection.”

“I am proud to support our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin,” said Leslie Mathews, of Northfield, who is a Vermont State Employee Association member and a volunteer at the Vermont Workers Center.

“Vermont has lost 10 percent of its public workforce and the people of Vermont are suffering,” said Mathews.

Mathews said she was concerned that a bill that has been introduced in the legislature here could strip the teachers of the right to strike.

Dottie Morris, of Bellows Falls, energized the crowd as she spoke about her father’s triumphs as the first black man to join the American Postal Workers Union in Louisiana.

“The most recent crisis in Wisconsin made me say ‘we can not be snookered any longer,’” Morris said.

“We cannot let ‘divide and conquer’ be the rule of the day,” Morris said.

Tess Taylor — Democratic State Representative for Barre City, who helped found the Vermont Labor Caucus — spoke briefly about the importance of uniting under one voice, and she gave an open invitation to members of the community to join her when she meets with the caucus at the Statehouse.