VSEA President Shelley Martin’s 3/10 Letter To Membership On Budget Fight

Dear VSEA Members:
It’s mid-March already, and lawmakers are at the State House right now, actively debating how Vermont is going to address its $100 million-plus budget deficit.
VSEA members hopefully know by now what the State is looking for from state employees, which is millions in savings in personnel costs in the form of wage and benefit cuts. The State is also proposing more harm to our quality public services, recommending deep cuts to the funding of 911 Emergency Dispatch Centers, the Community High School of Vermont, the Judiciary and the State Colleges. Compounding the situation is the State’s recent revelation that $18 million more is being added to Vermont’s deficit. The State’s response was to issue a new list of draconian cuts that includes privatizing the Veterans’ Home, closing the Windsor correctional facility, closing state parks and lands, a fee for state employees to park, eliminating VOSHA, reducing the number of game wardens and eliminating the Women’s Commission.
I write today because this is defining moment in our union’s 70-plus-year history. We’re faced with a terrible ultimatum right now from the State. Either reopen our contracts and give back more or face the prospect of additional service and job cuts. I am proud that our union is choosing to fight back, rather than endure another round of wage and benefit cuts, especially after just bargaining new agreements with the State in good faith. To clarify, reopening our contracts would result in everything being back on the table.  
Directed by the VSEA Board of Trustees and Council, VSEA is ramping up our Fight Back campaign right now to increase pressure on Vermont lawmakers to do the right thing here by abandoning the State’s cuts-heavy strategy in favor of adopting revenue-generating ideas like the ones VSEA has been championing (see list here). In order for VSEA’s efforts to achieve the desired outcome, we’re employing an all-members-on-deck strategy, and I hope you will sign up today to help, if you’re not involved already. Your contribution can be as simple as making a phone call or writing a short note to your local lawmakers, participating in a VSEA phone bank, attending a VSEA meeting or talking with a co-worker to educate him or her about the situation and solicit their help. Some members choose to go the extra mile, volunteering to testify in person at the State House, talking with the press about the adverse impact of cuts to services and to state employees’ wages and benefits, or writing a letter to the editor. No offer of help is too small and all are appreciated.
No one knows better than state employees how much past cuts to our services and jobs have hurt Vermont and the Vermonters we serve. We also know that the State’s cuts-only strategy is failing Vermonters miserably, never producing the savings needed to alleviate state budget deficits, like the one we face again today. Now is our time to band together to send a strong message to lawmakers that enough is enough. Cuts are not working, and it’s time for a new strategy to address Vermont’s ongoing budget deficits.
In the coming days and weeks, I hope you will join with me and hundreds of your VSEA brothers and sisters to participate in some way, shape or form in VSEA’s Fight Back campaign. Standing strong together, we have an opportunity right now to reshape the debate in Montpelier by reminding lawmakers that the proposed cuts hurt middle class Vermonters the most and urging them instead to address Vermont’s deficit by asking the Vermonters who have benefited most during our state’s economic crisis to do more. 
If you would like to learn more about VSEA’s Fight Back campaign and how to get involved, please click here. For a schedule of upcoming worksite Fight Back meetings, please click here. To identify your local lawmakers so you can make a call, or send a note, please click here. Right now, your calls and notes are very, very important!
VSEA has fought many battles in its 70-plus-year existence, but few fights have been more important than the one VSEA members are engaged in today. Thank you in advance for your solidarity and for volunteering to help your union fight and eventually win this very important struggle.
In Solidarity,
Shelley Martin
VSEA President