More Than 100 Members Attend VSEA’s 2015
State House Day
More than 100 VSEA members came to the State House on February 17 to lobby lawmakers to reject the State’s proposed service and job cuts and instead identify new revenue sources to ensure the continuation of quality public services like those being delivered daily to Vermonters by 911 Emergency Dispatchers, Community High School of Vermont (CHSVT) educators, Vets’ Home caregivers and Judiciary and State Colleges’ workers.
“Due to an illness, I was unfortunately not able to be at the State House on Tuesday, but I was receiving periodic updates throughout the day, and I am so very thankful to all the VSEA members who took the time to attend and make your voice heard,” VSEA President Shelley Martin tells WIA. “I know that we had a presence and that we made an impact because I’ve heard that from several lawmakers and others who were in the building on Tuesday. Again, I really want to thank the hundred-plus members who showed up on your own time to participate. I urge you now to educate your co-workers who could not attend about the importance of face-to-face lobbying and how they can help VSEA moving forward. Most important, that means helping VSEA promote the idea to find new revenue and arguing against more service and job cuts.”
VSEA’s State House Day started just outside the building’s cafeteria at 8:00 a.m., where VSEA hosted coffee for lawmakers and members. The coffee quickly grew into a much larger event, when it was announced that the State’s top official would be dropping by to spend a few minutes with a group of VSEA 911 Dispatchers and a group of CHSVT educators. Once the official arrived, he spent a few minutes with each of the groups, allowing one or two members to brief him on why they were at the State House and inform him personally about their issues with his proposed budget plan. Speaking for the Dispatchers were Melissa Sharkis and Tom Lague, and they talked primarily about public safety concerns, proper training and how important it is to retain local knowledge and resources. They also reminded him about the widespread support Dispatchers are receiving from first responders across Vermont. Bill Storz then spoke for the CHSVT educators, and he stressed how important the program is to reducing recidivism and to returning Vermont offenders to their communities as productive members of society. He also reminded that for every $1 Vermont invests in educating offenders; there is a $4 to $5 return. Sadly, the State’s top official offered no reply or rebuttal to either group, choosing instead to thank the workers for their input and walk away towards a waiting press gaggle, where he reiterated his desire for state employees to make concessions and his commitment to move forward with his proposed cuts.
At 10:00 a.m., VSEA members were welcomed into House Chambers to hear the reading of a resolution to honor state employees. Click here to read the resolution.
Following the reading of the resolution, VSEA members were able to schedule time to meet personally with their local lawmakers, sit in on a legislative committee meeting of their choosing or cross the street to spend some time at the VSEA Council meeting, where the main topic of the day was your union’s “Fight Back” campaign and what Council members can do to help.
At noon, VSEA Council members joined those members already at the State House for a Town Hall forum in House Chambers, featuring a panel of frontline VSEA members advocating for their service and against more cuts. To their credit, a couple of dozen lawmakers also attended to hear from frontline state employees. Speaking for 911 Dispatchers were Melissa Sharkis and Patricia Bennett. Speaking for the CHSVT was Mary Poulos. Speaking for the Judiciary was Margaret Crowley. Speaking for the Vets’ Home was Melissa Walsh, and speaking for the State Colleges was Janis Henderson. Each took turns explaining why the cut being proposed cut is bad for their Agency/Department, and then each voiced what they were saying to—or would be saying to—lawmakers about their service. After the panel wrapped up, the crowd was addressed by Sen. Anthony Pollina, House Speaker Shap Smith and Senate Pro Tem John Campbell. Pollina fired the crowd up by openly agreeing that state employees have given enough, that job and service cuts are detrimental and hurt the middle class and that finding new revenue sources is essential. Neither Smith or Campbell was willing to be as outspoken as Pollina, choosing instead to remind repeatedly about Vermont’s growing budget deficit and the need for all Vermonters to help.
At 4:30 p.m., VSEA members hosted your union’s annual Legislative Open House in the Cedar Creek Room of the State House. This popular event allows members to talk with lawmakers in a casual and relaxed environment, although many the conversations this year were more serious due to the State’s ongoing threat to cut services and jobs if VSEA members don’t return soon to the table to talk. Not surprisingly, lawmakers received an earful from members about how much state employees have already given back and about how it’s now time to find new revenue to counter the State’s cuts-only mindset.
VSEA’s State House Day 2015 received a lot of great press coverage, and here are some links to some of the published stories:
Related VSEA News:
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