UE Makes Impression
In Vermont’s Capital
By JONATHAN KISSAM
UE Local 221
UE members, including
Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark and Genl.
Vice Pres. Judy Atkins, gather on the steps of the State Capitol. No age
minimums were required as the union went to work demanding a better life for
Gathered here from all over Vermont on March 21 for their
union’s Vermont Political Action Day, UE members learned about current state
issues and lobbied their state legislators for a working-class agenda.
Among the workers’ issues before the legislature are raising
the minimum wage, giving workers 12 weeks of paid parental leave which could
be subsidized by the overfunded unemployment fund, and controlling the price
of prescription drugs.
By coincidence, Chamber of Commerce lobbyists spent the day in
the state capitol as well, arguing for a very different agenda. UE members
"You didn’t see very many working-class people in
there, other than us, and we definitely made a good impression," declared
UE Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark at day’s end.
The UE delegates set up shop in the cafeteria of the State
House and spoke to their representatives as they came in for lunch.
During the day, UE delegates heard from a number of political
allies and friends.
At a meeting with Speaker of the House Michael Obuchowski
and State Sen. Cheryl Rivers, the UE members filled the Speaker’s
office and spilled into the hallway. Obuchowski urged the UE activists to get
involved in sending more legislators to Montpelier who support working people.
Rivers pledged to fight for paid parental leave, pointing out that it was time
for politicians who talk about "family values" to "put their
money where their mouths are and support parental leave."
State Representatives Terry Bouricius and Dean
Corren, both Progressives, gave UE members their perspective on the issues
facing the state, as did Anthony Pollina, the Progressive candidate for
governor. Pollina is running on a platform of livable wages and health care
State Auditor Ed Flanagan told the UE delegates that
his office is looking into how the Vermont Economic Progress Council, a small
committee appointed by the Governor, has given away $65 million in tax credits
to some of Vermont’s wealthiest corporations. He contrasted the generosity
to the rich with the unwillingness of the Governor and legislature to
appropriate small amounts of money for programs that would help workers, like
the paid parental leave proposal. Flanagan is running for the U.S. Senate seat
currently held by James Jeffords.
Carol Langlois, an activist from the welfare-rights group
Women’s Union, spoke about the punitive and anti-woman nature of welfare
"reform." Vermont’s exemption from the federal Personal
Responsibility Act has expired; Women’s Union and other groups are urging
the State to preserve as much of the safety net for women and children as
possible. (UE policy calls for the development of living wage jobs instead of
punitive welfare reform, and for repeal of the Personal Responsibility Act.)
Jason Winston, coordinator of the Vermont Livable Wage
Campaign, thanked UE locals for their key role in the livable wage effort. He
urged delegates to demand their legislators’ support for the Livable Wage
Bill, which would raise the minimum wage in Vermont to $6.25 an hour and
increase the Earned Income Tax Credit.
UE Genl. Sec.-Treas. Bob Clark gave the Labor Party
workshop on Just Health Care. UE District Two Pres. Judy Atkins
welcomed delegates at the start of the busy day.
UE News - 04/00