Teachers, nurses, firefighters, state employees and electrical workers converged on the Statehouse lawn on Tuesday to send a message to the powers that be in Montpelier and leaders around the country: “Vermont is not Wisconsin.”
More than 300 union workers waved signs and listened to speeches in frigid temperatures on Tuesday in solidarity with unionized employees in Wisconsin whose right to bargain collectively for pay, benefits and working conditions was threatened by Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Nineteen Wisconsin state senators walked out of the Statehouse in Madison in protest. They refused to be present for votes on the bill, which also includes pay concessions.
Martha Allen, president of the Vermont-NEA, said the Wisconsin governor’s tactics would weaken public sector unions across the country. She said that state’s repudiation of collective bargaining rights would set the state’s employer-employee relationship back decades.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, House Speaker Shap Smith, lawmakers and union representatives regaled the crowd with speeches for more than half an hour.
Members of the crowd shouted out “tax the rich” and “this is what democracy looks like.”