Spend a day working in a state employee’s shoes

Spend a day working in a state employee’s shoes

State employees aren't being ‘unreasonable’ when we reject the notion that the state budget be balanced with our earnings

BRATTLEBORO — I am very concerned with the budget plan that has been presented. The new heath care system is costing much more than we anticipated. Essentially, Gov. Peter Shumlin is asking for state employees to fix a budget issue that we did not create.

Why is it up to us?

We have given up and sacrificed enough over the years.

The Vermont State Employees' Association (VSEA) has been quoted as being “unreasonable” and not willing to work with the state. What is “unreasonable” is asking the hard-working people of this state to fix a problem that is not ours. Day after day, we come to work and do our very best to keep this state running.

It is rare that we are appreciated by the administration for the hard work that we do. It is rare that there is anything good published about state employees.

The stories that the media report and the pictures that the administration paints are wrong.

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It is “unreasonable” to think that cutting our pay or cutting services will help this state.

It is “unreasonable” to think that we will be able to sustain a comfortable lifestyle giving up more monies and services.

It is “unreasonable” for the administration to play with our livelihood and make threats in an attempt to bully or scare us into some sort of a deal.

We have a contract - one that is bargained by the VSEA and the state. We have never asked that it be reopened to better us. That would be “unreasonable.”

There is a process in place for a reason - the state should use it.

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I would ask this of the people proposing these pay cuts: Spend a day or two and shadow the very people that your plan will impact. Take the time to get to know one of us and see what we do each day.

Spend a day with a correctional officer. Work all day inside an institution. Get urine and feces thrown on you. Then get told that you are staying for eight more hours for the third day in a row. Make that call home with them to their family and tell their spouse that they will not be home again. Make that call with them and tell their child that Mom or Dad can't make the game again.

Spend a day with an Agency of Transportation worker in January. Work all hours of the night keeping the road clear so that everyone else in the state can make it to work safely. Go home on no sleep and get the kids ready for school and tell them that you might not see them for another day or two because there is another storm coming. Tell them that you know you will miss another practice, but you have to work.

Spend a day with a Vermont Department for Children and Families worker pouring your heart and soul into cases. investing your own time and personal interest into your job, only to go home and turn on the news and get slammed into the ground and listen to reports that are not an accurate account of what you do.

Take a trip with Probation and Parole staff to do a home check. You will find yourself out of cell service with no radio communications. Backup is at least 40 minutes away - if you can find a way to establish contact.

It is nighttime; your only protection is a small can of pepper spray and a pair of handcuffs. It just happens that you are checking in on a violent felon with multiple convictions. He is under the influence and does not want to be taken into custody.

Or you end up in a neighborhood that you would do everything to avoid passing through. You must enter the third floor of the residence and walk through several groups of dangerous convicted felons, not on supervision, to get where you need to go. You will not feel welcome and - again - there's no backup or protection.

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Tell me if these any of these people make too much money and deserve a pay cut.

Come to my house and tell my children that they will not be getting that new bike.

Tell them that Dad has to take a pay cut and we all have to make more sacrifices.

Tell our children that they are not going to be able to participate in their sports programs, because we can't afford it.

These are not “unreasonable” requests. This is reality.

These are the same employees that are forced to work second jobs and apply for state benefits just to make ends meet.

Does this not matter?

Do those proposing these pay cuts not take into account that these are the very people that we expect to enforce and uphold the policies and laws that we vote on?

The reality is that the cost of living is not going to go down - a gallon of milk is not getting less expensive. The expectations of the state employees are not going to be lowered. Our workloads are not going to decrease.

But we're expected to give up a portion or our salaries or a cost-of-living adjustment?

“Do more with less” has been the theme lately. And, yes, that is what we do. Day after day. We feel it, and our families suffer through it.

Enough is enough.

VSEA has presented a revenue plan. This plan is not “unreasonable.” It is “unreasonable” to think that the families in this state who keep the Vermont way of life alive have to live in poverty.

Stop the cuts. Raise more revenue.

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