The latest example of the Republican Party choosing the donor class over the American workers manifested in Vermont. In a state with a population of less than 624,000, about 30 thousand of them are employed by the state and Vermont State Employee Association (VSEA) represents about 6,000 of them. Under the claim of budget cuts, state workers have been targeted for cuts.
In an effort to save $600,000 dollars out of a $6,000,000,000 dollar budget, the governor of Vermont and his administration announced that in exchange for a 1.35% pay raise; state workers will face dramatic changes to their healthcare benefits. The administration put out a list of nearly 170 specific medications that will be excluded from coverage next year. As a trade for a small pay raise, the state will be raising co-pays as much as 100% and with the prescription exclusions workers will now need to win an appeal to have their medicine covered.
In a facebook video message to his members, Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley broke the news and he didn’t mince words. “Labor’s under attack. And public sector unions are under attack. It’s been a nationwide problem for many, many years and we’ve been very concerned about it at the Vermont State Employees Association. However, I want to tell you that today we know that this union is clearly under attack.” He said, “And we have got to fight back and fight back strongly.”
This is not new. In 2016, Republican candidate Donald Trump attacked a union in Indiana and blamed them for job losses that he was pretending to have prevented through a sweetheart deal between his running mate—then the embattled governor of Indiana—Mike Pence. “If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking,” tweeted Trump.
If United Steelworkers 1999 was any good, they would have kept those jobs in Indiana. Spend more time working-less time talking. Reduce dues
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 8, 2016
Former presidential candidate Governor Paul Walker once promised to initiate the Koch Industries paid for, “right to work” legislation, that has passed in one form or another in 28 states, nationally. He also planned to “eliminate the National Labor Relations Board—which investigates and protects workers from unfair labor practices” with the normal GOP mantra “it’s broken.” This was after his state level war with unions in 2011 that produced both of Speaker Paul Ryan’s Democratic opponents in 2018; Randy Bryce and Cathy Myers. Locally, the attacks on the unions are driving much of the enthusiasm on the political left that has led to the House Speaker to hesitate to run for reelection.
The attacks on unions serve two political purposes for the GOP—the donor class has always known that labor is the most expensive cost of production and maximizing profits while minimizing labor costs is what fuels the income inequality we see across the country. Second, the unions use their influence and their money to support candidates that support collective bargaining that is almost exclusively the Democratic Party. By breaking up unions the GOP attracts more wealthy donors while eliminating resources for their political opponents. Unfortunately, it’s workers that pay the price.