( – promoted by Sue Prent)
As a Senior Union Rep for AOT workers in VSEA, I have the opportunity to visit Garages every week. I also know how hard our plow drivers work to keep our roads open during the winter. It is almost unimaginable that Governor Shumlin wants to balance his budget on the backs of these and other State workers as opposed to the wealthy that can afford it.
What follows is an open letter written by Ed Olsen, a VSEA member and plow driver based out of the Mendon Garage.
An Open Letter To Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin;
To Mr. Governor Shumlin,
I am a hard working Vermont State employee for the Agency of Transportation (District 3). I plow the roads. As you may recall, we in AOT have endured many challenges in the recent past ….Including Tropical Storm Irene (2011), Pay Cuts and Pay Freezes (2008-9), Changes to our Health Insurance with Higher deductibles and less coverages (2014). And despite all these hardships and challenges, we still get up, as needed, at 3am (sometimes working 7 days a week) to make sure our roads are safe so Vermonters (including yourself) can go to work, so tourists can come here and spend their money, and so everyone’s kids can get to school.
Even so, I see and read the things you and the Legislature are proposing and I very much disapprove. You ask for pay cuts and threaten to lay-off 450 working class people if we do not suffer further by opening a Contract which we negotiated with you in good faith. You refuse to balance the budget by raising taxes on the wealthy (who are your campaign donors?) and instead want to take money out of my pocket to cover your failures. In a word, you want me and other plow drivers to open our contracts give back the 2.5% pay raise we all agreed to. On the other hand, have you demanded that the ski resorts open their leases with the State so they can share a small portion of their massive profits in order to maintain the services that they enjoy (like plowed roads for starters)? Have you considered a smarter use of our gas tax revenues, or an excessive wealth tax? I would venture to guess that you have not.
I personally make just over $17 an hour, while the average wage of a plow driver is $38,000 a year. And yet you have made it clear that you will not tax the wealthy (like yourself) who can afford it to cover the budget gap which you created. But I do not expect you to necessarily understand the hardships you are asking us to suffer, as I am told you are personally worth ten million dollars. Maybe you don’t understand that taking $36 a paycheck out of my wages (which on average you are proposing for all plow drivers) is the difference between making or missing a mortgage payment, a utility bill, or buying a pair of shoes for the kids. Maybe you cannot understand. Maybe you also don’t understand how hard we work for the modest pay we receive. Or maybe you don’t understand how dangerous our job actually is.
So with that said I invite you Mr. Peter Shumlin (and all State Legislators for that matter) to shadow my job as an AOT snow plow truck driver through just one storm. (I further invite you to live on $17 and change an hour.) Now you may have to get up early (many hours before the sun comes up), and you may have to work longer than you are accustomed to, and by the end I expect that your hands may hurt (as I assume you do not have any calluses), but I think when you consider taking food off a families plate, you should know what went into putting that food on the table to begin with.
The truth is, if me and my fellow AOT drivers did not do our job for even one day (during a storm) the entire State would shut down. And all those high paid CEOs, bankers, and lawyers that you refuse to raise taxes on would not be able to make it to their boardrooms and corner offices. In fact you (or rather your State employed driver) would not be able to get to your 5th floor office in Montpelier in order to attend to your $150,000 a year job. Point being, Vermont works because we work. And we do this because we are proud to serve the public and because we also need to support of families. I suggest you stop seeking to put more burdens on the backs of Vermont’s working men and women.
In conclusion I will say this… My job is no-less important than your job. The difference is I have done and will continue to do mine. But from where I sit, your job was to balance the budget, raise adequate revenue from those that can afford it, and you failed (and continue to fail) at this. But before you try and put your hand in my pocket to fix your mistakes, at least be man enough to know what it is like to sit in the driver’s seat at 4am when it is 20 below, it’s snowing, visibility is 20 feet, and you are making a quarter of the wage that is paid to the office of Governor. On that note, I look forward to hearing from you, and I look forward to having you along next snow storm. Otherwise, I look forward to remembering who stood with and against working class Vermonters when I enter the booth during our next General Election.
AOT Employee in the Mendon Garage,
& Member of the Vermont State Employees’ Association
To see the letter on VSEA’s facebook page please click on the below link: