The Vermont Workers’ Center offers our deepest condolences to the family of Department of Children and Families worker Lara Sobel, as well as those of Rhonda and Regina Herring and Julie Ann Falzarano, all of whom were tragically killed on Friday in central Vermont.
Yesterday, hundreds of Vermont State Employees Association and community members attended a powerful vigil at the Old Labor Hall in Barre to mourn Lara’s passing. We acknowledge the critical role that public servants play in our communities, including the dangers they face on the job, and stand with them and the broader community in this time of mourning.
Last week’s tragedy is a stark reminder of the oftentimes impossible position public-sector workers are placed in, as they attempt to balance larger and larger caseloads with shrinking resources to work with. As the editor of the Barre Montpelier Times Argus wrote today,
"State workers do not deserve to address the important task of protecting children understaffed and overworked. It’s time to recognize the importance of the work that Sobel and other workers do, and to avoid the tendency to allocate just enough resources to allow them to fail. Because, in the end, closing these gaps may truly improve communication, reduce caseloads and allow for better outcomes."
Many of our families are struggling to make ends meet through piecing together low-paying jobs, while navigating high rents, poor healthcare, domestic violence, or supporting family members struggling with substance abuse.
Yet it is in this context that decision-makers fail again and again to equitably raise revenue for the public sector programs and workers who provide much-needed care for our communities. Unfortunately, frontline public sector workers like DCF employees or teachers often bear the brunt of public anger at this unjust starving of critical public services. Vilifying these workers is a troubling and misplaced response to a crisis whose roots lie in an unequal distribution of society’s resources, and the chronic underfunding of public goods which should be human rights for all of us.
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by this tragedy. An injury to one is an injury to all -- May we find within ourselves the strength to deepen our resolve and solidarity with one another.