Remarks by VWC president Ellen Schwartz at 6/8 Brattleboro rally to support Vermont's teachers. Photo credit: Ann Braden
Governor Scott has been using divide and conquer tactics around education since he took office. Earlier this legislative session, he proposed cuts to K-12 education in order to fund increases in early education and higher education. While those increases are sorely needed, the target of the cuts were public schools and their unionized teachers. By offering increases to early ed and higher ed, he was attempting to divide educators by which sector they work in.
Fast forward to May, with the legislative session winding down and the budget nearly settled. Enter Governor Scott, announcing that he would veto the budget if health insurance isn’t removed from collective bargaining between teachers and their employers, the local school districts. Yesterday he did just that.
Make no mistake, this is not about healthcare. Rather, Scott is taking advantage of the ‘Cadillac plan’ clause of the ACA—which means that all school districts need to renegotiate contracts this year—to weaken collective bargaining rights for teachers.
Scott knows that our healthcare system is broken. He knows that it’s easy for people who are uninsured or underinsured to turn on those whom they perceive as having a better deal, such as teachers and public employees. But he is not proposing a real solution to healthcare, such as the full implementation of Act 48, which would ensure that we all have access to healthcare through a universal, equitably funded system.
Instead he is using health insurance to sow division: to divide unionized from non-unionized workers, public sector employees from those in the private sector, people with health insurance from those without. Like so-called “right to work,” Scott’s proposal seeks to hamstring unions’ ability to bargain collectively. But here’s the thing: we all benefit from any group of workers having collective bargaining rights. The surest evidence for this is in comparisons between overall wages and benefits—including health insurance—for workers in RTW vs. non-RTW states. Non-RTW states, like Vermont, have on average 3.2% higher wages and higher levels of employer-sponsored health insurance than RTW states.
“An injury to one is an injury to all.” Today teachers are under attack. Let’s send a strong message to Governor Scott—that we stand in solidarity with our public school teachers, that we are united—not divided— and that we will not allow him to weaken collective bargaining rights.