Fighting the downsizing of education at the University of Vermont.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Two guest entries on the struggle against greed and for the public interest

The first guest entry is from bronwynvt (also visit on how much some employees have had to pay out of their own pockets while the administration was helping itself to bonuses and other perqs. The second is from a former UVM staff member, also active in labor left politics, about the role unions need to play in ending the bonanza for the rich rather than consenting to still further cuts to wages, hours, and benefits.

From bronwynvt:

Another small but significant example of the inequities we are now forced to live with at UVM concerns the policy of not reimbursing professional employees (e.g., counselors at the Counseling Center) for the regulatory fees they have to pay in order to maintain their licenses (which are a required credential for jobs). Employees at UVM have willingly worked for departments with operating budgets so small that some have had to pay out of their own pockets for expensive continuing education courses that are a requirement of these licenses as well. All of this costs hundreds of dollars per year to people who are paid salaries far below a nationally competitive rate. In the past it was clearer that these policies were a financial necessity at an institution with scarce resources. Now these policies are set and maintained by a group of people paying themselves excessive salaries, bonuses, generous allowances, and according to one rumor I've heard, expensive golf club memberships as well. Vermont's state university does not need leaders whose primary motivation is money rather than the public good. We need leaders who will help us keep the institution as a whole, which means its facilities and its people vital and well prepared to meet the demands and challenges of serving our students. What our leaders have proven is that they will make sure they generously staff their own ranks and reward themselves with excessive compensation at the direct expense of adequate staffing for our most essential services.

And from Paul F.:

While the goal of averting layoffs is of course good, the Vermont State Employees Association offer of wage freezes and furloughs is a disastrous strategy. Instead of challenging Douglas's underlying agenda of downsizing, privatizing, protecting the wealthy, and frankly eliminating some of last good working class jobs by going after public sector unions--and then helping to mobilize a mass opposition that could make a difference, this concessionary approach exposes everyone to more cuts and takeaways later on as the depression deepens. Consider: 

1. Vermont's tax rate for the wealthy has plummeted by about two-thirds since 1970. What about that? (See attachment)

2. Montpelier and Washington have refused to socialize healthcare for the many decades now. Let's reform that before more give backs.

3. I was told yesterday that some advocates in Montpelier are expecting an additional $100 million budget shortfall by July. What then? There will be even more pressure for concessions --instead of taxing the wealthy, healthcare reform, and cutting the war budget. There is no choice but to fundamentally challenge the skewed priorities that have prevailed for the past 4 decades. The sooner we do this the better. 

4. As one of the few organized forces capable of mounting a challenge to the attempts to further lower living standards and to protect the accumulated riches of the wealthy, unions need to be leading this struggle and can have an influence far greater than their size.

Click to see chart and text full-size:

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