VSEA to protest Republican dinner: Are they picketing the wrong party?

By Rob Roper

NRC Chairman, Reince Priebus

Reince Priebus, the newly elected Chairman of the Republican national committee, will be the keynote speaker for the VTGOP’s April 13 Spring Dinner. The VSEA is planning a protest.

An email to its membership states, “VSEA will join other Vermont unions to protest the message of national GOP leader, Reince Priebus, who plans to speak at a fundraising event in Burlington next week. Reince Priebus is widely recognized as one of the leaders in crafting and implementing the national strategy to take away collective bargaining rights for American workers.”

Before assuming his new position, Priebus served as chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, racking up a number of electoral victories, including the election of governor Scott Walker and defeating incumbent liberal icon Russ Feingold for the U.S. Senate. Before Preibus was elected Wisconsin Republican Chair, Democrats controlled the state senate 18 -15, now Republicans control that body 19-14. Democrats held a 52-47 majority in the House. Now Republicans hold a majority of 57- 42. Priebus also helped to flip the Federal House delegation from a 5-3 Democrat majority to a 5-3 Republican majority.

So, it’s easy to see why any left leaning organization would not be wildly enthusiastic about Reince Priebus spreading his message and wisdom.

However, it is supremely ironic that Vermont unions are protesting the Vermont Republican Party when the Vermont Democrat Party is, for all practical purposes, attempting to eliminate public employees ability to collectively bargain for health care benefits by instituting a single payer health care system.

Although the Democrats have been paying lip service to the unions keeping their ability to negotiate for better health care benefits, just this week Senator Jeanette White, chair of the Senate Government Operations Committee admitted, “I don’t know that [public employee unions will] even have a supplemental policy. That isn’t a given at all.” And when asked a similar question, Senate President Pro Tem John Campbell was equally non-committal, “I think we don’t have enough facts right now to really discuss that.”

It is still unclear how, if the government creates one benefits package for all Vermont citizens, employees of that same government could bargain for benefits in excess of that package. If there’s an answer to that question, Democrats aren’t letting on. Yet, the VSEA and other unions are picketing the Republicans.