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November 06, 2011

Occupiers and Environmentalists Confront Vermont Democrats (VIDEO)

E89dbec8a219fc75215f8571163e02fb_viewYesterday was a rough day to be a Vermont Democrat.

First, labor activists got pissed off when party chairman Jake Perkinson quashed an effort to have a pro-state-worker resolution taken up at the party's annual organizational meeting. The resolution was prompted by some Democrats concerned that Gov. Peter Shumlin was interfering with state workers' collective-bargaining rights by filing a grievance over being denied emergency pay in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.

Then, a few hours later, a group of about 50 people confronted the governor, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and other Democratic bigwigs as they entered the Socialist Labor Party Hall in Barre for the fall fundraising dinner.  

The group of protesters had a mixed bag of concerns, but all revolved around the state's energy policies: the industrialization of Vermont's ridge lines, specifically the Shumlin administration's precedent of turning the Lowell Mountain ridge lines into an industrial wind farm, and what that may bode for other mountain vistas in Vermont; and the corporatization of the state's utilities. They voiced objections to the state's  increasingly cozy relationship with Green Mountain Power.

"When Gov. Shumlin opposed Vermont Yankee, he was doing the right thing and we supported him. But then Green Mountain Power turns around and buys power from Seabrook [Nuclear Power] and he says nothing. Why not?" said Eric Wallace-Senft of Woodbury. "He's allowing Green Mountain Power to get everything it wants. We need to stop this kind of corporate dominance."

EmporerShumlinWallace-Senft (pictured right), carried a sign that read: "You are the Gov. of Vermont Not the Bedfellow of GMP."

Wallace-Senft said he supported Shumlin in 2010, but has reservations about supporting the governor in 2012 after witnessing his administration increasingly turn over its energy policy to a single power company. And it's a company, Wallace-Senft added, that is destroying a pristine ridge line for a short-term power source.

"You're taking what it took glaciers 10,000 years to create and destroying it for a project that will last less than 50 years and is unlikely to offset the carbon you claim," said Wallace-Senft. "We have a responsibility to this state and our childeren to protect our natural resources for the future."

After the governor ran the gauntlet of protesters (see video below), he and other Democrats were greeted inside by a about eight or nine people affiliated with Occupy Vermont (see video below). The group chanted, "We are the 99 percent!" and "Banks got bailed out! We got sold out!" and crisscrossed the labor hall as Democrats looked on with seeming bemusement. Some clapped and chanted along, too, noted Kevin Hurley, a member of Occupy Vermont who shot the video.

"By the end, it was hard to even tell who started it and who was part of the group," Hurley told Seven Days early Sunday in a phone interview. Hurley has been to Occupy Wall Street twice since the occupation began in mid-September.

"I'm not a Republican or a Democrat, and for me I am increasingly irritated by the polarization of the two parties and that's why I'm a supporter of the occupation," he said. "Because the message, for me, is that it's the plutocracy that's dividing us."

The Occupy Vermont group waited until just before Sen. Sanders spoke to the Democratic crowd. Sanders had visited the Democratic State Committee meeting earlier in the day and unanimously received the party's endorsement for his reelection in 2012.

Ironically, it was just moments before Sanders arrived at the Barre Auditorium to request the nomination that chairman Perkinson ruled out of order a resolution calling on state officials to stop "castigating" state workers for filing a grievance against the Shumlin administration. Gov. Shumlin has called this group of about 80 employees "greedy" and has used the bully pulpit to get them to drop their legal action.

The resolution was first passed by the Lamoille County Democratic Committee three weeks ago. The Washington County Democratic Committee approved an identical resolution one week later.

Perkinson ruled that the resolution could not be brought up for discussion under "new business" because not all members of the state committee had received a copy of the resolution at least five days before the meeting, which he claimed is a a condition of the party's bylaws.

Others disagreed, saying Perkinson had the discretion as chair to allow the resolution for a floor vote. After about 15 minutes of heated debate, about a dozen state committee members — which includes state workers and staff of the Vermont State Employees Association — walked out of the meeting.

"I think it's clear by taking this action that it demonstrates the Democratic Party is more concerned about raising money and getting candidates elected than holding candidates accountable to the party platform once they are elected," said Conor Casey, a member of the Democratic State Committee and interim co-executive director of the VSEA.

I'll have a full report on this, and more observations from this weekend's events, in the next Fair Game column in Seven Days. Until then, enjoy some of the snapshots and video.

Here is the video of Gov. Shumlin as he tries to shake hands and talk with environmentalists outside the Labor Hall:


Here is the video provided to Seven Days by Kevin Hurley, one of about nine people affiliated with Occupy Vermont who infiltrated the Democratic fundraiser:

Occupy Vermont Infiltrates and Schools Democrats at Fundraiser from Kevin Hurley on Vimeo.

Nice work, Shay. Oh wait, once again someone did the work for you. Great gig you got there.

The Lowell wind tower protestors have been asked to leave by the supreme court, even though they are on private property where the land owners have accepted and maybe invited their presence.The Lowell occupiers have a direct message, protesting the wind turbines. Agree or disagree with them they have a direct message that the supreme court does not want to honor. Move to Burlington where Hizzoner Kiss has given his graciousness to the tent useless occupiers who only have a message of the day, whatever they choose on the day.
Double standards are now the case in Vt. so I am now out looking for a Moose to walk through city hall park and solve the problem. That would be a Bull Moose who breaks his leash and charges through tent town.
Hey Kiss you have your own Zuccotti park, and I am sure you are proud of it.
May my Moose pee on your Teepee.

Shame on you Kevin Hurley.

Love that last video. The worst-planned and -executed hijack of an event I've ever seen, greeted with chuckles and golf claps. Maybe blindly repeating the video title about "schooling Democrats" wasn't the best choice there.

Wonderfuul job, someone finally exposed the truth about
industrial wind power and the corruption that goes along with it. It is worthless in limiting CO2 and destructive to our state. Bless you brave people for standing up to what some of us are unable to save... our most precious landscape and mountains of Vermont. After all we are named after them "Verne Monte" the Green Mountains... we should protect them. And shame on the so called environmental groups who are not doing their part!

Wow! With catchy lines and such delivery I'm sure that they will be taken very seriously. The tambourines add lots - they should have brought them inside!

Bring back Gov. Douglas! He wasn't an "I'll-say-anything-to-anybody" used-car salesman like Shumlin!

The refusal of Perkinson to allow the resolution to come to a vote should have made it clear to Labor that Sumlin and the leadership of the Vermont Democratic Partyhave nothing but contempt for the workforce in general and the state workforce more specifically. As a lifelong Democrat, it saddens me that my party has abandoned the middle class workforce in favor of big money donors. It saddens me that Shumlin and his team will bash hard working men and women in order to score political points. It saddens me that our party chair is such a Shumlin lapdog that he would ignore doing the right thing in favor of supporting a vicious political opportunist like our Governor.

Pretty sad how the commissioner of human services, which oversees our agency of natural resources, hides behind Carris, the little blonde woman and the bodyguard. Doesn't even stop to talk with the people who depend on him. Doug Racine should resign and help us fight his boss. He used to be with us, or so he said.

@Mark - I agree! I generally agree with the message but the drumming and the tambourines were just absurd. We lefties can't manage to protest without trying to turn it into a Kumbayah moment. A little rightous anger without all of the idiotic accoutrements would go a long way.

"It saddens me that Shumlin and his team will bash hard working men and women in order to score political points."

Umm . . . you mean the 80 hard working men and women who wanted double-time pay because the Shumlin Administration didn't send them a formal letter advising them that after the flood they'd be working in a different location? You mean THOSE hard working men and women?

BTW, isn't it true that some of those 80 people were so ashamed and embarrassed at the union filing this grievance in their name that they publicly distanced themselves from it?

You mean THOSE hard working men and women? The ones who want not just pay, but double-pay? Compared to all the hard-working men and women in the private sector who left their jobs and went to assist with flood relief efforts on a strictly volunteer basis?

Just to clarify...these few state workers were not denied pay and no one ever suggested it...rather they were denied demands for over double pay per salaried hour whether or not they even worked...a very different equation than asking for additional costs incurred due to having to be relocated during a natural disaster. Clearly the natural disaster piece needs to be re-examined. Too many Vermonters have lost everything and can't get any help to keep or trash their homes and every last thing they own, and too many still homeless for us to ethically be able to agree to such terms in such times as we are with not enough. And isn't that the essence of what the 99% Movement is all about...dispensing with such arrogance of thinking only of one's self?

the good news is that people feel free to go to the democrats with their grievances. They know they won't get a fair hearing at the republican doorway.

The people protesting the ind power project have my sympathy but I think we have to make some choices in this state and nationally if we're going to ween ourselves from oil and coal and fossil fuels. I'm sure the construction process looks really bad right now and for anyone who hasn't worked with earth moving machines it's probably alarming to see such destruction in what was a pristine area. however, once it's done and healed it will look much better. Perhaps it will never be what it was but what's our alternative right now, not decades from now but right now? Either we keep feeding the monster or we get off the fossil fuel tit and compromise. Maybe decades or more later photovoltaics for homes will come down enough in price to make them viable for everyone who wants it and we'll be able to take down these giant wind machines and heal the land but right now we have to do our best with what we have. I admire the protesters courage. without public pressure nothing changes so I see what they're doing as necessary however annoying it may be.
Also, as far as Seabrooke goes. That stinks but at least that plant is newer than Vermont Yankee which is a dangerous antique we have to do something about. I'd like to see us phase out nuclear too and we should but that's going to take time. New technologies are in the pipe but they aren't ready for prime time yet so we're stuck with some not so great choices at the moment. so, keep the pressure on folks but try and be patient too.

@Caleb and Stupidity Unlimited
First of all, you have no idea what the circumstances were that drove those 80 state employees to demand that the Administration adhere to the terms of their contract. Nor do I. So yes Caleb, I would say, yes, those 80 hardworking people. You have no idea how many of them were sitting at home, if any, and how many of them were wading through navel high water full of waste and oil and who knows what else to do their jobs.
Second of all, the Governor went out of his way to vilify the entire workforce. While, admittedly, the administration had some words of praise, the effect of the Governors public tirade was to paint the entire workforce with the same brush. Given the obvious disdain that the two of you have for the state workforce, he got what he wanted.

Dear Holier-Than-Thou "Weep for the Workers" Barry,

You failed to address the issue that a number of those 80 people were absolutely appalled that the Union included them in its "grievance" and publicly asked to be removed.

You say I have no idea what motivated the grievance. Yeah, I do actually. There was a technical violation of the contract because the workers were displaced by the flooding and the Administration -- in the middle of the worst disaster in Vermont since the Great Flood of 1927 -- didn't send them a letter telling them that they'd have to be relocated to a different work area. Do you have better insight into the basis for the grievance than that? If so, please spell it out. Or are you just assuming that whatever the Union wants must be right? Howbout those Union members who said they were disgusted by the Union grievance and who said they had never even been asked whether they should be included in the grievance or not?

Stop drinking the Kool-Aid and try to think for yourself.

Caleb, the attacks are really not necessary. Stick to your arguments, please.

Tyler, I thought this was a free speech area?

Shem, this is not 'Nam. This is blog commenting. There are rules.

It's very rare that I delete anything. Didn't delete anything here in fact, just asked Caleb to tone it down, as I don't think personal attacks and name-calling are necessary additions to the discourse.

@Caleb Wow, thats the first time I've ever been called a "holier than thou, weep for the workers Kool Aid drinker" but okay, if that makes you feel better. But, from one Kool Aid drinker to another, your rhetoric would indicate that you're much more hard lined in your opinion of the situation than I. I was just trying to point out that it might be a good idea to take a more objective and measured look at the situation than just engaging in meaningless ideological argument. For the sake of argument, I'll go with your premise that the dispute is all about the workforce demanding that their employment contract be honored. Your logic seems to indicate that as so many Vermonters took a hit due to Irene that the state employment contract, or portions of it, should be invalidated. If a disaster is reason to invalidate a contract because to adhere to it would be a hardship or, as in this case, an inconvenience for one of the parties then one would have to infer that you would subscribe to the belief that as the nation has gone through the greatest financial disaster since the great depression that mortgage and credit contracts be invalidated as the financial crisis has plunged so many people into hardship and joblessness. After all, to demand that those contracts be enforced in this time of national hardship would seem to be heartless and greedy. Would that an accurate statement? I'm thinking it's not likely that this would be your position and would agree that it's pretty much a nonsensical scenario. Now my question to you is, when would it be okay and reasonable to invalidate a contract, or portions of a contract in time of disaster? Who gets to decide? When does one party to a valid contract get to say "this provision is inconvenient for me so we're just going to scrap it"? Would this unilateral revision of contract terms apply to all contracts or just certain ones? Contracts were meant to be enforced and all parties are expected to honor the terms that have been agreed to. If they don’t like the terms the parties can renegotiate at the appropriate or mutually agreed upon time. If any party gets to pick and choose what terms they are going to honor and which they are not, what would be the purpose of entering into one to begin with?

"There are rules."

Just don't ask what they are.

I'm with Jimmy on this one. There may be rules, but they're pretty selectively enforced.

John what makes you a nuclear expert. or an expert in how to make power. As for VY. it is safe and maintained in very good condition. If it closes it will take about 25,000 barrels of oil a day(42 gallons is a barrel)or 5000 tons of coal a day. Denmark is the biggest producer of wind power they are the size of Mass. and 1/2 in that area they have 5,500 windmills producing 16% of their power. Vy is only 6 years older than Seabrook. Sorry to steal your thunder with facts. By the way VY uses about 12 pounds of uranium a day to make 626 maga watts.

In today's "Fair Game" column, Shay's commenting on Shumlin's spat with the state employees union for seeking double-pay because they weren't timely notified of their work-site reclocation during the worst natural disaster since at least the Great Flood of '27. Shay remarks, "Gov. Peter Shumlin called state workers “greedy in a time of crisis” for seeking emergency pay for work they did in the immediate aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene."

But wait. Weren't at least some of those workers actually AT HOME?

@ Barry:

You say, "one would have to infer that you would subscribe to the belief that as the nation has gone through the greatest financial disaster since the great depression that mortgage and credit contracts be invalidated as the financial crisis has plunged so many people into hardship and joblessness."

Yes, I agree. Surprised?

Hardworking people who now have a home worth substantially less than their mortgage, through no fault of their own, should get a break, and in fact that is happening already.

I'm not so sure I would apply the same standard to dopes who took out a mortgage they should have known they couldn't afford. And the mortgage brokers who approved their applications, knowing that there was a good chance these people would eventually be foreclosed upon, should go to jail.

None of this justifies state employees demanding double-pay because the state missed a deadline for sending them a "worksite relocation" notice during the greatest natural disaster in Vermont's history.

And, by the way, yes, there is a doctrine in the law that excuses performance of contracts in times of natural disasters and emergencies. It's called force majeure. And I have a feeling the state is using that term right now in its discussions with the union in the double-pay grievance.

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