August 2002

By Dawn Stanger, Vermont Workers Center Steering Committee Member

It’s only natural for employers to seek concessions from workers. Improvements in working conditions, wages, benefits and Vermont’s environment — all undermine profits.

The only way this system becomes accountable is when workers struggle to get their fair share. We cannot sit back and accept what we’re “given.” Our profit-seeking system, by its very nature, demands that employers manipulate accounting and throw money into politics, corrupting our “democracy” and getting special favors.

If workers don’t struggle against it, the system spits them out, as Enroners and IBMers now see. In a capitalist economy, the people who run it are first and foremost trying to get rich and things like the rights of workers just get in the way.

Historically, there has been only one way for workers to increase their rights and gain power — uniting and acting together. As workers, when we have the ability to make collective, democratic decisions and act in all of our interests, we can make improvements for all of us.

Bosses call unions “third parties,” insinuating outside forces, but unions are really a second party. When we’re organized, we have the right to sit down and bargain our conditions, not have them imposed on us. Unions are democratic, and union members have a voice in how they run their organization and they often argue about what is the best thing for them to do. And this is the sort of thing everybody deserves, to have democratic rights in all aspects of our lives.

CEO pay is now a ridiculous 600 times the average worker’s pay in the United States. Income and wealth disparity between the rich and the rest of us is the worst it’s ever been. Our health-care, with 44 million Americans uncovered and sky-rocketing rates, has hit rock-bottom. If workers’ concerns were addressed in politics, we’d already have universal health care like all the other civilized nations do. When corporate excess reaches the present level, and people mistakenly believe that the stock market reflects workers’ goals, we’ve got big trouble.

We’re the Vermonters getting laid off and struggling to get by. Rich people might go on fewer vacations, but workers have to make tough choices between things such as clothes for our kids, medication, food and heat. But the fact is we do have to worry about those things, while the rich are still getting richer.

For years there has been an attack on our living standards — the top 5 percent are ripping us off. They’re avoiding taxes, moving companies to other countries, and cheating us out of our old-age money. We need to get over those stupid barriers between workers, white-collar, blue-collar stuff, union, non-union, and get our act together. Employers play hardball and our team has gotten soft.

I write as a member of the Vermont Workers’ Center. I load trucks for a living. I’ve become militant with good reason. I’ve spoken to hundreds of Vermonters on our Workers’ Rights Hotline. There is little fairness in a system manipulated by transnational corporations.

The Workers Center and Vermont’s labor unions will not tolerate this disparity in our communities and we are groups of workers fighting back

We invite all workers in Vermont to come celebrate the fact that we all trudge off to work each day, dependably, all year long, to earn a living, making the economic wheels of our state turn. Gathering at 11 a.m. Saturday we’re parading from H.O. Wheeler in Burlington’s North End to Battery Park, then throwing a free picnic for all who join us.

Vermont’s workers need to take back our state from the bosses. Let’s start by taking back Labor Day Weekend for workers.

Dawn Stanger is a Teamster who lives in Underhill and is a steering committee member of the Vermont Workers’ Center. For more information about the Labor March and Picnic, call 863-2345, Ext. 8. For the Vermont Workers’ Rights Hotline, call toll-free (866) 229-0009.