State Employees Union endorses Molly Gray for Congress

The Vermont State Employees Association endorsed Lt. Gov. Molly Gray in the Democratic primary for Vermont’s sole U.S. House seat on Thursday, June 16. File photo by Glenn Russell/VTDigger

Last year, when lawmakers were considering what to do about growing deficits in the retirement system, Lieutenant Governor Molly Gray was the first ruling Democrat to break with her party to speak out against a controversial plan by the House Speaker Jill Krowinski to cut benefits, increase retirement age and ask employees to contribute more.

On Thursday, the Vermont State Employees Association reimbursed her. The union representing about 6,000 state employees announced it was endorsing Gray in the Democratic primary for Vermont’s lone U.S. House seat.

Gray’s main rival in the race, Senate Pro Tempore Speaker Becca Balint, D-Windham, was a key player in brokering the retirement deal between unions and lawmakers that finally became law this year after that the House and Senate unanimously overruled a veto by the governor. Phil Scott.

But VSEA executive director Steve Howard said while VSEA members are “grateful” for Balint’s work, Gray stood out for coming out first – and not backing down.

There remains a feeling among union members, Howard said, that Balint was “a bit too slow to come to the position that the president’s plan should not see the light of day.”

“Molly was extraordinarily brave coming off the sideline early in the middle of the pension fight,” Howard said. “(She) spoke out clearly and decisively against the President’s proposal and then withstood a meteoric amount of attacks hurled at her.”

The VSEA Board of Directors decides who to approve based on recommendations from its Legislative Committee. A council of around 150 members has a right of veto if they disagree with the council’s choice.

“During my tenure as lieutenant governor, and before that serving statewide as assistant attorney general, I saw firsthand the crucial work our state employees do,” Gray said in a statement. “That’s why I stood side by side with them to defend myself against the proposed pension cuts.”

State public sector unions were split in the hotly contested primary. Balint has the support of the Vermont affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents about 6,000 health care and higher education workers in the state. Vermont’s AFL-CIO, which has just under 11,000 members, had endorsed state Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, D-Chittenden, who has since dropped out of the race and endorsed Balint.

Gray and Balint hold similar pro-labor views. Everyone, for example, said they supported the adoption of the PRO law, one of the most important legislative priorities of the national labor movement. (The bill passed the US House and is stalled in the US Senate.)

Louis Meyers, a doctor from South Burlington, and Sianay Chase Clifford, who recently won the endorsement of the Vermont Progressive Party and said she would support “any legislation that makes it easier for workers to unionize,” are also running in the Democratic primary. .

In addition to Gray, VSEA announced a string of endorsements in other primaries on Thursday, including Peter Welch for U.S. Senate, David Zuckerman for lieutenant governor, Chris Winters for secretary of state and Rory Thibault for attorney general. The union also supported several Democratic candidates in the contested primaries for the State Senate and House.

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About Michael S. Montanez

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