Labor unions criticize Douglas’ jobs record

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(Host) A coalition of labor organizations says that Vermont is losing high-paying jobs and replacing them with lower wage positions. The coalition is making its political point in an election year, by attacking Governor Jim Douglas’ record on job growth.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) In his campaign for office two years ago, Jim Douglas ran with the bumper sticker slogan “Jim equals jobs.” And on the campaign trail this year, the governor says he’s delivered on that promise by bringing seven thousand jobs back to the state.

But a coalition of groups representing workers and retirees say that’s not true. They held a Statehouse news conference to challenge the governor’s job numbers and to show that many of the jobs that have been created pay less than the ones that were lost.

(Charity Haggett) “I’m working a part-time job at home, doing data entry.”

(Dillon) Charity Haggett came before the cameras and microphones with her baby strapped into a backpack. Haggett worked at Capital City Press in central Vermont until the company moved the work to India.

(Haggett) “And I thought it was a really great job and had a lot of fun and learned a lot. And then after I’d been working there for three years, I was told while I was on maternity leave that I was going to be laid off.”

(Dillon) The coalition says it’s stories like these that show the real picture of employment in Vermont today. The groups say that new jobs in Vermont pay on average $15,000 less than the jobs that were lost. And they challenge the governor’s claim that 7,000 jobs have been created in Vermont.

Sue Lucas heads the nurses union at Copley Hospital in Morrisville.

(Lucas) “This is misleading. What the governor referred to is total employment, which includes self-employment, and should not be confused with jobs.”

(Dillon) According to Lucas, people turn to self-employment when regular full-time jobs aren’t available. She says self-employed people often don’t have health benefits, paid vacations or holidays.

But Neale Lunderville, Douglas’s campaign chairman, said the governor is proud of his record on job growth.

(Lunderville) “We have many success stories in Vermont, places where the government’s been able to step in with a VEDA loan or another low-interest loan to help a Vermont company stay competitive and build the facilities and get the training they need to get their workers competitive all around the world.”

(Dillon) The coalition that’s critical of the governor’s job record includes the Vermont chapter of the National Education Association, the state employees union, and the Vermont AFL-CIO. Some members of the labor coalition have endorsed Democrat Peter Clavelle for governor.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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