the union-crushers are coming for Vermont cops

Vermont progressives would defund, disband unionized police departments and start over

by Guy Page

June 9, 2020 – In his latest blog post, Kevin Ellis – former Burlington Free Press reporter, former power lobbyist in the Vermont State House, and current board member of the Vermont Journalism Trust that oversees VT Digger – says the current practice of policing in America (which he loathes) began when racist America adopted its racist Constitution. It’s a must-read for any law-and-order conservative seeking to understand why so many Vermont movers and shakers distrust police and insist we pay racial reparations and submit to South Africa-style Truth and Reconciliation Commissions. 

Kevin Ellis

Ellis is no crank hooting from behind the rope lines as the Power Crowd strides past. Genial, articulate, intensely likable, the self-described “Jersey shore born” Montpelier resident has 356 Twitter followers, among them eight Vermont journalists. He’s a board member of and big donor to Vermont Journalism Trust, publishers of VT Digger. After  he wrote a June 2019 post titled “If I Were Governor,” Seven Days columnist John Walters gave his possible candidacy four paragraphs. He’s on the board of directors of progressive publishing house Chelsea Green, and can be heard on guest appearances on the Dave Gram Show on WDEV. 

When Kevin Ellis talks, people in power listen. Here’s what he’s saying about police:

June 6 tweets: “Police are like highways. You don’t get less crime with more police. You don’t get less traffic with more roads. Move the money into social service programs that exist because market forces fail…..Remove police uniforms, guns and weapons. Rebrand them. Retrain them as social workers, EMTs, therapists, coaches. Then pay them more.” June 3 tweet: “We should disband police departments and start over. The way political leaders fear the police is nauseating….Fire them all and rehire officers after an improved vetting and training process.”

Whoa! Union-busting, much? Apparently so and that’s okay with one commenter on the tweet: “Republican politicians generally are anti-union for private sector and even govt workers, but for police, they love unions.  Police rank and file have become a political force of their own: conservative, pro-gun, anti-human rights.”

It’s an apt summary for why progressives abhor rank-and-file police officers: they are 1) conservative, 2) support the Second Amendment and are 3) “anti-human rights.” The commenter did not expound on what #3 means, but in his blog post, Ellis does:

“We watched the Twin Towers destroyed and 3,000 killed by angry terrorists and we do exactly what they want. Go to war, waste our human and financial resources. We then spend billions to arm local police forces with armor and weapons, which are now used in the streets against our own people. And we send black people to prison because we don’t like them, because we need their cheap labor, because we are addicted to the racism embedded in a Constitution that we wrote for ourselves.”

To be clear, Ellis does not support violence against police. Instead, he would defunded and disband police departments. Start over. 

Firing unionized workers is nothing new for Vermont political and economic elites opposed by a independent, recalcitrant union workers. When the Rutland Herald unionized and went on strike in the early 1980’s, the publisher simply hired new reporters. (I was offered the Springfield beat by then-editor Steve Terry. After talking with strike leader Louis Berney, I declined to be a scab.) 

More recently, the above-mentioned John Walters strongly implied in a May 28 tweet that he was fired from VT Digger in part because of his leadership role in its union: “The timing is unpleasantly coincidental. It came less than a week after I was named to our unit council, a leadership position in the union.” (When asked by Vermont Daily about Walters’ termination, VT Digger publisher Anne Galloway responded June 1, “This is a personnel matter. We will not be providing a comment.”)

In February 2010, Sen. Peter Shumlin and the rest of the Senate ignored the pleas of organized labor at Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant and refused to allow the Public Service Board to rule on the low-cost, low-carbon power plant’s application to continue operation. That decision led to the eventual closure of the plant – an outcome all the senators understood at the time. The 160 members of Local 300 of the IBEW protested loudly and publicly. So did 14 other labor unions. Alas, they too were relegated to the rope lines. Just months earlier, the entire Legislature had already anointed Vermont Yankee’s successor by approving big subsidies for solar power at the direction of VPIRG president James Moore – who then left promptly founded SunCommon, Vermont’s leading solar power installer. Pro-union or not, Vermont Yankee stood in the way of the power brokers at the Vermont State House. It had to go. 

During the long debate over marijuana legalization, Vermont’s police leaders have been a consistently vocal (albeit ignored) voice in opposition. 

So now it is the turn of Vermont police department unions to fight for survival. Another racial equity task force and police oversight bills are moving ahead. Many of Vermont’s ruling elite have decided their members are too independent, too pro-Second amendment, and too scary to be allowed to remain. Like the Human Race in Douglas Adams’ “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” they are In The Way of Progress. Here come the Vogons. 

Photo credit Burlington Police Department Facebook page