Friday, February 26, 2010

The State Senate: Vermont's Great Jobs Killer

Editor’s note: This opinion piece is by William N. Reardon, an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 300 member who works at Vermont Yankee and is chairman of the plant’s collective bargaining unit.

Enough is enough. With Vermont’s economy on the canvas and hard working men and womeworried about their jobs and struggling to pay the monthly bills, along come our elected Senators.

At the flick of a switch they voted to close Vermont Yankee and put more than 1,288 people out of work, the total number of jobs created in Vermont by Vermont Yankee according to an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 300-commissioned study. This also reduces purchasing power by $78.5 million annually, negatively impacting many others in Vermont.

There is lost revenue from property and payroll taxes along with close to a million dollars in community contributions. The vote also passes on to Vermonters higher electric prices and gives the state’s business reputation a black eye, keeping more companies at bay and chasing more in-state businesses away.

At its heart, the measure is political irresponsibility.

All that seems to matters is that they want the plant closed so they can have a trophy to peddle to anti-nuclear extremists who have long agitated for the plant to close. If Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and God Almighty himself testified that the plant was safe and well run the anti-nuclear crowd still wouldn’t believe it.

Leading this charge is the self proclaimed voice of the working people — the now Senator and want-to-be governor Shumlin who is using Vermont Yankee as a distraction from his abysmal record of constituent service in Windham County, home of the plant. Windham County is arguably the most depressed region of the state. Shumlin is willing to put many of his constituents out of work to join a long list of others who are out of work in the County.

Indeed, the IBEW study commissioned about Vermont Yankee and prepared by Northern Economic Consulting notes, “Job growth in Windham County has lagged that of the state in nine of the last ten years. Only in 1999 did Windham County post a job gain. Windham County has lost jobs every year since 1999.”

It goes on, “From 1999 to 2009 employment in the state grew by 5.3 percent, a gain of 15,236 jobs. During that 10-year period jobs decreased in Windham County by 1,636, a 6.8 percent decline. Then, when the recession hit in 2008 and 2009, Windham County employers continued to shed jobs, and at a faster rate than employers across the state.”

Where has Senator been while these jobs were lost and sent out of state? Apparently he has abdicated fighting for jobs in Windham County and for his constituents, or just was never that good at it. Perhaps the Senator realized he could not stem the job flow impacting his constituents so he decided to contribute to it by championing the closure of Vermont Yankee.

In any case, enough is enough.

All of Vermont deserves better representatives then those who will trash Vermont’s economy through a reckless, fast-tracked, self-serving call to close Vermont Yankee. And the rest of Vermont beware: the 800 workers in Vermont who just got notice their jobs are gone and the 1,288 workers associated with Vermont Yankee are only the beginning.

It’s not Vermont Yankee and more than 1,200 other Vermonters that should be retired. It’s the Senators who elected to follow Shumlin’s political agenda and stick their head in the sand and ignore the economic effects of closing the plant while giving the blue collar worker the moon.