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Teachers Union Chides Shumlin Despite Political Endorsement

Vermont’s teachers’ union isn’t happy with Gov. Peter Shumlin. In the midst of the South Burlington teacher strike that ended earlier this week, Shumlin weighed in on the issue, saying he believes strikes should be illegal for Vermont teachers. Shumlin favors binding arbitration for teachers and school boards in labor disputes.

The NEA agrees, but they were more than slightly irritated that Shumlin chose to raise the issue in the middle of a strike.

“Our teachers were demoralized when they heard your words,” wrote Vermont NEA President Martha Allen in a letter to Shumlin. “Statement such as yours don’t help, but they do make the news." 

"Our members are wondering why, when Vermont-NEA has recommended your reelection, we are still supporting you financially and otherwise." - Martha Allen, Vermont NEA President

The NEA’s frustration is complicated by the fact that the union was one of the first groups to publicly endorse Shumlin’s run for reelection.

On August 8, in the Shumlin campaign’s announcement of the endorsement, Martha Allen gave Shumlin high praise: “His commitment to making our schools the nation’s best, his support for workers and unions, and his efforts to make Vermont the first state with a publicly financed healthcare system available to all residents makes him an obvious choice.”

The letter Allen sent Shumlin this week, though, struck a different tone.

“Our members are wondering why, when Vermont-NEA has recommended your reelection, we are still supporting you financially and otherwise,” she wrote. “They are asking us if you really do respect the profession and our union. This has placed me in a very awkward position and I would like to discuss with you how we might move forward.”

NEA spokesman Darren Allen said Wednesday that the board has not made any moves to withdraw or change its endorsement of Shumlin.

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