A union representing Burlington city employees endorsed mayoral candidate Carina Driscoll, saying that incumbent Mayor Miro Weinberger isn't representing workers from city hall.
It's the first time "in a very long time" that the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees has endorsed a candidate for mayor, union president Karl LaBounty said at a press conference Wednesday.
"This year we felt that it was a time to stand up again," LaBounty said.
The AFSCME Local 1343, Council 93 union includes more than 200 workers from the Burlington Parks, Recreation & Waterfront Department; the Department of Public Works; the library; the airport; the city clerk and treasurer's office; the Community and Economic Development Office; as well as staff from the Burlington school district.
Driscoll announced the endorsement to an audience of one — this reporter. Half a dozen public works employees surrounded her during the event on the steps of city hall.
LaBounty, a maintenance worker for the Burlington school district, criticized the city for what he called its slow response to worker safety violations last June. A Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspector found that city employees working on pipes in the street had not properly shored up the walls of a trench more than five feet deep. The state fined the city $44,000 for the violation.
According to DPW workers, the city's response has been inadequate. The union said it has been unable to establish a worker safety committee, and claimed that the city posted a job for a safety officer — then removed it without hiring for the position.
"When we find a problem ... you can't expect our workers to be in jeopardy for a long period of time," said LaBounty. "We need speedier service."
If elected, Driscoll promised to "make sure that city workers are empowered to make decisions that affect working conditions, including the ability to manage their own safety measures," she said in prepared remarks Wednesday. She also said that she would work to uphold the city's livable wage ordinance and support policies that allow lower-wage workers to contribute less to health insurance premiums.
Weinberger has earned endorsements from the city firefighter and police unions, as well as the Vermont Building and Construction Trades Council, which includes unions for plumbers and electrical workers.