One of my least favorite things about left/liberal politics is the tendency to wage self-destructive internal battles. I've got two examples today. First, VPIRG firing Cassandra Gekas when she decided to run for Lieutenant Governor; second, the hostility (by some) toward a new deep-pocketed advocacy group working in favor of single-payer healthcare.
Gekas gets the ziggy. This story from Paul Heintz, the newly-minted Fair Game columnist for Seven Days. (Andy Bromage has been promoted to News Editor.) Gekas was VPIRG's health care advocate when she made a last-minute decision to run for Lite Gov.
The move, apparently, also came as a surprise to her employer. When she informed VPIRG executive director Paul Burns of her plans to run for office, Gekas says she was fired on the spot. "He just said, 'Collect your things, leave immediately, and don't come back,'" Gekas recounts.
Now, in addition to launching a statewide campaign, the 30-year-old Montpelier resident needs a new job so she can make her student-loan, car and rent payments.
Gekas could have handled the situation better. She didn't tell Burns about her intentions until the day of the filing deadline. I realize her candidacy was a sudden thing, but she should have tried to notify Burns earlier.
However, to fire her on the spot seems awfully harsh -- particularly for an organization that promotes social justice. Giving her an unpaid leave, with some sort of severance deal, would seem more appropriate. I won't tell anyone else what to do, but I'll remember this the next time I get a fundraising call from VPIRG.
SEIU launches Vermont advocacy group. Today's Rutland Herald/Times Argus (paywalled, available here if you subscribe) has the story of a large national labor union setting up a 501c4 group in support of single-payer health care in Vermont. The Service Employees International Union says Vermont is on the cutting edge of health care reform, and it wants to ensure that Vermont stays there, providing an example for others to follow.
SEIU's group, "Vermont Leads," will benefit from the union's deep pockets and connections to liberal donors across the country. But not everyone is happy about its entry.
Sen. Anthony Pollina, a Progressive Party stalwart and early proponent of the single-payer concept, said Vermont Leads could trigger a big-money ad war that turns Vermonters off to health care reform.
The good Senator is looking a gift horse in the mouth. I don't think SEIU, all by its lonesome, is going to trigger an HCR ad war. Citizens United took care of that. We're likely to see big-money ad wars on HCR no matter what, and I'm glad to see that we've got at least one major organization on the good guys' side.
There's also an intra-labor aspect to this. The Vermont AFL-CIO is lukewarm about SEIU's entry, because the two unions are both trying to organize home-care workers in Vermont. (AFL-CIO through its subsidiary, AFSCME.) One AFL-CIO official, Traven Leyshon, fears that the formation of Vermont Leads is an attempt "to curry political favor with Governor Shumlin," rather than a sincere effort to bolster health care reform.
As far as I'm concerned, AFL-CIO seems more concerned about turf battles than major political issues. And as SEIU's Matt McDonald points out, "there is absolutely nothing within the powers of this governor to advantage SEIU over AFSCME."
In this case, I agree with Dr. Deb Richter of Vermont for Single Payer:
"The point is that people who tend to benefit from single-payer don't have billions of dollars in their pockets," Richter said. "We're lucky to have this union recognize that if one state gets single-payer, then it's likely to spread and be beneficial to the whole country."