Earned Sick Time

Recently a letter appeared in my local paper that claimed the Earned Sick Time bill (H.208) that passed my committee today, is “written for a small percentage of people that typically do not want to help themselves” and “the same people who keep coming back with their hand out.” The opposite is true: this bill will affect 60,000 hard-working Vermonters who work for businesses that do not currently offer this benefit.

Historically, labor bills such as overtime pay and the 40-hour work week, for example, were mandated because employers did not always prioritize workers health and safety. I found it particularly interesting that even though the author of this letter disapproved of government mandates and intrusion, he would “dictate what they [the poor] can buy with government subsidies.”

The General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee took testimony on H.208 from over 85 different groups and individuals, including Vermont businesses, employees, professors, nonprofits and the general public. We learned that a lack of paid earned sick time largely affects women -- caretakers of our children, the elderly and the vulnerable -- who work part time and/or for low wages, many in the food service industry. Children are deeply affected too, because parents are unable to leave work to pick them up from school and daycare when they are sick, further spreading disease and illness.

The numerous Vermont businesses who already voluntarily offer earned sick time (comprehensive/combined time off qualifies as sick time under this bill) testified that their employees are happier, healthier, and more productive. That is a win-win by anyone's standards.

Notes from the Working Vermonters Caucus

Last session, labor bills in the final hours succumbed to end of session snafus leaving supporters, advocates, labor leaders, workers, and organizers hung out to dry.  This session, making Vermont a Worker Friendly State and solidarity is in the air at the Statehouse as members from both Houses have been packing the Legislative Working Vermonters Caucus each week.  It’s exciting that the caucus is growing and room 10 is looking smaller with each meeting!

The Legislative Working Vermonters Caucus meets every Wednesday at noon in room 10 at the Statehouse and is co-chaired by Representative Susan Hatch Davis and Representative John Moran.  This week the caucus welcomed special guests: students of Governor Douglas from Middlebury College and members of the Board of the Vermont State Employees Retiree group.

Floor time on specific legislation in the Caucus this week included two bills: S.14 (Fair share fees) and H.41 (Pension forfeiture).

S.14 as introduced states, “This bill proposes to require payment of agency fees by teachers, school administrators, and municipal employees who are not members of a labor organization recognized as the exclusive bargaining agent.  In addition, it would confirm explicitly that agency fees cannot be used for any purpose other than in connection with collective bargaining.”  Read the full bill here.

H.41 as introduced states, “This bill proposes to require the Attorney General or State’s Attorney to petition a judge to order the partial or total civil forfeiture of retirement payments to public officials convicted of certain crimes related to their employment.”  Read the full bill here.

The Vermont Workers Center spoke about the Put People First initiative.  Read more about it here.

Future agenda items will be a report back from Department of Public service on the GMP/CVPS merger and licenses for undocumented workers.

Bills Begin to Make their Way to Committee

Last week, the third week of the legislative session, saw a variety of new bills make their way past their floor introduction and into committee.

My committee -- General, Housing and Military Affairs -- heard testimony from the Department of Labor, the Liquor Control Board, several liquor vendors, plus the Executive Director of Supports and Services at Home (SASH).  Then we took testimony on several bills relating to: rental assistance and overdue rent, first class liquor licenses, the authority of liquor control investigators, veterans’ eligibility for the Green Mountain Passport and the Veterans Bronze Medal.

All legislators also had a Health Benefit Exchange demonstration/website walk-through that was very informative, plus a two hour Sexual Harassment Prevention training.  And finally, the Governor’s budget address gave legislators on both sides of the aisle plenty to think about.

Thank you for your notes, emails and phone calls; keep them coming. I appreciate all of your input.

Fair Share? Not So Much

When you form a union not everyone has to join. But when a contract is agreed to everyone is covered regardless of whether or not they join the union. And, whether they pay union dues.

Plus, if a non union member has a grievance the union has their back. Which is why unions like the idea of requiring some kind of fee from even the non-union members they have to work for. This fee is called an "agency fee" or the "fair share fee" as it's called these days in the legislature.

When the senate passed an education bill Sen. Tim Ashe (D/P - Chittenden) attached the fair share language that had been discussed on and off all year.

We are about to debate this bill on the floor. Our only option is to agree otherwise the underlying bill will die. There simply isn't time to change it and send it back to the senate. Trick is, House Democrats don't have the votes to pass the fair share provision. That's right, over a third of the House democrats are a knee-jerk no vote on a basic labor principle of fairness.

I believe they'll get the votes after some arm twisting but it's a sorry state of affairs if we can't pass a basic labor principle like a fair share provision for municipal and school employees. Sad.

An act relating to union organizing (H.389)

Susan Hatch Davis and Chris Pearson sponsored H.389, An act relating to union organizing .

This bill proposes to prohibit the recipient of state funds from using those funds to assist, promote, deter, or coerce union organizing.

An act relating to public sector fair share agency fees (H. 239)

Sandy Haas sponsored H. 239, An act relating to public sector fair share agency fees.

This bill proposes to require that employees in bargaining units organized under state law who do not join the labor organization representing the unit pay a fair share agency fee.

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