A Celebration Of VSEA’s Growing Power & Influence At Union’s 79th Annual Meeting

September 15, 2023 – Week In Action Newsletter

VSEA members and retirees meeting last Saturday at the Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa in Stowe, Vermont, and online, via Zoom for VSEA’s 79th Annual Meeting!

Draft 2023 Annual Meeting Minutes

More than 100 VSEA members and retirees participated in person and virtually in VSEA’s 79th Annual Meeting on Saturday, September 9 at Stoweflake Mountain Resort. It was a spirited meeting that included the election of new VSEA officers, who are:

  • President – Aimee Towne
  • First Vice President – Margaret Crowley
  • Second Vice President – Karen Hango
  • Treasurer – Eric Davis
  • Clerk – Meghan Place 

The members also paid tribute to former VSEA President, Terry McCaig who was attending his 60th consecutive annual meeting and VSEA Director of Labor Relations Gary Hoadley who was present at his 30th consecutive meeting. The members of the VSEA acknowledged and applauded the dedication of both of these trade unionists to the cause of VSEA members. 

Growing Power & Strength

The AFL-CIO’s decision to grant a rare & historic membership to VSEA was discussed and debated. 

Members attending the VSEA Council and Annual Meeting discussed the successes their union had in the past year as well as the significant challenges they face on the job. President Aimee Towne gave an overview of the rationale and the significant advantages VSEA members will now have as members of the national coalition of labor unions, the AFL-CIO, VSEA is one of only six independent unions in the country to be allowed to join. President Towne included the following examples of just some of the impacts of VSEA’s historic membership. 

  • Maintaining VSEA’s independence by getting protection from costly raids by Washington DC based unions who charge significantly higher dues than VSEA. 
  • Improved consumer discounts for VSEA members 
  • Increased access to training for VSEA members and staff 
  • Strategic and legal assistance as well access to improved data and communications capacity. 
  • Unify while increasing the power of the labor movement in Vermont
  • Potentially enhancing VSEA membership with the more likely passage of the stalled Card Check bill in the Vermont Legislature. 

President Towne acknowledged that the urgency and sensitivity of the threat to the independence of the VSEA from an outside raid did not provide the Board of Trustees the ability to do the level of communication with the VSEA members that they would have liked to do, saying she is committed to a robust outreach effort to share information about the VSEA’s membership in the AFL-CIO. The President said the Board had to act quickly on behalf of VSEA members to prevent an outside raid. 

The decision to join the VT AFL-CIO, a coalition of unions, is not without precedent, VSEA’s Board takes annual action to join the Working Vermont Caucus, a coalition of Vermont’s labor unions. The rationale to join the AFL-CIO was included in a VTDigger story this week about the AFL-CIO convention and VSEA’s decision to join the organization. 

From the VTDigger story:

“…the leadership vote came on the heels of the VSEA’s decision last month to join the AFL-CIO, partly to protect itself from a takeover by a national union. “There’s a period of time when these big, national, out-of-state unions with their millions of dollars can come in and do what’s called a raid, where they try to take over your union,” said Steve Howard, executive director of the VSEA.

Howard said this happened in recent years when the National Police Benevolent Association and the New England Police Benevolent Association, based in Boston, sought to represent Department of Corrections staff historically associated with the VSEA. Corrections staff voted in October 2021 to stick with the VSEA. Howard explained that the AFL-CIO charter prohibits a member union from raiding another member union. He said another reason the union joined the AFL-CIO was to help pass card-check legislation, which would allow Vermont employees to join a union once a majority of them have signed a card asking to join. No vote would be required. 

“AFL just needs the VSEA’s power and influence to get that done,” said Howard. “They’ve been trying for a number of years.” The most important point VSEA leaders are stressing is that the VT AFL-CIO is an “umbrella organization” for dozens of Vermont labor unions, and the decision to join does NOT mean VSEA loses its status as an independent union. 

Members Consider Changes To VSEA Bylaws 

The members at Annual Meeting adopted two bylaw changes. One would change the order of the adoption of the annual legislative priorities, putting the Board of Trustees as the primary vote, then they would be sent to the Council who could override the Board’s decision by a 2/3’s vote. Under the current bylaws, the Council takes up the priorities first and sends them to the Board of Trustees. 

The second proposal amended the bylaws to include VSEA’s newest unit, the State Transport Deputies Unit 

The third proposal, which did not receive the required 2/3 vote, would have allowed for electronic or mail ballot voting on the VSEA budget with the Council and Annual Meeting only considering the budget if the original vote failed. 

Members Seek Additional Budget Data Before Adopting The FY’2024 Budget & Dues 

Due to the time frame required by the VSEA bylaws, the VSEA FY’24 proposed budget was constructed in March of 2023, prior to changes in VSEA staff and the decision to join the AFL-CIO, a coalition of national labor unions. The members attending the Annual meeting voted to get more information about the costs associated with joining the AFL-CIO and changes to VSEA staffing before taking a final vote on the FY’2024 budget or setting the dues to support that budget. Under the bylaws of the VSEA, if no budget is adopted before the beginning of the next fiscal year, starting on October 1, 2023, then the budget adopted by the members in the previous year is in effect. In response to questions about what joining the national AFL-CIO means for member dues, it was explained that the cost will initially be $1.25 per member, per pay period. The VSEA staff is still researching benefits of membership in the AFL-CIO that could potentially reduce costs in other aspects of the VSEA budget. 

The process to make a recommendation on the budget is now back in the hands of the VSEA Budget Committee, which is meeting soon. A revised budget must then be approved by both the VSEA Council and Board of Trustees before being recommended to a special meeting of the members.

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