April 12, 2018:
After reading and hearing about the Vermont Labor Relations Board’s (VLRB) recent decision in favor of the State’s last-best-contract-offer, a House and Senate joint Committee asked VLRB Director Tim Noonan to testify before it on Tuesday to drill down on how statute-on-the-books currently governs the process to resolve contract disputes.
As part of his testimony, Noonan detailed the timeline related to Karen O’Neill’s appointment by the Scott Administration to the VLRB (see yesterday’s post for more about Ms. O’Neill here).
Noonan told lawmakers that Scott appointed Ms. O’Neill on February 26. He said he (the Board) learned of the appointment on March 8. VSEA was not informed about the appointment until March 19. VSEA submitted its last best offer on February 28, believing the case would be heard by the then-current VLRB. The Administration filed theirs, however, knowing they had Ms. O’Neill in the wings.
Now it gets interesting. On March 14, less than a week before the last-best-offer hearing (after Scott appoints O’Neill, but before VSEA knows of the appointment) the Administration’s legal counsel pens an email to Noonan, copying VSEA, raising the issue that Board member Alan Willard (or the person already designated as the “neutral” to hear VSEA’s contract defense), currently receives state health care benefits. The morning before the contract hearing, Willard recuses himself, stunning both the VLRB’s Noonan and VSEA. Coincidence? Mind you, in 2016, another Board member who receives state health care benefits did hear the VSEA’s contract defense and no conflict was ever discussed.
So after this Board member recuses himself, who steps in to fill the “neutral” seat? That’s right, Karen O’Neill. And when does VSEA learn about O’Neill being slotted? One day prior to presenting at the VLRB on March 20. VSEA’s Bargaining Teams voiced anger and concerns, but the clock was ticking to meet the established statutory timeline and the Teams were left with few options but to proceed forward and examine the process afterwards to determine what legal options VSEA has, if any, to shine a brighter light on what exactly happened here, which brings us to today.
VSEA’s President, Labor Relations Director and Bargaining and Legal Teams are now looking at options and deciding next steps, but be assured VSEA will be sharing whatever details are unearthed in the coming days and weeks with you.
In the meantime, contact your state Senators today and tell them to oppose Karen O’Neill’s confirmation to the VLRB.
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