May 25, 2016
As employees of the Vermont Judiciary and leaders of the Judicial Unit of the VSEA, we wanted to share this open letter asking Court Administrator Patricia Gabel to address a critical situation facing the Vermont Judiciary. We urge you to contact Ms. Gabel and to tell her to act now to support the 100 Docket Clerks, mostly women, who keep the courts running but earn poverty wages.
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Patricia Gabel, Esq.
Vermont State Judiciary
111 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05609
Dear Ms. Gabel,
As elected leaders of the VSEA Judiciary Unit, we are sounding the alarm about the extremely high number of Docket Clerks who have resigned or otherwise left their jobs just since the beginning of this fiscal year. According to records provided to us by the State of Vermont, 23 Docket Clerks out of approximately 100 have abandoned the position in this short time. This, we believe, constitutes a crisis, especially in light of the important role these employees play in the operations of our courts system.
We went right to the source to put a face to the crisis, reaching out to our members and to former Docket Clerks to ask them to explain how your decisions as Court Administrator affect their lives. We received an overwhelming response, in the form of affidavits, statements, and responses to online surveys. We have included a compilation of messages, written by Judiciary workers and current or former Docket Clerks in their own words. We urge you to read them carefully and hear what the writers are saying.
You will read testimonials by Docket Clerks who are turning to charity or various forms of public assistance to make ends meet, or who are working multiple jobs. You will read that Judiciary employees are proud of our work, but that the level of service to the public suffers from high turnover and low morale. Finally, you will see that employees who loved their jobs left the Judiciary because they could not afford to give up better paying options.
This is the courts system that you are administering Ms. Gabel. You heard about the problems of low morale and low pay when you first accepted your position, and you toured the courts talking to employees. We alerted you to the issue again last fall, but you refused to begin bargaining in time to address this issue before the Pay Act was finalized. You knew about this problem when your Human Resources Director rejected the “Request for Review” submitted by the Docket Clerks. That Request is included here. Moreover, we want to emphasize that the low pay for Judiciary Unit employees, including Docket Clerks, is fundamentally an issue of gender pay equity. We have included the report of Gerald Freidman, Ph.D, on that issue (Read the Freidman Report Here). One way or another, it is within your power to solve this crisis.
Judiciary employees want action now, and we are implementing action steps to end the Docket Clerk turnover crisis, like making the video you can find here. Like the workers featured in the video, we are urging you to do what is necessary to retain quality Docket Clerks.
Members of the VSEA Judicial Unit Executive Committee:
Margaret Crowley, Chair
Beth Aiken, Vice Chair
Nicole Burdick, Secretary Treasurer
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