January 8, 2016
VSEA is applauding a decision by the Vermont Supreme Court to overturn a 2014 ruling by the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) that Deputy States Attorneys, Victims Advocates and Secretaries in the State’s Attorneys Offices cannot be organized under either the under the Municipal Labor Relations Act (MERA) or the State Employee Labor Relations Act (SELRA). Shortly after the VLRB issued its 2014 ruling, VSEA publicly blasted the Board’s “ambiguous” determination that the DSAs were neither “state nor municipal” employees, promising an appeal to the Supreme Court, which the union followed through with and filed.
In its decision, the Court wrote: “In summary, for the reasons stated, we uphold the Board’s determination that the Department is not an employer of the petitioned-for employees in conjunction with the individual state’s attorneys. On the other hand, the individual state’s attorneys, who are statutorily authorized county officers under Chapter 5 (County Officers; Powers and Duties) of Title 24 (Municipal and County Government), are municipal employers under MERA to the extent that they "employ five or more employees as defined" in MERA. 21 V.S.A. § 1722(13). The fact that they may be unable to bargain over the full scope of employment issues with respect to the petitioned-for employees in their offices does not mean that they are not municipal employers under MERA. MERA defines a "[m]unicipal employee" as "any employee of a municipal employer, including a professional employee"-with exceptions not relevant here. Id. § 1722(12). Each of the groups of petitioned-for employees fit within that definition, given our determination that the individual state’s attorneys are municipal employers.”
In a 2014 memorandum to the VSEA Board of Trustees, the union’s Legal Assistance Committee explained its decision to recommend an appeal, writing: “The Board’s decision is based on several fundamental errors of law that could have wide-ranging impacts not only for these employees but for employees of other political subdivisions whom the VSEA or other unions may seek to organize in the future. For these reasons, as briefly described below, the Legal Assistance Committee unanimously voted to appeal this matter to the Vermont Supreme Court.”
“This is an important victory for VSEA and working Vermonters, as it addresses a number of significant labor law questions and allows VSEA to now organize most of the employees in State’s Attorneys Offices,” explains VSEA President Dave Bellini. “Under the Court’s ruling, we’ll have to do it on a county-by-county basis in in offices with five or more workers, but it’s a start, and the Board will be meeting to discuss a plan on how best to move forward.”
According to VSEA numbers, more than half of Vermont’s DSA offices would be eligible to organize.
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