VSEA issued the following press release this morning, asserting that Southern State Correctional Facility Superintendent Mark Potanas violated employees’ right to engage in protected, concerted union activity:
This morning, the Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) will file an unfair labor practice charge with the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB), asserting that Southern State Correctional Facility (SSCF) Superintendent Mark Potanas “interfered with, restrained and /or coerced employees in the exercise of their rights guaranteed by 3 V.S.A. §903(a).”
In response to employees’ complaints about working conditions at SSCF, VSEA issued a survey in February 2014 designed to identify the main problems and issues, and evaluate employee morale. However, when several SSCF employees showed up to an April 29 Labor/Management meeting to discuss the survey findings with Potanas, he proceeded to criticize VSEA’s survey and openly suggested that the union should have included questions about how members thought VSEA was doing and if they were being well served by their union.
“VSEA labor team members at Southern State were scheduled to meet with Mr. Potanas to discuss the findings of the union’s survey with him, but before that conversation could even begin, Mr. Potanas began criticizing the survey and shaming the union,” explained VSEA Associate General Counsel Rebecca McBroom. “In addition to his questions being highly inappropriate, Mr. Potanas openly admitted to our labor team members that he had questioned employees about whether or not they had completed the VSEA survey. We believe the VLRB will find a violation of these state employees’ statutory rights to engage in protected, concerted activity.”
McBroom added that VSEA members completing a union- issued survey constitutes “protected union activity,” and that Potanas’ actions violated 3 V.S.A. §961(1).