July 24, 2015
In response to an April letter from House Appropriations and House Government Operations Committee Chairs, Reps. Mitzi Johnson and Donna Sweaney, VSEA NMU Chair Bob Stone, Corrections Chair Dave Bellini, VtPAC President Michelle Salvador (also VSEA First VP and a constituent of the Speaker’s) and Legislative Committee member John Howe met with Speaker of the House Shap Smith on Wednesday, July 22, to address “outrageous” proposals by Johnson and Sweaney to intervene in VSEA members’ collective bargaining for wages and healthcare. The workers noted that Johnson and Sweaney were appointed to chair the powerful committee by Speaker Smith. As VSEA’s Executive Branch Bargaining Units enter into collective bargaining, the workers told Smith that the letter from Johnson and Sweaney is a document that the Administration can use against members in bargaining.
Smith agreed to another meeting and to include Johnson and Sweaney, as well as key members of their committees to talk with the workers about their concerns. Speaker Smith stated that he would like to improve the relationship between labor and House leadership. Workers advised that a full retraction of this letter would be the first step. Bellini also reminded Smith that, "This attack on our collective bargaining was the nuclear issue. It still hangs over us. We need this to go away now."
Workers say the meeting represents a milestone in building a member-led democratic union, telling WIA that “When VSEA talks to our bosses it needs to be members who do the talking,” adding that “the discussion then needs to be shared as soon as possible with rank-and-file members so that they can see what is being discussed in their name and members can evaluate for themselves what is important. We believe VSEA member leaders need to be making key decisions, especially when the topic is a subject of bargaining.”
Photo caption: VSEA Legislative Committee member John Howe delivers petition, condemning Johnson/Sweaney letter to Speaker Smith.
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