According to the law and VSEA’s contracts, union members and union staff have a right to organize, solicit, and distribute literature in support of the union. These rights include:
- The right to organize and solicit on behalf of the union on non-work time. For this purpose, non-work time includes breaks and meal times.
- The right to distribute union materials on non-work time, but only in non-work areas, which include break rooms and public areas.
- In addition, the VSEA contracts provide that the union may engage in organizing activities on employer premises, so long as those activities are on non-work time, which includes break and meal times. Both union members and staff are protected by these rights. The only difference is that VSEA staff’s access to non-work areas will depend on the rules spelled out in the contract as opposed to public areas or break rooms.
- The employer cannot discriminate against union organizing activities, including speech or email communications.
These rights to organize, solicit, and distribute are fundamental aspects of employees’ legal right to engage in concerted activity, to organize into unions for the purpose of forming or advancing a union, and bargaining collectively. The Vermont Labor Relations Board enforces these rights through unfair labor practice proceedings.
While Vermont law prohibits solicitation in general on state property under some circumstances, that general prohibition conflicts with the specific rights protected under the state labor laws and agreed to by the State in the collective bargaining agreements. Under such circumstances, the courts and the VLRB will interpret the specific law as a legislative exception to the more general law. For example, in the private sector employers may generally bar solicitations on their property, but the specific provisions of the National Labor Relations Act have been interpreted to protect employees’ rights to solicit and distribute on behalf of their unions.
If any supervisor or manager interferes with the rights described above, please notify a VSEA steward, organizer or representative immediately. VSEA will then take appropriate action under the contract or the law.
VSEA General Counsel