Working Vermonters Assess the Legislative Session

George Lovell, Vermont AFL-CIO president, and Dennis LaBounty, Political Director for the Vermont AFL-CIO, assess the legislative session from the perspective of working Vermonters. Workers rights and collective bargaining are under attack throughout the world, but particularly in the USA. However, in Vermont working people, through their organizations, have made some important political gains in this biennium. The Vermont Legislature is getting credit for raising the state minimum wage. It’s more accurate to describe what the Legislature did this year as restoring the minimum wage to the level it was in 1968. Homecare workers won the right to organize in the previous session, voted to join AFSCME, and this year managed to negotiate a first contract with significant gains for these low-wage workers. Three significant labor bills died this spring — after tremendous public displays of support or near-acrobatic legislative maneuvering: Paid sick leave, ‘Sodexo bill’ , and Prevailing wage . A push for paid sick leave ultimately lost to Shumlin’s priority of raising the minimum wage. A related bill that would prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who use their benefits also died. And a proposed switch in state capital construction wage requirements — from a state formula for prevailing wages to those set through the federal Davis Bacon Act — also failed. There was also legislative action on workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and the WARN Act.