Local 221 Realizes
Goals in the New
An especially frustrating negotiations process for employees of the
Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) in northwestern Vermont ended on
April 6 when these UE Local 221 members ratified a new three-year agreement that contains
some groundbreaking provisions.
CVOEO is a private non-profit agency which administers a number of
programs aimed at assisting low-income Vermonters. Local 221 members include Head Start
workers, emergency food kitchen workers and tenant advocates, among others.
A Nightmare Start
The previous contract expired Oct. 31, 1997; the executive director
refused to participate in the negotiations; the attorney representing management had never
bargained a contract before and made frequent mistakes; the federal government put one of
the major programs in CVOEO on probation and month-to-month funding.
To pressure the employer, Local 221 members held informational picket
lines, wore stickers, wrote letters to community leaders, phoned the board of directors
and engaged in other activities. A federal government audit of the agency scheduled for
April 6 helped to conclude the contract. For days before the audit date, UE members wore
stickers reading, "The Feds Are Coming. Do You Know Where Your Contract Is?"
Management got the message and resolved the outstanding issues late on
Many Contract Goals Realized
UE members had aimed for a three-year contract which guarantees raises
each year without protracted wage re-openers, extends health insurance coverage to
part-time and seasonal employees, increases paid time off and reduces caseloads for the
most overworked employees. Many of their goals are realized in the final settlement.
Among the highlights of the new contract are provisions which extend
health insurance to employees of seasonal programs which assist low-income people with
heating assistance in the winter. Under the new contract, these employees will have
insurance throughout their layoff period.
In the third year of the agreement, employees who work 20 hours a week
will also receive full insurance benefits. This is an important victory for the local,
which worried about the employers tendency to create part-time, no-benefit jobs. The
requirement to provide health insurance should act as a disincentive to such job creation.
The new agreement also provides guaranteed wage increases in each year of
the agreement with very limited reopeners for part of the workforce. Most will receive
increases in excess of 4 percent in the first year of the agreement. Raises of various
amounts are guaranteed in the second and third years.
Vacation, Other Improvements
Many employees will receive an increase in vacation time. Under the new
agreement, full-year employees will receive 9 hours per month of paid vacation the first
year of employment, 11 hours per month the second year, 12 hours per month the third year,
13 hours per month the fourth through seventh years of employment and 14 hours per month
the seventh year of employment.
Improvements are also realized in personal time, layoff and recall
language, retirement benefits and sick leave. New language will allow employees to
accumulate up to 240 paid hours of sick leave for use in the case of illness or injury to
the employee or to an employees dependents. There will also be a sick leave bank
created in case an employee does not have the accumulated sick leave necessary.
Although the local was unable to immediately reduce caseloads for some
employees, the contract does include a provision to study the jobs in question and should
result in an eventual reduction.
The UE Local 221 negotiating committee included Pres. Jen Hyslop,
Christine Eldred, Roger Lebovitz, Kathy Varney, Lisa Winkler, Jackie Hickson, Dee Barndt,
Patty Vicent, John Payne and Sharlene Sweet. They were assisted by Field Org. Kimberly