Navigation Bar

Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

At the University of Vermont
UE - UVM Members
Win First Contract Goals


UE-UVM press conference ...

UE Local 267 negotiating committee member Norma Sprague addresses the media at a July 21st press conference announcing the first UE-UVM contract.

UE Local 267 Negotiating Committee ...

UE Local 267's Negotiating Committee holding its first UE Contract. From left to right: Wayne Lawton, Tom Stout, Brad Bluto, Lester Gockley and Norma Sprague.

A first union agreement approved in July by UE Local 267 members achieves the goals set two years ago by the more than 350 service and maintenance employees of the University of Vermont in launching their organizing campaign: dignity and respect on the job, decent wages, better and protected benefits, an effective grievance procedure, job security and the ability to advance (see: University of Vermont Workers Vote UE).

"I think we bargained a good contract," says Norma Sprague, a custodian and a member of the local’s negotiating committee.

Adds Brad Bluto, interim chief steward, "This is not only a good contract for employees – the wages and the job security affect employees’ families and their communities. The benefits of this agreement goes well beyond UVM’s campus."

The active participation of the rank and file in frequent displays of support for the negotiating committee during the lengthy negotiations had a significant impact on the final agreement.


Prior to the union, workers received a small yearly percentage increase (often below 2 percent) and a merit increase. If the supervisor liked an employee, that worker might get an extra 1 percent in merit pay.

Merit raises are no more. With the UE contract, each employee receives 1.7 percent plus 30 cents per hour for the first year of the agreement, retroactive to July 1, 1998. In the second year of the agreement, each employee will receive 40 cents an hour. These raises represent as much as a 11.3 percent increase for the lowest paid UVM workers and almost 9 percent for the average paid employee.

"This contract gives the lowest paid employees a fair shake in raises for a change," says Sprague.

Other highlights of the new contract include: a fifth week of vacation for 25-year employees, a freeze on health insurance premiums; better bereavement and medical leave and a new clothing and shoe reimbursement policy. Also, UVM workers gain an additional holiday, designated a cultural holiday for all employees. The contract implements a four-step formal grievance procedure which begins with the supervisor and ends with the Vermont Labor Relations Board.


The local also made significant gains in the area of job security and advancement. Before the union, workers could be laid off out of seniority. Subcontracting was a frequent threat. The union establishes strict rules for layoffs which require the university to abide by seniority and establishes a formal process which guards against subcontracting.

Before the union contract, the university could hire temporary employees into bargaining unit jobs for unlimited amounts of time. The new contract places a six-month limit on the use of temporary workers and mandates that temporary employees cannot be used to "erode the bargaining unit."

Prior to organizing, workers had little opportunities to try new jobs at UVM. The university posted positions and then often hired from the outside. Many workers complained that they were stuck in whatever job into which they had originally been hired for their work life. The new agreement calls for preferential treatment for UVM employees for job openings and gives preference to senior employees.


The negotiating process was sometimes difficult because UVM employees do not have the right to strike under Vermont state law and must instead resort to a fact finding and arbitration procedure if unable to reach agreement at the table. The members were determined to win their contract without this procedure.

The university also threatened employees with significant increases in health insurance premiums. UVM’s rates were going up so the university wanted to pass these increases along to employees. University employees have been told for years that their low wages are off set by decent benefits. When UVM tried to go after the health insurance premiums, members told them to keep their "hands off" the health care.

Local 267 members frequently signed petitions, attended rallies, and wore stickers. In the final weeks of bargaining members wore stickers reading: "Ask me if I made a Living Wage" and buttons which read "Hands off my Health Care."

The backbone of the union’s campaign for a fair first contract was the interim steward system established after the Dec. 10, 1997 election that affirmed a UE majority among UMV’s service and maintenance workers, among them custodians, skilled trades, bus drivers and store clerks. While bargaining was underway, interim stewards were fighting and often winning grievances on campus despite the absence of a formal procedure. Stewards represented employees who had been unfairly disciplined, who had been denied upgrades and who had been unilaterally moved to other shifts. Other members fought and won a battle against a university attempt to impose a dress code on some custodians.

Now with a new agreement in place, the local is busy drafting and ratifying a local constitution, setting their local structure, and planning the additional gains future union contracts will bring.

UE Local 267’s negotiating committee consisted of Brad Bluto, Lester Gockley, Norma Sprague, Wayne Lawton, Tom Stout, and Ed Zayas. The local was assisted by Intl. Rep. Kimberly Lawson and Field Organizers Heather Reimer and Mark Meinster.

UE News - 08/99

Home -> UE News -> 1999 Archives -> Article

Home • About UE • Organize! • Independent Unions • Search • Site Guide • What's New • Contact UE
UE News • Political Action • Info for Workers • Resources • Education • Health & Safety • International • Links

Copyright © 2003 UE. All Rights Reserved