David Van Deusen

Building Rank & File Union Power During Hard Times : The Story of Vermont’s Agency of Transportation 2015-2016

January 1 2017

      The Context:

      I. Emerging Culture/Rank and File Leadership:

      II. Concerning AOT Union Structure and Outreach

      III. Measures of Success Concerning AOT Union Activism

      IV. Bargaining Victories/Goals:

      V. AOT Union Membership Trajectory:

      VI. Contract Enforcement/Representation:

      VII. Looking Towards 2016 in AOT

      VIII. Conclusions/Exporting AOT Success To Broader VSEA

      I. AOT Overview:

      II. Rank & File Union Structure

      III. Union Activism/Political Elections

      IV. Bargaining

      V. Union Membership Recruitment

Building Union Power in AOT Year One: 2015 In Review[1]

d-v-david-van-deusen-co-founder-of-the-green-mount-6.jpg
AOT-VSEA Union Workers In The Randolph Garage

Provided by David Van Deusen,

Senior Union Representative-VSEA/AOT

January 1, 2016

AOT 2015 Highlights:

Overview:

On January 1, 2015, upon the request of Agency of Transportation (AOT) Operations Labor Management Chair, Jason Heath, & (former) Vice Chair, Art Aulis, (and with the support of then Union President, Shelley Martin) the Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) implemented a pilot project whereby one Union Representative (myself, David Van Deusen) would assume responsibility for all of (Non-Management) Agency of Transportation/VTrans. AOT was afforded this opportunity, in part, because with 1000+ workers (Non-Management & Supervisory Unit), it represents the largest group in VSEA (15.48% of the Union) and often has its own issues specific to its own distinct working conditions. The decision whether to make this pilot project permanent will, presumably, be made by the VSEA Executive Director and/or VSEA Board of Trustees, based on the achievement of clear benchmarks, goals, and the proven ability of AOT to be a more effective aspect of VSEA. It is the contention of this report that this project is a success, and should be made permeant. It is also the contention of this report that aspects of this project would be well suited for other groupings within VSEA; especially those groupings which share a collective workplace identity (like within AOT), and/or those which are organized as their own Bargaining Unit (like Corrections & State Colleges). It is my intent to allow the case to be made for such reform within the broader VSEA via the objective achievement metrics in relation to the benchmarks set out on January 1, 2015, and, where the data is available, as compared to the overall performance of the VSEA in similar categories over the last year.

The Context:

At the start of this past year, I provided the VSEA Field Services Director a document entitled “AOT Goals and Benchmarks-2015.” This document was crafted by myself, in cooperation with AOT Union leaders (Labor Management Delegates & Stewards), and was approved as a guiding document by the Field Services Director. What follows is a fact/numbers based comparison to the ‘one year’ goals articulated in this document, in relation to what was actually achieved as of January 1, 2016. One will notice that the primary focus of this report is within the AOT subgrouping of Operations. Operations (which includes plow truck drivers, mechanics, etc.) represents the largest subgrouping within AOT (515 workers). Because of this group’s size, its visibility, the crucial nature of its focus of labor (keeping the roads open), and because these workers are located (more or less) evenly throughout the State (in 60+ Garage/worksites), it was decided that Operations would receive acute attention by VSEA for the duration of this pilot project. However, where notable activity has been recorded in other aspects of AOT/VTrans (such as within DMV), it is also included in this report.

It needs to also be plainly stated that setting numerical targets concerning such topics as worksite visits, recruitment of Union activists, etc., is in-and-of-itself meaningless; here meaning only arises through the context of outcomes. In other words, the number of worksite visits, the number of self-identified ‘Union Activists’, etc., does not matter if these efforts (and numbers) do not result in (positive) measurable outcomes concerning increases in effective Union activity and other tangible results; bottom line, we must consistently ask ourselves if the efforts we put into a project produce results and in fact contribute to building a more powerful member lead Union. The measurables which provide this context, roughly, can be understood as:

Therefore, what follows will first be a short outline of some general points, followed by an objective assessment of numerical targets (‘structure building’). After this will be a summary of activist data and a Bargaining update. These more meaningful measurables will provide the context through which the target numbers can be properly understood (as having a positive impact or not). Where activist outcomes and Bargaining goals are viewed favorably, this should reflect positively upon the efforts that were undertaken to provide the structure to achieve these goals. An unfavorable view of these outcomes must call into question the cost/benefit associated with these meta-tasks. In addition, membership levels also need to play a role in understanding the effectiveness of the total effort, and therefore will be looked at further on in this document. Just as specific Union activity must weigh the likelihood that such actions contribute to a desired victory, such activity must also gage how and if that activity contributes to increasing the number of Union members. If two divergent roads can lead to victory, but one road carries the added benefit of increasing membership, it is down the path that leads to a broader membership that must be traveled. This must be the case insofar as the reader agrees that Union power, in a large part, extends or contracts based on a growing or stagnant membership base. And when a Union has a baseline membership of fewer than 80% (as does VSEA) stagnation is akin to the acceptance of a general weakness at worst or an unfulfilled potential at best. Therefore, understanding the effectiveness of this AOT project, it is crucial to look at the metrics, the outcomes, and the membership trends. And finally, Contract gains as supported by activism and membership growth is only as good as a Union’s ability to enforce those gains. Hence a section of this work will also address Representational outcomes over the past year. It is towards these topics which I shall now turn.

I. Emerging Culture/Rank and File Leadership:

Immediately preceding this pilot project, VSEA Labor Educator, Tim Lenoch implemented a new and innovative training model; on a quarterly basis all AOT (Operations) Labor Management Delegates and AOT (Operations) Stewards would come together, as a group, for a joint training. This joint training, which has been implemented throughout the year, has allowed for the development of coordinated strategic discussions between all top AOT Union leaders. This ability for rank and file Union leaders to better define, articulate, and compare perceived workplace issues (as well as hear report backs from the Union Rep who regularly visits multiple Garages in different AOT Districts), has allowed this leadership to cooperatively develop (in consultation with their Union Rep and Labor Educator) coordinated responses to identified issues. By fostering such group discussions, and having the results of these discussions followed up upon through various actions, VSEA has provided for more ownership of Union actions by Union members. This coordinated body further requested that the VSEA-AOT Union Rep provide them with detailed monthly reports concerning Grievance/Investigation/Issue/ activity in the Garages by AOT District, as well as updates concerning the carrying out of Union actions agreed upon at these quarterly trainings (and as may become necessary in-between these meetings). This request has been fulfilled. Providing these reports builds accountability between VSEA staff and member/leaders, puts extra sets of eyes on accumulated data (where additional patterns may be deciphered), and creates an environment of transparency & trust. The reports further aid in the collective task of measuring progress every 30 days.

As an additional tool aiding in the building AOT Operations into a more effective aspect of VSEA, a mapping-tracking document is maintained and regularly updated. This document, in excel spreadsheet form, lists every workplace, their membership numbers (over time), Union activists by Garage, Grievance/Investigation/result information by Garage, last Garage visit, activism, etc.. Maintaining a centralized depository for this information saves VSEA staff time when seeking to understand trends, rationalizing/prioritizing worksite visits, reaching out to key Union activists, etc.. This document further allows the VSEA the security of knowing that this information can rapidly be imparted to a new Union Rep, Organizer, etc., as needed in the absence of any one incumbent. The use of such mapping documents are common in other Unions (although presently are not utilized in other sections of VSEA). This document was initially developed by myself and former VSEA Organizing Director Kristin Warner (with technical support from VSEA Admin Nick Stein and VSEA Operations Director Ray Stout), and was later modified to meet the developing needs of this specific pilot project. The original intent of creating such mapping documents were for use in every VSEA Rep territory. However, this goal has since dissipated within VSEA.

In summation, the joint quarterly trainings have consistently been carried out, and the agreed upon monthly reports consistently have been provided to AOT (Operations) Union leadership (as well as the VSEA President, Vice President, Executive Director, and Director of Field Services). The comprehensive AOT (Operations) mapping/tracking document is also consistently maintained and updated and is used as a tool for VSEA Reps and Organizers.

II. Concerning AOT Union Structure and Outreach

The following section looks at the efforts and structures that were put in place by VSEA in order to achieve a higher level of participation and effectiveness within AOT. In-and-of-itself, these efforts only have meaning in relation to measurable outcomes and overall membership growth. Such measurable outcomes will be reviewed later in this document.

Building AOT Operations Labor Management Committee:

Building A Robust AOT Steward System:

AOT Participation in VSEA Council:

Recruiting New AOT Operations Union Activists/Organizing Garages:

Communicating Union Struggles/Imparting Union Values:

Union Worksite Visits:

Section Summary (Building Union Structure)

III. Measures of Success Concerning AOT Union Activism

What precedes this section are the efforts and structures that were pursued and put in place by VSEA in order to achieve a higher level of participation and effectiveness within AOT. What follows are the measurable results of these efforts. If the below outcomes are viewed as favorable (in conjunction with membership trends), then the meta-efforts must also be viewed as favorable. On the contrary, if the below is viewed as unfavorable or otherwise not standing up to expectations, than the meta-efforts that went into creating these outcomes must be critically re-thought. Immediately below will be a synopsis of activist engagement conducted through and by the AOT Operations Labor Management Committee, followed by a more general outline of activist engagement throughout 2015:

AOT Operations Labor Management/Worksite Organizing Goals:

Recorded Activism With AOT Operations & By Garage:

Fight Back Petition:

April 11th Fight Back Rally:

Dignity & Respect Petition:

Garage Workers United For A Fair Contract -Petition:

September 19 AOT March on The Boss:

Section Summary (AOT Union Activism)

AOT Operations Labor Management Committee Projects/Campaigns

General AOT Operations Activist Stats

IV. Bargaining Victories/Goals:

A central element of Union building activity is Bargaining Contract improvements, and defending those Contractual rights as may be challenged by Management at the table. In order to maximize success at the Bargaining table, and in order to build Union membership and power in the process, it is also advisable that members play a strong role in setting Bargaining priorities, and remain engaged in the Bargaining process as it unfolds. Having a skilled and experienced Lead Negotiator is also key. Here VSEA is fortunate to have Gary Hoadley serve in this role for both the Non-Management Unit (and for Corrections Unit). This section looks at our achievements thus far, this year, concerning AOT Bargaining priorities within the Non-Management Unit. Please refer to Section III, above, to better understand the rank & file activism which has been implemented in order to support these Bargaining priorities.

AOT-NMU Specific Bargaining Survey:

AOT/NMU Bargaining So Far:

Broad AOT Bargaining Priorities for NMU:

Section Summary (Contract Negotiations)

V. AOT Union Membership Trajectory:

Growing Union membership is paramount in relation to growing Union power over time. The specific issues that the Union fights for needs to emanate from the real and perceived needs of the workers, and tactics employed to achieve victory on these (or some of these) issues also needs to be of the type which heighten member engagement and spark interest within the ranks. When all of these factors are aligned, and when a sufficient number of victories are attained, it is reasonable to project that the membership rate will steadily grow. When the priorities and tactics are not in line with the workers it is likewise reasonable to project that the membership rate will stagnate or (worse) decline. Other contributing factors to membership growth is fostering a good system of communication between Union Reps, Organizers, Union Leaders, etc., as well as making concerted efforts to reach out to non-members and new hires to personally ask them to join their Union. This section looks at the membership trends in AOT over the past year.

VTrans/AOT Overall Union Membership

Union Membership In AOT Operations:

Specific Number of New Union Members in AOT/VTrans Overall:

Specific Number of New Union Members in AOT Operations (the Garages):

Overall AOT/VTrans New Hire Recruitment to Union:

AOT Operations (Garage) New Hire Recruitment to Union:

Section Summary (Union Membership)

VI. Contract Enforcement/Representation:

A Contract is only as good as the Union’s ability to enforce it. The following section looks at some basic metrics concerning Grievance and Disciplinary activity.

Representation by the Numbers:

The Stewards:

Discipline/General Release:

Section Summary (Contract Enforcement)

VII. Looking Towards 2016 in AOT

New annual goals and benchmarks will be set by the AOT Union leaders (Labor Management Delegates & Stewards, with participation of their Union Rep) over the course of the winter. Prior to setting these goals, Union Rep will encourage these AOT Union leaders to talk with the Garage Contacts and other AOT Union members in regards to their priorities and concerns. Once these goals are definitively set, they will be shared with the Garage Contacts, AOT Council Members, etc.. The Union Rep will then work with AOT members to create tactics on how these goals will be achieved, etc.. That said, it is already known that the following issues will be part of these priorities (as they have already become issues/projects that have been adopted by the AOT Union leadership in late 2015):

I will conclude this brief section by elaborating on the planned AOT Rapid Response Team. While the meaning of other above priorities may self-evident to the reader, this point may not be. That said, many Unions have built ‘Flying Squads’ as part of the tools at their disposal. Such groups are made up of rank & file members, and will be called upon from time to time to take direct action in support of their Union. The intent to build and AOT Rapid Response Team came out of a discussion on Bargaining during the All Garage Conference Call (held in November). Here the idea was supported of building an AOT Rapid Response Team that would be committed to converging on Montpelier, upon 24 hours’ notice, come hell or high water (and using Annual Leave) when asked to do so by the AOT Union leadership. The intent is to build this team from Garage Contacts and other Garage activists (not including Labor Management Delegates, Stewards, etc., as the idea is to build out Union power, not place more and more responsibilities on those already engaged in high level Union activity). The goal is to recruit a team of 12. Those recruited will be vetted by the AOT Union leadership before being definitively placed in this position. Once established, and where appropriate, the team, in principle, could be called to action in in response to an acute workplace issue, to support Bargaining efforts, to support aspects of a Union legislative priority, etc.. The actions which they may be called on to carry out could, in principle, be to stage an informational picket, to deliver a petition or message from the workers to a key decision maker, to take part in a press conference, meet with lawmakers, or to generally be a protest presence.

By starting the process of building Rapid Response Teams within VSEA, we will be creating a new tool in our collective tool belt. The more reliably we can turn out members, on any given day, to the State’s Capital, the more we will be growing our overall all ability to demonstrate worker power. Of course building this first team will be a challenge, but one that AOT is well suited for and which the AOT Union leadership supportive of. [For bragging rights: The first volunteer to serve on the AOT Rapid Response Team was Pierre Lamarche, Barton Garage. Pi, as he is known, is an AOT member of the VSEA Council, and was a Union Steward in his previous job with the Department of Corrections where he worked as a CO. Pi was also one of the AOT workers who used a day of Annual Leave in order to take part in the March On The Boss.]

VIII. Conclusions/Exporting AOT Success To Broader VSEA

Undoubtedly there is much positive work being done within the broader VSEA. The Judiciary Unit having close to a 90% membership rate is testament to that fact. It is also true that we were not compelled to open the Contracts in 2015, and we did not suffer the threated 450 layoffs. The hard and effective work of our Organizing Department and activists members (building the Fight Back Campaign) demonstrated their talent, dedication, and effectiveness leading up to that victory (i.e. total 2500 signatures on the Fight Back Petition, and 500 workers at the April 11 Fight Back Rally). And of course our Union Reps do a great job defending workers Contractual rights. However, it is also clear that there is still much work to be done (both within AOT and VSEA generally).

AOT, over the course of the last year, has done many things well and has consistently hit above its weight. Factoring in that VTrans/AOT represents approximately 15% of VSEA, and recognizing that AOT has time and again achieved a higher participation rate than the rest of VSEA, the question becomes: what would VSEA look like if it were to achieve what AOT (proportionately) has thus far achieved?

If VSEA achieved what AOT Operations has proportionately achieved:

If we were to achieve all of the above, across VSEA, we would still not be as powerful as we need to be; after all, we should (eventually) be able to put 1000+ workers (VSEA & Labor allies) on the Statehouse lawn, not 650 (if our brothers & sisters from the Vermont Workers Center can do it, we should be able to as well). But even so, if we could expand our reach to include the above we would be further down the road of building a more vibrant base of the Union and the Vermont working class by extension. But to get down this road, and to realize a truly member lead and member run Union which is capable of decisive action, staff will need to play a strong role in building the structure, or the bones, that will allow for higher levels of member engagement.

Therefore, based on the experiences of AOT over the course of the last year, it is recommended that VSEA take the following steps to replicate those successes as are evident above:

I will conclude this report by offering my opinion that VSEA would be well served to make this AOT pilot project a permanent fixture of the Union. It has been, and will continue to be, my honor and pleasure to serve in my role as Union Rep for workers in the Agency of Transportation.

Respectfully Submitted (and in the Spirit of Solidarity),

David Van Deusen, Senior Union Representative

Vermont State Employees’ Association

END OF 2015 REPORT

Building Union Power in AOT Year Two: 2016 In Review [7]

Provided by David Van Deusen,

Senior Union Representative-AOT/VSEA

January 1, 2017

With the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States, we need to expect that organized labor, including VSEA, will come under attack. It should be expected that Trump will appoint a Justice to the US Supreme Court who will rule against agency fee and will generally seek to weaken the rights of unions. It should also be expected that Trump will appoint persons to the National Labor Relations Board who will also be hostile to labor. Any attack on labor must be resisted by unions (individually and in aggregate). But to effectively resist, each union, including VSEA must be internally organized and prepared to meet such a struggle. While there is still a long road to go, the Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) has made significant strides in building an effective internal union structure within the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT). Therefore, this document should not only be read as a memorialization of what we have done in AOT, but also with an eye to what can or should occur in other sections of VSEA. Of course there are numerous examples of effective work being done in other sections of VSEA, but these examples our outside the scope of responsibility of this writer and therefore are not included in this report. Even so, the reader is encouraged to seek out those examples and give thought to how they too may relate to the broader challenges facing VSEA.

I. AOT Overview:

The Vermont Agency of Transportation, with 1191 workers and 80+ worksites (covered by both the Non-Management Unit & Supervisory Unit Collective Bargaining Agreements), remains a significant bloc within VSEA composing 15.81% of the Union. These 1191 workers can be subdivided into the following major groupings:


AOT, specifically the Garage workers and those who support them, are a foundational element of Vermont functioning as a society. During the winter months, State Government and the private sector would shut down during a snow event if these workers did not labor to keep the roads open. In a State where snow can be expected 7 months of the year (October-April), the strategic need for these workers to be organized into a strong union cannot be overstated.

Up until January 1 2015, VSEA did not assign a single Union Rep to represent AOT. Rather Union Reps were assigned geographic regions. One Rep may have had 5 garages/AOT worksites in their territory, but no VSEA staff person covered AOT as a whole. Therefore, no single staff person was in a position to gage the overall issues facing AOT workers or to evaluate if the contract(s) were being exercised in a uniform and consistent manner. And of course VSEA staff was also hampered in potential efforts to mobilize AOT workers towards collective goals due to this fragmenting of territory. And likewise, previous to 2015, AOT did not have an internal rank & file union structure in place that would efficiently allow communication and organizing activities by the workers themselves. Prior to 2015, membership rate in the agency was approximately 62%, and approximately 66% in the garages [today, as will be discussed later in this document, this membership rate is significantly higher]. As of two years ago, many Garages reported not having a visit by a Union Rep in 4-6 years [for the last two years there have been in excess of 200 worksite visits by VSEA staff to garages and other AOT worksites-see below].

At the urging of AOT garage Stewards & AOT Labor Management delegates (such as Labor Management Chair Jason Heath-Georgia Garage), VSEA created a pilot project at the start of 2015 whereby a single Union Rep (myself-David Van Deusen) would be assigned to cover all of AOT stateside. This pilot project proved a success in that membership increased, gains were made at the bargaining table, worker activism grew, and a rank & file structure was built into the workplaces (all this was outlined in January 1 2016 “AOT-VSEA 1 Year of Building Union Power” report). As a result this pilot project was made a regular fixture within VSEA in 2016. In addition (as was recommended in the 2016 “AOT-VSEA 1 Year of Building Union Power” report) VSEA exported this model to the rest of the union; all Union Reps (and Organizers) are now assigned territory based on bargaining unit/agency/department (and are no longer geographically based).

This report documents the outcomes of year two of this effort as they unfolded with AOT. It is the intention of this writer to chart these experiences in order to not only continue to build Union Power within AOT for 2017, but also to extrapolate lessons that could prove useful to VSEA as a whole. It is towards these tasks that I now turn.

II. Rank & File Union Structure

Sustained membership growth (or maintenance), effective internal mobilizing, long term bargaining success, and the building of an increased political power are all largely predicated upon an effective internal rank & file structure based primarily in workplaces and networked within an department/agency/bargaining unit. Internal structure is what allows members to efficiently engage in union activities. Internal structure is also the vehicle through which the membership can make itself heard. Without a workplace based internal structure, a union may win on a given issue, but those wins will often rely disproportionately on staff and will often be reactive (stopping a bad thing from happening) as opposed to proactive (making a good thing happen). And wins without a backing structure often fail to result in the union emerging from a specific struggle stronger than it went in. With a rank & file structure in place and utilized, success often increases the confidence and enthusiasm of involved members. This growth in confidence and enthusiasm can be contagious, and can help inspire more workers to take on specific union roles (thus increasing the potential power of the union). Victories under these conditions also can elevate the aspirations of the union membership, thus pushing the union (organically) into more proactive power building struggles.

However, internal union structure does not build itself. If a goal of VSEA is to create a member lead or member run Union, the path towards this goal must rely heavily upon paid fulltime staff to get there. And without internal structure a union cannot be effectively member run. Hence much of my time in 2015 was spent building such a structure in the AOT garages. In 2016, I worked to maintain this system (which is increasingly maintained by the members themselves) and began to expand this system to other areas of AOT and beyond.[8]

Garage Contacts/Local Union Contacts

In the AOT garages it has proven elemental to have a garage contact in every worksite, or at least in every worksite that does not include a steward or other union officer. However, garage contacts are not just names on paper. Nor are they just potential activists identified by VSEA staff. Rather, garage contacts have come to be understood as foundational union officers with the specific responsibilities of printing communications (sent by Union Rep) for posting on their union bulletin boards, circulating petitions or facilitating other union actions as is called for by union leadership, recruiting new hires and fee payers in their worksites into the union, acting as a conduit between their co-workers and the AOT union leadership/VSEA staff concerning any and all issues, and serving as contract captains as negotiations become active[9].

Unlike previous incarnations of a ‘key union contact’ system in VSEA (whereby multiple persons in a given worksite simultaneously serve in this role), garage contacts are not unlimited. Typically only one worker serves as a garage contact per worksite. Once the garage contact is recruited, it is understood that this position is filled. In this way workers come to understand the garage contact as being an important union position, and garage contacts can take additional pride in their specialized service to the their union. In rare circumstances a second garage contact exists in a garage. The creation of a ‘second’ may come about as a result of a garage contact in good standing transferring to a new garage where there is already a garage contact. Where a second exists, their role is to back up or fill in for the garage contact as needed.

The initial recruitment of garage contacts was largely done (in 2015) by the Union Rep visiting a worksite and asking the assembled workers to nominate someone for this role. Often all the workers would indicate that a certain respected person would be good at this. If that worker accepts the nomination, it is considered official. As this system has matured (in 2016) it is increasingly common that area stewards (and AOT Labor Management delegates) will recruit garage contacts in their region as is required. At other times, if a garage contact is retiring, or otherwise leaving their worksite, that garage contact will seek to recruit his or her replacement. As workers take an increasing responsibility for maintaining this system, the Union Rep/Organizer has more time freed up to build this system in other areas and or to focus their attention on different union building projects.

Garage contacts have also played an important role in recruiting area stewards (such as in District 1-Bennington Garage where Garage Contact Tim Bortell recruited Brett Crawford as area steward). Garage contacts also constitute a “bench” whereby union members can gain experience and be brought up to higher levels of the union leadership (as is the case in District 8-Enosburg Garage whereby Ellen St. Marie, after proving herself an outstanding garage contact was recruited to serve as steward-steward paperwork currently pending).

It is in the garages that this system was first built in 2015. The effort to export this model to other areas of AOT was begun in late 2016 (DMV), but is still very much a work in progress. It was the intent to have DMV complete this year, however the departure of the VSEA Organizer assigned to AOT, and the fact that this position is yet to be filled has hampered these efforts. With or without an assigned Organizer, this effort should be complete in 2017. In addition, an effort will be made in 2017 to also begin to export this model to the remaining aspects of the agency.

I am pleased to note that the VSEA Board of Trustees & Chapter Presidents have expressed support for exporting a version of this model to the rest of VSEA (as was recommended in the 2016 “AOT-VSEA 1 Year of Building Union Power” report). The goal of building a similar system throughout VSEA is articulated in the proposal “The Challenges Facing VSEA and a Proactive Response” (penned by Brattleboro Chapter President Robin Rieske).

AOT Stewards

Garage contacts/local union contacts, in brief, are the foundation upon which union structure in AOT is built. Another essential element of this structure is our steward system. NMU is afforded 95 stewards. Presently there are only 52 appointed stewards. This makes the steward to worker ratio in the Non-Management Unit 1:145. If all 95 steward positions were filled, that would improve the ratio to 1:79. The two things we should aim for if we are to rationally deploy quality stewards while achieving a manageable ratio, is having a proportional number of stewards appointed in every major agency/department while making sure we deploy these stewards geographically so as to provide a steward presence across the state.

In the garages, there is 9 geographic AOT Districts (although District 6 is essentially akin to a central office without a plow fleet and is not factored into this section). Each District contains between 5-9 garages. Presently we have at least one steward in each AOT District [this was achieved in 2016 and marks the first time in memory that this has been accomplished], and no more than two stewards in any one District. With few exceptions (such as District 3 Steward Seth Perry-Rutland Garage), these AOT stewards only represent fellow AOT workers, and typically only in their geographic AOT District.[10] In total AOT garages have 11 stewards. This is 1 steward for every 49 workers (well within the minimum worker-to-steward target ratio of 1:79). Over the course of 2016 a total of 3 new stewards have been recruited from within the garages. One was recruited by a garage contact, one by the Union Rep, and one came forward on his own. In addition to providing their co-workers representation, stewards also play a crucial role in membership recruitment [membership recruitment will be discussed in more detail later in this report]. AOT garage stewards also work closely with AOT Labor Management delegates [there being much overlap between the stewards and the Labor Management Committee] and AOT delegates to the bargaining teams. All told, the stewarding program in AOT garages is strong and effective. Given the need for VSEA to expand its steward system, and given the low steward-to-worker ratio already achieved in the garages, it is advisable that the number of stewards in the garages be capped at 12 for 2017.

While our steward program is strong in the garages, the same cannot be said for those other sections of AOT which we are just now beginning to be systematically organized. In DMV we have one steward (Ed Martin-at the South Burlington Branch). This means we have only 1 Steward for every 216 workers. At minimum our goal should be to recruit an additional DMV steward in Montpelier (where our membership is concentrated). This would improve our worker-to-steward ratio to 1:108. A secondary priority could be to recruit a third steward in more southern Vermont. Having a third steward in DMV would make the ratio a solid 1:72.

AOT Labor Management Committee (Garages)

The AOT Labor Management Committee (for garage workers) meets seasonally (4 times a year) on a perpetual basis. The committee strives to have one worker representing each AOT District, plus someone from Central Garage (the mechanics) & the Bridge Crew. All persons on this committee are from the Non-Management Unit.[11] The committee, with the concurrence of the Non-Management Unit Executive Committee, also elects a Chair (presently Jason Heath-Georgia Garage) and a Vice Chair (Shawn Ainsworth-North Montpelier Garage). Many stewards serve on this committee, although it is not exclusive to stewards. Presently 9 AOT workers serve on this committee. It is the responsibility of Labor Management delegates to gather issues and concerns from workers in their geographic area (AOT District) or work group (Central Garage or Bridge Crew). These issues are then brought to a labor only training/meeting (that includes both the AOT stewards & Labor Management delegates) which occurs one week before the official Labor Management meeting. Here the issues are discussed and the combined stewards/Labor Management delegates craft a draft agenda for the meeting with management. Here not only are agenda items agreed to, but unified labor positions are also hammered out.[12] As a rule, these common positions are supported by all Labor Management delegates when in front of management (even if an individual delegate may have argued for a competing position at the prior labor only meeting). Failure to uphold such common positions while in front of management is understood as grounds for being removed from the committee.[13]

The draft agenda that emerges from this seasonal meeting of Labor Management delegates & stewards is then sent to management prior to the official meeting. This prior notice helps to foster a more productive meeting whereby labor and management are prepared to address the issues, and other agency personal (who do not regularly attend these meetings but who may have a special relevance to an agenda item) can be invited to attend.[14]

The meetings with management are facilitated by the Labor Chair. All labor delegates (and Union Rep) sit together on one side of the table, and management on the other. For labor generated agenda items, the Labor Chair assigns a labor delegate to start off the discussion on the issue. The Union Rep keeps minutes. After the meeting, the Union Rep crafts draft minutes that include agreed upon action steps were they exist. These draft minutes are then provided to the Labor Chair and management for review and joint approval. Once approved, the minutes are sent to the garage contacts (for printing and posting) by the Union Rep, and to lower ranking managers by upper management. The minutes are also printed in the management generated AOT newsletter.

In 2016 the major topics of discussion/achievements have been as follows:

Prior to 2016 (since 2013) this AOT Labor Management Committee has also successfully achieved the following improvements for AOT workers:

All told, the AOT Labor Management Committee for the garages continues to be productive in addressing issues of concern for union workers. There is no reason not to expect this committee to continue its positive trajectory in 2017.

At this time there are no other statewide Labor Management Committees in AOT. DMV has one local Labor Management Committee (South Burlington) which meets irregularly and were local branch issues are discussed. Some discussion has occurred with union officers about forming a statewide DMV Labor Management Committee that would meet twice a year. At the present time, the DMV Commissioner is not enthusiastic about forming such a meeting, and interest from DMV workers has been mild. This idea may be revisited in 2017. Other sections of AOT would prove challenging in forming a productive Labor Management Committee (for various reasons including a multitude of differing work responsibilities). Union members in these groups have not expressed strong interest in forming such committees at this time. Therefore there are no plans to build Labor Management Committees in these other groupings in AOT.

AOT Union Leadership in the Garages

Together the stewards, Labor Management delegates, and bargaining team leaders, by default, constitute the top union leadership in AOT. The stewards & Labor Management delegates meet in person seasonally [discussed above] as part of the “training” program established by VSEA Educator Tim Lenoch (bargaining team members are also invited). At these meetings AOT union priorities are discussed and adopted for the coming quarter. Often these priorities involve the Labor Management Committee, but not exclusively and not always.

Issues (not directly related to the Labor Management Committee) that have been discussed at these AOT leadership meetings have included building union membership in the garages, and exploring the possibility of the Agency of Transportation seeking to become its own bargaining unit within VSEA. And of course the underlying garage contact system allows the AOT leaders a means to take meaningful action on priority issues. Prior to 2016, AOT union leaders also directed their Union Rep (myself) to provide them with monthly activity reports which track any and all progress on issues prioritized at these seasonal meetings [these monthly reports have been provided every month for two years, and are also forwarded to the VSEA Director of Field Services & Executive Director]. Providing these reports helps to create more accountability within AOT (for staff and leaders), and allows VSEA to track progress on issues over time.

These quarterly AOT (garage) leadership meetings have been a success not only in defining priorities & coordinating projects, but also have become a venue to better allow for union members/leaders to set the direction of their union; thus furthering the goal of realizing a member lead union. In 2017, these quarterly leadership meetings will continue.

Staff Worksite Visits

One advantage staff has over worker-union members is that staff is free to make time to visit all the worksites, and thereby get feedback from members on a multitude of issues. In turn staff are able to widen the conversation in the leadership meetings based on this feedback. This helps to better inform the union leadership when they are prioritizing issues and deciding on a course of action. Towards this end VSEA staff have done 98 worksite visits in the garages this year (in 2015 staff did 107). Of these 98, the Union Rep did 90 and a Union Organizer did 8 (in 2015 the Union Rep did 77 and Union Organizers/other staff-leaders did 30). All AOT garages were visited (in 2016 and 21015). In 2017 it should be expected that the Union Rep will again visit all the garages, and will complete between 70-100 garage visits.

In DMV there have been 9 worksite visits by VSEA staff (3 from the Union Rep and 6 from VSEA Organizers). It was expected that more visits would be done at DMV branches, and this work was to have been largely done by the assigned VSEA Organizer in the fall/early winter. However, the assigned Organizer left employment with VSEA, and is yet to be replaced. Therefore we have fallen behind in this area. In 2017, as we further build the local union contact structure in DMV, and as VSEA hires an Organizer to replace the one that left, it should be expected that all DMV branches will be visited by staff.

Also note that the Union Rep and Organizers have visited AOT workers stationed at the National Life complex in Montpelier on 5 occasions. National Life is the workplace for all or most workers in AOT Program Development and Finance & Administration, but also includes workers from Operations (who support the garages). Therefore these visits are logged as garage/worksite visits.

AOT Communications

In the garages, through the garage contacts, a system is in place which efficiently allows for the printing and posting of union information. Using this system, the Union Rep provided 9 union updates for posting over 2016. These updates ranged from bargaining updates to information on filing incident reports on tick bites to the need for membership recruitment in light of looming struggles. All postings sought to be specific to AOT garage workers and included photos of union members.

When priority issues arise, the Union Rep also regularly sent brief a text to the garage contacts/AOT union officers. These texts would ask the leaders to share the information with their co-workers, and/or to facilitate an action in support of one of their issues.

At times, the Union Rep also sent out general emails to AOT workers in general also highlighting recent union activity or challenges that union members need to be prepared for. Where appropriate, fee payers were also emailed on an issue. Where emails went to fee payers, the message always circled back to why their membership in the union is important and relevant to the issue at hand.

Rank & File Structure/Worksite Visits By The Numbers

What follows are the basic statistics for what has been achieved/maintained within AOT concerning this internal structure [note that no stats are included for AOT Project Development or Finance & Administration because these aspects of AOT are yet to be properly organized].

In the 64 garages/worksites for AOT Operations:

In the 12 DMV branch sites/job groups:[15]

III. Union Activism/Political Elections

Union activism is a necessary element of flexing union power. If a union never flexes its power, its power will decline.[16] Activism, which is another word for taking common action, is also in part a learned skill. Therefore it is important to find reason to practice such an activism in order for the membership to gain experience. Doing this will increase the union’s effectiveness at times of crisis when action is demanded by events. Cultivating a healthy activism with a union also keeps the membership engaged and its energies aimed at achieving common goals. In this way activism, in and of itself, helps to build membership numbers.

AOT Collective Activism By Workplace/Issue

2015 saw the Fight Back campaign and the first half of contract negotiations. Therefore union activism was way up in AOT garages for that year (182 collective instances of activism, and 56 active garages). In 2016 contract negotiations were essentially concluded by spring. And while VSEA engaged in a number of legislative efforts and played a role in the Vermont General Election, there was not an overarching issue which drove activism on the scale that was witnessed during Fight Back.

In 2016 the garages had:[17]

DMV (who is now getting organized & is very much a work in progress) had:

In the garages the bulk of the activism can be attributed to:[18]

The union photo action, which was called for in January 2016 by the former NMU Chair Michelle Salvador, was the last larger rank & file action called for in support of the contract negotiations. This action resulted in a total of 107 photos being submitted to VSEA. 42 of those photos came from AOT garages (where our garage contact system was already in place), 2 came from DMV (Montpelier), and 1 came from AOT construction. Therefore, although AOT makes up (apx) 20% of NMU, 42% of the photos were AOT. This, like in other instances, is a testament to the effectiveness of the garage contact system.

With the AOT photos, a brief video was produced in support of AOT bargaining priorities. The video was publically posted on YouTube, drew over 700 views, and gained supportive comments from VT State Senator Anthony Pollina and VT State Rep Susan Hatch Davis (both members of the VT Progressive Party).

This AOT video can be viewed at the below web address:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUE-mTdAgLQ

AOT Activism & Electoral Politics

After contract negotiations concluded and the contract was funded by the Legislature (in the spring), 2016 was a year when VSEA asked less of its members with the exception of requests revolving around membership recruitment and electoral activity. Concerning electoral activity the asks tended to be related to phone banking for union endorsed candidates, providing quotes in support of candidates, etc. And like all of VSEA, participation from AOT members was minimal.[19] AOT workers, unlike other sections of VSEA, did provide four quotes in support of the candidate we backed for Governor (although only one of those quotes was used in an internal VSEA mailing). Two AOT stewards also committed to taking a day of annual leave to attend a press conference also in support of the VSEA endorsed candidate for Governor (although this event was cancelled when other VSEA union leaders failed to make a similar commitment). AOT members did not volunteer to work phone banks, did not knock on doors, and remained apprehensive about our overwhelming support for many incumbent Democratic Party candidates.[20]

In fact, of the 1191 AOT workers covered by Collective Bargaining Agreements, not a single one belongs to the VSEA PAC. That number is striking. However, despite it being a stated goal of VSEA since at least since 2012, less than 100 union members (out of 5688) in total belong to the PAC. Given the zero AOT contributions to the PAC, and given the apprehension shown by AOT members towards many incumbent candidates, AOT members’ minimal engagement in the election effort is not surprising. Perhaps what is surprising is that select stewards/leaders did provide quotes in support of our candidate for Governor and that two of these stewards were willing to take a day to support that candidate at a press conference.

To the credit of VSEA’s Executive Director, in 2016 the union attempted to address the perceived disjunction between political endorsements and the political leanings of its members. For the first time in VSEA history, a poll was conducted prior to the Primary and the General Election. There the membership was asked to vote for the candidate in the statewide races that they wanted the union to back. For the poll prior to the General Election, following requests from a number of AOT garages, a “None-Of-The-Above” option was added to the ballots. In all cases, VSEA endorsed the candidate that won the vote (Matt Dunne for Governor & David Zuckerman for Lt Governor in the Democratic Primary, and Sue Minter-Democrat for Governor & David Zuckerman-Progressive for Lt Gov in the General Election). This new effort to further expand union democracy is to be applauded. However, AOT members still feel alienated from the endorsement process in general. After all, down ticket races are not voted on by the general membership, and while they are subject to ratification or reversal by the VSEA Council (on which AOT has allotted seats), it is still difficult for AOT members to understand how we can spend two years fighting against a lawmaker, appear to drag them kicking and screaming to the right side of an issue (in cases where we win), and then turn around and endorse them when their re-election comes up. And given the overall low number of union members who give to the PAC (again, zero in AOT) it is reasonable to question if this sentiment is not also felt in the wider VSEA. Regardless, the fact remains that if we are to honestly gage the level of electoral activism in AOT (and the rest of VSEA), we must understand it as low.

Given VSEA’s inability to build the PAC and recruit a significant number of union members to volunteer on electoral work, perhaps a re-thinking of how we approach down ticket endorsements is in order. The AFL-CIO, for example, allows it’s local (typically county or city based) Central Labor Councils (similar to VSEA Chapters) to make local endorsements and to organize electoral activity on the local level. In this way union members are directly vested and may personally know (or come to know) the candidates for State Senate, State Rep, Mayor, and City Council, etc..

If localizing the down ticket endorsement process is not advisable, another option would be to greatly reduce the number of endorsements we issue per election. Perhaps we continue to poll the members on the statewide races and continue to make these endorsements as we did in 2016. But for all down ticket legislative races we make clear that any legislator who does not vote in favor of any one of our legislative priorities will not receive our endorsement in the next election. In 2015, for example, there were about a dozen State Reps (out of 150) that voted in favor of a $2 hotel occupancy tax that we were supporting (as a means to close the budget gap without layoffs or pay cuts). What if we only endorsed those incumbents in 2016?

All told, for AOT members to become more engaged in the electoral process and for them to begin to contribute to the PAC, they must come to believe that the politicians their union endorses are on their side on their issues. Endorsing the worst of two candidates (just to oppose an incumbent who is not a champion of labor) is not a rational option. But given our level of member support for the PAC and our minimal level of member engagement in the electoral process, doing things as they have been done in the past is also not a rational option. If the two suggestions above are not workable/desirable (for whatever reason) a new approach must be articulated and tried. Unless and until this happens, I see the likelihood of AOT’s increased participation in the PAC and/or the electoral process to be minimal at best.

AOT Rapid Response Team

Another area where AOT fell short was in the creation of an AOT Rapid Response Team. This effort began as an outcome of an all-garage conference call held in late 2015 in support of the bargaining efforts. The idea was to put together an elite team of 10-12 AOT activists who did not hold union office above the level of garage contact. This team would be committed to using annual leave to attend 2-4 union actions a year. They would be committed to being anywhere they needed to be in Vermont upon 24 hours’ notice (and as requested by the union leadership). This team would engage in informational picket lines, marches on the boss, key press conferences, etc.. However, despite efforts to build this team, to date only 4 persons have been recruited. In 2017 this project will be reevaluated. It is possible that this project will draw to a close, and energy will instead go into the continuing effort to build the garage contact/local union contact system in new areas of AOT.

IV. Bargaining

2016 saw the conclusion of Bargaining for the current contract. VSEA did well. Going into negotiations AOT members had the following priorities (although initial proposals were higher):

Through the new Non-Management Unit & Supervisory Unit Contracts the following was achieved:

At the end of the day AOT union members did not get everything they were after. An automatic ‘escalator’ on Snow/Tool/Boot Pay was not achieved. Binding Arbitration was not locked down. Full Snow Pay for “volunteers” was not delivered. And, for DMV Commercial Motor Vehicle Inspectors, a condensed step system for Group C workers did not come to fruition. Even so, without making any meaningful concessions, it is true that most of AOT’s priorities were addressed. And while much of the basic wins were achieved through the victory of a favorable Fact Finder’s Report and a positive ruling by the Labor Board at Last-Best-Offer[21], it is meaningful to note that the increases to Snow Pay, Tool Pay, Boot Reimbursement, and the full pay for AOT employees out on workers comp for Lyme Disease were all won at the bargaining table prior to going to Fact Finding or Last-Best-Offer. All told, AOT exceeded their own expectations concerning the contract that is now in place.

AOT workers (represented by Art Aulis-Westfield Garage on the NMU bargaining team) and their 86 contract captains in NMU did much to work towards these victories. The above discussed union photo action serves as one example. However, since much of the negotiating and major actions in support of the NMU bargaining team occurred in 2015, and since those actions were discussed in detail in the January 1 2016 “AOT-VSEA 1 Year of Building Union Power” report, they are beyond the scope of this document. Suffice to say that AOT, again, did well in contract negotiations.

V. Union Membership Recruitment

VSEA put a strong emphasis on membership recruitment in 2016. AOT members worked hard on this priority. The results of this effort are an unmitigated success. All told we saw 164 AOT workers join the union. Union membership in the garages (where we have a fully functioning garage contact system in place) is now at 81.65%. Union membership in DMV (where we have just begun to recruit local union contacts) stands at 80.56%. Overall AOT membership has climbed 2.81 percentage points to 72.71%. This improvement to AOT’s membership rate is in line with the broader trend within VSEA. Likewise, VSEA overall added 821 members, increasing the membership rate by 1.82 percentage points to 75.52%.

In AOT we achieved this not by having staff individually sign up new members, but rather providing names of fee payers and talking points to garage contacts and other union officers and having them take the lead on this effort.[22] As a secondary means of member recruitment, the Union Rep also sent occasional mass emails to non-members in AOT asking them to join highlighting pending challenges and union victories. These emails included an appeal to join the union and provided a link to the online membership application. After the successful conclusion of contract negotiations, the Union Rep also sent personalized letters to non-members who were tagged in the VSEA database as having taken an action in support of their union over the last two years. This letter included an appeal for them to become full union members.

Another important element of membership recruitment efforts within the AOT garages is the now standard practice of having stewards and garage contacts reach out to each new hire with the goal of having them become a union member. The ability for stewards to use a brief amount of VSEA leave time to meet with new hires in their AOT Districts was achieved through the AOT Labor Management Committee in 2015. In brief, a practice was set up whereby VSEA Administrator, Laurie Hassett, would regularly provide the AOT Union Rep a list of new hires in AOT.[23] The Union Rep would then do two things: first, all new hires would get an email from the Rep explaining why union membership is important, a personal request to join, and a link to the online applications. Second, if the new hire was from within the garages, the Union Rep would email the name to the District steward with a reminder to make time to meet with them. In the same email, the local garage contact would be cc’ed, and a reminder would go to them to also make a point of talking to them about joining the union. This effort resulted in 68.75% of new hires in the garages becoming union members. While this rate is well below the desired 80% mark, it is a significant improvement to the rate achieved in the rest of VSEA.

The effective recruitment of new members within AOT was done, by enlarge, through our garage contact system, our steward’s ability to meet with new hires, and through effective use of email by the Union Rep. Having reached an 80%+ membership rate in the Garages and in DMV, it should not be expected to see additional growth in these sections of AOT. I would project that the membership rate in these areas will fluctuate between 78-82%. However, we can and will seek to fine tune the new hire procedure, and the goal will be to bring that rate up. We also should aim to increase the membership rate in Program Development and Finance & Administration. As we begin to build structure into these sections of AOT we should find success in recruiting new members. For 2017 the overall goal will be to increase AOT’s overall membership rate to 75%.

AOT Union Membership Recruitment By The Numbers

Historic Perspective/AOT New Union Members by Year

2006: 37

2007: 29

2008: 36

2009: 41(Year Governor Douglas-R pushed for pay decreases)

2010: 25 (Year after VSEA suffered pay decreases and step freezes)

2011: 31

2012: 50 (Organizers begin concerted effort to visit garages-VSEA Organizing Dept. formed)

2013: 45 (Organizers continue effort to visit garages/AOT Labor Management re-formed)

2014: 40 (New contract brings significant increases to Snow/Tool Pay/Boot Reimbursement)

2015: 87 (Single Union Rep to AOT/Governor threatens mass layoffs/seeks to reopen contract)

2016: 164 [24] (VSEA begins membership recruitment campaign/new contract sees increases to Snow Pay/Tool Pay/Boot Reimbursement/Time-And-A-Half OT for PG 23-24 i.e. garage foremen/full pay for AOT employees on workers comp for Lyme Disease/average wage increases of 7.25% over two years/wage increases 10.25% for workers in their first 5 years of state service over two years.)

Membership Rate on Jan 1 2016 (or earliest recorded figure) & on Jan 1 2017

AOT in Total: 2016 69.82% 2017 72.63%

+2.81 percentage points increase

AOT Garages: 2016 77.48% 2017 81.65%

+4.17 percentage point increase

DMV: 2016 78.9% 2017 80.56%

+1.66 percentage points increase

VSEA-Wide: 2016 73.7% 2017 75.52%

+1.82 percentage point increase

New Hire/Union Membership Recruitment Rates By Department for 2016 [25]

AOT Total New Hire Recruitment Rate: 2015 51.55% 2016 61.98%

+10.43 percentage point increase

AOT Garage New Hire Recruitment Rate: 2015 64.44% 2016 68.75%

+4.31 percentage point increase

DMV New Hire Recruitment Rate: Not Tracked

VSEA-Wide New Hire Recruitment Rate: 2015 35% (apx) 2016 48.16%

+13.16 percentage point increase

VI. Contract Representation

Internal structure, activism, contract gains, and membership recruitment are not meaningful unless the Collective Bargaining Agreements are also defended. In this regards the Union Rep and AOT stewards continue to provide quality representation to AOT workers. First and foremost I am happy to report that the AOT garages have not seen a classified non-probationary employee terminated since February, 2015; nearly two years ago. I am also pleased to report that the use of General Releases, as part of the conflict resolution process, remains a rare occurrence. We have only had one General Release[26] in 2016 (and only four over the last two years). And finally, AOT management/DHR has increasingly come to identify the basic level of discipline they are considering in Loudermill Letters. In multiple cases in 2016, the Loudermill Letter states that Management is considering disciplinary action up to and including “suspension” (where previously they would all say “up to termination”). This represents an improvement in the disciplinary process, as the worker and Union Rep now have a clearer understanding of what is at stake at a hearing and can adjust their defense strategy accordingly.

What follows are the two year totals (2015 & 2016), in the Garages, concerning representational work:

What follows are the 2016 totals, in DMV, concerning representational work:

In 2017 VSEA will continue to provide quality representation to AOT employees through the grievance procedure and disciplinary process. AOT stewards will also continue to receive training. Overall I expect the number of stewards in AOT to increase from 12 to 15 (two of the three new stewards being from outside the garages).

END OF 2016 REPORT

[1] This report was first provided to VSEA Union Officers & senior staff in 2016. David Van Deusen is a former Vermont AFL-CIO District Vice President & Member-At-Large and was a co-founder of the Green Mountain Anarchist Collective.

[2] These figures include two known AOT Garage workers who were hired in 2015, were recruited to the Union, but later resigned from State employment (for personal reasons). These figures additionally include workers who are known to the AOT Union Rep to have signed Union Cards or filled out the online membership application but who do not yet appear as members in the VSEA database.

[3] An additional result of this Labor Management discussion was a commitment from Management & Labor to look at factual data regarding the wages and salaries of town road crews with thought to how this may create challenges to AOT retention and recruitment. These figures, and possible action items, will be discussed further at future Labor Management Committee meetings in 2016.

[4] One aspect of the March On The Boss that proved to be controversial was the fact that the media did not simply find out about the action, but were directly informed about the action by VSEA staff, although without the apparent knowledge of the Executive Director. A media interview with the AOT spokesman gave an appearance that AOT members in NMU had knowledge of demands being pushed by the State upon the Supervisory Unit. The Supervisory Unit, unlike NMU, was operating under ground rules that prohibited public communication about Bargaining proposals without first providing 24 hours’ notice. VSEA did not anticipate the media asking questions that, depending on the answer, could contribute to the AOT worker/spokesperson giving the appearance of this knowledge, and hence he was not prepped for such questions. Regardless, the State did not take any ULP actions.

[5] Note that AOT Bargaining Team Delegate, Art Aulis, has given his support and encouragement for these updates.

[6] These overall year to year VSEA membership numbers were provided by VSEA Operations Director Ray Stout on 12/16/15.

[7] This report was first provided to VSEA Union Officers & senior staff in 2017.

[8] As a Union Rep I am also responsible for the Office of the Defender General Unit. Here there are 8 worksites. As of January 1 2017, all 8 of these worksites have deployed local union contacts and/or other union officers. In addition to the Defender General I am also responsible for the Vermont State Housing Authority Unit. Likewise I am working with that Unit Chair to establish the same system in that Unit.

[9] All union officers in AOT, with the exception of those directly serving on the bargaining team or who are in the Supervisory Unit, serve as NMU contract captains when negotiations are active. Therefore, AOT garages/DMV in effect has 86 NMU contract captains. Not including AOT, NMU has a total of 63 additional contract captains. Therefore, AOT, although composing approximately 20% of NMU, accounts for 54%% of the total number of NMU contract captains.

[10] Having AOT stewards primarily cover only fellow AOT workers in their geographic area increases their effectiveness as they provide representation on issues which they understand in the context of working for AOT, and by providing representation in their geographic area they are able to develop a more consistent relationship with their local management.

[11] The practice of meeting 4 times a year (in perpetuity) and having up to 11 union delegates on it, surpasses the baseline labor rights guaranteed by the contract. This expansion of the rights of this committee were agreed to by both labor and management at their first meeting after the group was reformed in 2013.

[12] At the request of labor, management provides labor with its proposed agenda items prior to this meeting. This allows the AOT stewards/Labor Management delegates to also form a unified position on these agenda items.

[13] AOT Labor Management delegates have not broken this rule, and to date no delegate has been removed for this infraction.

[14] It should also be noted that labor’s internal rules also prevent delegates from bringing personal issues into the meetings with management. Labor Management agenda items cannot be personal in nature, nor should they involve one specific garage. Labor Management is viewed as a forum for issues that are broad in nature and involve multiple AOT Districts. Where issues are specific to one garage or one District, there are other venues for them to be appropriately addressed.

[15] There are 11 branch locations across Vermont. In addition, DMV Law Enforcement constitutes a specific grouping within DMV. These police officers are home based, and for mapping tracking purposes are listed as their own ‘worksite’ within DMV.

[16] In the same way, I find if I let my chainsaw sit too long, it’s a bitch to start up when I finally need it to.

[17] In this section I do not count 5 people in one garage who signed a petition as 5 instances of activism. Rather if people in one garage, be it 2 or 10, signed a petition I count that as one instance. What is recorded here is collective activism attributed to a specific garage, not individual acts as such.

[18] It should also be mentioned that as of December, 17 AOT union women (not teased out by department or division) wrote to their Union Rep (and the BOT point person on the action) expressing strong interest in being part of a union delegation to the January 21 2017 Million Women March (a total of 37 VSEA woman expressed such interest). A number of these women have never been directly involved union activities prior to expressing a desire to attend this historic event. While the VSEA Board of Trustees allocated $5000 to send such a delegation, and while the VSEA Council backed this decision from the Board, no VSEA staff was assigned to coordinate logistics with the BOT member serving as point on this project. Therefore it appears increasingly unlikely that the planning for this delegation will be achieved, and it is unlikely that these women will be able to attend this event on behalf of VSEA or otherwise. This is unfortunate on a number of levels; not only is this an opportunity for VSEA to be part of a historic march, it is also an opportunity for VSEA to begin to develop alliances (through collective action) with potential allies external to VSEA (which will be needed in the looming Trump era), but it was also a porthole through which new activists could begin to engage with their union. The failure for this effort to come off may decrease the credibility of VSEA with these 17 AOT members. Support from VSEA staff, after the BOT voted to support this action, could have and should have prevented this from playing out as it has. A similar failure to follow through also occurred over 2015-16 with the Dignity & Respect petition (36% of the signatures being from AOT) which was never delivered to the state/politicians or utilized in anyway, and the political press conference which two AOT stewards agreed to seek to attend in support of the candidate we endorsed for Governor. Point being: If you say you are going to do something, do it. Failure to do so decreases our credibility with the members and over time decreases our ability to get members to take action next time there is a need.

[19] In the 2016 VT General Election, in seriously contested statewide races, our endorsed candidate for Governor, Sue Minter-Democrat, lost to Phil Scott-Republican. In the LT Governor race, union endorsed candidate David Zuckerman-Progressive, won.

[20] As I have travelled to AOT garages, I have often been asked by AOT members why we tend to endorse the same incumbent politicians we appear to fight against during the legislative session.

[21] Here VSEA Director of Labor Relations, Gary Hoadley deserves much credit.

[22] Early in 2016, Garage Contacts/Union Officers were mailed a hard copy list of names of non-members in their Garage. The mailing included reasons why we need to sign up new members, talking points, and Union Cards. Late in the year these Garage Contacts/Union Officers were emailed a broad list of fee payers broken down by Garage. Throughout the year, the Union Rep would encourage said officers to sign up new members in order to build the power of the Union.

[23] Laurie Hassett did a great job keeping this Union Rep informed about new hires, new members, and helped immensely in this on-going effort.

[24] In the 2015-2016 AOT 1 Year Review document, 105 new members we reported as being recruited. This was accurate. However, this number included those that recently filled out a union card and whose membership (in the database) was not yet processed. Therefore, some new members identified here (by searching the “started paying dues” option in the database) for 2016 were actually recruited in 2015.

[25] These new hire recruitment rates do not calculate in new hires that join the union (or did not join the union) but for whatever reason are not still employed with the State as of January 1 2017. In the 2016 AOT annual report, I calculated those into the equation. Thus last year’s numbers reflect that.

[26] From a union point of view, a General Release is a bad thing as it compels the worker to sign away all his/her rights to take legal action against the state for all known and unknown issues that may have occurred with few exceptions (a workers comp related claim being one of said exceptions). A Limited Release, on the other hand, only compels the worker to sign away their legal recourse on things stemming from the specific issue at hand.

[27] These 10 cases are still open.

[28] In both these cases the workers resigned just prior to the holding of a Loudermill Hearing. In one case the allegation was in regards to using state equipment to embezzle public funds. In the other it was a clear cut violation of a Last Chance Agreement.