Home Vermont UVM nonfaculty union members stage ‘work-in’ over stalled contract talks

UVM nonfaculty union members stage ‘work-in’ over stalled contract talks

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – There are just three days until the contract for University of Vermont nonfaculty workers expires, and with union organizers saying negotiations are at a standstill, they organized a sit-in on campus Thursday.

“We’re here because of the general disrespect and disregard for our staff and our value and our work and our labor,” said Ellen Kaye with UVM Staff United.

She says union members left their homes this morning to go to work but instead of heading into the office, they lined the halls of the UVM’s administration building, staging a “work-in” protest. They say it is a response to administrators telling the union “…the university had to prioritize the salaries of top talent” instead of theirs.

“We know that we’re the top talent of the university. We’re here to make our talents visible to upper administration, to show them what we’re working on,” said the union’s Claire Whitehouse.

Administrators neither confirmed nor denied the statement nor made themselves available for an interview, instead issuing a brief statement: “While the rules we have agreed to with the staff union prohibit the university from commenting publicly on negotiation specifics, the university is pleased with the progress that has been made thus far and looks forward to further discussions.”

Kaye says the administration has failed to budge on their main negotiating points, including a livable wage, affordable health care, retirement, and parental leave. “There’s a recruitment and retention crisis at UVM. So, we see our co-workers leaving because they cannot afford to stay because they cannot afford housing. It is not a livable wage,” she said.

Burlington Mayor Emma Mulvaney-Stanek stopped by to give the union her support. “Burlington is a union town, and this a union mayor who will always stand with you, so thank you for having me here today,” she told union members. But when we asked the mayor if the city had any initiatives to make housing more affordable, she left without providing a comment.

Union officials say that they intend to keep fighting and that striking was an option.

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