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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Defying Feds, State Offers Unemployment to Vermonters Working Without Pay

Posted By on Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 2:44 PM

Department of Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • Department of Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle
Updated at 4:08 p.m.

As the longest-ever government shutdown drags on, Vermont will defy the Trump administration by providing unemployment benefits to federal employees who are working without pay.

On Tuesday, Gov. Phil Scott directed the Vermont Department of Labor to treat so-called "essential" federal employees the same as furloughed workers, who are already eligible for unemployment.

"It just seems preposterous that these folks are forced to work without receiving a check and are not eligible for unemployment," Vermont Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle told Seven Days.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Vermont Says Federal Workers Could Receive Aid for Food, Heat

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2019 at 1:30 PM

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management's website - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • The U.S. Office of Personnel Management's website
Some federal employees affected by the partial government shutdown may qualify for assistance from aid programs in Vermont, state Department for Children and Families officials decided this week.

Sean Brown, deputy commissioner of DCF, said a federal employee inquired about benefits earlier in the week, prompting discussion that led to the decision.

“They have no ongoing expectation of income right now, with no end in sight for the shutdown,” Brown said.

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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Vermont Democrats Counter Scott With Mandatory Paid Leave Plan

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2019 at 12:55 PM

House Speaker Mitzi Johnson - FILE: JEB WALLACE-BRODEUR
  • File: Jeb Wallace-Brodeur
  • House Speaker Mitzi Johnson
A day after Republican Gov. Phil Scott pitched a plan for a voluntary paid family leave program, the Democratic leaders of the Vermont legislature threw their support behind an alternative proposal that would provide the benefit to all Vermonters and fund it with a payroll tax.

At a Statehouse press conference Thursday, House Speaker Mitzi Johnson (D-South Hero) and Senate President Pro Tempore Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) characterized their plan as a better way to protect those helping a sick or injured relative, becoming new parents or recovering from an illness themselves.

“When that happens, a maybe secure financial situation becomes insecure lightning fast,” Ashe said.

The Democratic proposal, which is expected to be introduced soon in the Vermont House, would provide 12 weeks of leave with full pay, according to Ashley Moore, the state director of the Main Street Alliance and co-chair of the Vermont Family and Medical Leave Insurance Coalition. It would be funded by a 0.93-percent payroll tax, split evenly between employers and employees.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Scott Proposes a Paid Family Leave Partnership With New Hampshire

Posted By on Wed, Jan 16, 2019 at 3:19 PM

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, right, with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu - TAYLOR DOBBS
  • Taylor Dobbs
  • Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, right, with New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu
A proposal by Vermont Gov. Phil Scott and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu would provide paid family leave for employees of both states through an insurance system that would also be open to private businesses and individuals who opt to join.

The Republican governors presented their plan Wednesday at the Schilling Beer Company in Littleton, N.H.

The proposal would allow covered employees to take up to six weeks of paid family leave while receiving 60 percent of their usual salaries. Businesses enrolling their entire staff would get a discount on premiums, Scott said, but the insurance would be available on an employee-by-employee basis as well. Workers at businesses that don’t opt in to the program could sign up individually, Scott said.

Last year, Scott vetoed a bill to create a family leave program because it was not optional, and it would have been funded by a payroll tax on Vermont businesses.

“I said last year ... that I share the goal of providing this type of benefit,” Scott said in a taproom overlooking the icy Ammonoosuc River. “I just thought we should be doing it on a volunteer basis, but I didn’t have a plan together at that point. Now we have a plan, and we have details as well.”

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Friday, October 26, 2018

DR Power Equipment Plans to Move Headquarters, Jobs From Vergennes

Posted By on Fri, Oct 26, 2018 at 3:22 PM

Screen capture from a DR Power Equipment video - SCREENSHOT
  • Screenshot
  • Screen capture from a DR Power Equipment video
DR Power Equipment is moving its headquarters from Vergennes to South Burlington and relocating some operations to Wisconsin, home of its parent company, Generac Power Systems.

DR Power Equipment is part of Country Home Products, which was founded in Vergennes in 1985 and locally owned until it sold to Wisconsin-based Generac in 2015. DR makes and sells equipment for yard work.

Generac is moving most of DR Power Equipment's jobs out of Vergennes. Art Aiello, the public relations manager for Generac, said in an email that the company's shipping and repair operations are moving to Wisconsin. Twenty-six employees will be affected, though they're being offered other jobs in the company.

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Thursday, October 25, 2018

Keurig Dr Pepper to Lay Off 118 Vermont Employees

Posted By on Thu, Oct 25, 2018 at 4:48 PM

Company headquarters in Plano, Texas - TRONG NGUYEN/DREAMSTIME.COM
  • Trong Nguyen/
  • Company headquarters in Plano, Texas
Updated at 6:53 p.m.

Keurig Dr Pepper is laying off 118 Vermont employees as part of a recently finalized merger, Department of Labor Commissioner Lindsay Kurrle said Thursday.

Those laid off will be paid until January 4, according to Kurrle.

Keurig Green Mountain and Dr Pepper Snapple Group merged in July. At the time, the new company said it expected to save $600 million over three years due to "synergies." A total of 500 job cuts are expected nationwide.

The coffee and beverage giant has facilities in Waterbury, Williston and Essex. Most of the job losses — 82 — are tied to the closure of Keurig's early production center in Waterbury, Kurrle said. The center was used for manufacturing and research and development, Kurrle said.

Keurig spokeswoman Katie Gilroy confirmed the layoffs, which she said were part of implementing a “new organizational structure as a key step of our integration process.”

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Friday, September 28, 2018

UVM Medical Center Nurses Ratify Three-Year Contract

Posted By on Fri, Sep 28, 2018 at 10:31 AM

Lead negotiator Molly Wallner, right - MARK DAVIS
  • Mark Davis
  • Lead negotiator Molly Wallner, right
University of Vermont Medical Center nurses have ratified a three-year contract that ends a testy labor dispute, their union and the hospital announced Friday morning.

"This has been a long and difficult road for all of us, and we are extremely proud of what we have accomplished," said Molly Wallner, lead negotiator for the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. "We have shown the hospital, our community, and ourselves what we are capable of. "

The agreement gives nurses a 16 percent salary increase over the next three years. Some nurses will get raises of up to 30 percent.

Roughly 1,100 of the 1,800 nurses in the union cast votes, Wallner said, and 70 percent of them favored ratification. Negotiators had reached a tentative agreement on September 19.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Union Claims Howard Center Tried to 'Stifle' Federal Investigation

Posted By on Tue, Sep 25, 2018 at 2:14 PM

Union members in July - FACEBOOK
  • Facebook
  • Union members in July
The union representing Howard Center workers filed a formal complaint Monday accusing management at the social services agency of “coercive statements.”

The AFSCME Local 1674 made the allegations in a signed complaint to the National Labor Relations Board, the federal body that enforces labor law and collective bargaining agreements.

The complaint was filed ahead of contract negotiations scheduled for Tuesday between Howard Center management and union representatives. The union represents more than 700 Howard Center employees.

In a statement, union president Matt Callahan said Howard Center management discouraged staff from cooperating with a board investigation.

“The most serious of these charges addresses attempts by Human Resources to stifle a NLRB investigation into a charge recently filed by a terminated probationary employee,” Callahan wrote. “Here we assert that Human Resources and Management cannot and shall not order Union workers to refuse to cooperate in Labor Board investigations.”

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Friday, August 24, 2018

Lead Labor Negotiator for UVM Medical Center Nurses Resigns

Posted By on Fri, Aug 24, 2018 at 6:46 PM

Julie MacMillan, center, with labor leaders - SARA TABIN
  • Sara Tabin
  • Julie MacMillan, center, with labor leaders
Updated on Monday, August 27, 2018.

Julie MacMillan, the lead negotiator for the University of Vermont Medical Center nurses, stepped down from that role Friday, saying union leaders asked her to resign.

MacMillan announced her decision in a public post on Facebook. MacMillan sat at the bargaining table with hospital administrators throughout lengthy negotiations since July, when the nurses went on strike for 48 hours. They have since been working without a contract.

After the hospital's August 18 offer of a 15 percent pay increase over three years, she "felt that we had not only made great strides, but had potentially reached a compromise," she wrote in the post.

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Monday, July 30, 2018

University of Vermont Medical Center Stops Collecting Nurses' Union Dues

Posted By on Mon, Jul 30, 2018 at 6:45 PM

Deb Snell (left) and Julie MacMillan at a press conference with Sen. Bernie Sanders - FILE: SARA TABIN
  • FIle: Sara Tabin
  • Deb Snell (left) and Julie MacMillan at a press conference with Sen. Bernie Sanders
As the University of Vermont Medical Center and its nurses' union hash out a new contract, the sides continue to operate under the terms of the old pact, which expired July 9.

But at least one policy has changed: The hospital no longer collects union dues from nurses' paychecks.

Under the previous three-year contract, the hospital collected dues automatically from members' biweekly paychecks and passed the funds along to the union. That agreement became "null and void" when the contract expired, according to UVM Medical Center spokesman Michael Carrese.

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