Janus vs AFSCME implications, membership, UVMMC nurses

Dear colleagues,

Today, three things: the implications of the Janus decision, an invitation to membership with comments about the crucial role of the CAC, and some news about one of our fellow unions, the UVM Medical Center nurses. 

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court announced their decision in the Janus vs. AFSCME case, and as expected the conservative five person majority has broken with precedent and ended the practice of charging agency fees for union services to individuals represented by public unions. 

I will start with the mechanical side of this issue for UVM faculty. United Academics has made it clear to UVM’s administration that the practice of charging non-union members agency fees should cease immediately, and if payroll processing issues cause anyone to be charged an agency fee after today they should be reimbursed. We are cooperating with the administration on this and expect things to go reasonably smoothly. Fee payers whose next paycheck is due in September will not notice anything until then. Ten and twelve month fee payers who are still being paid for their regular workload, nine month fee payers who chose to have their pay broken up over 12 months, and any part time fee payers who are teaching may be impacted in their summer paychecks. Please feel free to contact me or contract@unitedacademics.org if you have questions or concerns. 

In the near term, changes in how UA operates should be minimal. (We have already adjusted our budget in anticipation of Janus.) We will continue to negotiate and support contracts that maintain professionalism and academic values at UVM. Some states have passed laws allowing public unions to charge non-members for services like grievance support, but I for one would be reluctant to go down that road. The problem with making the union into a fee-for-service operation is similar to the problem with the underlying logic of the Janus decision itself: experience has convinced me some things just

work better when done collectively (even if there’s some democratic disagreement involved, or a bit of a free rider problem). 

In this context, I will reiterate my invitation to fee payers, sent out earlier this month, to consider reasons why joining the union might make sense, and I ask all of you to consider talking to your colleagues about the value of UA. Now’s the time; no point in putting it off. And I’ll add another bit of information: If you’ve never felt a need to make use of the CAC, you may have the CAC to thank for that fact itself. Over the decade and a half of its existence on campus, administrators have gotten the message that they need to follow rules, and be fair, transparent, and professional. Believe me, it was not always so. That said, the Contract Administration Committee fields over 100 inquiries a year and routinely follows about a half a dozen cases at a time. The vast majority of CAC issues and questions are resolved collaboratively without filing any formal grievance. But every year the CAC handles a handful of complex and difficult issues in ways that benefit both individual faculty and, by clarifying rules and upholding the contract, all faculty. 

Finally, you may have heard that UVM Medical Center’s nurses are in difficult negotiations for their contract, and several of you have contacted me asking what UA is doing to support them. They have some very compelling data showing how their below-industry-norms-pay causes staffing problems that negatively impact patient care. I’ve written in the past about the value to UVM faculty of supporting other unions, particularly in our own neighborhood. The UA Executive Council recently passed a resolution in support of the UVMMC nurses, and noted that their efforts to keep the hospital’s resources in patient care mirrors our efforts to keep UVM’s resources focused on academics. Please consider signing a petition of support by clicking here. (More information can be found in the links at the end of this message.)

Tom Streeter

President, United Academics



P.S. Information about the nurses’ contract negotiations can be found here: 




For background on executive pay at UVMMC: https://vtdigger.org/2017/08/21/pay-ceo-uvm-health-network-exceeds-2-million/.  And for some not-so-ancient history of problems on the executive level at our university hospital: https://www.rutlandherald.com/articles/hospitals-ex-chief-gets-jail/

United Academics is the union of full- and part-time faculty at University of Vermont, with over 700 members from departments and colleges across the campus. We represent faculty in negotiating and upholding contracts, and we advocate for fair labor practices within and beyond our academic community. We are a member-led union­ committed to academic freedom, shared governance, social and environmental justice.

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