Astronomy Picture of the Day

Friday, October 7, 2011

Promises & Contracts

Promises are funny things.
Sometimes you promise something and you just never do it.
You are human. Sometimes you over-promise,
or intend to, but lose steam.

Contracts, the legal kind,
were intended to make you KEEP a promise,
did I get that right?

And contracts say, you get this and give up that and they get that and give up something
in reciprocity, agreed to by both parties,


Let my Monkton Chronicles blog
share a letter I got supporting the Vermont State Employees,
recently judged by some to be greedy
when requesting contracted benefits.
These state employees have a side that
needs airing before the public judging without all the facts.
(too late, gov said his blood boiled. sorry that is a lawyering term:
lesson 2 don't let it scare you when someone is boiling, we are taught to back down to a pot of boiling water. people do not burn you unless you let them).
I am a Vermont State employee and member of the VSEA.
I hope my audience will say a silent solidarity
for my comrades who have been displaced,
they are heroes and their lives permanently altered.

Dear VSEA Members,

You have undoubtedly read about the Grievance filed on behalf of employees who worked during and in the aftermath of the storm. Many of you have reached out personally to VSEA to get the facts and share your opinions, positive and negative. We thank you for that and respect all of your views. Before anyone rushes to judgment, it is important to know the full story of what happened here. Unfortunately, media sound-bytes don’t provide that.

This is not a story about greedy employees, as the Administration is suggesting. It’s about employees who were called in during the storm to evacuate patients from the State Hospital, and safely escort them to locations all over the State, some as far as 135 miles from the Hospital. Employees are still staying in motels, far from their homes and families, for days at a time, to continue caring for those patients. This is a story about employees who went into the Waterbury Complex after the storm, in a hazardous and toxic environment, and retrieved equipment, computers, information, and other items vital to restoring state functions.

What seems to have been lost in all of this is that employees enrolled in the Grievance honorably fulfilled their obligations under our collective bargaining agreements under difficult circumstances, in many cases, heroically. They did exactly what they had to do, as they were directed to do, with commitment, as required by the collective bargaining agreement. But after reaping the benefit of their service, the Administration, instead of honoring its contractual commitments to the employees, has instead chosen to publicly denigrate them in the mainstream news.

What most people don’t know is that a union has a “duty of fair representation” to its members. VSEA, itself, violates the law if it allows an employer to breach a collective bargaining agreement to the detriment of our members. Not filing a grievance is simply not an option, without violating the law ourselves.

Something else that most people don’t know is that VSEA reached out to the Administration the very first business day immediately after the storm. We offered our assistance at multiple levels. We discussed that the contracts provide the flexibility to relocate employees to new work stations without having to pay them any additional compensation. We wanted employees to return to work as soon as possible at no added burden to the taxpayers. To VSEA’s dismay, the Administration then failed to use that flexibility to the extent available to it.

On September 7, the Administration asked VSEA to waive additional compensation that employees had already earned in the days following the storm. We advised the Administration that, legally, we cannot give up compensation that employees have already worked for, and earned, under our contracts. To do so would violate our duty of fair representation to our members, and subject us to legal liability. We offered other assistance going forward.

The employees fulfilled their obligations under the contract. They deserve the same respect in return. If it was the Administration’s intent to cast these employees in a negative light simply for exercising their legal rights, it has “succeeded” among some people.

No one should be vilified for exercising their lawful rights. VSEA cannot, and will not violate our legal duty to represent our members when the Administration violates our contracts. We also remain, as always, willing to fully explore and work toward ways to resolve contract issues in a fair and equitable manner.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

In Solidarity,


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