University of Vermont

Informed Choice at The University of Vermont

Workplace Guidelines

Workplace Guidelines

I have been receiving e-mails from an individual at UVM whom I don't know. This individual has been sharing their thoughts about a union, and I'd rather not receive them. Is there something that the University can do to stop these e-mails?

While it is inappropriate for individuals to use official University listservs to send e-mail that is personal in nature, there is no policy that prohibits an employee from sending personal e-mail to individual recipients by using a list they have created for this purpose. These messages (which reflect the opinion of the sender and not necessarily that of the University), are protected by the right of free speech. You are free of course to delete such e-mails without reading them, and the University encourages its staff to reply to senders and ask them to stop sending you e-mail of a personal nature, if you prefer not to receive it. Although there is a prohibition on using University resources for political activities, union organizing is protected activity that is not considered political in nature.

[Photo from UVM Campus]

What rights do I have if union representatives call me?

You are free to speak with or refuse to speak with union representatives who visit or call you. There is no law or policy that requires employees to speak with union representatives, and you are free to respond accordingly.

Are union organizers allowed to approach non-represented staff members during regular work hours?

Union organizers, whether staff or outside individuals, must abide by rules intended to maintain order and safety in the workplace. Those rules allow organizers, whether UVM staff or outside persons, to approach staff only before and after working hours and during customary staff breaks, such as meal times.

May union organizers speak with a staff member during regular work hours if the organizers first ask if she or he has a minute to talk?

The answer is no, because, as stated above, union organizers may only speak with staff members before or after working hours and during customary break times. This rule is intended to avoid disruption of normal University business and operations. Application of the rules does not depend on whether a staff member is willing to speak with an organizer.

Can union organizers speak with staff members on University property?

They may do so on University property that is open to the general public. Organizers are not allowed to address staff members in restricted access areas, such as laboratory spaces.

Are staff members required to speak with union organizers?

There is no obligation to speak with union organizers. If you do not wish to speak to union representatives, you have the right to ask them not to approach you. This includes calls or visits outside of regular work hours, whether in your office or on campus or at home.

Are UVM employees who are interested in organizing allowed to use University office supplies, photocopiers, etc. to promote or support the organizing effort?

University office supplies and office machines, including copiers, are to be used for University business purposes only. Employees who wish to use the fee-for-service photocopiers located in the UVM Print & Mail Center or in the libraries may do so, as long as the employee pays the appropriate fees. Use of other University communications media and resources is covered by applicable UVM policies, such as the Computer and Network Use Policy.

Are UVM staff members involved in organizing efforts provided with release time to help enlist support?

Employees are not provided release time or permitted to use work time to engage in organizing activities. UVM staff who wish to participate in the organizing effort may do so on personal time, such as during scheduled breaks, lunch periods or before or after work hours.

If I agree to sign a union card, what does it mean?

Carefully read any card you are asked to sign. As with any document, you'll want to determine the nature of the promise you are making with your signature. In general, a signature on a union card means that you support the union's call for an election, if and when the union petitions the Vermont Labor Relations Board to hold an election. Whether or not you sign the card distributed by the union, you will be entitled to vote yes or no for union representation, if the Labor Board determines that you are a member of a unit eligible to vote.

Your signature may also mean that you have agreed to join the union and pay dues, should the union win an election. The terms under which you may be required to remain a union member and pay dues or a collective bargaining service fee will depend on factors such as the wording on the card you sign, the contract the union negotiates with the University, and/or the union constitution.

Are employees allowed to wear buttons, t-shirts or other gear expressing support of a union in the workplace?

The rules that apply to employee dress and symbolic communication regarding union matters are the same rules that apply to communication regarding other issues. In general, employees are permitted to wear buttons to support or oppose a unionizing effort. If you work in an area where a t-shirt is considered appropriate dress, then a t-shirt is acceptable, as long as the language is not obscene, discriminatory or otherwise unlawful speech. If you work in an office where there are professional dress expectations, and a t-shirt is not considered appropriate dress, you will not be permitted to wear a union t-shirt during work hours, regardless of the content of the message.

I am a supervisor in a busy office. Do I need to give my staff release time to participate in the election or are staff required to use their own accrued leave time?

Employees are entitled by law to engage in concerted activity for their mutual gain and protection, so participation in the election would qualify as protected activity under state and federal law. Supervisors should do their best to accommodate employee requests for time out to vote. If the requested time is not possible due to the operational needs of the department, a supervisor may allow employees to vote at an alternative time during the two-day election. 

Although voting is by secret ballot and supervisors may not inquire how an employee intends to vote, employees will be expected to inform their supervisor when they leave their workplace to cast their ballot. Supervisors in departments where continuous coverage is required in order to serve the needs of our students or for reasons of public safety may require employees to stagger their time out of the office in order to vote. Since the election will be held over a two-day period, most departments will be able to easily accommodate employee participation in the election. Whether employees are for or against forming a new bargaining unit, voting in the election is the only way for an employee's choice to be counted. It is in the best interest of everyone for as many eligible employees as possible to participate in the election.

For additional information please contact Caryn Gronvold (656-8685) in Human Resource Services. The University's General Counsel Office is also available to answer questions (656-8585).