Informed Choice

On April 2, AFT-Vermont, using the working title of “UVM Staff United,” filed a petition with the Vermont Labor Relations Board to represent a group of clerical, technical, and specialized employees.  On April 26, AFT-Vermont filed a second petition to represent a group of professional employees.

Over the last decade, various unions have attempted to organize non-represented staff at UVM; the last organizing drive was in 2014.

We respect our colleagues’ rights to consider organizing and want to ensure they can make a confident and informed decision when they vote. Employees who vote will decide for all employees in the proposed bargaining unit whether they will be represented.This website is designed to provide information that will help employees seeking information.

Below is a series of frequently asked questions and the university’s responses based on our policies and procedures. There are certain questions about how a union would represent its members that only the union can answer. We have also provided a series of questions that you may wish to address with organizers to be sure you understand how you would be represented.   

Voting Update:  The proposed Professional Unit and Clerical/Technical Unit have voted to organize.  See details below:

Questions & Answers

General Interest Questions

If a union is seeking to form a collective bargaining unit, do they have access to my personal information?

Yes. Under applicable labor laws, after a petition is filed but before an election occurs UVM must provide the union with the names, work locations, home addresses and telephone numbers, including mobile numbers and emails to the extent that the university is in possession of such information.

What if I do not want a union to represent me?

Before the election takes place, you should talk with your colleagues and make your position known. You will also be given the opportunity to vote, which is critical to ensuring everyone who would be included in the unit is able to participate in shaping the outcome. Your vote counts!
     However, if an election is held and a union is certified as the exclusive representative for any employee group, the employees in that group have no choice but to be represented by that union. It is not possible to opt out.
     Once a collective bargaining agreement is in place, all the employees in the bargaining unit—including those employees who voted against union representation and those who did not vote at all—will be covered by the terms of the agreement.

If I signed a union card, what does that 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 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 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.

If a union were to win an election, how long would it take to negotiate a first contract?

Negotiation and ratification of a first contract normally take one to two years.

I've heard that contract negotiations always begin with a blank slate and nothing is guaranteed. Is that true?

New contracts begin at square one. Except for rights established by federal and state statute, all terms and conditions of employment, including compensation and benefit plan components, are open for negotiation in a unionized environment. This is especially true when negotiating a first contract with a new bargaining unit. Collective bargaining is a give-and-take process that requires both parties to bargain in good faith.
     Whether current compensation or benefits will stay the same or change cannot be predicted prior to the conclusion of the bargaining process and the adoption of the collectively-bargained contract.

What happens with my wages and benefits while a contract is being negotiated? 

Employees will continue to be paid and receive benefit coverage. Wages will not increase or decrease while a contract is being negotiated. 

What can you tell me about union dues? 

Union dues and initiation fees (if any) are determined by each union, not by the University. The rules for determining how these fees are set and how they may be increased are governed by the applicable union. Some unions charge a fee that represents a percentage of salary, and some charge a flat fee that is the same for all employees, regardless of income.

Which employees are not eligible to organize?

Under the Vermont State Employees Labor Relations Act (SELRA), employees not eligible to join a union include “managerial” and “confidential” employees, as defined by Vermont law. The reason for this is that these employees often have access to confidential, legal or human resources information as part of their work. Additionally, supervisors cannot be in the same bargaining unit as the employees they supervise.

How does a union become recognized?

There are several steps in the recognition process:

  • Generating Interest — A union will first attempt to generate interest among a group or groups of employees who share a "community of interest." A community of interest may be as broad as "all non-represented staff employees at the University of Vermont" or it may be a more limited grouping of employees who perform a similar body of work.
  • Election Petition — If a union can demonstrate that at least 30% of the employees who share a community of interest wish to be represented by a union, the union can petition the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) to hold an election. The union must demonstrate proof of employee interest by submitting union cards (or petitions) signed by at least 30% of the employees in the proposed bargaining unit, as determined by the union. The union must also submit a list of the employee positions in the proposed bargaining unit, even if the union has not been able to obtain signatures from all of those employees. The University must then submit a list of names of the persons holding those positions.
  • Voting Eligibility — Once the signatures and position lists are filed with the VLRB, the University will have a specified period of time, not less than five business days, to respond to the union’s election petition. According to Vermont law, “managerial” and “confidential” employees are not eligible to join a union and thus cannot vote in an election. “Supervisory” employees, while eligible to join a separate union, cannot belong to the same bargaining unit as the employees they supervise. The University has the right to challenge any employee and/or position on the union’s list as "managerial," "confidential," or "supervisory." If the union and the University cannot agree on the list of employees eligible to vote in the election, the VLRB will hold hearings regarding the employees/positions in dispute. The ruling of the VLRB is final and will determine the roster of employees who are eligible to vote in the election. The list of employees eligible to vote will be posted in advance of an election.
  • Election — The VLRB is responsible for holding the election. The election will be held no more than 60 days after the date the petition is filed (though the VLRB has discretion to extend this time period under certain circumstances). If more than 50% of those who vote, vote in favor of union representation, the union wins the election. If the union wins the election, the University must recognize the union as the sole representative for all of the employees in the bargaining unit, whether or not they signed a union card or even voted in the election. For this reason, voting is critical.

What role would the Staff Council play if a union were voted in? 

If a union were voted in, the union would become the sole representative of all employees in the collective bargaining unit for all bargainable issues. In general, bargainable issues are those relating to wages, hours, benefits, and working conditions. Once a union is elected, Staff Council cannot play a role that would usurp or infringe upon the responsibilities of a union.  Staff Council’s role as a governance body would be ended with respect to bargaining unit employees—and it's important to recognize that unions are not part of the governance structure of the University. (They do not have the same access to the Administration, do not appoint representatives to serve on committees of the Board of Trustees, the President's Commissions, search committees, etc.). The current Staff Council website states: "Those staff who belong to UE Local 267 are not permitted to participate in Staff Council at the request of their union." 


For additional information please contact


Workplace Guidelines

I have been receiving emails from an individual at UVM who 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 them. 

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 they are current employees or outside individuals, must abide by rules intended to maintain productivity and safety in the workplace. Those rules allow organizers, whether UVM staff or outside persons, to approach staff only during non-working time, which includes before and after working hours and during customary staff breaks, such as meal times.  If more than one UVM employee is involved in the discussion, whether as an organizer, solicitee, or otherwise, the discussion must take place outside the working time of all employees involved.  The same rules apply when the outreach is done remotely via tools like Microsoft Teams.

Can union organizers speak with staff members on University property?

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

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, Communications, and Network Technology Acceptable 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.

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 or insignia 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.


For additional information please contact

Working Conditions

I'm concerned about job security. Can a union protect me from the threat of job loss through reorganization or downsizing?

No union can guarantee that an employer will not lay off employees. Downsizing or reorganization may occur for any number of reasons and a union typically cannot stop this from occurring. None of UVM’s current collective bargaining agreements prohibit layoffs.
     During a collective bargaining process, guidelines for downsizing, such as priorities for layoffs, severance, reinstatement rights and other matters can be discussed. These guidelines are negotiable and no one can predict how they will look in a contract.

I work in a grant-funded position. Can a union protect my job?

When a grant or a contract expires, the funding for that position is no longer available to the University. The union brings no new money to the table and no one can guarantee the outcome of negotiations.

If I have a grievance with the University over my working conditions, would there be any difference under a union contract?

Non-union University employees are already entitled to have their grievances resolved by the Vermont Labor Relations Board if they are not satisfied with the way the University deals with the matter.  A grievance procedure would likely be a topic of negotiation between a union and the University; it is impossible to know in advance whether the agreed upon grievance procedure would be different than the Grievance Policy for Non-Represented Staff.  Regardless of the grievance procedure ultimately agreed upon, all grievances subject to a collective bargaining agreement must still go to the same Vermont Labor Relations Board for final resolution.  Practically speaking, over the years, a number of University employees, both represented and non-represented, have taken their cases to the Labor Board.

Unionization means dignity and respect to me. If I join the union, I expect I will be treated with dignity and that means a lot to me—maybe even more than the amount of money I receive for my work.

Respect for individual differences and an appreciation of the gifts people bring to the job are part of everyday goodwill and civility. A union cannot guarantee that it can align good manners, respect and trust with individual behaviors. Respect comes from individual human interactions and depends on open and direct communication, competent supervisors, routes of redress that are clear, and opportunities for training and professional development. When UVM staff believe they are not receiving due respect in their work, there are many resources available, including discussing the matter with their supervisor and/or their unit’s HR Rep, contacting Human Resource Services, or utilizing the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). There are many ways employees can express their concerns including in open forums and Staff Council meetings. We are fortunate to have an extraordinarily open process in which every person has the right to participate.

Would a union give me better protection against the possibility of being fired?

Non-unionized University employees already have “just cause” termination protections under the State Employees Labor Relations Act, including the right to have their case heard by the Vermont Labor Relations Board. This is somewhat unique since most non-unionized employees do not have this kind of protection. The “just cause” standard is generally considered to be the best protection for employees since the employer must prove fair and appropriate grounds for discharge. It is unlikely that a union contract would offer any greater protection than the “just cause” standard that is already in place for University employees, as specifically granted by the State Employees Labor Relations Act.

Can a union bargain over who our supervisors are?

No. The selection of supervisors is considered to be a management decision and is not a mandatory subject of collective bargaining. 

Can a union bargain over University budgeting issues or social justice issues?

No. University budgeting, including budgeting priorities and models, are not subjects of collective bargaining.  Other issues that employees may be concerned about, including organization of the University and various social justice issues, are not subjects of collective bargaining.

I've worked out a flex schedule with my supervisor. Will I lose that option if I join a union?

Currently, a manager or supervisor may, at his/her discretion, develop an alternative work schedule with an individual employee in accordance with University guidelines. There is no entitlement to such a schedule and the decision by the manager or supervisor is not grievable. Should you become a member of a collective bargaining unit, alternative work schedules may be a topic of collective bargaining, depending on the union’s platform for negotiations, and therefore could be eliminated as an option for union members.  All employees in the bargaining unit, and all supervisors of employees in the bargaining unit, will need to comply with the contract and will not be allowed to make special arrangements that fail to conform to the specific terms of the contract.


For additional information please contact

Questions for Unions

During an organizing campaign, union representatives will present reasons why they believe joining a collective bargaining unit will benefit non-represented employees. Although the University can and will provide information regarding employee, union and employer rights and responsibilities under Vermont law, there are certain questions about how a union will represent its members that only the union can answer. Questions you may wish to address to any organizing union include:

How much does it cost?

  • How much are the union dues?
  • Can my dues be increased?
  • Will I have to pay an initiation fee to join the union?
  • Do all union members pay the same dollar amount in dues or do some members pay more than others?
  • Can the union set limits on the minimum or maximum amount of my pay that is subject to union dues?
  • If the union wins the election, will I be required to join the union and pay dues or can I choose not to pay dues?
  • What happens if I choose not to pay dues?

Where do my dues go?

  • What percentage of my dues supports the local union?
  • The national union?
  • Will the union use a portion of my dues to support political campaigns, lobbying efforts, or other organizations?
  • If so, what are they?
  • Who determines the union's budget and how my dues money is spent?

Who will represent my interests?

  • How does the union choose a collective bargaining team?
  • How are the union representatives (stewards) and officers chosen?
  • Who decides the platform and issue for collective bargaining?
  • Does the majority rule?
  • If so, how will my issues be heard if they are different from the majority interests?
  • Who votes to ratify (approve) the union contract?
  • If I choose not to pay dues, will the union represent me if I have a grievance?
  • If I choose not to pay dues, will I be able to deal directly with my supervisor regarding my working conditions?
  • If I have a grievance with the University, is the union informed even if I want to keep the matter private?

What are the union's priorities?

  • What factors are considered a priority when the union bargains for salary increases, across-the-board increases, pay for performance (merit increases), job market-based increases, employee length of service, and/or other factors?
  • Does seniority (length of service) always rule? In competition for job openings? Scheduling vacation leave? Managing potential layoffs? Selection for overtime assignments?
  • Can the union file a grievance on my behalf without my permission?
  • Is any part of the local union’s collective bargaining agenda set by the national union?

Salary and Benefits Information

Total Compensation: The Value of UVM Benefits

UVM employment provides an impressive array of benefits in recognition of the fact that wages and salaries are only part of the total compensation picture. Depending on the choices staff make, benefits enhance their compensation substantially. The University offers these benefits and pays the lion’s share to attract and retain a talented and engaged workforce. Many individuals choose to work at UVM because of the generous benefits that are offered to them. Tuition remission, the retirement savings plan, and the health insurance plan are especially notable.

Depending on the benefit choices each person makes, additional costs are paid by the University or shared with the individual:

  • Medical coverage is paid for largely by the University, and the premium paid by the employee is based on a percentage of salary. The percentage is set by income-sensitive bands.
  • Dental, life, and long-term disability insurance are shared expenses depending on the choices made by the individual.
  • UVM contributes 10% of an employee’s base salary to retirement savings when an employee contributes as little as 2%.
  • Tuition remission for employees and their dependents are paid for by UVM.
  • Social Security and Medicare taxes are shared 50-50 by law.
  • State unemployment and workers’ compensation are paid for by UVM.

Considering the value of UVM’s benefits, it makes good sense to maximize your own benefits package and increase your total compensation. For more information, make an appointment with a benefits advisor in Human Resource Services by calling 802-656-3150 or emailing 

What is UVM's compensation philosophy?

Recruiting and retaining high quality faculty and staff, and assessing and rewarding their performance, are essential elements of our ability to succeed as a quality university. UVM is committed to compensating employees competitively, equitably, and based on performance.  Compensation is determined based on the following factors: Performance, Contribution to University goals, Market competitiveness, Equity. 

Compensation is viewed as a package: salary plus benefits. This philosophy provides a predictable framework for evaluating performance, providing compensation, and creating the educational and working environment we desire and grounded in the principles of Our Common Ground: Respect, Integrity, Innovation, Openness, Justice, and Responsibility.

How do salary increases work?

Typically, every employee who is not represented by a bargaining unit  is entitled to receive the "across-the-board" salary increase, if performance has been satisfactory. Adjustments to salaries may be made to address changes in the market, equity, and merit. 

Human Resource Services staff monitor all staff fiscal year increases to ensure that each non-represented staff member (who has not been advised of poor performance) receives the across-the-board increase. The Financial Analysis and Budgeting Office monitors salary budgets to ensure that the full UVM salary budget is spent on staff fiscal year increases.

Can a union negotiate salary increases? If so, what might the outcome be?

Because a union brings no new salary money to the bargaining table, all salary increases must come from University resources. Salary increases are among the many items that would be negotiated between a union and the University. Like anything else on the bargaining table, no one can say how these negotiations would turn out.

Can a union guarantee wage and salary increases in excess of what the University has been able to provide to date?

No. Neither the University nor the union can guarantee the outcome of salary negotiations.

What happens to benefits with a union?

Benefits, like salary, are subject to negotiation. Neither the University nor the union can guarantee the outcome of these negotiations. During collective bargaining for a first contract, all terms and conditions of employment, including benefits, are on the table for negotiation and are subject to change.

Do unionized organizations provide better salary or benefits than those without unions?

Whether a unionized employer has better benefits can only be determined by comparing them head to head and point by point. Negotiations concerning salary and benefits will require a give and take of resources which may add up to fewer benefits with higher salaries or vice versa. Balancing the total compensation package with a finite source of funds is the essence of negotiations. No one can predict the outcome in advance of the actual negotiations.

How does the University's benefits package compare with those offered by other Vermont employers?

The total array of UVM benefits is highly competitive. For example, University employees’ cost contribution for medical insurance is based on a salary sensitive premium schedule, whereas most employers have a flat % that applies evenly to all employees, regardless of salary.  UVM has consistently offered some of the best medical insurance coverage available to Vermonters.  The University also offers tuition remission for employees and their dependent children, free basic dental coverage (with a modest cost to upgrade to high option coverage), a generous employer contribution to individuals' retirement savings plans, unlimited accrual of sick leave, very generous time-off policy, and post-retirement benefits, including access to health insurance coverage. All of these benefits are part of the University’s total compensation package, when taken as a whole, is one of the best offered by Vermont employers.

UVM's Benefits Package for Non-Represented Employees

Non-Represented vs. Represented Staff Benefits

Health Insurance

The University health insurance plan provides complete hospital and medical coverage with employee premiums based on base pay. The copay is $10 for an office visit to a primary care provider and $20 for a visit to a specialist.

Prescription Drugs

After a $100 deductible, a three-tiered [generic/preferred/non-preferred] prescription drug plan provides low-cost prescription coverage for generic drugs, with flexibility for preferred and non-preferred drug coverage.  

Dental Insurance

Base dental insurance coverage for individuals and their families is provided at no cost. Staff may elect to increase their coverage limits by selecting the high option plan and paying the difference between the base and high option plan

Vision and Hearing Aids

A voluntary vision benefit is offered that pays for an annual vision exam and provides allowances and discounts to purchase vision supplies such as frames, lenses and contacts.   In addition, UVM has programs that offer discounts for the purchase of hearing aids.

Flexible Spending Accounts

A flexible spending account allows staff to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for qualified unreimbursed medical or dental expenses as well as qualifying dependent care expenses. For 2021, an unlimited amount of unspent money may be rolled over into the next calendar year. Setting aside income in a flexible spending account may result in substantial tax savings.

Retirement Savings Plan

After three years of continuous service, staff are eligible for University contributions to their retirement savings plans. Staff are immediately eligible for the UVM contribution if their immediate previous employer was a non-profit or government employer and they had a vested interest in that employer’s retirement plan.  The University contributes 10% of an employee's base salary in response to a minimal 2% contribution from the employee. All contributions are fully vested immediately. A new employee can qualify for the employer contribution immediately if they are coming from a non-profit or governmental employer and had been participating in that employer’s retirement plan

Short and Long-Term Disability Coverage

UVM offers a voluntary short term disability plan to some employee groups.  If elected, this benefit will pay 70% of pre-disability income for up to six months while disability status remains.  The University’s long-term disability insurance (LTD) plan will pay 60% or 70% of an individual's monthly base salary (depending on the plan/premium selected) should an individual become totally and permanently disabled.  If an employee qualifies for LTD and there was a gap in pay during their six month waiting period to qualify for LTD, they will also receive retroactive employer paid short term disability benefits.

Group Life Insurance

UVM provides an employer paid basic life insurance policy to all employees.  All full-time staff are eligible to enroll in the University’s supplemental group term life insurance plan. There are many different options available for individuals, including coverage for spouses and children.

Post-Retirement Benefits

Based on years of service and age, post-retirement benefits include tuition remission and the continuation of medical, dental and life insurance benefits.

Paid Medical Leave

UVM allows for unlimited accumulation of paid medical leave days at the rate of one day per month of service.

Paid Vacation

The amount of vacation provided depends on length of service and type of employee. Non-exempt employees earn between 10 and 25 days per year with additional personal days. Exempt employees earn between 17 and 27 days per year, with two personal days added upon reaching the 20th year of service.

Paid Holidays

The University annually recognizes 13 paid holidays and three paid days off for winter break, including two paid cultural holidays which are individually designated by employees.

Tuition Remission

Full-time staff members who enroll in UVM courses for credit or audit may request a waiver of the tuition charge up to a maximum of 15 credits per academic year. A certified spouse or civil union partner of an active employee may audit up to a maximum of 15 audit hours per year. After staff complete one year of full-time employment, their dependent children who otherwise meet the eligibility requirements and who are enrolled as a full-time undergraduate degree are eligible for full tuition remission at UVM or a Vermont State College.

Wellness and Employee Assistance Programs

The University offers a full-featured wellness program that includes health and wellness coaching, and variety of work/life resources. In addition, all employees have access to free and confidential counseling through the University’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) provided through Invest EAP

Telework and Alternative Work Schedules

Telework, flexible scheduling, job sharing, work-at-home and other alternative work schedules are an option for many employees, with the approval of their supervisor or department head.

Make an informed choice and VOTE!

We value your thoughts and questions. If you have a question that is not addressed on this site, email us.