Howard Center Workers take their fight to the Board of Directors 04/09/2014

Burlington, VT – In yet another sign that Local 1674 is becoming stronger by the day, AFSCME members working at Vermont’s Howard Center turned out in force last night for a meeting of the organization’s board of directors.
Backed by more than a dozen community supporters and members of other AFSCME Locals, a group of about 45 Howard Center workers attended the meeting in the hope of gaining support from the board in the union’s ongoing effort to secure a legislatively-mandated pay increase that Howard Center management refuses to pass on to the workers.  The three-percent increase was due last November but the workers have yet to receive a single penny more in their paychecks.  Even worse, management is attempting to credit a previously negotiated 1.6 percent pay increase towards the three percent owed to workers.

Local 1674 member Allison Segar speaks to the Howard Center Board of Directors as members and supporters stand in solidarity. 

The matter is now the subject of a lawsuit filed last month by AFSCME in Chittenden County Superior Court.   While the board refused a request by AFSCME to have a union staff member address the board, they did allow three Howard Center workers to speak about the important work they do and the difficulty they are having supporting themselves and their families on the low wages they earn.  Substance Abuse Clinician Connie Norona, Counselor Allison Segar and Residential Instructor Aaron Marcotte all spoke eloquently and passionately before the board.  The more than 60 AFSCME members and community supporters in attendance stood in solidarity for the duration of their remarks. 

Shortly after the meeting was convened, the board called for an executive session, presumably to discuss the lawsuit and other legal matters with their outside legal counsel.  AFSCME members were ushered to a small nearby room while the board met privately.  Led by supporters from the Vermont Workers Center, the group spent the time signing labor songs and shouting rally chants loud enough for the board members to hear down the hall.
Last night’s meeting was the latest action in a campaign that began last summer to revitalize Local 1674 and encourage more workers to become active, dues-paying members of the local.  Since the campaign began, the amount of dues-paying members has nearly tripled.  In addition to the lawsuit, Council 93 has also filed two Unfair Labor Practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board.   The Council recently completed a two-week paid radio campaign calling attention to the lawsuit and other issues the union has with Howard Center management. .