By Guy Page
The already-influential state employees’ union hopes its recent decision to join the AFL-CIO umbrella labor organization will increase its legislative pull.
As a result of the decision taken recently by the governing board, “VSEA will be able to grow its already significant power to increase wages, improve and protect benefits and address critical working conditions. Now that VSEA is part of the AFL-CIO, the likelihood increases that the VT Legislature will finally pass the PRO-ACT that has been held up for years, dramatically improving the ability for the VSEA to grow its membership including bringing currently unorganized workers into the labor movement and into the VSEA, potentially thwarting management’s consistent drum beat toward the privatization of public sector jobs.”
The Vermont Protecting the Right to Organize “PRO” Act (H. 219/ S.102) is legislation to improve worker protections for organizing and collective bargaining through ending at-will employment, making it easier for workers in the public sector to form unions, expanding collective bargaining rights to historically marginalized forms of labor, and protecting workers’ freedom of speech by preventing employers from forcing employees to attend captive audience meetings, according to passvtproact.com.
During the legislative session, some critics of required ‘diversity and equity’ training expressed hope that the PRO Act would ban forced attendance at workforce diversity training.
Feds approve second farm disaster declaration of 2023
2023 will not be remembered fondly by Vermont farmers, if federal emergency declarations are any yardstick.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has approved Governor Phil Scott’s request for a Secretarial Disaster Designation in response to July’s historic flooding, which impacted thousands of acres of Vermont farmland. The declaration covering all 14 counties comes on the heels of a widespread frost event in May, and is the second disaster declaration, emphasizing the difficult growing season that Vermont’s farmers have faced this year.
This Secretarial disaster designation from USDA makes farm operators across Vermont eligible to be considered for Farm Service Agency (FSA) emergency loans, provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of a Secretarial disaster declaration to apply for emergency loans.
UVM research surpasses $250 million, again
Research at UVM funded by federal and state agencies, corporate partners, foundations, and individual donors reached nearly $263 million in the fiscal year ending June 20, 2023 – only the second time the figure has surpassed a quarter-billion dollars, a UVM statement said. Two years ago, UVM broke through for the first time to be ranked among the nation’s 100 largest public research universities by total research support according to the National Science Foundation (NSF). Since 2019, the university has grown its research footprint, especially in the area of healthy living in a healthy environment.
$10 million unleashed for mobile home park water work
Governor Phil Scott and the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR) announced Sept. 5 that approximately $10 million in funding is available to help manufactured housing communities in Vermont address water infrastructure issues. This is the second round of funding allocated by the State using American Rescue Plan (ARPA) funding. Communities are invited to apply by October 17.
Examples of eligible activities include assessing communities’ water infrastructure needs, designing and permitting projects to address these necessities, connecting to municipal water or wastewater, retrofitting stormwater practices, installing drinking water or wastewater projects, and more.
|Vermont lawsuit against LNG by rail effective|
A 2020 federal rule that would have permitted the shipment of liquefied natural gas by rail has been put on hold by the Biden Administration.
“The Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says no one has ever even ordered one of the specially fortified rail cars that would have been required to ship LNG, and several hundred of those cars that would each take at least 18 months to build would likely be needed to make the idea viable,” reports The Hill.
Vermont and more than a dozen other states had sued after the rule was adopted.
The vast majority of LNG is currently shipped by pipeline.
Federal regulators said the East Palestine, Ohio trainwreck in February highlighted the need to investigate the transportation of hazardous materials by rail. Although that train did not carry LNG, there were five cars developed under higher safety standards that were “not punctured in the derailment,” according to the federal rulemaking notice. – reported by Journal-Opinion