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Vermont Senate unanimously passes amendment ensuring workers' right to unionize

In front of a Ben and Jerry's ice cream shop, a man with white hair and glasses speaks into a microphone. A group of people hold signs in the background.
Lisa Rathke/AP
Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks outside Ben & Jerry’s retail shop in Burlington after its employees petitioned to unionize in April 2023.

The Vermont Senate on Tuesday gave its unanimous approval to a proposed constitutional amendment that protects the rights of Vermont workers to organize and collectively bargain.

The Senate vote is the first step in the constitutional process for this proposed amendment.

Backers of the proposal said it ensures the rights of workers are not in any way scaled back by future legislatures or the federal government.

Senate President Pro Tem Phil Baruth, A Democrat/Progressive from Chittenden, told his colleagues that it's critical to "enshrine" the authority of labor unions in Vermont at a time when they are under siege in several other states.

"When I look at this particular amendment, I look on it very much as I did the amendment we made to the constitution in terms of reproductive rights. We are strengthening what we have, and we're protecting it from going away, which can happen in the legislative blink of an eye."

Windham Sen. Wendy Harrison, a Democrat, told her colleagues that there are currently efforts in a number of states to undermine the authority of labor unions and to limit the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain their contracts.

"This is not an imaginary threat," Harrison said. "There is a growing movement in legislatures, the courts and executive branches across the country which threatens the choices of workers."

The measure now goes to the House. If the House passes it this session, it must be approved by the Senate and House in the 2025 session before it goes before voters in 2026.

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Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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