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Vermont Legislature
Follow VPR's statehouse coverage, featuring Pete Hirschfeld and Bob Kinzel in our Statehouse Bureau in Montpelier.

House Votes To Require Union Fees For Teachers, Municipal Workers

Under a bill approved 85-to-53 by the Vermont House on Friday, teachers and municipal employees who are not members of a union would still have to pay agency fees.

Supporters argue that Vermont’s municipal and educational institutions have been unionized for years, and they say new hires have known they’re accepting a position in a union shop.

Speaking on the House floor after the vote Friday, Rep. Jean O’Sullivan, D-Burlington, said those workers have always accepted their benefits while expecting their workplace rights to be upheld.

“Many have referred to the high cost of union dues," O'Sullivan said, addressing the bill's critics. "They’ve talked about a windfall coming to the unions, and they’re right. Every union member is finally getting a break after all of those years of paying for everybody else. I supported fair share because it’s time.”

But opponents objected to the measure, calling it government overreach. Rep. Anne Donahue, R-Northfield, said agency fees should be left to the collective bargaining process.

“It is a gross abuse of government power to force payments to a private organization by people who do not wish to join," Donahue said. "I will not participate in that abuse.”

House lawmakers voted against amendments to reform collective bargaining, ban teacher strikes and require school boards to give up their right to impose contracts.

The bill also calls for a study of how mandatory union fees might affect teacher pay.

Kirk is a reporter for the NPR member station in Boston, WGBH, where he covers higher education, connecting the dots between post-secondary education and the economy, national security, jobs and global competitiveness. Kirk has been a reporter with Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis.; a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad. Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway. You can follow Kirk on Twitter @KirkCarapezza.
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