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September 01, 2011

UVM Employees and Allies Threaten "Takeover" If Labor Contract Isn't Settled

UVM A battle is brewing at the University of Vermont between administrators and unionized maintenance workers who say they're "pissed off" about the golden parachutes and salaries handed out to former President Dan Fogel and other university leaders.

At a rally outside the Waterman administration building Wednesday, the head of UVM's maintenance union told 100 supporters that, "The people in this community are pissed off too."

"The trustees have become morally bankrupt," said Carmyn Stanko, an electrician and president of United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 267. "Giving out millions of dollars to Fogel and their friends while sticking it to the workers."

With talks stalled on a new three-year labor contract, some at the rally threatened that UVM students, faculty and staff would "take over" the Waterman building if they didn't get a fair contract, meaning stage a sit-in. The sides were scheduled to meet with a federal mediator today in hopes of breaking the impasse.

UVM is asking its lowest-paid workers to contribute more toward health insurance premiums and accept a salary increase that works out to 1 percent stretched over three years. Meanwhile, union leaders expressed outrage at the $600,000 and $500,000 severance packages afforded to Fogel and another top university official, and the combined $500,000 salaries paid the new dean of the business school and his professor wife.

"Is that the kind of university we want?" Stanko asked the crowd.

"Hell, no!" was the immediate response.

Philip Baruth, a UVM English professor and state senator representing Chittenden County, told the crowd that if UVM administration didn't offer a fair labor contract, "This building will be taken over. And, that's a promise." Baruth said he was ashamed of the university for its attempts to squeeze the workers at the bottom of the pay scale while rewarding those at the top.

"There is a deliberate attempt to increase the gap between the highest paid workers and the lowest paid workers," said Baruth. "That's what is wrong with America and that's what is now happening here."

Baruth then got the crowd chanting, "Shame! Shame! Shame!" for a couple of minutes — a chant used by union workers and their allies in Wisconsin earlier this year against Gov. Scott Walker. Baruth suggested that people continue to chant "Shame!" whenever they pass Waterman or a UVM administrator.

That might be a bit awkward for Fogel, who is still on campus with an office in the Old Mill Building. He is planning to return to teaching in 2013. UVM recently paid about $5200 to renovate the office for the former president.

Stanko ticked off the recent six-figure golden parachutes handed to Fogel and Michael Schultz, a top administrator who had been involved in a relationship with Fogel's wife, as examples of how out of touch the university was with average Vermonters.

Fogel resigned earlier this month just weeks before the release of an internal investigation into his wife's activities. The report concluded that Fogel and his wife, Rachel Kahn-Fogel, contributed to low morale among UVM's development and fundraising staff as a result of personnel decisions but did not violate any state laws or UVM rules. Former UVM Provost John Bramley has since replaced Fogel as interim president.

The contract offered by UVM would also overhaul retiree health care benefits. If workers don't take early retirement by July 1 of next year (which means being at least 55 with at least 25 years of service in most cases), then they'll see their retirement benefits skyrocket. Under current rules, retirees pay the same amount toward health insurance premiums as employees. Depending on a person's salary, that can be anywhere from 3 to 8 percent of an employee's paycheck.

For Joe Stout, an electrician and member of the UE Local 267 contract bargaining team, the change means his health insurance premiums would jump from $190 a month to cover his entire family, to $800 a month just to cover himself and his wife.

IMG_2849 "That means I'll be working here until I'm 65 or 67, rather than 55 as I had planned — as many of us had planned," said Stout. Stout and Stanko said the physically demanding jobs of the maintenance crews make it hard for people to keep working until 67.

Stanko (pictured, second from left) also urged people to vote out of office next year the legislative trustees who approved Fogel's severance package while pushing for more sacrifice from the lower-paid workers.

Stout told the crowd that five years ago there were 130 people at UVM who earned $100,000 or more. Today, that figure is 360. Meanwhile, more than 1600 workers earn less than $45,000.

"They shouldn't be taking the money out of our pockets," said Stout to rousing cheers. "They should be taking it out of their pockets."

Stout and others pointed out after the rally that while students, professors and administrators didn't show up on Monday at UVM because classes were cancelled, UE worker had to show up in order to keep the buildings running.

In response to the rally, a top UVM official said he understands the union's concerns but said the administration is looking out for the long-term stability of the university.

"As we worked to develop a balanced FY 12 budget proposal for the board of trustees this spring, we were confronted once again with the need to significantly increase financial aid, in this case by $11 million (14.8 percent)," said Richard Cate, UVM's vice president for finance and administration. "Meanwhile the total general fund expense budget increase was less than 1 percent,"

In order to balance its budget, Cate said UVM relied primarily on three strategies: a $3 million reduction in departmental operating budgets; a 0 percent salary increase for all faculty and staff; and a 5.8 percent increase in tuition.

"The administration understands the concerns raised by UE members but the financial stability of the university is in their best interests as well as the institution generally," said Cate. "We are hopeful that the bargaining process will ultimately result in a contract that fairly balances the needs of staff with the financial realities confronting the university."

About time someone said enough is enough.
Most people don't in a life time what these guys make to leave.

What is not being said throughout the USA is elite CEO's and their boards across all sectors; health care, education, business are chanting the same self-serving phrase concering exhorbitant wages, "We must remain competitive". The reality is that research shows that high salary does not guarantee competent executives, teachers, medical providers, etc. Passion and appreciation is what drives productivity.
The irony is that these same leaders do not understand that they are modeling for a next generation and they are doing a poor job. Dan Fogel did many good things, however his rationale for his buyout is a joke!
Exhorbitant salaries and buyouts need a downward spiral. Hopefully, someone will have the courage to initiate the trend.

Stanko is absolutely right. Fogel comes in hires a lot of expensive vice presidents, the trustees spend hundreds of thousand for searches to hire these guys. He isn't even aware o what his wife is up to much less the university and he gets a big payoff while union workers are supposed to make do with less. This is so sickening these fat cats aren't worth a quarter of what they are paid and the maintenance workers are worth a lot more than they are paid. Why do we allow this in Vermont?

I'm happy to see people speaking out about this. Clearly a lot of staff and faculty and students want fairness at UVM. Unfortunately, the board and the school's administrative coterie do not. Their priorities are, unsurprisingly, on absurd notions of "competitiveness" at the steep expense of school morale. Time for regular folks to step in here, even if that means through unions.

Might be a good time to have a sitin at City Hall to protest Bob Kiss and his dictatorship.

Oh for god's sake. Peggy Luhrs is just a class warfare bomb-thrower with a bumper-sticker philosophy. Anyone who resorts to using the phrase "fat cats" to describe people who make more money than they do just isn't credible.

We could name-call against unions, too.

Talk to your Dem-socialist friend Keesha Ram who voted for this package, along with other Dems from the Legislature. Talk to millionaire Gov. Shumlin who conveniently skipped out on attending the meeting at which this package was voted on.

Doesn't UVM need an Act 250 permit for all of the Bullshit they are spreading around?

Has anyone bothered to find out how many of the 360 UVM'ers making over $100k are faculty 'fat cats'. United Academics have conveniently overlooked the fact that faculty members received 5% increases each of the past 3 years while senior administrators had their pay frozen for 2 years and all staff earning over $75k had their salaries frozen last year. Let's have at least a tiny bit of honesty inserted into this pay-envy circus.

FIRE FOGEL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This whole revelation about the goings on @ UVM are truly disgusting. Fogel and his cronies are nothing more than a mutual ass - licking society. People, stand up, speak out and squash this crap!!!!!

I just did a quick count of those at UVM with "Professor" in their titles that make over $100,000 a year and there are over 280 that are professors and have thus gotten a 5% pay raise for the last three years! Administration, including those making far less than many of those professors, has gotten 0% AND paid more for benefits. Plus, many of those professor salaries are only 9-month salaries, while ALL the administration salaries are 12-month. Finally, Phillip Baruth makes $95,025 for his 9-month appointment, and HE is out screaming about salaries!!?? (plus he is in state government and gets paid for that. . .) Let's at least check the facts. I don't agree with the 'Golden Parachutes," but there ARE good people in UVM administration that are being demonized by faculty.

"This building will be taken over. And, that's a promise."

If I were a parent thinking of sending my kid to UVM, I'd be more bummed out about their dropping six figures on a guy setting this kind of example than I would be about the Fogel thing.

Professors hypocrites? Oh my!

Do none of you think a person can be outraged at the treatment of *others*? Who says Baruth wants more money? He knows what the difference between right and wrong is, that's what he's angry about. Fucking children.

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