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Burlington workers fight for – and win – expansive paid leave

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Burlington workers fight for – and win – expansive paid leave
By Pete Levine ·

AFSCME Local 1343 (Council 93) members ratified a four-year contract at the end of June that not only contains wage increases, but paid family leave. That makes workers for the city of Burlington the first municipal employees in Vermont to win such a provision, according to mayor’s office.

The more than 200 workers of Local 1343 do a range of jobs for their city, from operating snow plows to working at the water plant to dispatching police to emergencies, and more. They welcomed the first-of-its-kind paid leave provision, which extends not only to workers who need to care for newborn and adopted children, but also allows them to care for parents.

“When I became president of AFSCME 1343, one of the local's goals I wanted to achieve was a good paid family leave article in the next contract,” Local 1343 President Ron Jacobs said in a press release issued jointly with the city. “The fact that this new agreement not only includes this while also addressing current economic stresses is a testament to the cooperative spirit the contract negotiations were conducted in and a mutually recognized desire to improve the lives of our members.”

Beginning July 1 this year, workers will have four weeks of paid family leave at 100% of their compensation. The following year, they’ll earn four weeks at 100% of compensation and four weeks at 60% compensation, with an additional 4 weeks at 60% for 2024 and thereafter.

“When our contract came up for renewal, we did a survey among our members, asking what their top five priorities were,” Jacobs said in an interview with AFSCME Now. “This came in second. The first was more money.”

The workers won on their first priority, too, with an 18% cost of living adjustment over four years, including a 7.2% increase in the first year.

While the Burlington workers may be unique so far in Vermont, other AFSCME members are winning paid leave in their states, as municipalities recognize the benefit not only to workers but also in attracting and retaining the best public service workers.

“I’m hoping this sets a trend,” said Jacobs.

AFSCME members in Houston, Tulsa and Puerto Rico have also won paid leave, thanks to the power of the union difference. And our union continues to fight for paid leave on the national level so workers across the country will have access to paid time off to care for their loved ones.

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