Action Alert | Preparing for Labor and Workplace Issues Facing Vermont Manufacturers

Several labor and workplace proposals were major issues in the State House during the last legislative session.  Although AIV and our allies were ultimately successful in helping to forestall potentially costly legislation, it can be expected that key issues will return to center stage in the new Legislature and additional issues will need to be addressed.  The following provides a brief overview of some key issues and opportunities that we will be following up on in greater detail.

Action Request | Contact AIV to Stay Informed and Engaged

AIV has worked closely with coalition partners on key labor and workplace issues over the years, and has in particular taken a leadership role on proposals impacting workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, and other key issues, and we will continue to do so as we head into the new legislative session.  All manufacturers and related businesses are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with the issues and proposals we can expect to face, and to contact us at info@aivt.org to learn more about them and the options and opportunities to keep informed, coordinate with peers, and to engage with the Administration and legislators on those issues that could significantly impact their operations.  It would be very helpful if you could provide us with a lead contact person in your company to help coordinate information and activities related to labor and workplace issues.

Legislative Proposals Likely to Return or Otherwise Come Forward

Among the legislative issues likely to face in the coming year are:

  • Paid Family Leave. H.196 was passed by the Legislature last session but was vetoed by the Governor. The bill would have created a Paid Family Leave Insurance Program providing up to six weeks paid leave (70% of wages) for the serious illness of a child, stepchild, ward, foster child, parent, spouse, or parent of the employee’s spouse, and up to 12 weeks paid leave for parental bonding for the birth of a child or adoption or foster placement of a child 16 or younger.  The program would have been paid for through a 0.136% payroll tax on the first $150,000 for employees earning more than $10,710.  Paid leave legislation can be expected to return again next year, but whether the leave scope and duration, amount of tax and whether it would fall on employees and/or employers, and other details will be the same remains to be seen.
  • Minimum Wage. S.40 was passed by the Legislature last session but was vetoed by the Governor.  It would have increased the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2024 and indexed it to inflation after that.  Minimum wage legislation can be expected to return again next year, but whether the timeframe for increases, ultimate target level, and other details will be the same remains to be seen.
  • Workplace Drug Testing. Vermont employers face the most restrictive and onerous workplace drug testing statutes in the country.  Marijuana legalization legislation has failed to address this problem to date.  The final report of the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission, due in December, is supposed to address this issue among many others, but it remains to be seen how it will do so.  AIV has long worked to raise awareness of this issue and advocate for reforms to bring Vermont’s laws in line with national norms.  We will be working to encourage the Commission to make positive recommendations, but regardless of the Commission’s report we will be redoubling efforts to support changes in the Legislature, especially if any new marijuana or other relevant legislation comes forward, which many expect will happen. (See related post here)
  • Unemployment Insurance Taxes and Benefits. As Vermont’s Unemployment Insurance program has recovered from collapse during the Great Recession following significant reforms negotiated by AIV and key legislators, regulators, and labor representatives in 2010, there have been increasing rumblings about blocking scheduled tax relief for employers and undoing critical restraints on benefits.  Vermont has among both the highest UI taxes and most generous UI benefits in the country, and can ill afford to return to the mistakes of the past.  Although it is not certain what might be proposed in legislation during the coming year, AIV will remain vigilant and work to engage vigorously on any proposal that comes up. (See related post here)