Burlington, VT — On Friday, staff members from the University of Vermont stood on the steps of the Waterman Building to announce that they had reached an agreement with administrators on a new contract. The deal would mean higher wages for all union members and especially benefits for the lowest-paid workers.

This concludes a lengthy battle for higher wages and what staff members say is justice and equity on the UVM campus. Under the terms of the new contract, UVM will establish a new minimum wage for employees in the two bargaining units of $20 per hour. That money will help recent graduates like Sophie Kogut.

“I could buy fresh fruit, salad, or treat myself, and it makes me feel so relieved, honestly,” said Kogut, a member of UVM Staff United.

The raises will be phased in over three years, with the lowest-paid staff getting the highest percentage increases. “Over the course of three years, the range ranges from 37% at the bottom, to 10% at the top,” said Ellen Kaye, a member of the UVM Staff United bargaining team.

Staff will also get eight weeks of paid parental leave, which is good news for Megan Meinin. “Personally I look forward to knowing that I will have a buffer of sick and vacation time when I return,” said Meinin. “Instead of stressing about paychecks, I can focus on being with this sweet little one that needs me now.”

Jes Kraus, UVM’s Chief Human Resources Officer, and lead negotiator released a statement that reads: “I’m glad we could reach an agreement that balances investing in our talented workforce with keeping costs affordable for students and their families.”

Kaye says working together made this happen. “When you fight, you win.”

Another new change is the creation of a sick bank. Staff can donate unused sick time to colleagues who have a serious chronic illnesses and need time to recover.