What is the Vermont State Employees’ Association?
The Vermont State Employees’ Association is an alliance of over 6,000 workers from throughout Vermont’s state services who have united to have a stronger voice in the decisions that affect our jobs. Spread across eight bargaining units – Non-Management, Supervisory, Judicial, Housing Authority, Defender General, Corrections, State Colleges, and State’s Attorneys’ Office – VSEA members deliver a wide range of vital services that all Vermonters rely on. In a sector defined by the constantly changing tides of politics, our union offers a strong voice in both our work lives and in the legislature for making much-needed improvements to state services and protecting the things that should stay the same. At the core of the union’s program is the work that members and staff do together to bargain contracts with management and ensure that these agreements are upheld in each of our workplaces. State employees will always be stronger when we work together as a group than when we stand alone.
What workplace benefits and rights are by covered by the contract?
Every two years, VSEA members bargain a contract with management that defends and extends our rights to decent wages and benefits, job security, solid retirement provisions and safety in the workplace. The union contracts ensure that all workers receive fair treatment in discipline, promotion, professional development, over time, and time-off benefits and help to maintain an open process for addressing workplace concerns. We continue to improve upon our contract at each round of negotiations and look to our VSEA membership to guide the bargaining process.
What changes for workers when we have a union?
The most important benefit for us as unionized workers is that, with a union, we have a legal right to participate in the decisions that affect our jobs. Without a union, state employees would be at the mercy of the State and all the significant choices would be made by management alone. By forming a union, state employees have won the legally-binding right to participate in every major decision that affects our working conditions, wages, and benefits.
It takes constant work to defend our rights and participate effectively in key decisions, and the union enables us to do this work. VSEA members negotiate contracts that clearly stipulate the rights we have as workers and protect our opportunities on the job. In our communities and in the legislature, VSEA members are also constantly at work, standing up for everyday people like us in determining the future of our towns and cities.
What are the different approaches for resolving workplace issues?
Because state employees have come together in VSEA, members have the power to improve situations through a series of approaches. There are many different approaches to taking on workplace concerns. Some of the more common concerns involve favoritism, job discrimination, lack of resources or communication or hazardous work assignments. In many cases, a concern can be addressed through the grievance procedure. However, many concerns are not a violation of the contract. In these cases, it may be best to explore using a direct action approach with your colleagues to raise awareness of the issue and building pressure towards solving the problem. Labor-Management Committees are a negotiated benefit and can be very powerful in creating a productive discussion with Management about issues that are widely felt in a department. If you experience a worksite problem, it is best to contact a worksite steward.
What is the difference between being an active member and a non-member?
Being an active member of VSEA is a choice that over 80% of state employees have made. By choosing to be a member of the union, you choose to come together with thousands of your colleagues to have the power to influence your professional life. Both non-members and VSEA members are protected under the negotiated contract. However, only VSEA members have the right to be represented by VSEA stewards, VSEA union representative and legal staff. VSEA members also have a vote on decisions around priorities, elected leaders, dues rate, legislative priorities, and ultimately whether the contract that will determine our pay and benefits is acceptable or not.
Why do I have to pay dues?
Dues are how we members fund our union and ensure that we have the resources required to maintain a strong, sophisticated organization. As members of the union, we decide together how much we will pay in dues based on what we determine we need to run the union, and it is us members who ultimately decide how to spend our collective resources. The annual budget is mailed out to all active VSEA members ahead of the Annual Meeting in September, and then at the meeting, members vote whether or not to approve proposed expenditures and we all participate in determining the union’s priorities and specific line-items of spending.
On November 1, 2021, VSEA dues increased, based on a decision made by members at the September 5, 2021, Annual Meeting. Members continued to support a sliding-scale approach to dues to increase equity amongst members – this approach was agreed to at VSEA’s 2020 Annual Meeting and implemented on July 1, 2021. On September 5, 2021, members voted to increase dues to 0.9% with a minimum of $16 and a maximum of $20 per pay period.
Are there additional benefits that I would receive by becoming a member of VSEA?
Yes. All VSEA members are invited to participate in union events of all kinds, including labor-management committees, steward trainings, community rallies, and legislative actions. In addition, members receive full access to all VSEA communications and scholarship opportunities and can apply to the VSEA Member Support Fund in case of a family catastrophe. VSEA members also get exclusive discounts at around 100 participating locations throughout Vermont as well as reduced rates on dental, disability, accident, life, and other policies through the VSEA Supplemental Insurance Program.
How are decisions made in the Union?
It is the active members of VSEA who determine the goals, priorities, and direction of the union. Major decisions in the union occur at Annual Meeting, held every September, at which every active member of the union in attendance receives an equal vote. Day to day matters are overseen by the VSEA Board of Trustees, a democratically chosen group of state employees who dedicate their time to managing the internal affairs of VSEA and assuring that VSEA policies are adhered to. Throughout the year, the VSEA Council, which includes over 120 members in full representation of the diversity of the union membership, meets quarterly to guide the union and retains the authority to override the Board.
How do I stay in the loop on key events, issues, and updates within our Union?
VSEA makes it a priority to keep members updated on key events, legislative and policy fights, and victories within the union. Through a wide array of print publications, our weekly newsletter, regular email notifications, the VSEA website (www.vsea.org), social media like Facebook and Twitter, and worksite bulletin boards, VSEA keeps you up to date on the latest issues facing state employees throughout Vermont. To get more involved, find a coworker who’s active in the union and learn what’s going on near you. You can also contact a member of your local chapter, bargaining team, council, or even the Board of Trustees.
What happens in the VSEA building in Montpelier? How does the work happening there help me?
The cozy three-story building that the union owns in Montpelier is a vital resource in our efforts to stand up for our rights as state employees. Workers from throughout Vermont’s state workforce gather there regularly, in a wide variety of worker-led groups and committees, to conduct meetings, share ideas and organize meaningful resistance to the forces threatening the lifelines we all depend on. The building also offers office space for the union’s dedicated staff of field representatives, workplace organizers, legislative advocates, lawyers and administrative assistants who serve the state employees, providing the essential support that we all need to build real power in our workplaces and ensure that the interests of state employees factor into every decision that the administration and management make.
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