State Meets With Employees In St. Johnsbury To Provide Update On Environmental Testing & Provide Resources
Employees Not Expected To Return Anytime Soon
AHS Secretary Al Gobeille was joined by DEC and VDH officials in St. Johnsbury on April 4 to conduct a meeting with state employees who were removed from the State Office Building at 67 Eastern Avenue last week after recent environmental testing found high levels of three potentially harmful chemicals in the building’s air. Officials reported to employees that subsequent testing confirmed the initial findings that the building does have high levels of TCE (a known carcinogen), PCE (a probable carcinogen) and Chloroform. The building sits on land occupied for decades by a local dry-cleaning business, which is thought to be responsible for the chemicals being present.
Prior to the meeting, the VDH issued a statement that read, in part, "PCE and TCE are classified as carcinogens. Exposure can increase risk for kidney, bladder and blood cancers. TCE has also been associated with cardiac malformation in a developing fetus. The levels of those chemicals found present in the state’s air sampling were lower than those associated in studies with measurable increases of cancer. Additionally, each of the three chemicals leaves the body in one to two days after a person is removed from exposure." At the meeting, VDH Commissioner Mark Levine added, “The chemicals are higher than what we at the health department believe should be present, but they are still much, much, much lower than levels described in this literature that show cancer development in individuals.”
Regardless, officials told the 80+ displaced employees they would be working out of temporary space until the current leased building is deemed completely safe for the workers and the public, if it can ever be. They did not rule out the possibility of never going back to the building, and some VSEA members have already let the union know that they are not comfortable returning, given what they now know. An April 6 WCAX story reports that the State is considering moving employees to new, permanent space in the former microDATA building in St. Johnsbury.
At the meeting, the State provided the following resources to displaced employees with questions or concerns:
Inquiries about health issues: (VDH) 1-800-439-8550
Inquiries about the chemicals: (DEC – Trish Coppolino) 802-249-5822
Payroll or administrative issues for current employees: (DHR) 802-828-3491
VSEA is looking at any and all documents associated with the sale of the building in 2008 to Calderwood Building LLC, and what, if any, environmental testing was done at that time. There are several documents connected to the 2008 sale that are available for review online, including a January 28, 2008, letter from the DEC’s Hazardous Sites Manager, where he writes, “The Sites Management Section determined that long-term monitoring was an appropriate response to the PCE contamination as the investigation indicated that the PCE contamination was not migrating…” He concludes, “We have determined that natural attenuation at the site has reduced the sub-surface source of contamination related to the dry-cleaning operations such that groundwater enforcement standards are no longer needed.” Thankfully, the official’s letter reminds, “[His] investigation does not release the responsible parties from any past or future liability associated with the contamination discovered on this site.”
VSEA staff continues to assist impacted members in any way it can, including working to ensure displaced workers are being moved to appropriate workspace, that they have what they need and that their rights are being observed and respected as the process moves forward.
In the interim, the State is recommending that the building owner pursue measures to mitigate the chemicals.
Note: VSEA Organizer Tim Lenoch was forced to cancel his April 11 worksite meeting in St. J due to building issues. Meetings will resume in May, conditions warranting.
Second Of State’s Proposed Mergers Killed In Committee
Early in January, the State proposed the mergers of several departments and agencies; moves they alleged would lead to greater efficiency and even possible savings, although, to date, the State has only attached arbitrary dollar-savings amounts to the mergers, ranging anywhere from $2 million to $4 million. All were proposed by Executive Order.
Early in the legislative session, lawmakers voted to reject the first of the State’s proposed mergers, which would have combined the Department of Labor and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
Now the State’s second proposed merger has been rejected. Seven Days reports this morning that the House General Housing and Military Affairs Committee voted yesterday to scrap the proposed merger of the Department of Liquor Control and the Lottery Commission, attributing its vote to the State launching by Executive Order, as opposed to using “traditional legislation,” and the State’s not allowing lawmakers to have a voice in the planning process. Legislators have now ordered a comprehensive report on the proposed merger to be delivered to them in January 2018.
The only State merger proposal still technically alive at the State House is the creation of an Agency of Digital Services; a move to consolidate the state’s IT services.
The legislature has until April 14 to act on the Executive Orders, or they will automatically take effect on April 17.
VSEA Mourns The Death Of Past Union President
VSEA sent heartfelt condolences this week to the family, friends and past co-workers of Frank Mazza, who was VSEA’s President from 1963 to 1965. Mazza passed away on Sunday, April 2.
Under Frank’s watch, VSEA hired a first-ever, full-time “field man” to help members with grievances, made general improvements to headquarters’ relationship with Chapters, expanded the union’s research and investigating arms and greatly improved VSEA’s daily operations.
In an effort to better educate frontline worksite Stewards about their role in VSEA, as well as provide them with enhancements to their existing skill set, VSEA’s Field Department is hosting a series of “Steward Summits” across Vermont throughout 2017.
Stewards will also learn the latest developments relating to contract enforcement and receive an overview of the budget, safety and health and other challenges that lie ahead for state employees. Stewards who attend will be asked to immediately help out by taking some of what they learn back to the worksite to educate their colleagues.
Four, six-hour trainings have been scheduled, and every current VSEA Steward is required to attend one session.
The Steward Summits (all 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.) are:
May 19 – Best Western, 45 Blush Hill Road, Waterbury
August 18 – Best Western, 45 Blush Hill Road, Waterbury
October 20 – Hotel Coolidge, 39 South Main St., White River Junction
November 3 – Holiday Inn, 476 Holiday Drive, Rutland
VSEA Bargaining Team Members: Mark Your Calendars!
VSEA Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley announced this week that he will be conducting an all-bargaining-team-member “negotiations” training on Wednesday, May 3, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Best Western Hotel, located at 45 Blush Hill Road in Waterbury. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and lunch is being provided.
To RSVP for this important training, please contact Ayla Hudson at VSEA, by email (email@example.com) or by phone at 802-223-5247.
The cutoff date to register is
Thursday, April 20.
Vermont Bucks Hosting Special "State Employee" Nights!
25% Ticket-Price Discount For April 8 & 22 Games!
The Vermont Bucks were so impressed with the great response from VSEA members to the team’s recent 50% off VIP Box-Level ticket price offer, that the Bucks are now offering a 25% ticket-price discount* to any VSEA member who attends either tonight’s or the April 22 home game.
To receive the 25% discount, VSEA members must show their green "VSEA Membership Card" and give the promo code word: "ORANGE”
VSEA Insurance Representative Will Be At The Vermont Veterans’ Home Next Week
VSEA Benefits Enrollment
By Appointment Only:
VSEA Insurance Representative Joanne Woodcock will be at the following locations to talk with interested VSEA members about member-only insurance benefits:
Vermont Veterans’ Home
325 North Street
April 12, 13 and 14
12:00 to 4:00
3rd shift – please email Joanne for an appointment.
Receive information on disability coverage, family life insurance, family accident, cancer and hospital coverage. You must be a member paying full dues to be eligible for this VSEA benefit. If you are an agency-fee payer, Joanne can provide you information about signing up for full membership.
All applications need to be taken in person.
Email Joanne@vseainsurance.com for an appointment. Please provide your age, hourly wage and job description so I can send a quote BEFORE we meet.
NMU Sick Leave Bank Teetering On Bankruptcy! VSEA Members Urged To Contribute
Donations Being Accepted
April 1 To June 30
VSEA member Dawn Carrillo staffs the Non-Management Unit Sick Leave Bank, and she is again asking WIA to sound the alarm that the bank is nearly depleted of hours. She is also announcing that NMU members can donate a few hours to your Unit’s sick leave bank from April 1 to June 30, 2017.
“Just donating an hour of your time can mean the world to a fellow employee,” reads a new flyer DHR is circulating. It also informs state employees that they can donate any amount of annual- or personal-leave time to the NMU Sick Leave Bank. “Know that you are performing a wonderful service by helping your friends and fellow employees, who, along with their families, are struggling due to serious health issues,” the flyer concludes.
“I want to thank every member for considering a donation to your Unit sick leave bank,” says VSEA President Dave Bellini. “Even if you only donate one hour to the bank, these one-hour donations add up. It’s so worthwhile because your donation is going to help a fellow state employee who is battling a serious illness.”
Open Enrollment Period Is Soon To Participate In VSEA’s Popular Delta Dental Supplemental Plan Benefit
Letters are going in the mail soon to VSEA members, announcing the open enrollment period to participate in your union’s very popular Delta Dental Supplemental Plan. The enrollment period is also when members already in the program can amend their number of dependents also using the program, if this number has changed in the past year.
Once received in your mailbox, all enrollment forms will be due back to VSEA by Friday, May 12, 2017.
Note: If you are already taking advantage of this benefit, and you have no changes this year to your coverage, you do not need to send back a new form, as you will be automatically renewed.
Seven Days reports today that Acting DOC Commissioner Lisa Menard will now become simply Commissioner Menard, after the State announced yesterday that it would keep Menard on board to continue running the department.
The news story reminds that, “Among Menard’s first tasks will be finding a home for more than 250 Vermont inmates currently held out-of-state because the DOC has run out of prison beds. The State currently contracts with the GEO Group to hold inmates in a Michigan facility. But that contract expires in June, and GEO has announced it will not renew the contract.
VSEA is sending best wishes to the more than 50 workers at Vermont’s largest granite manufacturing plant, Rock of Ages in Barre, who will begin bargaining a new contract soon with their employer. It will be the first round of bargaining for Rock of Ages new owner, Polycor Inc., a Canadian “stone giant” that acquired the company last year. The workers’ current contract expires at midnight on April 28, and both the Granite Cutters Association and the United Steelworkers are representing them at the table.
McCarthy, whose latest book is titled Dismantling Solidarity: Capitalist Politics and American Pensions Since the New Deal, writes in the online piece “Worked to Death,” that, “We have a real crisis on our hands, and at its root is the fact that we have subjected workers’ retirement security to the whims of volatile financial markets. In 2015, the Government Accountability Office found that more than half of all American workers approaching retirement have no savings whatsoever.”
He also writes, “Saying that you rely on your job means that you have to maintain your employment to get these basic goods, which means that, unless you have a union — and even if you do in many cases — you are subject to the tyranny of your boss, who has totally unchecked rights to keep you on the job or fire you at his or her whim. All of these benefits are attached to that; it produces incredible precarity for workers at all times.
The piece is well-researched and comprehensive, providing an excellent overview of the numerous and mounting external pressures that exist today to working Americans’ pensions—at least to those Americans fortunate enough to receive pension benefits of any kind, defined benefit or defined contribution (401K).
California Implements New Rules To Help Prevent Workplace Violence In Health Care Settings!
In October 2016, WIA informed readers about a unanimous vote by the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board to approve “nation-leading” regulations to prevent workplace violence in health care settings. This week, Politico’s “Labor Shift” online feed featured a story about the new regulations officially taking effect. It read: “Health care facilities in California must now comply with new regulations concerning workplace violence that went into effect April 1. The rule calls on employers at health care facilities to create violence prevention plans; train workers on how to avoid violent incidents; and keep detailed logs of such incidents. The United Nurses Associations of California, an affiliate of the Union of Health Care Professionals, pushed for the new regulations for years. The Government Accountability Office agreed in a March 2016 report that found health care workers were at higher risk than workers in other industries of experiencing workplace violence.
California’s proactive move is a good sign for VSEA members who work at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital, the Vets’ Home and other Vermont health care facilities, where the threat of violence still exists every day. Unfortunately though, for VSEA members, there is no new money in this year’s budget proposals to date to help enhance safety and security for Vermont health care workers.
Help educate Vermont lawmakers about what other states are doing to protect their health care employees.
VSEA Organizer Tim Lenoch is personally conducting informational meetings in set workplaces on set days in four locations. He says the purpose of the meetings is to provide members with an opportunity to “join with their colleagues and VSEA staff for updates and discussion on the issues and challenges facing state employees and the impact on your working conditions and the services they provide.” He adds that members are welcome to “come share their ideas and hear from co-workers on how to build a stronger union and improve public services.”
Snacks and refreshments are provided.
AHS Conference Room
107 Eastern Ave.
State Office Building
232 Main Street
White River Junction
State Office Building
118 Prospect Street
First Floor Conference Room
State Office Building
100 Mineral Street
The spring 2017 training schedule is winding down, but there are still two left.
If you are interested in registering to attend one of the remaining trainings, you can do so by clicking here. Please direct your training questions to Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All trainings begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m.
Location may change based on worksite location of registered participants. If this happens, registered participants will be notified at least a week ahead of the training. Mileage and lunch may be reimbursed or provided.
TARGETED DEPARTMENT/BARGAINING UNIT TRAININGS
VTrans Training Center, 1716 US Rte. 302, Berlin
Tuesday, April 11
NEW STEWARD TRAININGS
Steward 2: Protecting the Contract and Building the Union
VTrans Training Center, 1716 US Rte. 302, Berlin
Thursday, May 16
VSEA’s Legislative Team has begun to post weekly reports to let members know what’s been happening at the State House in Montpelier. To get the latest VSEA updates from under the Golden Dome, you will first need to log into your VSEA.org account (log in here) and then click here.
The deadline to submit proposals for changes to VSEA’s Master Bylaws is Tuesday, April 18, 2017. Proposals must be mailed to: Cassandra Edson, Bylaws Committee Chair, c/o VSEA Headquarters, P.O. Box 518, Montpelier, VT 05602.
Proposals should reference the number, section, sub-section, etc. of the bylaw you would like to change. You should also include the language you want to add, delete or substitute. Also include the reason(s) you are making this proposal. Example: “Bylaw 0 A (1) (b) Change: Monday to Sunday. Reason: Makes it easier to work with the calendar.”
Please be sure the changes you are recommending include all Articles and/or Bylaws that may be affected by the proposed change.
Central Vermont Chapter Members Participating In Upcoming Climate Change Events. Inviting All VSEA Members To Join Them!
Activists belonging to VSEA’s Central Vermont Chapter are casting a net to find other Chapter and VSEA members who would like to participate with them in two upcoming climate-change events, including:
Earth Day “March for Science” – Saturday April 22 – Washington D.C.; and
People’s Climate March – Saturday, April 29 – Montpelier, Vt.
If you would be interested in marching with VSEA members at either of these events, please contact VSEA Central Vermont Chapter member Ned Swanberg for more information. You can email Ned at ned.swanberg@ gmail.com. Members of the Chapter will be carrying the Chapter’s banner at each event.
Brattleboro Chapter Meeting Rescheduled to April 19
Brattleboro Chapter President Robin Rieske asked WIA to let Chapter members know that the March 29 meeting was postponed and has been rescheduled to Wednesday, April 19. The meeting is being held at the Panasian Restaurant on Putney Road in Brattleboro, beginning at 4:45 p.m. Dinner is being provided!
Apply Now! VSEA Scholarship Application Deadline Is May 8!
Every year, the VSEA Scholarship & Awards Committee solicits scholarship applications from VSEA members and their spouses, dependents and domestic partners. The 2017 scholarship applications are now available online, and VSEA students who are seeking financial assistance this year in the pursuit of post-secondary educational goals can download one here.
What’s VSEA Done For Vermont State Employees? See For Yourself
A lot has happened since the VSEA was officially recognized in 1944 as the voice for Vermont’s state employee workforce, and VSEA’s Communications Department has now compiled many of your union’s notable victories and achievements in a new online chronological history of the VSEA.
“Thankfully, VSEA formed a special committee in the mid-eighties to put together a historical synopsis of what had happened within the union from 1944 to then, and it was a great piece for us to build from,” explains VSEA Communications Director Doug Gibson. “This up-to-date history will hopefully help educate more VSEA members about the fights and campaigns of past state employees, reminding them how long it actually took for workers to get to where they are today, in terms of wages, benefits and working conditions. We hope it will be a good resource and tool for members.”
VSEA President Dave Bellini is asking all state employees who are threatened while performing your job duties to provide an account of the threat not only to your supervisor or the State, but also to VSEA.
“VSEA wants to begin to compile its own record of threats against frontline state employees, no matter your occupation,” explains Bellini. “I’m asking all employees who are threatened, especially those working in AHS, to take a few minutes to fill out an online form VSEA made to collect your report. The information will help us provide a firsthand account of the number of threats being made and where they are being made, in addition to some other things.”
VSEA Schedules 2017 “Day At Fenway” Event For August 27
Last year, VSEA scheduled its first-ever “VSEA Day at Fenway” event, and it was a huge success. This year, VSEA will again be sponsoring a trip to Fenway, this time to see the Red Sox battle the Baltimore Orioles in a 1:05 p.m. start on Sunday, August 27. The estimated cost is $80 per person, which includes a bus ride to and from the park, as well as a ticket to the game.
If you and your family would be interested in joining your union and fellow members at Fenway on August 27, 2017, you should contact VSEA Union Representative Bob South. You can reach Bob by email at email@example.com or by phone at 223-5247.
Bolton Valley Already Offering VSEA Members Discounted 2017-2018 Passes
Bolton Valley (BV) Ski Resort has been a VSEA Advantage Program participant for years, offering state employees discounted season passes. It’s a popular item, and while winter 2016 is not even over yet, BV is already offering VSEA members discounted 2017-2018 ski passes.
Important! To purchase an online, discounted BV 2017-2018 pass, you must first receive a special promotional code directly from the VSEA Advantage Program. To get a promo code, contact VSEA’s Susan DeVoid by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone at 802-223-5247. Susan is only available during normal VSEA operating hours.
Last fall, VSEA’s Membership Recruitment Committee launched a “Membership Engagement and Recruitment Initiative” to grow the union’s ranks. The Committee asked members to talk with current agency-fee payers about the benefits of full-fledged membership and why the member should make the switch. If the member decides to upgrade their membership, the recruiting member will have the satisfaction of knowing they helped their union become stronger, but, in addition, the Membership Recruitment Committee will be awarding different levels of prizes to members, based on the number of new VSEA members recruited.
Here are the guidelines to participate and be eligible for a prize:
Whether submitting your recruited member(s) name(s)on a physical recruitment card or online, you must include your name as the recruiter;
Every member who recruits a new member will has his or her name entered into a drawing for the Grand Prize. The winner’s name will be drawn at VSEA’s Annual Meeting in September 2017, and the winner must be present to claim the prize;
Team entries are being accepted. Please register with Membership Recruitment Committee Chair Katelyn Chase by emailing her at email@example.com.
Members who recruit a new member, who then agrees to join your union’s political awareness committee (VTPAC) will receive an additional chance to win the Grand Prize, and
The cut-off date for this competition is August 30, 2017.
Here are the different prize levels:
$10 gift card and a VSEA water bottle (75 prizes awarded)
$25 gift card and a VSEA hat
(40 prizes awarded)
$50 gift card and a VSEA tote bag
(15 prizes awarded)
$100 and a VSEA vest
(8 prizes awarded)
1 Grand Prize of $1200
Note: WIA is periodically reminding members about this effort until its culmination in August 2017.
Join VSEA’s Texting List!
Texting is a great way for VSEA to let members know about important state employee issues or fights in a timely manner, but VSEA can’t text you if we don’t have your correct cell phone number.
Or contact VSEA headquarters (802-223-5247) today to provide, check or update your number. Please urge your colleagues to do
VSEA Advantage Discount Program
Member only discounts on goods and services such as skiing, clothing, automotive, insurance, lawyer referral program, workers compensation advice and more! The VSEA Advantage Program is proof that there is power in numbers. It keeps working for you when the workday is through.
Just Present Your VSEA Union Card To Receive These Great Discounts! Don’t Have A Union Card? Request One Here!
Popular Advantage Program Discounts Include:
Discount Great Escape & Splashwater Kingdom (2016 discount was $23 off day passes)
Discount Passes for ski resorts like Sugarbush Resort ($899 season passes) and Bolton Valley ($70 off season passes) – 2015/2016 season enrollment period has ended.
Winter/ Summer tire discounts for various locations across Vermont (5-10% off depending on location)
Movie theater discounts at select theaters in Vermont.
Restaurant discounts throughout Vermont (5-20% off depending on location).
VSEA’s Communications Department is happy to disseminate any and all communications the leadership, Chapters, Units, and others request, however, the lists the Department currently pull from are provided to the union by the State of Vermont. VSEA’s Communications Department has found the lists to be dated, incomplete and sometimes lacking key information that was entered by a VSEA staff person but later overwritten or deleted during a State data dump.
To help VSEA more effectively reach active members—and really all those members who want to know what’s going on in their union—VSEA will be working hard in the coming months to collect members’ emails on its own and begin to build contact lists that cannot be altered by a State download.
You can help us get started by clicking here and signing up for the VSEA communications you are interested in receiving.
Thank you in advance for subscribing. Please urge your colleagues to do the same.