Vermont Vets’ Home Employees Launch Campaign To Improve Resident Care & Restore Workplace Dignity & Respect

"VSEA appreciates the commitment and dedication of every VVH employee to your residents and their continued quality care. But while your residents’ care is important, so too is the way you are treated while caring for your residents. VSEA looks forward to working with our VVH members to restore employee dignity and respect at the VVH."

Read e-mail about campaign launch sent yesterday by VSEA to all Vets’ Home employees

Message & Update From VSEA Staff To All VVH Caregivers

Way to go VVH caregivers!

               Thank you to every VVH caregiver who attended yesterday’s VSEA meeting with your VVH administrators. This important meeting signals the beginning of a VSEA-represented caregiver campaign at the VVH to change the culture and improve patient care and the work atmosphere at the Vets’ Home. As was made clear yesterday, we are mounting this campaign not just for VVH employees, but most importantly for the residents you care for, who deserve to receive their care in an adequately staffed facility free of employer hostility, overworked and stressed caregivers and general low employee morale.

               Let’s begin with yesterday’s morning meeting with the Vets’ Home Residents’ Council, where it was made clear to VSEA staff that your residents are very aware of the breakdown in your working conditions and that they share your concerns about how management’s tactics negatively affect  their safety  and care. They validated your complaints about management berating employees in front of residents and they acknowledged being bothered when they witness an employee brought to tears by an administrator’s verbal tongue lashing. They also affirmed that they know VVH employees are often “working off the clock” and it bothers them, as the Residents’ Council leadership supports unions and employee protections. They stressed the importance of receiving care from workers who are treated fairly and with the dignity and respect they deserve. In the coming months, VSEA will continue to meet with the Residents’ Council to keep them updated on the campaign, but we urge VVH caregivers to supplement these meetings with an ongoing effort to educate as many of your residents as possible about the changes you are fighting for in an effort to improve their care.

               Throughout the lunch hour yesterday, it was great to share pizza and meet and talk with so many VVH caregivers. Nothing helps your VSEA staff representatives more than straight-from-the-employee’s mouth input and insight. A lot of what came out during these informal lunch discussions aided your VSEA staff representatives as they prepared for the afternoon meeting with administrators. It was also terrific to begin building a master VVH employee contact list, but please continue to help us add names to this important list by taking some time to gather the names and e-mail/phone contact information for any and all VVH employees missing from our master contact list. The more VVH union members VSEA can contact, the better for the strength of our campaign. VSEA also apologizes for running out of t-shirts yesterday, but we were very pleased to distribute the 50+ shirts we brought with us. More will be coming, and, based on an employee suggestion, VSEA is also exploring the possibility of purchasing special scrub tops for our VVH members!

               This brings us to the afternoon meeting with your VVH administrators. It remains to be seen how much of what we heard is lip service versus the actual implementation of proactive measures, but, if nothing else, your VVH administrators were able to see that all of you and your union staff are very concerned about the current work environment and its impact on your residents—and how many employees are prepared to participate in this VSEA campaign. Some of the highlights from yesterday’s meeting include:

·        VVH Administrator Melissa Jackson’s public commitment to end the culture of workplace bullying (i.e. fear and intimidation that employees and residents say currently exists at the VVH) as well as her pledge to go back to her management team with an explicit order to knock off the “bullying”;

·        A pledge by Ms. Jackson to work with VSEA to address the myriad of scheduling issues that, according to administrators, is too often hindering their ability to deliver a quality service;

·        An explanation from administrators about what led to some nurses being reclassified out of the blue as “nurse supervisors” and an acknowledgement that doing so without proper training  or guidance could be detrimental to care;

·        An acknowledgement by administrators that more training does need to be provided to employees and a commitment to increase training opportunities;

·        A frank discussion about resident to caregiver ratios and the need to improve them;

·        Caregivers were able to clearly explain to administrators that a high number of the “call-outs” they complain about can be attributed to some overworked and stressed-out employees being mandated to 16-hour shifts and then having to regroup to come into work the following day without proper rest. Many worried aloud about how resident care is being impacted by tired, ornery caregivers; and

·        Employees were able to address the issue of an increasing number of “administrative leave” notices being handed out for reasons they believe are unwarranted.

Here are some things VSEA is asking VVH employees to do in the coming weeks:

·        Continue gathering VVH VSEA members’ contact info and forward updates to VSEA Organizing Coordinator Robyn Freedner-Maguire at;

·        Make plans to attend an upcoming bi-monthly meeting of the VVH’s Quality Assessment and Assurance Committee;

·        Review past notes from the meetings of the VVH’s QA&A Committee for accuracy and follow up;

·        Educate your co-workers and your residents about the employees’ campaign and urge them to get involved and stay engaged;

·        Attend the April 4, 2012, VVH Labor/Management meeting to support your stewards and staff;

·        Fill out the revised “Assignment Despite Objection” forms that were e-mailed this morning to VVH employee Winnie Rose. Once you fill the form out, keep a copy for your records, give one to management and a member of the Residents’ Council, and send one to VSEA Senior Field Representative Gretchen Naylor at; and

·        Monitor the VVH administration’s response for VSEA and let us know what is being done and what isn’t being done.

Once again, a big thanks to all the VVH VSEA members who came out to support one another yesterday and show the administration that there is strength in numbers (and will continue to be) and also affirm to them that VVH employees want a rapid return to dignity and respect in the workplace. If we can continue to build our collective strength at the VVH and encourage everyone to keep up the good fight, we can be victorious. Yesterday was a great start, but now the hard part of turning this ship around begins. Once turned around, we’ll have to continue applying pressure so we don’t ever slip back to where we are today.

VSEA appreciates the commitment and dedication of every VVH employee to your residents and their continued quality care. But while your residents’ care is important, so too is the way you are treated while caring for your residents. VSEA looks forward to working with our VVH members to restore employee dignity and respect at the VVH

In Solidarity

Gretchen Naylor, Senior Field Representative
Doug Gibson, Communications Coordinator
Robyn Freedner-Maguire, Organizing Coordinator
Mark Mitchell, Director