VSEA members advocate a variety of issues from insufficient staffing to Fair Share.
VSEA members descended on the State House February 22nd, lobbying their legislators on critical issues affecting their working conditions and the vital services they provide. VSEA members primarily advocated in support of Fair Share, allowing the deputy state’s attorneys and staff to collectively bargain, and remediating chronic understaffing throughout state government. VSEA members led the discussion with leadership from the administration, House and Senate. The State Employee’s implored their legislators to consider impacts the Douglas Administration’s mass layoffs had on their workloads and the Vermonters who rely on those services. Even with the 79 new state jobs proposed by the Shumlin Administration’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget, Vermont will have nearly 300 fewer executive branch employees than it had before the recession.
Senate Pro Tem John Campbell led his remarks off by half-joking that he was late to arrive to the State House today because he “couldn’t find a parking space,” which was a nod to the campaign by VSEA Central Vermont Chapter members to procure more state employee parking in Montpelier. Campbell was then briefed on the union’s legislative issues by a VSEA DCF Benefits Specialist from Windsor, who informed the Pro Tem in particular about the reality at her worksite, which is “there are simply not enough DCF employees to take care of the growing number of Vermonters in need.” VSEA Treasurer Sheila Coniff reminded Campbell that “the Douglas Administration cuts went far too deep,” which the Pro Tem acknowledged, saying he knows all too well that “staffing is huge issue.” As far as commitments, Campbell told VSEA members that he favored Fair Share and VSEA’s campaign to organize State’s Attorneys and Deputy Sheriffs.
Next up, VSEA members made their way to the House chambers, where a resolution was being introduced to honor the service of Vermont state employees following Tropical Storm Irene. In advance of the reading of the resolution, VSEA members received a standin at the bottom of this post.
“The serious staffing issues at the Vermont Veterans Home must be addressed,” warned VSEA District 5 Board of Trustees’ member and Vet’s Home employee Rachael Fields. “We also have to deal with the mandatory overtime requirements that are really hurting employees and their families.” Fields was joined in her appeal to Spaulding for more staff by several ESD, DCF and DOC employees, who talked at length about the adverse impact short-staffing is having on their caseloads, error rates and their ability to procure federal money. Spaulding was sympathetic to the employees’ calls for increased staff, saying the Administration would need VSEA members’ help to get the 79 new positions requested by the State in its budget proposal. He said staffing issues at the Vets’ Home would not be easy to fix because of the Home’s acknowledged $3-$4 million budget deficit. On the Fair Share issue, Spaulding said the administration was opposed to including VSEA, though he noted the administration supports Fair Share for educational and municipal employees. Secretary Spaulding was non-committal about VSEA’s Deputy Sheriff and State’s Attorneys bill, saying “I don’t know that we have a stance on that.”
Next on the agenda, VSEA members got to spend a half-hour with House Speaker Shap Smith, who was given a large round of applause for the resolution read earlier in the House chamber. VSEA Lamoille Valley Chapter President Michelle Salvador articulated the union’s primary issues, focusing her remarks primarily on recent staffing discussions she has had with ESD and DCF employees in her Chapter. “After talking with these employees and learning just how bad the situation is, it’s time for the State to make an investment in its frontline workers,” she said. Smith was sympathetic to the calls for more staffing, but he reminded of the huge budget deficit facing Vermont and the need to generate some “new revenue.” Smith said he did support the Fair Share bill and he asked for VSEA members’ help getting the State’s Attorney’s and Deputy Sheriff bill passed.
House concurrent resolution honoring the Vermont state employees for their exemplary public service during, and in the aftermath of, Tropical Storm Irene.
Offered by: Representatives Davis of Washington, Cole of Burlington, Evans of Essex, French of Randolph, Haas of Rochester, Lenes of Shelburne, Macaig of Williston, Moran of Wardsboro, Pearson of Burlington, South of Saint Johnsbury, Till of Jericho, Townsend of South Burlington, and Weed of Enosburgh.
Offered by: Senators Doyle and McCormack
Whereas, during Tropical Storm Irene, there were many examples of Vermont state employees
who made an extra effort to serve their fellow Vermonters, and
Whereas, for example, at the Vermont State Hospital, the employees ferried 51 patients to safety, without incident, and often through waist-high water, and
Whereas, Department of Information and Innovation state employees too whatever measure was required to protect essential state data and digital resources, and
Whereas, both during and after the storm’s onslaught, the state employees at the Agency of Transportation worked tirelessly to keep Vermont’s damaged state highway system open to the maximum extent possible, and then strove diligently to expedite repairs and reconstruction, and
Whereas, at the Agency of Natural Resources, state employees assessed the environmental impact of the storm, paying special attention to water quality issues and how the storm affected a wide variety of ecological systems, and
Whereas, the Vermont State Police, emergency management personnel, and other state employees at the Department of Public Safety maintained law and order, assisted with search-and-rescue operations, and engaged in support activities that at times put the employees’ lives at risk, and
Whereas, the state employees at the Agency of Human Services paid close attention to the health and social services needs of Vermonters and especially those of the children entrusted to their care, and
Whereas, many state employees worked remotely from home for weeks or months after the storm, performing their duties, despite the challenges of their dislocation, as efficiently and effectively as possible, now therefore be it
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives:
That the General Assembly honors the Vermont state employees for their exemplary public service during and in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene, and be it further
Resolved: That the Secretary of State be directed to send a copy of this resolution to the Vermont State Employees Association.