Weekly News From Your Union ~ January 13, 2014 – January 17, 2014
"History is a great teacher. Now everyone knows that the labor movement did not diminish the strength of the nation but enlarged it. By raising the living standards of millions, labor miraculously created a market for industry and lifted the whole nation to undreamed of levels of production. Those who attack labor forget these simple truths, but history remembers them."
-Martin Luther King Jr.
VSEA 2014 Scholarship Applications Coming Soon!
Each spring, the VSEA Scholarship & Awards Committee solicits scholarship applications from VSEA members and their spouses, dependents and domestic partners. Committee Chair Janis Henderson asked WIA to announce that the Committees’ 2014 scholarship applications are being finalized right now and will be ready next week for VSEA students seeking financial assistance in the pursuit of post-secondary educational goals. WIA will include a link to the application in the January 24 edition, but members can also periodically check the VSEA website next week, as the application will be posted there as soon as it’s ready.
VSEA DPS Dispatchers Testify In Support Of S. 225; Legislation That Would Allow Them To Retire At Age 55 With 20 Years Of Service
VSEA Dispatchers Sarah Copen (top), Trish Bennett (bottom left) and Elizabeth Tracy (bottom right) testified in support of a bill to allow DPS dispatchers and VVH direct-care providers to retire at age 55, with 20 years service.
Three Department of Public Safety dispatchers were at the State House on January 14 to testify to the Senate Government Operations Committee about their support for S. 225; legislation that, if passed, would allow VSEA dispatchers to retire without penalty at age 55, provided they have 20 years of service. The dispatchers feel strongly that the daily stress and demands of their job warrants them receiving the same retirement “carve out” provision [no penalty for retiring before age 62 with 20 years of service] that currently exists for the vast majority of other job classifications working in Public Safety.
“We are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, giving our all,” testified Emergency Communications Dispatcher Sarah Copen. “We have to continuously juggle multiple events, all while remaining calm and effective without the public knowing we are overwhelmed and often up to our eyes in cases we are trying to get first responders to. I cannot impress upon this committee enough the importance of a 20-year retirement option for dispatchers. The announcement of this possible change has already increased morale, and I think it will aid in boosting recruitment and easing our turnover rate.”
Thirty-year dispatcher Elizabeth Tracy’s testimony to the committee focused on how the retirement carve-out would help boost Vermonters’ interest in becoming dispatchers, saying, “A 20-year retirement option would help attract applicants who would choose public safety as a career, and it would help encourage current dispatchers to remain in the position.” Like Copen, Tracy added that the retirement provision would increase morale, and she believes that being able to retain dispatchers will save the state money by decreasing the need for DPS to periodically have to recruit, hire and train new dispatchers.
Trish Bennett focused her testimony on the demands of the job, explaining to the committee that “At any given time, I am responsible for 20-plus officers in my area, dispatching to the State Police, sheriffs, EMS, fire, local police, constables and DMV units. This job has very little room for error. If I make a mistake, I could get someone killed. If I neglect to give vital information, I could potentially put responders’ lives in danger. I support S. 225 for these reasons and many more.”
VSEA Legislative Director Steve Howard thanked the dispatchers for their powerful testimony and added that he is hopeful S. 225 will pass.
“Our dispatchers perform a very critical public safety function for Vermont, and the nature of the work does take a toll on them—both short- and long-term—so VSEA is strongly supporting the workers’ effort to get S. 225 passed,” said Howard.
State Treasurer Beth Pearce also testified to the committee, telling them her office is in the process of looking at the employee numbers and cost, and Human Resources Commissioner Kate Duffy told committee members that her office is reserving comment on the bill until the Treasurer’s analysis is completed.
VSEA Representatives Criticize “Culture Of Retaliation” At Department Of Liquor Control
VSEA President Shelley Martin & DLC Investigator Matt Gonyo
A few weeks after VSEA representatives were prevented from addressing the Department of Liquor Control’s (DLC) Board due to a Board member’s illness, VSEA President Shelley Martin, Executive Director Mark Mitchell and Union Representative Kelly Burns were finally given an opportunity to do so at the DLC Board’s January 15 meeting in Montpelier. All three VSEA representatives used their time (five minutes total) to address the "culture of retaliation" that VSEA members say currently exists at the DLC. Burns used her time to educate the Board about how difficult her experience has been when trying to provide representation to VSEA’s DLC members, like DLC investigator Matt Gonyo, who attended the meeting to support VSEA. Mitchell seconded Martin and Burns and he asked the body to please direct the DLC Commissioner to begin working with the union to improve the employees’ work environment. It was hard to determine exactly how the DLC Board members felt about what they had heard, as they just sat stoically and did not follow up with the VSEA representatives after their remarks.
VSEA Legislation Would Allow Union’s SELRA Members To Bargain For Right To Have Grievances Decided By Either An Arbitrator Or The VLRB
Across Vermont, state employees operating under the State Employee Labor Relations Act (SELRA) can only have their grievances decided by the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB). However, VSEA members working in the State’s Judicial Unit, which operates under the Judicial Employees’ Labor Relations Act (JELRA), have the option to choose who decides their grievances, either the VLRB or an arbitrator. On January 17, VSEA was at the State House to begin the process of trying to pass legislation that will allow VSEA’s SELRA employees to be able to bargain for the right to choose who decides their grievances.
“VSEA believes it makes sense to provide the majority of our members the right to bargain language that would give them an option to choose who decides their grievances,” explained VSEA Legislative Committee Chair Leslie Matthews. “Our bill to accomplish this is S. 241, and today we made our initial case to the Senate’s Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs Committee.” Matthews adds the VSEA’s proposed legislation is “cost neutral.”
VSEA is urging all of its members who are covered under SELRA (which includes NMU, Corrections, Defender General, Supervisory, Housing Authority and State Colleges) to please contact your local legislators to express your support for S. 241.
“Again, this bill simply gives our members in SELRA bargaining units the right to negotiate for an option when it comes to who will decide grievances,” reminds Matthews. “VSEA’s unfair labor practice charges will continue to be heard solely by the VLRB.”
Vermonters learned a lot more about VSEA’s 2014 legislative agenda on Tuesday, January 14, thanks to an appearance by VSEA Legislative Committee Dr. Leslie Matthews on WDEV’s “Equal Time” radio show. Matthews was joined on the show by longtime VSEA activist Alton “Tony” Smith, a retired member who worked in state government for 30-plus years.
Here’s how WDEV is promoting the Tuesday podcast: Dr. Leslie Matthews, Vermont State Employees Association Legislative Committee Chair, and state employee retiree Tony Smith discuss the State Employees’ agenda for Good Government. VSEA members have overwhelmingly endorsed an ambitious legislative agenda for the upcoming 2014 session. The agenda—which was developed by rank-and-file members of the union’s Legislative Committee includes priority, union-wide issues like stopping the abuse of temporary workers, preventing the further costly privatization of state government and protecting the identities of workers who blow the whistle on corruption and fraud. VSEA is also pledging its resources to support legislation that benefits all working Vermonters, including safe patient handing, paid sick days for all workers, a secure retirement for all Vermonters, and a state budget that meets the needs of Vermont’s most vulnerable citizens. VSEA and its members are also advocating that the state employee health plan’s level of care be the baseline of any new system being created for all Vermonters. State employees and their union are gearing up for an unprecedented grassroots campaign to help shape the debate in 2014, and move the Legislature and Shumlin Administration to put the issues and concerns of working Vermonters first.
To listen to the show, please click here
Last Call To Attend NMU Contract Information Meeting
NMU Chair Bob Stone and other NMU bargaining representatives will be hosting a final NMU tentative contract information meeting on January 21 from the VIT studio in Montpelier. NMU members are invited to hear the presentation by coming to the VIT studios in Bennington, Brattleboro, Montpelier and White River Junction.
Note: The NMU tentative agreement ballot is being mailed on Friday, January 17, so VSEA NMU members in Bennington, Brattleboro, Central Vermont and White River Junction are urged to consider attending the January 21 meeting before casting your vote.
Bennington VIT Studio
Senior Citizen’s Service Center
124 Pleasant Street
Bennington, VT 05201
Brattleboro VIT Studio
Brattleboro Union High School
131 Fairground Rd
Brattleboro, VT 05301
White River Junction VIT Studio
Community College of Vermont
145 Billings Farm Road
CCV Upper Valley
White River Junction, VT 05001
Montpelier VIT Studio
Vermont Department of Labor
5 Green Mountain Drive
PO Box 488
Montpelier, VT 05602
SAVE THE DATE!
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 18
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
State House, Montpelier
2014 VSEA Legislative Reception To Follow!
4:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Capitol Plaza Hotel, Montpelier
VSEA Retiree Chapter President Rocks First VSEA 2014 Lobby Day Phone Bank Effort!
VSEA Organizer Josh Massey is thanking VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter President Joanie Maclay for staffing a VSEA Lobby Day turnout phone bank on January 16 and personally recruiting 10 retirees to attend the important event on February 18 at the State House in Montpelier.
"This was the first of several Thursday night phone banks I’m coordinating to contact active and retired VSEA members about our Lobby Day, and I really appreciate how hard Joanie worked the phone last night," said Massey. "I really hope that more VSEA members will help us in the coming weeks. I am hosting these turnout phone banks every Thursday night from now until Lobby Day and they go from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
. Volunteer today to help protect your wages, your health care and your retirement by contacting your fellow state employees about VSEA Lobby Day 2014. To volunteer, please contact Josh Massey by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 223-5247.
Attending VSEA’s 2014 Lobby Day On Feb. 18? Please Register Beforehand.
VSEA’s Legislative team has created a page where VSEA members can go to register to attend the union’s 2014 Lobby Day at the State House. VSEA members who will be attending Lobby Day on February 18 can click here to register. Thanks in advance for taking time to both register and attend this important event.
Sign Up Now To Attend The VT Workers’ Center’s 2014 “Solidarity School”
Want to learn more about how working Vermonters can come together to build a more powerful labor movement statewide? The Vermont Workers’ Center (VWC) wants to help.
The VWC Solidarity School is a two-day seminar, where participants are taught the different skill sets needed to bring more and more working Vermonters together and get them active and engaged on the issues that matter to all workers in our state. There are also sessions to teach workers how to coordinate with local community leaders to promote and advance common issues and concerns. In the past six years, more than 250 union and community leaders have graduated from the program.
The VWC Solidarity School is being held February 15 and 16 from 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at 294 N. Winooski Ave. in Burlington.
For more information, please click here. To register, please click here
An Evening With Noted Author & Labor Journalist Steve Early
There aren’t many labor journalists left today (sadly), but there is still one out there looking out for the working person and his name is Steve Early. On January 23, the Vermont Workers’ Center is hosting a talk by Early, who is promoting his latest book “How Can We Save Our Unions.” Early’s talk will begin at 6:00 p.m. at the VWC headquarters at 294 N. Winooski Ave. in Burlington.
For more information about this January 23 Steve Early event, please click here.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday
VSEA & Most State Offices Closed
Special Events Committee
9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Memorial Service For Chet Briggs
Old Labor Hall
46 Granite St.
Screening Of “10,000 Black Men Named George”
Old Labor Hall
46 Granite Street