All Hands On Deck! Help Your Union Stop
The O’Neill Confirmation
VSEA’s Facebook page featured a piece this week about Karen O”Neill, who was recently appointed to the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB), but has yet to be officially confirmed by the Senate, per statute.
The post reads:
One of the back stories to the recent Vermont Labor Relations Board’s (VLRB) ruling in favor of the [State]’s last best offer is the Board’s last-minute* seating of Karen O’Neill in a key “neutral” seat. O’Neill has yet to be confirmed by the Senate, but, oddly, Vermont law permits individuals to hear cases on the VLRB prior to be officially sworn in.
The VLRB defines neutral as individuals in high standing, not connected to any labor organization or management position and who can be reasonably considered to be able to serve as an impartial individual.
Now, here is a snapshot of Karen O’Neill’s work history:
According to the resume supplied by the VLRB, O’Neill is a corporate attorney who served as General Counsel to Green Mountain Power. She most recently served in the same role for the Vermont Electric Power Company.
O’Neill has also served as in-house counsel to several other utility companies in Vermont and Texas, with responsibilities that included oversight of human resources issues. She has also been a shareholder in Gravel & Shea, a management law firm that advertises itself as follows:
"In both the public and private sectors, we have successfully defeated union organizing drives."
"While we are available to answer all types of employment-related questions from our clients, our services generally relate to preventive labor and employment strategies, the defense of employment-related claims and dealing with union-organized workforces."
The VLRB has stated that O’Neill could serve as a neutral because she is retired and has no current affiliation with management. Statute also asks whether she:
Can be reasonably considered to be able to serve as an impartial individual”; and
Whether the appointment can be said to “ensure a continuing balance on the Board of labor, management, and neutral backgrounds.”
VSEA members, this is the neutral who cast the deciding vote against your union’s very fair last best offer. Before the Senate confirms Ms. O’Neill, which it still has to do before adjourning, contact your Senators and ask them to oppose Karen O’Neill’s forthcoming appointment to the VLRB as a “neutral.”
*VSEA is questioning how the State maneuvered to get Ms. Oneill substituted in at the last minute and will argue that the way it went down has poisoned any credibility she could ever have with state workers.
Co-Sponsoring May Day Rally At The State House
May Day Rally 2015
VSEA members and retirees certainly have a lot to get off their chests these days, so why not join other Vermont workers on May 1 at the State House in Montpelier to raise awareness about state employee issues and fights and to support other groups of Vermont workers in their fights.
VSEA is reimbursing members for your mileage to come to the rally but carpooling is being highly encouraged. VSEA members are invited to stop by headquarters, prior to the rally, to make a sign(s) and to park (if room).
May Day Rally 2018
Tuesday, May 1
4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
VSEA Executive Director Challenges State To Openly Debate Ramifications Of Imposed Contract
VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard was a guest this morning on WDEV’s Dave Gram Show, where he blasted the State’s assault on employees’ and retirees’ health care plan and on their existing prescription drug formulary. Howard also used his time to educate Vermonters about the State’s appointment of Karen O’Neill to the Vermont Labor Relations Board, and VSEA’s campaign to stop her Senate confirmation.
At the end of his time, Howard issued a challenge to State leaders to meet with him "anytime, anywhere" in front of a group of workers and retirees to debate the ramifications of the contract terms and conditions the State imposed on them. Howard says that his invitation has been out there, but he has received no response to date.
After reading and hearing about the Vermont Labor Relations Board’s (VLRB) recent decision in favor of the State’s last-best-contract-offer, a House and Senate joint Committee asked VLRB Director Tim Noonan to testify before it on Tuesday to drill down on how statute-on-the-books currently governs the process to resolve contract disputes. As part of his testimony, Noonan detailed the timeline related to Karen O’Neill’s appointment by the State
to the VLRB.
Noonan told lawmakers that Scott appointed Ms. O’Neill on February 26. He said he (the Board) learned of the appointment on March 8. VSEA was not informed about the appointment until March 19. VSEA submitted its last best offer on February 28, believing the case would be heard by the then-current VLRB. The Administration filed theirs, however, knowing they had Ms. O’Neill in the wings.
Now it gets interesting. On March 14, less than a week before the last-best-offer hearing (after Scott appoints O’Neill, but before VSEA knows of the appointment) the Administration’s legal counsel pens an email to Noonan, copying VSEA, raising the issue that Board member Alan Willard (or the person already designated as the “neutral” to hear VSEA’s contract defense), currently receives state health care benefits. The morning before the contract hearing, Willard recuses himself, stunning both the VLRB’s Noonan and VSEA. Coincidence? Mind you, in 2016, another Board member who receives state health care benefits did hear the VSEA’s contract defense and no conflict was ever discussed.
So after this Board member recuses himself, who steps in to fill the “neutral” seat? That’s right, Karen O’Neill. And when does VSEA learn about O’Neill being slotted? One day prior to presenting at the VLRB on March 20. VSEA’s Bargaining Teams voiced anger and concerns, but the clock was ticking to meet the established statutory timeline and the Teams were left with few options but to proceed forward and examine the process afterwards to determine what legal options VSEA has, if any, to shine a brighter light on what exactly happened here, which brings us to today.
VSEA’s President, Labor Relations Director and Bargaining and Legal Teams are now looking at options and deciding next steps, but be assured VSEA will be sharing whatever details are unearthed in the coming days and weeks with you.
In the meantime, contact your state Senators today and tell them to oppose Karen O’Neill’s confirmation to the VLRB.
Monday evening, after most state employees had already left the office, DHR Commissioner Beth Fastiggi emailed a memorandum to state employees, in which she tried desperately to put a good spin on the prescription drug reality that now confronts most VSEA members and retirees. Not wasting any time, VSEA leaders and staff consulted with members and retirees who know a thing or two about the State’s health care plan, and less than a day after Fastiggi’s email hit, VSEA posted a rebuttal to her memo, and you can read what your union said here. Please also share VSEA’s document with any of your co-workers who might not be engaged all that much with VSEA but will certainly appreciate the heads-up about the changes to their prescription drug coverage, coming in January 1, 2019.
The DHR Commissioner also protested loudly this week about VSEA’s use of the word “banned,” when letting members and retirees know about the future of the 170 prescription drugs that were on an “excluded” drugs list that DHR’s Benefits Deputy Director recently provided to your union. VSEA was quick to remind that the word “ban” is a synonym for the word “exclude.” Click here to view VSEA’s Facebook post about the “ban” versus “exclude” uproar and here to view a meme about the difference of opinion between the DHR Commissioner and VSEA.
Prescription Drug Dictatorship?
Remember that the VLRB’s decision takes collective bargaining out of the mix when it comes to deciding which, when, how much and how many prescription drugs will be available to VSEA members and retirees in the future. This is because the State’s last best offer contained a draconian and heavy-handed prescription drug proposal, and the VLRB’s ruling gives the State sole discretion about:
What prescription drugs state employees and retirees will be offered:
The quantity state employees and retirees can receive; and
VSEA members and retirees have been lighting up the State House switchboard to voice opposition to the changes coming in January 2019 to state employees’ and retirees’ prescription drug coverage, but we can’t let up now. Please continue to contact both DHR and the Governor’s Office to voice your anger about the new “exclusions” and urge each to abandon the move before it causes any Vermonter harm.
“The State said yesterday in testimony that they are so angry at the VSEA for these scare tactics. You want to talk about scare tactics? What they’ve done to our health plan is what is scary for members! While we will all be impacted, it’s our lowest wage earners and our retirees who I worry about the most.”
VSEA Member and VDH employee Michelle Salvador, posting on VSEA’s Facebook page about testimony offered this week to lawmakers by DHR Commissioner
The VSEA Central Vermont Chapter is holding its next meeting on Tuesday, April 17, beginning at 5:00 p.m. at VSEA headquarters, located at 155 State Street in Montpelier. Dinner! One primary discussion will be about the recent VLRB decision, how it came about and what the ramifications are.
Please direct any questions or comments to VSEA Central Vermont Chapter President Cassandra Edson, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Organizer’s Worksite Meeting On April 18 In Morrisville
VSEA Organizer Jen Larsen is holding a meeting on April 18 with VSEA members working in Morrisville. The meeting begins at 12:00 p.m. in the State Office Building’s ESD Conference Room, located at 63 Professional Drive in Morrisville. There will be pizza and snacks for members attending. A contract update will be provided, and there will be a discussion about the Janus lawsuit’s progress to date.
Members with questions can contact Jen by email (email@example.com) or by phone at 802-223-5247.
VSEA Bennington Chapter Presidnet, Victoria Thopre is announcing a Chapter meeting on April 24. The meeting will be held at The Tap House at Catamount Glass (309 County Street, Bennington) from 5:15 to
Equal Pay Day was created in 1996 by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) as a public awareness event to illustrate the gap between men’s and women’s wages. The date symbolizes how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned in the previous year.
“For single women in Vermont, the difference in pay is the equivalent of about seven months of rent,” Cary Brown, the executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women, said at the proclamation signing event.
“In Vermont, Hispanic or Latino women earn 80 percent of what men do, and Asian women earn 58 percent, according to Scott’s proclamation. Disabled women in Vermont only make 37 percent of men’s earnings, it says. Nationally, black women earn 63 cents on the dollar compared to men and Native American women earn 57 cents, according to the proclamation.”
In Advance Of SCOTUS’ Impending Janus Ruling, New York Governor Signs Important Pro-State Worker Legislation
WIA has reported several times about an impending ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on a case (Janus v. Illinois) that could harm public-sector unions across the nation, but on April 12, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that, according to an online UFT story, “helps New York’s public-employee unions recruit and retain members and reduces the number of services these unions are obligated to provide to workers who do not pay to support those services.”
“The law, which was hammered out as part of this year’s state budget talks, reduces the number of services that New York’s public-sector unions must provide to workers who opt not to join the union. The unions, for instance, will not have to provide free legal representation to these non-members in statutory or administrative proceedings.”
Note: Way to step up Governor Cuomo and NY state lawmakers!
Several media outlets reported this week that Oklahoma teachers are ending their nine-day walkout and will now turn their attention to helping elect “pro-education” candidates to the state legislature.
Here’s some of the recent press:
Belonging To A Union Gives Working People Like Us The Power To Make Positive Change!
“Having an equal voice at the table when decisions are being made about our workplace, our livelihood, our health, and well being is the way we build better stronger communities for our families and future generations.”
Chair, VSEA Judiciary Unit Executive Committee
Now Is The Time To Enroll In VSEA’s Popular Delta Dental Supplemental Plan Benefit
VSEA members should have received a letter and/or email by now, announcing a new, 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.
All enrollment forms will be due back on a May 4, 2018.
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.
If you have any questions about this, please feel free to contact VSEA H.Q. via phone (802-223-5247) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A New VSEA Benefit – LifeLock Identity Theft Protection
VSEA members and retirees should have received a few week’s back announcing a new benefit to being a VSEA member. VSEA is pleased to announce best-in-class identity theft protection from lifelock!
From the email:
"We think your identity is worth protecting. LifeLock works to help protect your identity in a digitally-connected world. Protection from LifeLock helps safeguard your finances, credit and good name. Nowadays, that is more important than ever. Help protect your personal information by enrolling in LifeLock before April 30th to take advantage of special pricing being offered to VSEA employees."
In an effort to provide all VSEA members in good standing with access to both sides’ last best offers, staff and union bargaining statements and other helpful information, VSEA’s Communications Department has created a special “2018 VSEA Member Bargaining Resources” webpage.
The page will be updated with new information, as needed, and members are encouraged to reference the page throughout the negotiating process.
In order to view the resources page, VSEA members in good standing will need to first log into their VSEA.org account. Need a VSEA.org account? Sign up for a free account here.
May 11 Deadline To Submit Bylaw Changes
The deadline to submit proposals for changes to VSEA’s Master Bylaws is Friday, May 11, 2018.
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.
VSEA Urges State Employees Who Are Threatened On The Job To File Form
After leading a successful training last week for VSEA stewards, VSEA Field Services Director Gretchen Naylor asked WIA to remind all VSEA members that there is an online form to fill out if you are threatened while at work. Naylor said promoting the form and its link is something several stewards said would be useful.
Important: Once you land on the eAlert page, you will see an entry labeled “threat” in the menu provided. Click on it and you land on a page with written instructions, but the form’s actual entry fields are located in a menu in the page’s left-hand column.
In November 2017, the current Secretary of the Administration sent the State’s “Workplace Safety and Security” policy to state employees and VSEA members are encouraged to read through the different policies, examples and responses, prior to an actual event occurring. Oddly, the policy does not include a reference to the State’s eAlert online reporting function.
It’s Time! Please Donate Today To Your Unit Sick Leave Bank
Donations Being Accepted
April 1 To June 30
VSEA member Dawn Carrillo staffs the Non-Management Unit Sick Leave Bank, and she is once again asking WIA to help her solicit time donations to the bank from VSEA members. Carillo is also announcing that the donation period is April 1 to June 30, 2018, and she reminds that donations to the Corrections and Supervisory Unit Banks are also needed.
“Just donating an hour of your time can mean the world to a fellow employee,” reads a DHR flyer. It also informs state employees that they can donate any amount of annual- or personal-leave time to their respective Unit 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.”
VSEA Council And Steward Facebook Groups
VSEA Council Members and/or VSEA Stewards can request to join these groups here:
Note: VSCSF scholarships are not to be confused with VSEA’s annual scholarships, also being offered right now (which can be found here). Eligibility does not require attendance at one of the VSCSF’s four designated colleges or universities.
If Searching For Child Care, Don’t Forget This Important Resource For State Employees
Longtime VSEA member, now retiree, Dave Clark has served on VSEA’s Child and Elder Care Committee for many years, and he recently asked WIA to remind state employees about an important child-care resource that is currently available to them.
“The Committee has noticed a recent decline in employees’ usage of the valuable child-care resources available to them, so we asked WIA to help us remind VSEA members about what is available,” explains Clark.
Exclusive Deal For VSEA Members:
Complimentary dessert with the purchase of a dinner valued at $14.95 or higher.
The VSEA member must be present and show active state ID at check-out.
About Papa’s Place: "Excellent Food, thoughtfully prepared! Chef owned Family Diner serving American breakfast, lunch and dinner. With daily breakfast, lunch and dinner specials, you’ll find family favorites on the menu and chef inspired treats. Located on Route 100 in Eden at the Citgo center. All day breakfast 6-3 daily Lunch 11-3 daily with extended lunch hours until 5 on Friday and Saturday Dinner is served Friday & Saturday from 5-8 "One Taste and You’ll Be Back!""
What is the VSEA Advantage Program?
Did you know?
The average VSEA member can save hundreds of dollars a year by taking advantage of some of the Members Only benefits offered through their union?
GET EXCLUSIVE OFFERS, DISCOUNTS & MORE
It’s free, just for being a Vermont State Employees’ Association PerksConnect member!
At the top of the Advantage Program page, click the link that says "Click Here To Log Into The New VSEA Advantage Program". This will redirect you to the new Advantage Program website. Please note this link will not work unless you are logged into your VSEA.org account first.
Select a category and start saving!
Present your VSEA union card, mobile device or printed coupons and offers at participating businesses and receive immediate discounts.
Don’t see what you are looking for?
Request a merchant by filling out the Vendor Information form here. Please note submissions are subject to approval.
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.