VSEA Takes Additional Legal Action To
Stop O’Neill Confirmation & Implementation Of VLRB’s Imposed Contract
Just a week after filing an unfair labor practice (ULP) complaint with the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB), charging the State had bargained in “bad faith” with three VSEA Bargaining Units, VSEA attorneys were back at it again today, filing two additional actions in an attempt to remedy the flawed process that led to the State’s last-best-offer contract terms and conditions recently being imposed on thousands of state employees.
The first action was filed in Washington County Superior Court on behalf of VSEA and the Vermont NEA, the Vermont Trooper’s Association, the Professional Firefighters of Vermont, the American Federation of Teachers and United Academics; all the additional unions, explains VSEA President Dave Bellini, understanding that this appointment has consequences for their members as well.
VSEA and its supporters are formally contesting the appointment of corporate attorney Karen O’Neill as a neutral to the VLRB and requesting a new hearing on last-best-offer contract proposals. The action also seeks an injunction to undo the harm caused by the [State]’s failure to follow the statute when filling a Board vacancy. Specifically, the Labor Commissioner is required to appoint a labor representative to a “Review Panel” from names submitted by labor organizations. The Review Panel is then required to submit names to the Governor, whose charge is to maintain a balance on the Board between persons with labor, management and neutral backgrounds. VSEA contends labor organizations were not contacted at all by the DOL Commissioner for nominees.
VSEA’s second action was filed today with the VLRB and asks for a new hearing on the last-best-offer contract proposals submitted by the parties. It also asks that Ms. O’Neill be recused from this decision. The motion is based on several errors committed by the Board, including:
The imposition of an unlawful waiver of bargaining rights concerning prescription drugs;
Consideration of evidence submitted by the State in violation of the Board’s procedural order;
The Board’s decision to give weight to allegations made by the State that the Board knew to be untrue; and
Broader concerns raised in VSEA’s ULP Charge filed last week, which, again, challenges the State’s failure to negotiate in good faith by pointing to its insistence on predictably unacceptable concession demands, violations of the ground rules, and other conduct that was designed to avoid agreement and push the decision to the VLRB.
"VSEA members are rightfully upset about the way this contract was forced on us, especially knowing that the formal process in place to determine which last best offer is chosen–and which people are doing the choosing–was flawed and in some cases ignored, which is why VSEA filed a ULP last week and took additional legal action today," explains Bellini. "Our hope is for state employees to get a new hearing in front of the VLRB so we can again make ourcase for VSEA’s very fair last-best-offer—hopefully without the state misusing the appointment process to stack the deck in advance."
Senate Economic Development Committee Schedules
May 2 Hearing On Karen O’Neill’s Confirmation
The Senate Economic Development Committee has scheduled the following:
Karen O’Neill Confirmation Hearing To Be A "Neutral" On VLRB
Wednesday, May 2
VSEA members and retirees who are able are urged to come to the State House to listen to the hearing and help VSEA put some faces to the thousands of Vermont workers (not just state employees) who could be harmed if Ms. O’Neill is confirmed as a "neutral."
As soon as a meeting room is confirmed, VSEA will be letting members, retirees and supporters know.
Legislature’s Working Vermonters’ Caucus Sends Letter To Senate Economic Development Committee Members, Opposing O’Neill Confirmation
Yesterday, the legislature’s "Workers’ Caucus" (a group of pro-worker, pro-union lawmakers) sent a letter to Senate Economic Development Committee Chair Michael Sirotkin, voicing their collective opposition to the confirmation of Karen O’Neill to a VLRB "neutral" seat.
The letter reads:
We, the undersigned members of the Working Vermonters’ Caucus write in strong opposition to the confirmation of Karen O’Neill to a neutral seat on the Vermont Labor Relations Board. As indicated by her résumé, Ms. O’Neill has a long history in management, including as an attorney and shareholder at Gravel & Shea, a firm that touts its history of “successfully defeat[ing] union organizing drives.” We have seen no evidence of countervailing experience in Labor that might qualify her to credibly serve as a neutral member.
While Ms. O’Neill might be eminently qualified to serve as a management member of the board, her appointment as a neutral makes a mockery of the Labor Board process, and would leave working Vermonters with little faith that their cases before the Board would be adjudicated in a fair manner.
Thank you for your consideration of this crucially important matter.
Attention VSEA Judiciary Unit Members! Electronic Contract Ratification Ballots Being Emailed Monday!
All eligible VSEA Judiciary Unit members will be receiving an email on Monday, April 30, from email@example.com. The email contains your electronic ballot to vote on the tentative contract agreement reached
Very important! Your electronic ballot is being sent to the primary email address that VSEA currently has on file for you. If you do not recall receiving an email from firstname.lastname@example.org on April 30, please look in your “Other” or “Spam” folders before contacting headquarters to request that your ballot be reissued.
Reminder: VSEA is sending ballots to Judiciary Unit members’ primary email address, provided the union has your correct primary email address. This is a big reason why WIA is constantly soliciting members to contact VSEA with your updated email address. You can update your contact information here anytime.
New This Week:
Before The O’Neill Appointment, The State Denied VSEA & Other Unions The Right To Representation On The "Review Panel" To Fill VLRB Vacancies
Another piece of the State’s effort to stack the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) took place at the start of the process, when they went around organized labor to fill labor’s seat on the “Labor Board Review Panel.” This is the panel that recruits candidates to fill board vacancies, and it submits potential appointees to the Governor. The Panel is required by law to include one person appointed by the DOL Commissioner “from names provided by labor organizations.”
This one seat is the only input unions have to ensure that the Board can be fair and impartial. The other four seats on the panel are all aligned with management.
The labor seat was for years held by the President of the Troopers’ Association. In November of 2017, however, the DOL Commissioner hand-picked a successor from a private-sector union to fill the slot, Jeff Wimette from IBEW Local 300, which represents the employees at Green Mountain Power (where Karen O’Neill worked in Human Resources from 1985-1997). Wimette told VSEA that he was called out of the blue by the DOL Commissioner, and he was unaware of any union being consulted on his appointment. Nor did Commissioner Kurrle consult the VSEA, Working Vermont, the AFL-CIO, the NEA, the AFT or the Troopers’ Association. In short, none of the major public-sector labor unions were told that the position was open or invited to submit names.
Here are email responses from three Vermont union leaders, responding to the question of whether or not they were "solicited" for names:
"Not that I know of."
"I don’t recall being asked either."
"The **** wasn’t contacted either."
VSEA and its legal team are sending out freedom of information requests, conducting inquiries and exploring all available options to determine how the November 2017 nomination to the Review Panel’s "labor" seat was accomplished and what recourse VSEA might have for remedy.
This is just another huge reason to call or email your Senators today and urge their "no" vote on Karen O’Neill’s confirmation to the Vermont Labor Relations Board.
Some VSEA members, supporters and a staff person have recently had letters to the editor, opposing the O’Neill confirmation, published in the newspaper or posted to an online media outlet. Here are some examples of some of the messages VSEA has found
VSEA Presses Lawmakers Not To Privatize VT’s Entire Mental Health Care Delivery System
Faced with a mounting crisis in the way the state currently treats Vermonters with acute mental illness, lawmakers and the AHS Secretary were in full-blown panic mode at the State House this week, marketing a plan to shift services currently being provided at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital (VPCH) to a private University of Vermont Medical Center facility. In an April 23 WCAX report, VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard explains that VSEA “wants to move forward with UVM’s plan,” but keep 16 beds at the [VPCH]. "We do the UVM plan, but the state maintains 16 level 1 beds at the current state hospital and build a separate 16-bed secure residential facility, he says."
This week’s VSEA Legislative Update contained this information about the current debate around the future of Vermont’s mental health care delivery system:
[Last week], the Legislative Team held the most recent in a series of meetings with members at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital. At that meeting, [VSEA Executive Director] Steve Howard briefed the members on a plan Secretary of Human Services Al Gobeille presented to the Senate Committee on Institutions.
Under that plan, which can be viewed here, Central Vermont Medical Center would construct an unspecified number of Level I mental health beds. When this new capacity comes on line, in a projected three- to four-year time frame, the Middlesex Secure Residential Facility would close, and the current Psychiatric Care Hospital would close, and its building would become the new Secure Residential Facility.
After briefing members at the hospital on the proposal, and receiving their feedback on a response to the proposal, Steve and [Consultant] Vince Illuzzi communicated the members’ position to the Legislature, in testimony before the same Senate committee, arguing that it is essential for the State continue to operate both a State-owned secure residential facility and 16 State-owned Level I beds. In the past, Vermont’s hospitals have found ways not to accept patients with the most severe mental illness, and your union argued that State-operated beds provide a vital safety net for the mental health system and its patients.
The Legislative team will continue to advocate for this approach in the weeks to come.
Labor Relations Director’s Contract Summary
Last Friday, VSEA Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley emailed his comprehensive summary of the contract recently imposed on VSEA members belonging to the Non-Management, Corrections and Supervisory Bargaining Units. Hoadley’s email was sent to members’ home email addresses, but it can also be found on VSEA’s website by clicking here.
Organizer’s Worksite Meeting On
May 1 In Bennington
VSEA Organizer Jen Larsen is holding a meeting on May 1 with VSEA members working in Bennington. The meeting begins at 12:00 p.m. in the State Office Buildings Third-Floor Conference Room, located at 200 Veterans’ Memorial Drive in Bennington. There will be pizza 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 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).
Dinner Meeting Scheduled To Provide VPCH Members With A Legislative Update
VSEA Organizer Carmen Scoles has scheduled a dinner meeting on May 3 to allow VSEA staff an opportunity to update members working at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital on what’s going on at the State House, with respect to their future and the future of Vermont mental health care delivery system. The meeting begins at 6:00 p.m. in VSEA’s large conference room, located at 155 State Street in Montpelier. There will be pizza and beverages for members attending.
VPCH members with questions can contact Carmen by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone at 802-223-5247.
Next NEK / St. Johnsbury Chapter Meeting Is May 9!
VSEA’s NEK / St. Johnsbury Chapter will hold its next Chapter meeting on Wednesday, May 9, at 12:00 p.m. at the St. J District Office, located at 1016 U.S. Route 5 in St. Johnsbury. Pizza and beverages being provided, or you can bring your own lunch. Lots on the agenda to cover.
Please RSVP in advance—or direct any questions or comments—to VSEA NEK / St. Johnsbury Chapter President Ellen Hinman via email at email@example.com.
VSEA Brattleboro Chapter President Robin Rieske and other Chapter members will be staffing a Green-Up Day member-volunteer table on Saturday morning, May 5, at the corner of Elm and Elliot Streets in Brattleboro.
VSEA members are welcome to stop by the table from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. to pick up some collection bags and some VSEA giveaway items. Donuts served!
Reducing state and local payrolls, of course, is a goal that has champions and detractors. Anti-tax crusaders, concerned about cost and overreach, have longed for a smaller government that delivers only the most limited services. Public-sector defenders worry that shortages of restaurant inspectors, rat exterminators, mental health counselors and the like will hurt neighborhoods. Pothole-studded roads and unreliable garbage pickup don’t entice businesses, either.
Yet whether one views a diminished public sector as vital to economic growth or a threat to health and safety, it is undeniable that it has led to a significant decline in middle-class employment opportunities.
“It’s a tough time to be working in government,” said Neil Reichenberg, executive director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources. Once there were several attractions to public employment in addition to the mission of making a difference in your community, he added, but incentives like good health insurance and retirement benefits have disappeared. “There’s been a lot of cutbacks that have made government a less competitive employer,” he said.
Montana American Indians Pen Commentary, Warning State Can’t “Be Held Hostage By Private Prison Companies” (Namely CoreCivic)
A coalition of Montana lawmakers, calling itself the “American Indian Caucus” recently penned a commentary in the Flathead Beacon that highlights the disproportionate number of American Indians incarcerated in Montana’s prisons and also admonishes lawmakers for “boasting about the supposedly great management of the private prison in Shelby,” which is operated by CoreCivic.
From the Commentary:
In fiscal year 2009, CoreCivic failed to address 206 of 220 formal inmate complaints. But despite all of this, many of our Republicans colleagues continue to support the prison pipeline and praise CoreCivic’s management of the Shelby prison.
Now, CoreCivic is holding $30 million of Montana taxpayer money hostage and will only return it to Montanans if its contract for the Shelby prison is renewed. Worst of all, Republicans are prioritizing the needs of this corporation over the best interests of Montanans. During the special session, they passed bills that put our state in an impossible position: either renew the prison contract or face even deeper cuts to critical health services that have already been implemented.
For our Montana communities, the false choice between a prison debilitating our people and further cuts to already underfunded programs is despicable.
Subsequently, the governor’s recent decision to walk away from negotiations with CoreCivic last week is a necessary one. The prison’s final offer included an almost 15 percent increase in the daily rate for our state, costing Montana more money while our other community providers of mental health and disability services were cut. The idea that we would raise rates for private prisons while being forced to cut rates for providers who deliver services to vulnerable Montanans borders on ludicrous.
We need real, long-term solutions to our state’s budget woes. We refuse to be held hostage by private prison companies who abuse prisoners and send our tax dollars to out-of-state corporate shareholders. Montana’s taxpayers can no longer afford mass incarceration. We can do better than CoreCivic.
The Hill published a commentary on April 25, written by National Public Pension Coalition Communications Director Andrew Collier, titled “America’s Public Pensions Matter.” In the piece, Collier lays out a very good case for protecting defined benefit plans and using the benefit as a draw to young people to enter public service.
Here’s an excerpt:
Public pensions are a tradition for a reason. They made the American dream possible for generations. As they spread across the country from the 1930s through the 1960s, suddenly seniors who had worked all their lives were freed from the desperation and poverty that awaited those in earlier decades. More seniors could safely retire, and young workers were incentivized to work hard and accept demanding jobs, knowing they would be compensated for their efforts and commitment in retirement. The system wasn’t perfect, but it rewarded grit and steadfastness. It was good for our economy and our culture.
Today, many companies have abandoned pensions, leaving employees to gamble their retirements on risky 401(k)s. Fortunately, only a few states have followed suit, for two reasons. First, one analysis after another showed that converting to a 401(k) doesn’t save money. Second, states seem to understand the negative impact this change would have on getting good people to commit to a lifetime of public service. Unfortunately, some states are undermining pensions in other ways.
Every year, states like Kentucky, Kansas and Pennsylvania defer, skip or partially pay into their pension systems, while public employees contributed to them from each and every paycheck. These cuts actually hurt local economies. In Oregon, for every $1 taxpayers contribute to public pensions, more than $6 is produced in total economic activity. When pensions are cut, economies miss out on their stimulating effect.
But this is about more than the numbers. It’s about what values our states stand for and what kind of economy we want to build for our country. Communities have long recognized that after long years working demanding and vital jobs, public servants should receive what they’ve earned. When states cut pensions, it signals that hard work isn’t worth it.
Workers Worldwide Observe “Workers’ Memorial Day” On 4/28
On April 28, workers across the globe will observe “Workers’ Memorial Day”; a day to pause to remember those who have been injured or killed on the job and renew the fight for strong worker safety and health protections.
Four decades ago, Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act, promising every worker the right to a safe job. Since then, unions and our allies have fought hard to make that promise a reality in Vermont and across the country—winning protections that have made jobs safer, saved hundreds of thousands of lives and prevented millions of workplace injuries and illnesses.
From a national AFL-CIO flyer about Workers’ Memorial Day:
“On April 28, unions nationwide will observe Workers Memorial Day to remember those who have suffered and died on the job and to renew the fight for safe workplaces. This year, we will come together to call for good jobs in this country that are safe and healthy. We will seek stronger safeguards to prevent injuries and save lives. We will stand for the right of all workers to raise job safety concerns without fear of retaliation, and for the freedom to form unions and speak out and bargain for respect and a better future. Please join us and make your voice heard.
Note: According to a recent MarketWatch story, some 5,190 workers were killed on the job in 2016 — up from the 4,836 deaths the previous year, according to a new report, “Death on the Job, The Toll of Neglect, 2018,” released last week by the AFL-CIO federation of unions. That equates to 150 workers dying each day from hazardous working conditions.
The New York Times reported on April 26 that thousands of Arizona and Colorado teachers would be walking off the job on April 27, and they did. Each state’s teachers are demanding more funding for public schools.
“We are collectively fed up after years of doing more with less and being promised it will get better in the future,” the head of the Colorado teachers’ union says. “We can’t afford to wait anymore. The students in Colorado can’t afford to wait any longer.”
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.
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.”
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.
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."
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.
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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.