VSEA Labor Relations Director Responds To State’s Memo & Statements
Like a lot of VSEA members and retirees this week, VSEA Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley took great issue with the weak contract explanation
communication sent this week to state employees by DHR Commissioner Beth Fastiggi, calling it "a failed attempt to convince state employees the imposed contract changes are fair and reasonable."
In response to Commissioner Fastiggi’s very one-sided communication, Hoadley has penned his own take for VSEA members on the State’s "fair" contract deal that was imposed on state employees last week by the Vermont Labor Relations Board.
Please take a few minutes tonight or this weekend to read Gary’s response and then share what you’ve learned with your co-workers who might not have an opportunity to read it.
Needless to say, VSEA members and retirees are extremely upset about the new ban, and they say they are ready to fight.
VSEA’s Facebook page has been posting all week about the release of the banned drug list, and members and retirees are lighting up the comments sections with insight about some of the drugs on the list and posting their thoughts and concerns about the list and about the lack of information about drug equivalents for the ones being banned. Several members and retirees have already contacted VSEA to say they take one or more of the drugs on the list and that their doctor has already informed them there is no generic equivalent.
Members and retirees who were unsuccessful this week in their efforts to get DHR to confirm that there is an alternative drug for the one they currently take tell VSEA they were surprised by DHR Commissioner Beth Fastiggi’s declaration in an April 4 WCAX story about the new drug ban that “People’s medications are not going to get cut off.” VSEA President Dave Bellini tells WIA that Fastiggi’s comment must mean that DHR has determined there are alternatives for each of the 170 drugs on the list, but as Bellini notes, VSEA members and retirees certainly haven’t seen any proof yet that there is a substitute for each of the banned medications. In fact, an April 2 email from a DHR official to a VSEA staffer reads, “The drugs indicated on that list are actually “excluded” from the formulary, so they would be replaced by a drug that is currently on the standard formulary where applicable. I unfortunately do not have a list I can share that has a direct point A to point B conversion for the medications on the list…”
In an April 4 story in Seven Days article about the banned drug list, VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard sums up what most believe is happening here, which is, “[The State is] putting [its] desire to save money over the medical needs of retirees and state employees and their families.”
VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard appeared live on WDEV’s Dave Gram show this morning to discuss the VLRB’s decision and this week’s release of the banned drug list. You can listen to a podcast of this morning’s show here (Howard begins a half hour into the show). DHR Commissioner Beth Fastiggi appears after Howard.
Take Action Today!
VSEA members are being urged to contact both DHR and the Governor’s Office to voice your anger about the new ban and urge each to abandon the move before it causes any Vermonter harm.
Contact DHR at 802-828-6700 (press #1 then #3)
It’s a good idea to start organizing and talking with your coworkers about how this is affecting you and your families. Brainstorm ideas how to fight back against these measures.
Send ideas, questions and concern to leaders in your union:
Sanders Issues Statement Of Support For VSEA Members
Turns out more than one VSEA member had the wherewithal to contact Senator Sanders’ office this week about the State’s banned drug list and the VLRB’s imposed contract terms and conditions. In response to the calls and emails, Sanders’ office posted a statement to his Facebook page that reads:
"I stand with Vermont state employees and retirees. At a time when workers across the country are being squeezed by flat wages and rising health care costs, our public sector workers – who do critically important work in our communities – must have access to fair wages, health care, needed medicines, and a secure retirement."
Vermont Ranks Near Bottom In Nation For Personal Income Growth & State’s Imposed Contract
Governing magazine reports on April 3 that the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) has released its annual report on the growth of Americans’ personal income, by state, and the news isn’t great for Vermont.
Nationally, per capita personal income increased 2.4 percent between 2016 and 2017, according to the BEA, but here in Vermont, growth rose just 2.1 percent, placing our state near the bottom in the nation.
In explaining its methodology, the BEA says “while expanding economies propped up some states, others benefitted from higher government benefits or investment earnings.” Well, VSEA members know that their government benefits actually got reduced in this round of negotiations, which tightens the economic screws even more on low- and middle income state employees, as well as retirees living on a fixed income.
“I’m incredibly disappointed over this lack of basic respect for current hard working state employees and retirees. I’m angered at the blatant disregard for humanity, as this list includes many lifesaving and quality-of-life improving drugs.”
One of the hundreds of state employee responses posted to VSEA’s Facebook page this week after the release of the State’s banned drug list. The State has not produce a complete substitution list for the 170 banned drugs on the list, as of April 6.
The VSEA Brattleboro Chapter is holding its next meeting on Tuesday, April 10, beginning at 12:00 p.m. in the State Office Building’s Conference Room, located at 232 Main Street in Brattleboro. Pizza and beverages!
April 12 Employee Appreciation Day Event At The Chittenden County Regional Correctional Facility
VSEA members working in or near the Chittenden County Regional Correctional Facility in South Burlington are invited to attend a special Employee Appreciation Day event on Thursday, April 12, at the facility, located at 7 Farrell Street in South Burlington. VSEA staff will be hosting the event at both the morning and afternoon shift changes.
Stop by during your break for treats and VSEA giveaway items and to be provided with updates on the issues and challenges facing state employees and learn more from you about how your service is functioning and what your needs are. Come share your ideas about how to build a stronger VSEA and also hear what your colleagues think. Sandwiches, donuts and coffee available!
Organizer’s Worksite Meeting On
April 12 In Montpelier!
VSEA Organizer Carmen Scoles is holding a meeting on April 12 with VSEA members working at National Life and the Dewey Building Montpelier. The meeting begins at 12:00 p.m. in the Dewey Building’s Conference Room R206 in the Dewey Building, located in Montpelier. There will be pizza and beverages 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 Carmen by email (email@example.com) or by phone at 802-223-5247.
Employee Appreciation Day Event For ANR Members On April 13
VSEA Agency of Natural Resources members working in or near the State Office Building in St. Johnsbury are invited to attend a special Employee Appreciation Day event on Friday, April 13, at the ANR office, located at 374 Emerson Falls Road in St. Johnsbury. The event begins at 11:00 a.m. and ends at 1:00 p.m.
Stop by during your break for treats and VSEA giveaway items and to be provided with updates on the issues and challenges facing state employees and learn more from you about how your service is functioning and what your needs are. Come share your ideas about how to build a stronger VSEA and also hear what your colleagues think. Sandwiches and drinks available.
Next Newport/ Island Pond Chapter Meeting Is April 13
VSEA’s Newport / Island Pond Chapter is holding its next Chapter meeting on Thursday, April 13, at the Kingdom Brewery, located at 353 Coburn Hill Rd. in Newport Town. Pizza and beverages for members attending. There will be a contract update, as well as a discussion about the Janus vs. Illinois lawsuit.
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
VSEA Member Talks About Reintroducing The American Marten Beck To Vermont
WCAX’s “Wildlife Watch” segment this week was about the reintroduction of the American marten to Vermont after forest clearing and unregulated hunting drove the species to extinction in the 1800s. The actual reintroduction began in 1989, and VSEA member and Fish and Wildlife employee Kim Royar updates viewers on how the animal is doing and reports on rising marten populations and migration patterns.
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 an email this week 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."
Teachers On The March! First West Virginia, then Oklahoma and Kentucky and now Arizona
After West Virginia teachers recently staged a successful statewide strike, Oklahoma teachers followed suit this week, walking out of their schools and into the streets to demand more funding for their classroom needs. Kentucky teachers also joined in the protests this week as well, walking out of their classrooms to publicly blast changes to their pension plans. And Arizona teachers are also now planning a walkout.
“I think West Virginia sent a signal to people that this can happen,” Kentucky teacher Kelsey Hayes Cotts tells The Guardian. “It works and it sent a signal to the nation.”
278 Days Without A Contract, NH State Employees Rally
The Valley News reports on April 5 that New Hampshire state employees and their supporters were at the Capital on April 4 to commemorate the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and lobby state lawmakers to bring and end to a 278-plus-day contract stalemate.
“Today we draw on the great perseverance of those sanitation workers who never gave up and eventually won,” Richard Gulla, president of SEA/SEIU Local 1984, said at a rally…
Gulla said thousands of transportation workers, state troopers and social services providers — not all of whom are represented by his union — had been left without employment agreements because the governor’s negotiators declined to accept cost-of-living wage increases and pay raises for longtime employees.
“Let (Sununu) know we will not be forgotten and we will not be ignored,” Gulla said.
Some state lawmakers are listening:
“It’s not good faith negotiation to not put a proposal on the table in 278 days,” said state Rep. Lee Oxenham, D-Plainfield, who accompanied the labor marchers and floated the idea of introducing a House resolution urging a deal. “These people are doing hard, good work for us, and we’re not giving them the respect they deserve.”
In Advance Of Janus Ruling, NY Lawmakers Debate Legislation To Protect Public-Employee Unions & Their Members
Legislation is being debated right now in the New York State House that, if passed, will give public-employee unions the right to deny many in-house services, such as free legal help, to covered employees who opt not to join or pay dues.
“It’s to let employees know what they’re getting. Why should you be getting benefits if you don’t pay dues?” asks Assemblyman Peter Abbate (D-Brooklyn) in an April 3 New York Post story. “If you’re not paying dues, then there’s not enough money for the unions to provide you service.”
The proposed legislation would also make it easier for unions to sign up workers and more difficult for workers to withdraw, by requiring the government to begin dues deductions “no later than 30 days” after getting an authorization form.
"Hundreds of Disney World workers marched more than a mile on March 23 to the entrance to Disney Springs, an entertainment and shopping complex on Disney property.
The protesters — including hospitality and housekeeping workers, custodians, ride operators, and cast members— handed out picket signs and balloons with “End Disney Poverty” stamped on them. They chanted, “We work, we sweat, put a raise on our check.”
It was the latest sign of a rift between labor and management at the “Happiest Place on Earth,” with unionized workers in Florida and California alleging that Disney pays them poverty wages.
In response to the unions rejecting Disney’s initial offer, Disney withheld bonuses up to $1,000 from 41,000 union employees in Florida and California under the condition they accept the company’s wage proposal by August 31 or forfeit the bonuses entirely."
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.
VSEA Legislative Team Weekly Updates
VSEA’s legislative team at the State House is now publishing a short, information-packed, weekly recap of what’s happening in Montpelier that VSEA members need to know about.
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.