VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: August 30, 2019




Celebrate Labor Day With Other Vermont Workers At Middlebury Event


Vermont’s labor and advocacy communities are joining together on September 2 to celebrate Labor Day with a special event in Middlebury.

Vermont Rights & Democracy and the Vermont NEA are sponsoring a celebration of labor on Monday, September 2, from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on the Middlebury Green, located at 3 Park Street in Middlebury. VSEA is also a co-sponsor.

Celebration speakers include, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, Rep. Mari Cordes, Tabitha Moore of the Rutland Area NAACP, ACLU-Vermont, as well as representatives of Migrant Justice, the Vermont Worker’s Center, 350Vermont, Vermont NEA, American Federation of Teachers, Vermont Health Care for All, the John Graham Shelter, and the Vermont AFL-CIO. Music provided by Milk House Heaters and Tom Caswell Blues Band. Food provided by Evolution Kitchen.

Note: VSEA Judiciary Unit Chair Margaret Crowley will be representing VSEA at the celebration, and she will be speaking.

Buy Union Made This Labor Day!

Courtesy of UnionPlus. See more here.

For The Grill:

  • Butterball burgers and franks
  • Ball Park Franks
  • Oscar Meyer hot dogs
  • Hebrew National franks
  • Hormel Red Franks
  • Nathan’s Ball Park hot dogs
  • Johnsonville brats and sausage
  • Wenzel’s sausage
  • Smithfield sausage
  • Foster Farms fresh chicken

Union-made Bread:

  • Wonder brand
  • Alfred Nickles Bakery
  • Stroehmann
  • Arnold
  • Francisco

Union-made Fixin’s:

  • Heinz Ketchup
  • French’s
  • Gulden’s Mustard
  • Vlasic brand pickles
  • Open Pit
  • Frank’s Red Hot

Union-made Snacks:

  • Frito-Lay
  • Doritos
  • Chex Mixes
  • Rold Gold
  • Funyuns
  • Munchos

Union-made Beverages:

  • Pepsi, Diet Pepsi
  • Coke, Diet Coke
  • Sprite
  • Mountain Dew
  • Welch’s Juices
  • Minute Maid
  • Hawaiian Punch
  • Mott’s
  • V8

See more here.

"Ambitious Reform" Of VSC System Needed, But Not Clear Yet How That Happens. VSEA Wary.  

VTDigger reports this week on the progress to date of a committee formed to begin long-range planning to reform the Vermont State Colleges system across the state. According to the report, there’s a lot of ideas on the table but the process to determine what ideas will work best–and be implemented–is just beginning. Needless to say, VSEA VSC Unit members are closely monitoring any and all discussions about "reforms", ways to save money or ways to generate new money. 

From the story:

Officials have been careful not to endorse any particular path forward yet, and are still actively assembling information and ideas. But a few ideas are popping up again and again, according to a list of suggestions compiled from input sessions thus far.

A key theme so far? The system needs to do a better job eliminating redundancy in academic programming across its member colleges, and make it easier for students to transfer between VSC schools. Some suggested centralizing more functions to the chancellor’s office to cut administrative positions from the colleges; others suggested doing the opposite, and instead distributing chancellor’s office responsibilities between the schools.

The system is also dealing with substantial deferred maintenance needs, and consolidating the physical footprint of the colleges – especially as online-degree programs grow in popularity – has repeatedly come up.

And while a key premise of the white paper is that additional dollars are unlikely to come from the Legislature, many suggested asking all the same. Vermont perennially ranks near the bottom – if not dead last – in national rankings for state funding of higher education.

What Question(s) Would You Ask To Identify Members’ Primary  Workplace Safety Concerns? VSEA’s Board Wants To Know

The VSEA Board of Trustees voted recently to approve sending out a survey to members to identify employees’ chief safety concerns and then work with the relevant state entities to address them.

Right now, the survey is three, open-ended questions, but the Board wants input from members as well about other questions to ask, in addition to these:

  • What makes you feel unsafe at work?
  • What do you need to feel safe?
  • What percentage of the time do you feel unsafe while at work? 

Once finalized, the Board will be emailing a survey link to members and hoping for a good return. The survey findings will then be shared with the membership, the State’s Director of Safety & Security, pertinent lawmakers and with the state’s Joint Safety and Health Maintenance Committee.


Send your employee safety question(s) suggestions here.

Or you can email your employee safety question(s) suggestions to: vsea@vsea.org. Please write "Safety Question Suggestion" in the email subject line. 

In addition to helping further shape VSEA’s messaging on employee safety, the information gleaned from this survey will assist VSEA’s Legislative Committee and leadership in deciding the most important employee safety concerns to highlight at the State House and in the press.  

VSEA Labor Relations Director Posts New Bargaining Update

VSEA’s Non-Management, Corrections, and Supervisory Unit Bargaining Teams met jointly with State negotiators on Tuesday to conduct the second session of "coordinated bargaining" on universal issues, like wages and benefits.

Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley has posted a second meeting summary on VSEA’s website. Hoadley’s summaries are in the "Members Only" section of VSEA.org. Only registered users can view. Register Here

After logging in to VSEA.org, registered members can navigate to the "Members Only" drop-down menu, located in the homepage’s left-hand column. You can expand a drop-down from there and select "Negotiation Notes From VSEA Director of Labor Relations Gary Hoadley" or you can click "Member-Only Documents" and then on the following page, click the same heading.

Gary Hoadley’s "Negotiation Notes"
Log-in Required

Bargaining Meeting Dates Added To The VSEA.org Calendar

Barre Chapter Offering Financial Assistance To Members Attending Upcoming Council Meeting, Annual Meeting, Or Both

VSEA’s Barre Chapter is offering to pay the lodging costs for each Chapter member attending this year’s Council Meeting and Annual Meeting on September 13 and 14 at the Okemo Resort in Ludlow. The Chapter will cover up to $200 per member’s room, staying at Okemo the night of September 13. Members are urged to double-up when possible. Attendance at Annual Meeting is required and reimbursement will be provided to each Chapter member at the conclusion of Saturday’s meeting. 

For Barre Chapter members attending Annual Meeting but not staying at the hotel, the Chapter is offering to reimburse you for your mileage, not to exceed $50.

Important: The Chapter has limited funds available, so you must RSVP quickly. Reimbursement is on a first-come, first-serve basis until the available funding cap is met. 
To RSVP, or if you have questions, please contact VSEA Barre Chapter President Sue LaFleche by phone 479-8567 or email: Suzanne.Lafleche@vermont.gov. 

AFLAC Enrollment – Sign up through VSEA!

WIA was asked by VSEA Benefits Administrator, Joanne Woodcock, to include the following in this week’s newsletter:

VSEA Insurance Benefits is now making the following Aflac insurance policies available to VSEA members!

View this full flyer ad! (PDF)

Set Up An Appointment

* Certain face amounts may not be available. Underwriting requirements apply. ** Subject to certain conditions and payment of claims is subject to all policy limitations and exclusions and pre-existing conditions. 
This is a brief product overview for illustrative purposes only. Benefits and/or premiums may vary based on the state and benefit option selected. Riders may be available for an additional premium. Policies described herein have limitations and exclusions that may affect benefits payable. For costs and complete details of the coverage, contact your Aflac insurance agent/producer. Individual coverage is underwritten by American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus.  
WWHQ | 1932 Wynnton Road, Columbus, GA 31999 | aflac.com

Learn more about VSEA Insurance benefits online!

Quote Of
The Week!


"City Market doesn’t offer those benefits. We, as a union, negotiated for them.”

Burlington City Market worker and UE Local 203 member John Donoghue, responding in a Seven Days article this week to management push-back against workers’ demand for $15-per-hour wage, at a minimum, because, management says, workers have a "generous" benefits package.

A good reminder that VSEA members’ benefits were also bargained for–some over decades.


Upcoming Meetings:


Employee Appreciation Day Event

  • Lamoille Valley 
    Thursday, September 5

    12:00 p.m.
    State Office Building
    63 Professional Drive
    Outside, or if weather is bad in the shared conference room
  • Questions: Contact VSEA Organizer David Oppenheimer: doppenheimer@vsea.org

Organizer’s Worksite Meeting

  • Barre City Place 
    Wednesday, September 11

    12:00 p.m.
    City Place
    219 N. Main Street
    Third Floor Conference Room
  • Questions: Contact VSEA Organizer Danielle Warner: dwarner@vsea.org


Talking Points:


Burlington City Market Workers Fight For $15-Per-Hour Wage

Seven Days reports Wednesday on a campaign by unionized workers at City Market in Burlington to increase all employee salaries to $15 per hour, minimum. 

From the story:

Patrick Kearney, who is 68, earns $12.51 an hour as a produce stocker at City Market’s South End store. According to a financial analysis he compiled in January, just over half of City Market’s 270 union members make less than $13 an hour. The lowest-paid among them, such as baggers and third-shift cleaners, make $11 an hour — just 22 cents more than Vermont’s minimum wage.

Kearney and his fellow union negotiators say that’s not enough to live on, particularly in Vermont, where earners have to make more than twice that wage to afford a modest two-bedroom apartment, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Kearney said he likes many of City Market’s ideals but that management doesn’t practice what it preaches when it comes to the workforce.

"They have not made employees’ welfare a priority," he said.

Note: City Market workers are represented by the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America (UE). 

King Arthur Flour Raises Its Minimum Wage To $15 Per Hour

The Valley News reports this week that Vermont-based King Arthur Flour announced that it is boosting its minimum wage to $15 per hour, starting Monday, September 2. 

From the story:

“King Arthur Flour is a Certified B Corporation, and we’ve always been committed to our stakeholders,” said Suzanne McDowell, co-CEO and chief human resources officer at the employee-owned company. “We’ve been thinking about (raising entry-level wage) for a while and the timing was right to do it."

McDowell said that King Arthur Flour recently wrapped its fiscal year, but before merit increases were issued wanted to “address the lower wage earners first.”

Note: Great decision. Now let the workers organize?

Americans’ Support For Unions On The Rise! 

Polling firm Gallup posted the results this week of a new survey that found "64% of Americans approve of labor unions, surpassing 60% for the third consecutive year and up 16 percentage points from a 2009 low point. 

Union approval averaged 68% between Gallup’s initial measurement in 1936 and 1967, and consistently exceeded 60% during that time. Since 1967, approval has been 10 points lower on average, and has only occasionally surpassed 60%. The current 64% reading is one of the highest union approval ratings Gallup has recorded over the past 50 years, topped only in March 1999 (66%), August 1999 (65%) and August 2003 (65%) surveys.

Pew Research Center Publishes Annual "10 Facts About Workers"

In advance of Labor Day, the Pew Research Center has published its annual "10 Facts About American Workers," and they are:

1) Over the past 35 years, the share of American workers who belong to labor unions has fallen by about half.

2) Americans generally like unions and broadly support the right of workers to unionize.

3) Most American workers are employed in the service sector.

4) About 16 million Americans are self-employed.

5) Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. labor force.

6) American women earn 85 cents on the dollar compared with men, but that gap is narrower among younger workers.

7) The wage gap between young workers with college degrees and their less-educated counterparts is the widest in decades.

8) A much smaller share of U.S. teens work today compared with earlier decades.

9) More older Americans are working than in previous decades.

10) Raising the federal minimum wage is popular overall, but there’s a sharp partisan divide on the issue.

Note: Major disconnect between numbers 1 and 2.

This Week:

Celebrate Labor Day With Other Vermont Workers At Middlebury Event

Buy Union Made This Labor Day!

"Ambitious Reform" Of VSC System Needed, But Not Clear Yet How That Happens. VSEA Wary

What Question(s) Would You Ask To Identify Members’ Primary Workplace Safety Concerns? VSEA’s Board Wants To Know

VSEA Labor Relations Director Posts New Bargaining Update

Barre Chapter Offering Financial Assistance To Members Attending Upcoming Council Meeting, Annual Meeting, Or Both

AFLAC Enrollment – Sign up through VSEA!


Talking Points:


Burlington City Market Workers Fight For
$15-Per-Hour Wage

King Arthur Flour Raises Its Minimum Wage To $15 Per Hour

Americans’ Support For Unions On The Rise!

Pew Research Center Publishes Annual "10 Facts About Workers"




September 2
Labor Day Holiday 
VSEA & Most State Offices Closed

September 3
VSEA Coordinated Bargaining w/ State
Center for Achievement in Public Service:
Schulmaier Hall
8:30 a.m.

September 4
NMU Bargaining Team Meeting
National Life
Davis Building
Third Floor (N 313 & 314)
9:00 a.m.

September 5
VSEA Corrections Bargaining Meeting
155 State Street
9:00 a.m.

September 5
Employee Appreciation Day: Morrisville
State Office Building
63 Professional Drive
Outside / Inside, Shared Conference Room
12:00 p.m.

September 11
AOE Worksite Meeting 
Barre City Place
Third Floor Conference Room
219 N. Main Street
12:00 p.m.

September 13
VSEA Council Meeting 
Okemo Resort
Jackson Gore Inn
1111Jackson Gore Road
8:30 a.m. 

September 14
VSEA 75th Annual Meeting 
Okemo Resort
Jackson Gore Inn
1111Jackson Gore Road
8:00 a.m. 


Important Reminders:


Possible Dues Increase Proposal Warned

VSEA BAC Members’ Update On Blue Cross Claims Issues

VSEA Legislative Committee & Staff’s End-Of-Session Report

Steward Trainings Posted To Website

State Employees Who Are Threatened On The Job Should File "eAlert" Form

Strength In Numbers! VSEA Membership Drive 2019 Ends September 1!

Told You’re Being Investigated?
Watch This Video!

What You Should Know About The Anti-Worker Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

Getting Ready To Retire? Retired Already? Join The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter!

What Is The VSEA Advantage Program?


Thank you for reading Week In Action!


Possible Dues Increase Proposal Warned

The VSEA Board of Trustees WARNed members via email about "the potential" for a dues-increase proposal to be introduced at this year’s VSEA Annual Meeting on September 14 at the Okemo Resort in Ludlow. 

The proposal WARN was sent to the primary email address that VSEA currently has on file for you. If you do not recall receiving an email from VSEA headquarters on August 19, please look in your “Other” or “Spam” folders before contacting headquarters to request a copy. You can update your contact information here anytime.

Don’t Recall Seeing This Email?

VSEA Benefits Advisory Committee Update On Blue Cross Claims Issues

VSEA’s Board and Benefits Advisory Committee, via WIA, recently messaged VSEA members and retirees about issues with Blue Cross / Blue Shield’s claim process. 

BAC Committee member Cindy Chornyak asked WIA to include this update this week, and we are happy to oblige.

Regarding the Blue Cross claims problems our health plan has experienced since January 1, 2019:  We want members to know that your VSEA representatives have been working closely with the State on your behalf to get these issues resolved. In May of this year, through the Benefits Advisory Committee, VRSEA Trustees and the VSEA members sent a strongly worded letter to the Commissioner of Human Resources, citing the many claim problems that our plan members have encountered.  We asked the State to assess the maximum performance penalties available under its contract with Blue Cross for the poor performance. And we are pleased to announce that to date in 2019, our health plan has assessed over $132,000 in performance penalties.

Recently VSEA learned of another newly discovered glitch in the Blue Cross claims system. Blue Cross has been assessing a $30 specialist co-pay for certain provider claims that should have a $25 regular co-pay instead. This can occur, for example, when a member sees a Nurse Practitioner instead of a doctor, which is fairly common these days. Our plan does not require that members choose a primary care physician. Claims by Nurse Practitioners or Physicians Assistants working with a physician should be covered the same as the physician’s claim.  

The State Benefits Office has asked Blue Cross for a date certain by which this glitch will be fixed and for a complete rundown of all state health plan members who have been impacted since January 1, when the new Blue Cross claims system came online. Blue Cross has promised that once the fix is in place, they will reprocess all affected member claims and fix any errors that might have occurred. Members do not need to take any action; any misprocessed claims will be reprocessed and correctly paid by Blue Cross. VSEA is closely monitoring this situation on your behalf as well.

Click Here For More Information

VTPAC Silent Auction Needs Your Donations!

The VSEA members of the Vermont Political Awareness Committee (VTPAC), the group that helps make sure candidates that support your​ interests get elected to office, is looking for donations for a silent auction to be held the weekend of Annual Meeting.

Members willing to donate anything from homemade goods to services at the businesses of family or friends—or anything else that you think people would be interested in bidding on—should contact VTPAC Chair Kara Haynes at ​karahaynes802@gmail.com.

VSEA Legislative Committee & Staff’s End-Of-Session Report

At the June VSEA Council meeting, VSEA Legislative Committee Chair Margaret Crowley and Legislative Specialist Tom Abdelnour shared a powerpoint presentation with the body that summarized the 2019 legislative session that ended in May. 

VSEA members and retirees are invited to:

View Summary

Steward Trainings Posted To Website

VSEA Field Services Director Gretchen Naylor posted several PDF versions of the steward training presentations she is leading statewide. Note: Depending on your settings, each link below will open a PDF in your web browser or download the PDF to your computer or device.

The posted trainings include:

1) The Role of Stewards In Grievances

2) Steward Training – Providing Representation In An Investigation

3) Duty Of Fair Representation

State Employees Who Are Threatened On The Job Should File "eAlert" Form

We are reminding members that there is an online form to fill out if you are threatened while at work

Find The State’s “eAlert” Homepage Here
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 and fields to complete.
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.

VSEA Membership Drive 2019
Now Underway!


Strength In Numbers!

A reminder that your union’s 2019 membership-recruitment drive is underway. Rewards for recruiting new members between now and
September 1!

  • 2 new members – Dunkin Donuts gift card;
  • 5 new members – VSEA insulated coffee mug; or
  • 10 new members – $50 VISA gift card!

Bonus! Recruit a new member and receive an entry in a drawing to win one of four $300 prizes to be awarded at VSEA’s 2019 Annual Meeting! Each new recruit earns you an additional entry! Just be sure to have your recruits add your name in the "Recruited By" line of the VSEA Membership Application.
More Membership Drive Information Here!

Need a quick reference to help with your recruiting? You can view an informational webpage with some recruitment tips and advice here.

If you have any questions, or want a list of non-members in your area, please contact VSEA Director of Operations and Organizing Amy Kinsell by email: akinsell@vsea.org

Told You’re Being Investigated? Watch This Video!

Please take a few minutes on a break to watch the video, and know that the information being relayed could very well save your job someday. Remember, as a VSEA member, you are entitled to no-cost representation in investigatory meetings that may lead to discipline. Non-members, however, must now pay a rate of $250 to $350 per-hour for the same level of representation!

More: Know Your Union Rights

Not currently a VSEA member?
You can sign up online.

What You Should Know About The Anti-Worker Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

If you haven’t already, begin educating yourself today about what the Janus decision means—or supplement what you know already. Please also inform your co-workers about this Janus page and talk with them about what you learned and remind them of the importance of a union in their everyday life. You could make a difference. Every study shows that nothing is more effective than member-to-member communication.​

Learn More On VSEA.org

Getting Ready To Retire? Retired Already? Join The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter!

Long-time VSEA activist and leader Terry Lefebvre is asking VSEA members getting ready to retire to join the VSEA Retirees’ Chapter to continue to be an active and engaged union member, even in retirement. Lefebvre also appeals to VSEA members to talk up the co-workers they know who might be preparing to retire. If you already belong to the Retired Members’ Chapter, a big thanks to you.

Learn More Here About The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter

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!


It’s free, just for being a Vermont State Employees’ Association PerksConnect member!

Learn More!

Questions? Feel free to email 
vsea@ vsea.org


Need To Update Your Contact Information
With VSEA? 

Don’t Have
Union Card? 

Request A Green VSEA Union Card

Have You Been Threatened
At Work? 

Send A Threat Report To VSEA

Are You A
Council Member?

Join the VSEA Council Facebook group here!

Are You A
Chapter President?

Join the VSEA Chapter Presidents 
group here!

Are You A

Join the VSEA Steward Facebook
group here!





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