Does Sexual Harassment Policy Data DHR Is Sharing Truly Reflect The Scope Of
The Issue Across State Government?
WPTZ had a story last night about State officials questioning the Department of Human Resources (DHR) on "how the state handles claims" of sexual harassment.
In the piece, DHR’s Deputy Commissioner tells the reporter, "In the last five years, an average of 10 sexual harassment complaints are filed per year within state departments.
“With an employee base of well over 8,000 that’s a significant, but not an outrageous number,” he adds.
Whoa, wait a second…
VSEA recently filed a records request to DHR, seeking any and all documents listing sexual harassment complaints by Agency or Department from January 2014 to present. Here is the communication VSEA received back from DHR about the request:
"Documents specifically listing or tallying sexual harassment complaints are not maintained, however I was able to pull the data on number of cases by Agency or Department from our investigations tracking system. "Big difference here between actual complaints versus cases actually investigated, don’t you think? Maybe DHR might want to address this glaring omission while reviewing the issue for the State.
Of Interest: Here’s an opinion piece that published recently, explaining how belonging to a union is a great tool and resource for workers to combat workplace sexual harassment.
Mark The Date! Support Your VSEA Bargaining Teams By Wearing Green On December 15
Two years ago, the State forced VSEA members belonging to our union’s Non-Management, Corrections and Supervisory Units–at great taxpayer expense, mind you–to go all the way to the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB) for a final contract determination, which was thankfully in the employees’ favor. Now, two years later, the same three Units are facing a similar, stubborn negotiating game plan by the State, and it’s time now for every VSEA member to help your Bargaining Teams!
Your Unit Teams are headed to fact-finding on Friday, December 15; the final step before once again heading to the VLRB. On Friday, December 15, you can support your Teams in worksites across Vermont by wearing something green. It’s that simple. VSEA would also love it if you would shoot a few group photos of VSEA members wearing green and send them to headquarters. Photos of VSEA members holding messages for the State and its negotiators are also very welcome.
Below are some sample messages: (Click the links to view/download a PDF sign to print)
Or make your own! Sign themes should play off this message:
State employees are skilled, trained, and knowledgeable professionals that must be treated in a respectful manner with fair compensation and contract improvements that reflect such dedicated service to Vermonters.
Members of VSEA’s Special Events Committee are inviting VSEA members and their children to attend a special VSEA Holiday Gathering on Saturday, December 16, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at VSEA Headquarters in Montpelier. (155 State Street)
Children can visit with Santa, and everyone can enjoy some refreshments!
State Inquiring About The Volume & Frequency Of Studies Being Ordered By Lawmakers
Seven Days reports this week that the State is asking lawmakers about the volume and frequency of studies they are requiring state agency and department employees to produce in a given year. Part of the State’s questioning is prompted by the Secretary of Education recently pushing back against having to complete a required report due to a lack of staff.
"The administration is now undertaking a review of all active reports required," a State spokesperson writes in an email. "We think this is the start of an important discussion about how many reports are required … and where we might be able to eliminate or reprioritize some of these requirements."
The story reports that some lawmakers are pushing back against the State’s inquiry because they are concerned it is an attempt to limit legislators’ access to information.
VSEA sent its deepest condolences this week to the family, friends and former co-workers of longtime Central Vermont VSEA activist Sherrie Brewster, who passed away on November 23.
Sherrie was a dedicated VSEA Council member and she was always ready and willing to lend a hand, hold a sign, knock on a door, counsel a co-worker or fellow VSEA member or any number of other things for her union.
Sherrie will be missed.
From her obituary:
"Sherrie was a retiree from the state of Vermont, where she worked for the Department of Labor’s apprenticeship program. Sherrie had also worked as a court recorder at Washington Family Court in Barre, a 911 dispatcher for the Montpelier Police Department and a deputy game warden in central Vermont. She was also an active member of the Vermont State Employees’ Association."
VSEA Insurance Benefits Enrollment In Montpelier, December 7, 14, 20, and 21
Learn More Or Schedule An Appointment Today!
VSEA Insurance Representative Joanne Woodcock will be at the following location to talk with interested VSEA members about member-only insurance benefits.
Receive information on disability coverage, family life insurance, family accident, cancer and hospital coverage. You must be a member paying full dues to be eligible for this VSEA benefit. If you are an agency-fee payer, Joanne can provide you information about signing up for full membership.
133 State Street
4th floor Boardroom 11:00 to 4:30
109 State Street
4th Floor Conference Room 11:00 to 4:30 December 14
4th Floor – Room 414 11:00 to 4:30 December 20 and 21
Few Seats Still Remain For VSEA Boston Bruins Bus Trip!
VSEA’s Membership Recruitment Committee had a great response to this week’s email solicitation for an upcoming Bruins’ bus trip, and they want VSEA members to know that just 10 tickets now remain for:
Boston Bruins vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
Saturday, February 3, 2018
TD Garden (Section: Balcony 321)
Based on the popularity of the first few member bus trips sponsored by VSEA, your union’s Membership Recruitment Committee (a small group of rank-and-file state employees who coordinate and host VSEA’s outings) recently polled members to find out what kinds of bus trips members want the Committee to pursue in the future. Coming up number one was a trip to Boston for a Bruins game, so the Committee has scheduled this trip.
$170 Per Person – Includes a bus ride to and from the park, as well as a ticket to the game.
To reserve a seat(s) on the bus, contact VSEA Union Representative Bob South. You can reach Bob by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 223-5247.
Important! VSEA will be taking the names down of those interested, as members contact VSEA, but you will not be officially on the bus until full payment is received at headquarters. Please make checks
payable to VSEA.
Time Running Out To Donate Some Time To The Non-Management Unit’s Sick
Deadline For Donations Is December 31, 2017
VSEA member Dawn Carrillo staffs the Non-Management Unit Sick Leave Bank, and she is again asking WIA to sound the alarm that the bank really needs your donated hours. NMU members can donate a few hours to your Unit’s sick leave bank from now until December 31, 2017.
“Just donating an hour of your time can mean the world to a fellow employee,” reads a new flyer DHR is circulating. It also informs state employees that they can donate any amount of annual- or personal-leave time to the NMU 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.”
Mark Janus Files Brief In Supreme Court Case That Has Huge Adverse Ramifications For Union Workers
SCOTUSBLOG posted a piece on November 30 that discusses the brief that Mark Janus filed on Wednesday with the U.S. Supreme Court, defending his argument that he should not be forced to pay “agency fees.” The Court recently agreed to hear Janus’ case, which could have huge adverse ramifications for America’s unions, especially public-sector unions, like the VSEA.
From the post:
“The stakes in this case are high, not only for the parties but also for any other union that represents public employees who must pay agency fees. If employees are not required to pay the fees, many of them probably won’t, which would have a direct effect on the financial health of public-employee unions. And although the fees now at issue before the court cannot be used for politics and lobbying, that could in turn lead to a reduced role on the political stage for organized labor…”
It’s Come To This… Michigan Police & Fire Department Workers Forced To Rally This Week To Protect Pensions
Anti-union Michigan lawmakers weren’t content with targeting just state employees in their campaign to obliterate labor unions and their employee protections, now they have set their sights on the pension benefits of the state’s police and fire municipal workers.
VSEA sent its best wishes to Michigan’s frontline public-safety workers on Thursday as they rallied to defend what they were promised in return for their years of dedicated public service.
Question? Is it really such a good idea to make a job that’s difficult to fill even more difficult by taking away one the few benefits that make it worthwhile for the employee to risk his or her life day in and day out?
New Study Finds Workers Not Reaping The Rewards Of America’s Alleged Economic Boom
Forbes posted a story this morning titled, “Study: More Workers Say Financial Stress Affecting Their Health And Jobs,” and it reads, in part:
“This year, only about a third of U.S. employees, or 35%, reported feeling satisfied with their financial situation, a drop from almost half, or 48%, two years ago according to the 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey results released this week by Willis Towers Watson.”
“[Workers] are feeling a lot of stress — they are feeling uncertainty,” said Alan Glickstein, senior retirement consultant with Willis Towers Watson, about what he calls the cumulative effect of wages stagnating, higher health care costs and continued erosion of pension plan coverage. “This has been coming for a while in the post-financial crisis period.”
Audit Prompts Michigan Lawmakers To Introduce Language To Limit The Number Of Overtime Hours A Nurse
The Lansing State Journal reports this week that three Michigan lawmakers have introduced language that would require hospitals to limit nurse-to-patient ratios, prohibit mandatory overtime in most instances, and make hospitals’ staffing ratios public.
From the story:
"Wednesday’s [legislative] hearing came after the Michigan Auditor General earlier this month warned that nurses at the state-run Walter P. Reuther Psychiatric Hospital work too much overtime. Auditors identified dozens of nurses who worked more than 1,000 hours of overtime between October 2014 and September 2016, including one employee who worked an average of more than 45 hours of overtime per week.
A 2015 State Journal investigation found nurses at all five of the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services’ psychiatric hospitals often worked several overtime shifts, including double shifts, per week. Though more of that overtime was voluntary than mandatory, nurses told the State Journal they are often pressured to volunteer."
Note: Language VSEA members working at the VPCH, the Vets’ Home and other Vermont health care facilities could use.
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.
We Want To Know What You Think of VSEA’s Week In Action
Note: The following message was submitted to WIA for publication by VSEA’s Probation and Parole members:
“Your fellow VSEA members working in Probation and Parole (P&P) need your help!
Every day, P&P members are out in communities across Vermont, working to rehabilitate criminal offenders. Much of a P&P worker’s job is performed in an offender’s home or somewhere right in the community, and we want you to know that our jobs are becoming more and more dangerous. According to the latest FBI crime data, violent crime in Vermont recently spiked by 15%, and this statistic isn’t lost on P&P officers, especially since more and more of us are finding ourselves in situations that are increasingly threatening, dangerous and unpredictable.
It’s for this reason that VSEA’s P&P members are collectively lobbying Vermont officials and lawmakers to allow us to join the 34 other states that already allow P&P Officers to be trained to carry defensive weapons on the job. We’ve made tremendous progress so far, and we’re happy to report that our bill to allow this important change has already been supported by 30 lawmakers on both sides of the aisle at the State House.
We feel like we’re in the homestretch now, which is why VSEA’s P&P members need every member to join with us in solidarity to get this important language passed and implemented.
What’s VSEA Done For Vermont State Employees? See For Yourself
A lot has happened since the VSEA was officially recognized in 1944 as the voice for Vermont’s state employee workforce, and VSEA’s Communications Department has compiled many of your union’s notable victories and achievements in an online chronological history of the VSEA.
VSEA Union Representative Rachael Fields has scheduled a meeting to talk with Vet’s Home employees about their issues and concerns.
If you work at the Vet’s Home, please mark the date and time down to stop by and talk with Rachael:
Available Times: 6:30 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
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.
President Bellini Wants Your Cost-Savings Idea(s)!
In past deficit years, VSEA members have been asked to voluntarily submit cost-savings ideas to headquarters, in hopes that some of your ideas could be adopted and implemented, eventually generating the funds needed to save a service or jobs. In 2010, the Vermont Legislature followed VSEA’s lead, passing legislation to provide cash awards to state employees whose ideas were vetted by a special committee and found to generate savings. Unfortunately, this legislation sunset in 2012, and lawmakers have not resurrected it–yet.
For this reason—and in advance of the 2018 legislative session—VSEA President Dave Bellini is again asking frontline state employees with “department- or agency-specific cost-savings ideas” to please submit them to VSEA as soon as possible. Again, President Bellini is looking for department or agency-specific ideas, and nothing "philosophical," he politely requests.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this very important request.
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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