VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: December 13, 2019

What Changed In The Past Nine Months Commissioner Schatz?

More On Woodside Here



VSEA Sends Message To Membership About Recent Chittenden Allegations 

Following the recent publication of a Seven Days story, concerning allegations of serious offenses committed over a nine-year span by employees at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF), VSEA has been contacted by numerous press outlets for  comment, which prompted VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard to email the following message, first to Corrections members and then to the full membership:

I am writing to address recent reporting in media statewide, regarding the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, where allegations are being made against a small number of correctional officers and supervisors. VSEA and its members know that the vast majority of correctional officers and supervisors who work for the State of Vermont are hardworking and professional officers. These men and women secure the public’s safety and treat the offenders in the State’s custody respectfully. 

We applaud our Corrections members, including a steward at Chittenden trained by the VSEA, for courageously bringing their concerns to management.

Let’s be clear, management is charged with providing an environment in State correctional facilities–and in the field–that is safe for our members and for those in their custody. Corrections management should be held accountable when it fails to meet this responsibility.  

VSEA is calling on both the State, and the members of the Legislature who have jurisdiction over the Department of Corrections, to listen to the frontline staff, and to work with them to improve the working conditions in Vermont’s facilities and in the field.  

I’ve encouraged VSEA Corrections members who report and then come forward with clear evidence of retaliation to bring this information to management, meaning all the way up to up to AHS Secretary Smith, if that’s what it takes. I also let them know to reach out to their union representatives at VSEA HQ because their union staff is here to help them.  

The State is now promising to respond to the allegations with a full investigation, being spearheaded by newly appointed AHS Secretary Mike Smith. One of the ideas Smith has begun floating is to begin drug testing of corrections officers, and VSEA’s Howard quickly reacted the proposal in a December 10 VTDigger story, saying:

 “I would describe [Smith’s idea] as premature and a little sensational at the moment,” adding that there are hundreds of corrections officers and supervisors who are “upstanding, respectable” employees, “and to paint them all with a broad brush because of allegations against a few people seems to be unfair.” However, Howard added his members welcomed the broader review of Vermont’s prisons. “We have been for many years trying to call attention to what we see as a chaotic environment at many correctional facilities across the state." 

Smith notes in the story that the issue of drug testing would have to be bargained with the VSEA, and he is correct. 

VTDigger reports this morning that state’s attorneys across Vermont have begun "reviewing the status of cases of women held at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility in light of reports claiming systemic abuse of inmates at the prison."

Message From President Bellini: 

VSEA President Dave Bellini, himself a DOC employee, is advising VSEA Corrections to take Seven Days reporter Paul Heintz up on his offer to listen to any and all tips, as opposed to taking them to DHR; a reporting process Bellini is questioning.

Heintz is promising confidentiality. Here is where Corrections members can send tips:

Paul Heintz
c/o Seven Days
255 S. Champlain St.
Ste. 5
Burlington, VT 05401

prisons@sevendaysvt.com, 802-222-0363 

State Notifies VSEA Of Intention To Issue RFP In January To “Potentially” Privatize Woodside Youth Services

As feared, VSEA has been noticed by the Department of Human Resources (DHR) that the State will be issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) in January to turn the care for some of Vermont’s most vulnerable children over to a private, possibly out-of-state, third-party provider. The RFP is to replace the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, where VSEA represents 50 dedicated members, representing decades of experience. 

From the communication VSEA received from DHR:

Re: Potential Privatization… Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center

This correspondence is to provide you with notice, in accordance with 3 VS.A. § 343 (1 ), that the Department for Children and Families ("DCF") intends to seek proposals from interested parties to provide trauma informed treatment services for youth with serious emotional, behavioral and/or mental health needs. Should DCF enter into a contract, classified positions within VSEA’s bargaining units may be eliminated.

Important: VSEA members and retirees across the board are urged to voice your strong support for the Woodside workers, who, once again, are in the top 99 percentile in terms of quality of care delivered. It’s not their fault the State and lawmakers chose not to invest the funds necessary in their facility, in order to trigger a restoration of lost Medicaid funding. And the census at the facility is no longer zero, as predicted. The question really is “Do Vermonters support ensuring the state maintains its responsibility to provide top-level care to our most vulnerable and at-risk youth?” or are Vermonters willing to turn this service over to a private, possibly out-of-state, third-party vendor?

Please voice your support for the Woodside workers and their very important service to your local lawmakers and any State officials you may encounter.

VSEA "Protect Your Pension" Meetings Resume

VSEA staff representatives are resuming a series of "Protect Your Pension" meetings at worksites statewide. It’s part of your union’s continuing effort to educate members in advance of the upcoming session about a potential, renewed attack on state employees’ defined benefit pension plan. 

Here are the upcoming meetings:

Tuesday, December 17
12:00 p.m.
Barre City Place
219 N. Main Street
Conference Room 303

12:00 p.m.

Thursday, December 19
12:00 p.m.
State Office Building
100 Main Street
CCV Conference Room

VSEA’s 2020 Legislative Agenda

VSEA’s Legislative Committee has finalized its 2020 legislative agenda for your union. Here are the priority items for the upcoming session, which gavels on January 7. 

  • Protecting and Enhancing Retirement Security;
  • Securing a Budget that Maintains Vital Public Services;
  • Protecting Our Health Care;
  • Enhancing Employee Health, Safety & Security;
  • Preventing the Privatization of State Services;
  • Preventing the Exploitation and Overuse of Temporary Employees;
  • Stopping “Right to Work” and Protecting Collective Bargaining; and
  • Collaborating on Solidarity Issues Affecting Labor and Working Vermonters

If you have any questions about VSEA’s 2020 agenda, please contact VSEA Legislative Specialist Tom Abdelnour at tabdelnour@vsea.org.  

Decision On VSC’s Future Moved To June 2020

In a recent VTDigger story about Vermont State Colleges’ (VSC) faculty pushback to what they view as is an increasing emphasis across the system to launch more and more online courses, it’s revealed that a plan from the Chancellor’s Office on the VSC’s future, originally expected on December 2, is now coming in June.

From the story:

A plan of action for reform was originally due to VSC trustees by the end of this year, but the chancellor’s office has since substantially pushed back the timeline to get more formal feedback from each of the individual schools. On Monday, presidents from the VSC’s four institutions – NVU, the Community College of Vermont, Castleton University and Vermont Tech – presented their initial plans to trustees. Updates are due again to trustees in March, and final report is expected in June.

VSEA VSC Members Emailed Payroll Survey

VSEA’s Vermont State Colleges’ Unit emailed an important payroll survey to its members this week, asking the quick, three-question survey to be returned by Monday, December 16.

In the email with the survey, VSEA Union Representative Brian Morse writes:

As you may be aware, your union has filed a grievance over the multitude of errors that have happened since the Colleges launched its new payroll system, Ultipro.
Later this month we are sitting down with management again with the long list of payroll problems to try to get them fixed. 
Please take a moment to fill out this very quick, 3-question survey to make sure that we have the most current information on every member’s payroll problems. 

If you are a VSC Unit member who did not receive Brian’s email (please check your Spam folder!), you can contact him by email at: bmorse@vsea.org 

2019 Board of Trustees’ Meeting Minutes Posted Online

VSEA members who are logged into their VSEA.org user account can view the 2019 Board of Trustees’ meeting minutes online.

Need a VSEA.org account? VSEA members and retirees can register a free account here.

Quote Of
The Week!


"VSEA is on record supporting the mandatory program for all Vermonters. We support that and will continue to advocate for that."

VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard, commenting in a December 13 VPR story, concerning an agreement at the bargaining table by VSEA Executive Branch Bargaining Teams to a paid family and medical leave benefit that will be funded by the State. Lawmakers will allegedly be introducing an FLMLA proposal this session with mandatory entry, while the State will be lobbying for its own opt-in FMLA proposal. 


Talking Points:


VTNEA Awarded Health Care Victory By Arbitrator! 

VTDigger reports this week that the Vermont NEA is very pleased with an arbitrator’s recent decision to rule for the union and its health care proposal for school employees covered under Vermont’s first-ever statewide health care contract.

“The arbitrator very clearly thought our proposal was more equitable and accessible,” VTNEA spokesperson Darren Allen tells VTDigger.

Allan McCausland, the New Hampshire-based arbitrator who made the final call, tells VTDigger that he based his decision largely on the factors that Vermont statute dictated he consider in weighing the proposals.

“I thought both parties did an excellent job. Very thorough, very professional,” McCausland says.

Under the contract proposed by the union, teachers and other licensed employees will have to pay maximum medical and pharmacy out-of-pocket costs of $400 for single coverage and $800 for all other tiers. Support staff employees will pay $300 for single coverage and $600 for all other tiers.

Licensed educators and support professionals working 17.5 hours or more a week are eligible for coverage. And the union’s proposal mostly sticks with health reimbursement accounts – instead of health savings accounts – which largely mirrors the status quo.

The health care deal will cover about 40,000 people – teachers, administrators, support staff, and their families. It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2021, and lasts through Dec. 31, 2022.

VSEA leaders are also praising the arbitrator’s decision.

Special Note: Congratulations to Rebecca McBroom; a VSEA alumni, and the VTNEA attorney who argued this very important case and was victorious. 

Vermont Seniors Face Very High Rates Of Financial Insecurity. Another Argument For DB Pension Plans!

If a pension fight erupts at the State House this session, remember this story that posted to VTDigger on November 29.

From the post:

Seniors in Vermont face one of the highest rates of financial insecurity in the nation, according to a report released by UMass Boston this month.

The report finds, 31% of seniors over the age of 65 who live alone, and 43% of elderly couples, don’t make enough income to meet the cost of basic needs, even though they are above the federal poverty line.

The report, which analyzed federal data on the costs of housing, health care, transportation, food, and other goods in all 50 states found Vermont ranks first in the nation for the highest rate of economic insecurity for older couples, and third for singles.

STORY LINE OF NOTE: "He also said Vermont companies need to offer more substantive retirement plans…" 

Note: Fortunately, thanks to things like having a defined-benefit pension plan, many Vermonters are on more solid financial footing. But this study should be concerning to State officials and lawmakers who are pushing for 401k pension plans, which require the individual to invest wisely; most without the benefit of a masters degree in finance or understanding of the markets.

U.S. Employers Breaking The Law In 41% Of Union Elections!

New research from the Economic Policy Institute finds that "employers are charged with breaking federal law in more than 40% of union election campaigns—and that companies like Coca-Cola, AT&T, and Google, spend nearly $340 million per year hiring anti-union lawyers and consultants to help prevent employees from organizing."

Why EPI Says Their Findings Matter: Unions are good for workers. Far more U.S. workers want unions than have the benefit of representation today. When workers are able to win union representation and collectively bargain, their wages, benefits, and working conditions improve. On average, a worker covered by a union contract earns 13.2% more than a peer with similar education, occupation, and experience in a nonunionized workplace in the same sector. Union workers are more likely to have employer-sponsored health insurance, and their employers contribute more toward those plans. They are also more likely to have paid vacation and sick leave. Union workers are more likely to have retirement plans, with their employers contributing more toward those plans than comparable nonunion employers do. Unions also create safer workplaces. And union workers are covered by due process protections, so that, unlike nonunion workers in the U.S., union workers cannot be fired “at will,” with no warning and for almost any reason.

Read More

Union-busting is disgusting!

This Week:

VSEA Sends Message To Membership About Recent Chittenden Allegations

State Notifies VSEA Of Intention To Issue RFP In January To “Potentially” Privatize Woodside Youth Services

VSEA "Protect Your Pension" Meetings Resume

VSEA’s 2020 Legislative Agenda

Decision On VSC’s Future Moved To June 2020

VSEA VSC Members Emailed Payroll Survey

November 2019 Board of Trustees’ Meeting Minutes Posted Online


Talking Points:

VTNEA Awarded Health Care Victory By Arbitrator!

Vermont Seniors Face Very High Rates Of Financial Insecurity. Another Argument For DB Pension Plans!

U.S. Employers Breaking The Law In 41% Of Union Elections!



December 17
VSEA "Protect Your Pension" Meeting
Barre City Place
219 N. Main Street
Conference Room 303
12:00 p.m.

December 19
VSEA "Protect Your Pension" Meeting
State Office Building
100 Main Street
CCV Conference Room
12:00 p.m.


Important Reminders:

VSEA’s Winter Membership Drive!

VSEA Policies Updated!

Nearly 900 Have Signed VSEA’s Petition To Increase State College Funding. Have You Signed Yet?

My Office Is Freezing!

Working Vermont Hosting January 2020 Event With AFT’s National President Randi Weingarten

Bolton Valley Again Offering Discounted Ski & Ride Passes To VSEA Members!

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

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?


VSEA Videos:

Keynote Speaker At VSEA’s Annual Meeting

Told You’re Being Investigated?
Watch This Video!

"I’m Sticking With My Union!" – John Vorder Bruegge

More on YouTube


Thank you for reading Week In Action!


VSEA’s Winter Membership Drive!

After a very successful membership-recruitment initiative this fall, VSEA is excited to announce a new membership drive for the next quarter.

Never forget that ongoing recruitment is vital to the strength of your union! 

  • Members who recruit TWO members will receive a VSEA insulated travel mug; and
  • Members who recruit FIVE new members will receive a dues holiday for a month; and
  • Members who recruit TEN new members will receive a check for $50!

Each time you recruit a new member during the designated period (December 1 – February 28, 2020), your name is entered into a drawing.  Four names will be pulled at random and winners will receive a check for $100! Just make sure new recruits add your name in the "Recruited By" field on the membership application.

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:

Help spread the word!
Download, distribute and post this flyer in your worksite! Thanks!


VSEA Policies Updated!

The VSEA Board of Trustees is letting members and retirees know that an updated version of VSEA’s Policies (which includes changes the VSEA Council voted to approve at its November 15 meeting) is now available for viewing on VSEA’s website. The new version is searchable and includes page numbers and a table of contents.

View VSEA Policies in the "Member-Only" Section of the VSEA websiteVSEA.org log-in required.

Don’t have a VSEA.org account? VSEA members can request a free account here.


Nearly 900 Have Signed VSEA’s Petition To Increase State College Funding. Have You Signed Yet?

Although Vermont is among the top five in the United States for K-12 education funding, Vermont is ranked 50th for state college funding.* VSEA members are standing strong in support of the Vermont State College staff and are demanding a solution to the many years of chronic underfunding.

To demonstrate how much our state colleges mean to Vermonters, VSEA is urging members, retirees, and the public to sign the union’s online petition, which calls on state officials and lawmakers to immediately increase VSC funding.

* Source: Inside Higher Ed.com – January 21, 2019

Sign The Petition Online!


My Office Is Freezing!

Here’s a reminder of what the Non-Management Unit contract language says in Article 29, section 16, about cold and hot offices:
The State will respond promptly to complaints about air quality in existing State owned and leased buildings including air testing when appropriate. The State will consider reasonable corrective measures when indoor workplace temperatures are less than sixty-five (65) degrees or more than eighty-five (85) degrees. Air quality standards for newly-constructed or newly-leased buildings shall be subject for consideration/recommendation by the Safety and Health Maintenance Committee.

Note: If excused from work because it’s too cold or hot, employees will have to use their own leave, unless management approves employees leaving without using their own leave. If your building is closed outright, constituting an "emergency closure," Article 44 of the contract kicks in. 


Working Vermont Hosting January 2020 Event With AFT’s National President Randi Weingarten 

Working Vermont (a coalition of Vermont labor unions, including VSEA) is pleased to be hosting a reception for national American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten. 
Here are the details:
AFT Randi Weingarten Reception
Wednesday, January 22, 2020
State House Cafeteria
4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. 

Bolton Valley Again Offering Discounted Ski & Ride Passes To VSEA Members!

WIA was asked by Bolton Valley Group Sales Manager, Eric Davis, to include the following in this week’s newsletter:

Buy next year’s season pass now and:

  1. Get the lowest price of the year AND…
  2. Ski & Ride the rest of this season FREE!!! That’s right, if you buy next year’s pass now, you can join us for the rest of this season on next season’s pass!

Learn more or purchase passes here!

Please contact me with any questions.
Eric Davis
Group Sales Manager


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.


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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