VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: December 20, 2019


Last newsletter of the decade!
Week In Action Not Publishing Next Week

WIA is taking a short break next week and will publish next on January 3, 2020.

Have a happy and safe holiday season and a happy new year!


Press Dives In On Some Of The Issues Identified Within Vermont Corrections Department

A little more than a week after 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), the Vermont press corp has been diving in on some of the issues identified there and also within the Corrections Department, as a whole. 

Rather than try to summarize all the news published this week, concerning the Vermont Corrections Department–including the resignation of DOC Commissioner Touchette–here are links to some of the stories:

Letter To Editor Writer Wants State To Keep Woodside Open

The following letter to the editor about Woodside appeared in the December 5 Williston Observer:

"It was recently reported that [the State] plans to close the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Colcheter, the only one of its kind in the state, because the 30-bed building was empty for the first time ever. 

The closing of Woodside as a solution to juvenile justice is a way to hide the problem, another example of a failed criminal justice system. The policymakers have no clue.

Closing Woodside because it’s not used is a scripted way to justify a liberal approach to justice. The same tactic for supposedly proving a facility is no longer needed has been used in other detention facilities around the state. 

There will be no justice here for victims or perpetrators, no accountability regardless the pain and loss. 

Instead of closing metal health and correctional facilities, we should be building more of them. The public safety demands it, the victims deserve it and at the same time, with properly run facilities and programs, perpetrators can be given a chance to turn their lives around. But if they chose not to, then they at least are kept from hurting others. 

Vermont, in the most tragic chapters in our criminal justice and mental health history, chose to close Windsor State Prison, Brandon Training School and the Weeks School several decades ago. Later, the state hospital in Waterbury was also closed. 

We threw away these tried-and-true facilities to move into an untested area of community corrections and community mental health that proved to be major failures. Now we want to do it again.

Such small-minded thinking should be a red flag for [the State], who should review the past before [it] repeats mistakes once more."

Note: These are the kinds of letters to the editor that VSEA is urging members and retirees to submit to your local papers, educating the public about the vital service Woodside offers and standing in solidarity with the facility’s experienced and dedicated workers. 

BGS To Test Drinking Water In State Office Buildings

Buildings and General Services (BGS) reached out to VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard to let him know that the department will begin testing drinking water in state office buildings across Vermont in 2020, adding that the testing will continue for the next two years.

WIA will update members with more of the water testing details, as they become available.  

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.  

State Representative Pens Commentary, Calling For Fair Tax Distribution 

A commentary by State Representative Dave Yacavone (D-Morrisville) that calls for fair tax distribution has been posting on several media outlets, including VTDigger. Definitely food for thought.

From Yacavone’s commentary:

Vermont is a small state and cannot be all things to all people. Yet, we must help lessen the financial plight so many face. Can we lower the taxes on Vermonters of modest means while still making sure our government is responsive to the vulnerable? Can we meet our obligations to the aged, the blind and disabled while protecting children from abuse and neglect? Can we take care of our roads and bridges and so much more that government is called on to do? I think the answer is yes, but it will not be easy.

And, he concludes:

We need bold leadership to make Vermont affordable. Just saying no to more taxes, especially on those at the top, does little to make Vermont affordable. It merely strips government of its capacity to do the business of government. It handcuffs our ability to help improve the lives of Vermonters. We need to lower taxes for ordinary hardworking Vermonters while increasing them on those most able to pay. In so doing we can stimulate our economy as people will likely  spend their tax cuts and we can begin to build the public assets needed for our new economy and improve our quality of life for all Vermonters. 

Union Made Stocking Stuffers

  • Rayovac batteries;
  • Allan peppermint candy canes;
  • Ghirardelli chocolates;
  • Hershey’s chocolates;
  • Jelly Belly;
  • Laffey Taffey;
  • Jordan almonds;
  • See’s Candies;

More Here: AFL-CIO Union-Made In America Holiday Gift Guide

Quote Of
The Week!


"This is a major systemic issue and it’s not going to be solved by one person, or even just a couple people, stepping down."

American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont Advocacy Director Falko Schilling, commenting in a VTDigger story this week on the resignation of DOC Commissioner Michael Touchette, who announced his decision on Wednesday, following weeks of bad press, concerning allegations of serious misconduct by some Corrections employees. For years, VSEA and its Corrections members have been voicing their concerns to lawmakers and State officials about systemic issues throughout the DOC.  


Talking Points:


NH Vets’ Home Housekeepers Protest New Directive To Work Christmas Day 

The website InDepthNH reports today on a protest at the New Hampshire State House yesterday by state employees who work at the state’s Veterans’ Home and will be required to work Christmas Day under under the Governor’s proposed contract.

From the post: 

Pat Perry and Carolyn Bartlett have worked as housekeepers at the New Hampshire Veterans Home in Tilton for about five years and always enjoyed Christmas as the only holiday they could count on to spend with their families.

On Thursday, they came to the State House to protest Gov. Chris Sununu’s current negotiating position on the state labor contract, which would mean they would have to work Christmas day.

“I do my job proudly and I put all my heart into it. I stand here today and ask the governor to agree with the independent fact-finder’s recommendation for wage increases,” Bartlett said. 

There are about 15 housekeepers who are impacted by the proposed change. They said they already gave up on having weekends off and now would be required to work on Christmas under the current proposal.

Taxes On Workers Replacing  Corporate Taxes

This is some pretty alarming data…

From a December 13 Markets Insider web post:

Workers are a key pillar of the US economy. The payroll taxes that the government collects from their wages sustains two critical programs that benefit tens of millions of Americans: Social Security and Medicare.

However, they’re now shouldering more of the tax burden compared to corporations.

Recent research from Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman — two progressive economists at the University of California, Berkeley — shows that payroll taxes on workers now makes up a significantly larger portion of national income compared to corporate taxes, which has steadily been on the decline for decades.

Payroll taxes made up 7.8% of national income in 2018, compared to 0.9% for corporate ones — the widest gulf in almost two decades. This is shown in the chart above.

Taxes on workers generated 35% of federal tax revenue in 2018, significantly higher than the 9% drawn from corporations, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Zucman told Business Insider that the trend, combined with wages that haven’t budged much upward, has contributed to the high level of wealth inequality in the United States.

"Workers — who have seen their wages stagnate over the last decades — have seen their tax rates increase, while the wealthiest Americans have seen theirs fall," Zucman said. "This tax injustice is a powerful engine of inequality."

Tens of millions of American workers pay the 6.2% tax, which the federal government levies on wages to fund social insurance programs and employment benefits as well. It shrinks workers’ paychecks as a result. Employers also carry the burden as they pay a 6.2% tax rate as well.

Seventy-seven percent of tax filers in the US were projected to pay some amount of payroll tax in 2019, data from the Tax Policy Center shows

Bad News: 
New Survey Finds Half Of American Workers Received No Raise This Year

CBS News reports on today on a survey released this week on the website, Bankrate,  which found that "half of U.S. workers didn’t get a boost in pay this year despite the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years." Sadly, this is actually an improvement on last year’s numbers. 

From the story: 

Overall, 49% of employees enjoyed a salary increase in some form in the last 12 months, up from 38% this time last year, according to a telephone survey of 1,000 people conducted for Bankrate.com. That’s the highest share of workers reporting pay increases since 2016, the survey found. One in 10 workers said they had both landed a raise at their current job and then gotten a new higher-paying job.

Raises were more common for better-paid workers — 55% of those earning at least $50,000 a year enjoyed a bump in pay this year, compared to 43% for those who make less than that. Indeed, nearly two-thirds of workers making less than $30,000 a year reported no positive change in their income, Bankrate.com, a provider of personal finance information, found. 

Good News: 
Almost Seven Million American Workers Will Start 2020 With Higher Wages

The Economic Policy Institute posted a story on December 18 that, "At the start of the new year, minimum wages will have gone up in 22 states, lifting pay for 6.8 million workers across the country."

From the post:

In total, workers affected by the increases will earn an extra $8.2 billion over the course of 2020 as a result of the changes. The increases range from a $0.10 inflation adjustment in Florida to $1.50 per hour raises in New Mexico and Washington. Affected workers who work year-round will see their annual pay go up between $150 and $1,700, on average, depending on the size of the minimum wage increase in their state.

Here’s the EPI’s Vermont breakdown:

  • Share of workforce directly benefiting: 5.2%
  • Type of increase: Inflation adjustment
  • New minimum wage as of Jan. 1, 2020: $10.96
  • Amount of increase: $0.19
  • Total workers directly benefiting: 16,200
  • Total increase in annual wages: $3,932,000
  • Average increase in annual earnings of year-round workers: $240

This Week:

Press Dives In On Some Of The Issues Identified Within Vermont Corrections Department

Letter To Editor Writer Wants State To Keep Woodside Open

BGS To Test Drinking Water In State Office Buildings

VSEA’s 2020 Legislative Agenda

State Representative Pens Commentary, Calling For Fair Tax Distribution

Union Made Stocking Stuffers


Talking Points:

NH Vets’ Home Housekeepers Protest New Directive To Work Christmas Day

Taxes On Workers Replacing  Corporate Taxes

Bad News:
New Survey Finds Half Of American Workers Received No Raise
This Year

Good News:
Almost Seven Million American Workers Will Start 2020 With Higher Wages



December 25
Christmas Day Holiday
VSEA & Most State Offices Closed

January 1
New Year’s Day Holiday
VSEA & Most State Offices Closed

January 7
2020 Legislative Session Begins

January 7
VSEA Council Meeting
Capitol Plaza Hotel
9:00 a.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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