VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: December 6, 2019

"Woodside Are You On?"

Full Story Here



Executive Branch Units Overwhelmingly Ratify New Contract 

Members of the VSEA Election, Rules and Nominating (ERN) Committee were at VSEA headquarters just before Thanksgiving to certify the tentative-agreement vote count and announce that members of the union’s Non-Management, Corrections and Supervisory Units had all overwhelmingly ratified a new, two-year contract. 

"VSEA and Executive Branch leaders are happy the contract was passed–and by a large margin," VSEA President Dave Bellini, following ratification. "I want to again thank the rank-and-file VSEA bargaining team members who negotiated the agreements for all your hard work and time."

View a summary of the new contract here. VSEA.org log-in required.

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

Keep Woodside Open! Workers Launch Campaign To Save Service. Lend Your Support!

VSEA members working at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Colchester are upset and angry about an announcement by the State that it would be recommending closure of Vermont’s sole detention facility for at-risk youth. Making the announcement worse was its timing, which was just before the Thanksgiving holiday; a tactic sometimes employed when a party wants to "bury the story." 

To the Woodside workers credit, they immediately contacted VSEA for help and then mobilized themselves, initially by penning group letters to the editor, commentaries and an open letter to the public and press. Their zeal, however, was unfortunately squelched quickly when a DCF boss sent out an email, reminding employees of the department’s policy about talking with the press–which is not to, without the department’s blessing, of course. VSEA’s legal team immediately fired back, informing employees that, "As long as VSEA members are speaking as citizens about matters of public concern, which is true in the case of Woodside, and engaging in concerted activity to protect their jobs, they are protected."

Read VSEA General Counsel’s Memo To Woodside Workers On Speaking With Press & Public

Turns out, DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz agreed with VSEA’s legal opinion.He contacted VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard Tuesday morning to apologize for someone down the chain of command sending the department press directive reminder to the Woodside workers.

Also on Tuesday, VPR‘s Vermont Edition hosted a discussion about the future of Woodside, and VSEA’s Howard called in to the show to voice VSEA’s strong support for the service provided there and the workers providing it, promising to take the fight to keep the facility open to the State House this session, where its fate will ultimately be decided. Howard also directed the public to VSEA’s website to read a heartfelt letter collectively penned by the five members of VSEA’s labor team at Woodside.

Here is the VSEA members’ letter (which posted to VTDigger on December 4):

When we see news coverage of the place we work, the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitatidn Center, there are a lot of things we don’t recognize, many aspects of our work to help some of the most vulnerable young people in Vermont that are missing completely, and, finally, a very few nuggets of coverage that ring true in our experience.

The caricature of Woodside that has become popular recently bears almost no resemblance to the therapeutic environment we work in. We are proud every day of the work that we have done to transform the lives of Woodside’s residents.

Equally unrecognizable are portraits of those of us on Woodside’s staff as brutal authority figures. The clinical staff, youth counselors and teachers at Woodside are people who have devoted their lives to child welfare and education. Perhaps understandably, the trips of staff members to local stores to buy art supplies, with their own money, in order to enrich the lives ofWoodside’s residents don’t make for good headlines. Nor is it easy in a two-second sound bite to sum up the close, supportive relationships we build with young people, and their families, who may never have known a stable environment in all their lives.

What we do recognize as a part of Woodside is the stark reality of what it means at times to keep residents who are undergoing mental health crises from posing a life-or-death danger to themselves, to their fellow residents, or to those of us who work at the Center. Over the years, the Woodside staff has seen the policies concerning physical intervention in such circumstances change repeatedly; and the changes have been ones that increase the danger to staff with the goal of decreasing the number of times that intervention has to take place. Nonetheless, the safety of our residents and staff must be Woodside’s first priority, and those ofus who work at the Center do not and should not apologize for intervening, when necessary, to save somebody’s life. Sometimes, this means safety-oriented physical intervention.

Woodside can provide therapeutic, vitally important care to our often deeply troubled residents. The State of Vermont needs a place that offers both rehabilitative services as well as short term custody for youth in crisis. A place responsible to the public, that- unlike private contractors or out of state "solutions"- cannot and will not turn young Vermonters away.

Woodside has been a place of healing for hundreds of the most vulnerable Vermonters. We should all protect this vital community asset and ensure that it can remain such a place.

Note: VSEA is urging members to share your union’s "Keep Woodside Open" message with your co-workers, friends, family and especially your local lawmakers, both before and during the upcoming session, which launches January 7, 2020. 

VSEA Judiciary Unit Begins New Round Of Bargaining

VSEA’s Judiciary Unit Bargaining Team is actively engaged in a new round of negotiations with the Court Administrator on a successor agreement, but it could be tough sledding.

The Judiciary Unit Team has already sat down with the Court Administrator, and initial reports are troubling. The Team is reaching out to Unit members to attend upcoming bargaining sessions, as a show of solidarity. Unit members are also being surveyed about a key issue currently on the table. An update was emailed this week to all Unit members, which includes information on where upcoming sessions are being held, how to get involved and how to submit feedback on the issue in question.

Note: VSEA members across the board will almost certainly be asked to engage somehow–at some point–in this process. Please do what you can to support fellow VSEA members. 

VSEA VSCSF Unit Set To Begin New Round Of Contract Negotiations

VSEA’s Vermont State Colleges’ Staff Federation (VSCSF) Bargaining Team has been prepping a while now for a new round of contract negotiations with the Chancellor’s Office and the first face-to-face meeting at the table is scheduled for Monday, December 16. Subsequent bargaining sessions are scheduled for: 

  • January 6
  • January 16
  • January 23

The initial sessions are where VSEA’s Team and the Chancellor’s Office will establish ground rules to govern the parties’ conduct throughout negotiations, while also addressing both sides information needs, and, likely, a discussion about additional dates to negotiate. The Team will be providing VSCSF Unit members with updates, following each session.

Please reach out to a Bargaining Team member if you have questions and, of course, attend your campus meeting for updates!  

VSEA’s VSCSF Bargaining Team is: 

  • Sandy Noyes, Unit Chair, Northern Vermont University-Johnson  
  • Billie Langlois, Unit Vice-Chair, Castleton University
  • Monique Prive, Unit Secretary, Northern Vermont University-Lyndon
  • Karen Tetreault, Unit Treasurer, Vermont Technical College  
  • Marc McPhetres, Unit Steward, Vermont Technical College 
  • Travis Allen, Campus Negotiator for Vermont Technical College
  • Jay Bona, Campus Negotiator for Northern Vermont University-Lyndon
  • Donald Kapitan, Campus Negotiator for Castleton University 
  • Ken Moore, Campus Negotiator for Northern Vermont University-Johnson

Team Contact Information

Note: VSEA members across the board will almost certainly be asked to engage somehow–at some point–in this process. Please do what you can to support fellow VSEA members. 

Newly Elected VSEA OSA Bargaining Team Meeting To Prep For First-Contract Negotiations 

Newly organized Office of State’s Attorneys’ VSEA members have elected a Bargaining Team, and these members will be meeting at VSEA headquarters next week to begin prepping and planning for negotiations on a first-ever contract. 

Congratulations again to this new VSEA Unit. WIA will be keeping readers updated on the status of the Unit’s negotiations, once they formally begin.  

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.

Vermont Game Wardens Stop Salmon Poacher

Photo: Seven Days

Seven Days has a story this week about how VSEA Game Wardens (pictured above, l to r) Dana Joyal, Carl Wedin and Robert Currier recently stopped a salmon poacher.

From the story:

"…the officers had a warrant, so they entered an unlocked back door and roused their surprised suspect, 42-year-old Justin Cianchetta, from a nap.

Minutes later, they found the contraband they were looking for: five containers of salmon filets in the freezer and another two in the refrigerator, according to court papers. The bust was for poaching — but not the kind done in a skillet. The officers, all game wardens, cited Cianchetta for taking fish illegally from a no-fishing section of Hatchery Brook in Grand Isle, where salmon from Lake Champlain migrate every fall to spawn.

Well done Wardens Joyal, Wedin and Currier.

VSEA VTC Members Mourn Co-Worker’s Passing

VSEA members working at Vermont Technical College are mourning the death of 14-year VTC Custodian Leigh Lyon, who passed away unexpectedly last Wednesday.  His colleagues say Leigh "was a dedicated employee who could always be counted on," adding that, "His passing is a huge loss for the college and all who worked with him on daily basis."

Condolences to the VTC family. 

Announcing 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!

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!


Quote Of
The Week!


"Vermont needs Woodside."

Comment posted by a Joyce M. George to a commentary by five Woodside employees, defending their service and facility, that posted this week to VTDigger. 



Talking Points:


VSEA Members Invited To Attend VT AFL-CIO’s Annual Political Summit, Which Is Tomorrow! 

The Vermont AFL-CIO is hosting its annual political summit tomorrow, Saturday, December 7, and VSEA members are being invited to attend. 

According to a Facebook page about the VT AFL-CIO’s political summit:

This historical political summit is being convened on December 7, 2019, to determine how the labor organization moves forward with its political agenda, how it might change its approach to the legislative process, and what kind of relationship to political parties and politicians it has, especially with respect to future endorsements. 

VT AFL-CIO 2019 Political Summit
Saturday, December 7
8:30 a.m.
Old Labor Hall 
46 Granite Street

Almost Half Of Americans Working In Low-Wage Jobs

CBS News reports this week on a newly released study from the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program which found that "America’s unemployment rate is at a half-century low, but it also has a job-quality problem that affects nearly half the population, with the study finding 44% of U.S. workers are employed in low-wage jobs that pay median annual wages of $18,000.

Other findings:

  • Almost half of U.S. workers between ages 18 to 64 are employed in low-wage jobs, the Brookings Institution found;
  • Low-wage jobs are pervasive, representing between one-third to two-thirds of all jobs in the country’s almost 400 metropolitan areas; and
  • Smaller cities in the South and West tend to have the highest share, such as Las Cruces, New Mexico, and Jacksonville, North Carolina, where more than 6 in 10 workers are in low-wage work.

Maine State Employees Launch Drive To Organize Bowdoin College Housekeepers

The Bowdoin Orient reports this morning that the Maine State Employees Association (MSEA) is launching a drive to organize housekeepers working on the Bowdoin College campus. 

From the story:

Housekeeper Bonnie Perkins is among those in favor of unionization. For her, membership in the MSEA would mean dignity and recognition, something that, according to past testimonies from over a dozen housekeepers, has often been missing from their work.

“We don’t get no respect. None at all,” Perkins said. “I think if we had a union they would give us more respect.”

Sandy Green, another housekeeper, also supports unionization, believing a union will help housekeepers advocate for new equipment and the ability to decide their own schedules.

“We are overworked and understaffed big time, and [the College] tells us we have enough employees, and we obviously don’t,” Green said. “We’re covering between 13 and 15 assignments a day because people are out, and our bodies are breaking.”

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. 


This Week:

Executive Branch Units Overwhelmingly Ratify New Contract 

Keep Woodside Open! Workers Launch Campaign To Save Service. Lend Your Support!

VSEA Judiciary Unit Begins New Round Of Bargaining

VSEA VSCSF Unit Set To Begin New Round Of Contract Negotiations

Newly Elected VSEA OSA Bargaining Team Meeting To Prep For First-Contract Negotiations

VSEA Policies Updated!

Vermont Game Wardens Stop Salmon Poacher

VSEA VTC Members Mourn Co-Worker’s Passing

Announcing VSEA’s Winter Membership Drive!

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


Talking Points:

VSEA Members Invited To Attend VT AFL-CIO’s Annual Political Summit, Which Is Tomorrow! 

Almost Half Of Americans Working In Low-Wage Jobs

Maine State Employees Launch Drive To Organize Bowdoin College Housekeepers

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



December 7
Vermont AFL-CIO COPE Meeting
Old Labor Hall
46 Granite Street
8:30 a.m.

December 10 

Judiciary Unit Bargaining w/ Court Administrator
155 State Street
8:00 a.m. 

December 12 

Office Of State’s Attorney’s Bargaining Team Meeting
155 State Street
8:00 a.m.


Important Reminders:

My Office Is Freezing!

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!


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. 


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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