VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: February 16, 2018
MEMBER ACTION ALERT! CALLS NEEDED!
Three VSEA Bargaining Teams Send Important Action Email To Unit Members’ HOME Email Addresses
Members of VSEA’s Non-Management, Corrections and Supervisory Bargaining Teams sent an email late yesterday to all members in these Units who have provided VSEA with a valid home email address. The message is important and time sensitive, so members belonging to one of the three Units are being asked to check your home email inbox and then take the action asked. If you do not see the email in your inbox, please also check your spam folder to make sure it did not land there.
As always, VSEA members can update your home or work email address or other information at any time simply by clicking here.
VSEA’s Facebook and web pages featured a meme the union created this week to thank the House and Senate members who have signed on to a letter to oppose allowing CoreCivic to set up shop in Vermont. (As of February 13, 2018)
VSEA members who missed the online posts are urged to review the list now to see if your lawmakers have signed on and are owed a “thank you.”
If you don’t see your lawmakers on the list, send them a message and ask, why not?
VSEA members had an opportunity to interact personally with their lawmakers on Wednesday evening at the 2018 VSEA Legislative Reception, held in the State House cafeteria in Montpelier.
As part of this year’s VSEA State House Day, VSEA Corrections member Steffen Flibotte was in front of the House Corrections and Institutions Committee this morning to to testify against allowing privately owned prison corporations like CoreCivic in Vermont.
State Treasurer Beth Pearce, quoted in a February 14 VTDigger story, articulating her feelings about the State’s proposal to allow CoreCivic into Vermont to build a mammoth prison and mental health complex for
State Treasurer Questions State’s Proposal To Allow CoreCivic To Build 925-Bed Prison
VTDigger reports on February 15 that State Treasurer Beth Pearce is openly questioning the State’s proposal to allow a private, for-profit, out-of-state company to build a massive prison and mental health complex in northeastern Vermont, saying she has “serious concerns.”
Pearce says that the lease-to-own deal with CoreCivic that the State is proposing could “count toward the total amount of debt the state is able to take on,” adding it would “put the proposal in competition with other projects and initiatives the state funds using bonds.” She warned that increasing the debt Vermont takes on could constrain the state’s future bonding authorization. Pearce says she will be educating herself more in coming weeks on the proposal’s potential impact and then sharing what she learns with lawmakers and State officials.
“I think it’s a really valid concern,” comments House Institutions and Corrections Chair Alice Emmons (D-Springfield).
Vermont currently sports a “AAA” bond rating, which is the highest attainable.
The VSEA Council met in Montpelier on Wednesday, and the body’s very full day began with a “breakfast with lawmakers” event and ended later that day with the VSEA Legislative Reception at the State House. In between events with lawmakers, Council members received comprehensive updates on bargaining with the State, the status of legislation important to VSEA members and an overview of how the state budget is looking for the foreseeable future. The President and Executive Director also provided reports, and VSEA Staff Attorney Kelly Everhart conducted diversity training for the entire Council.
VSEA First Vice President and Council Chair Aimee Towne asked WIA to remind Council members to please complete the meeting survey. A link will be emailed to all Council members soon. If you do not receive the email within the next few days, please contact Aimee here: ATowne@vsea.org
Employee’s BRIN Report Leads To Finding Of Mold At 133 State Street. Employees Relocated.
The State called VSEA on Thursday to inform the union that 12 Agency of Digital Services employees working in the basement of the 133 State Street state-office building were being relocated after mold was discovered in their work area. The mold investigation was prompted by an employee who saw a problem and then filed a “Building Related Issue Notification” form with BGS, seeking help. BGS told VSEA that air-quality testing was done in the area and will be done throughout the building to ensure no other mold pockets exist. Remediation is in progress, according to the State.
The VSEA Brattleboro Chapter is holding its next meeting on Thursday, February 22, beginning at 12:00 p.m. in the State Office Building’s Conference Room 148 in Brattleboro. Pizza and salad being served!
Please direct any questions or comments to VSEA Brattleboro Chapter President Robin Rieske, via email at email@example.com.
Next Central Vermont Chapter Meeting Is February 22!
Members of the VSEA Central Vermont Chapter
The VSEA Central Vermont Chapter is holding its next meeting on Thursday, February 22, beginning at 12:00 p.m. in the Davis Building’s Winooski Room, located at the National Life complex in Montpelier. Pizza being served!
Please direct any questions or comments to VSEA Central Vermont Chapter President Cassandra Edson, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Belonging To A Union Gives Working People Like Us The Power To Make Positive Change!
“Having an equal voice at the table when decisions are being made about our workplace, our livelihood, our health, and well being is the way we build better stronger communities for our families and future generations.”
Chair, VSEA Judiciary Unit Executive Committee
Note: VSCSF scholarships are not to be confused with VSEA’s annual scholarships, also being offered right now (which can be found here). Eligibility does not require attendance at one of the VSCSF’s four designated colleges or universities.
VSEA Member Margaret Crowley On Panel To Discuss Labor Film
Margaret Crowley, left, with members of the VSEA Judiciary Bargaining Team.
VSEA member and Judiciary Unit Chair Margaret Crowley will be part of a panel discussion, following a screening of Made in Dagenham; a film dramatization of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham car plant in the UK, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination.
The film is showing on Thursday, February 22, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the State House cafeteria in Montpelier. Pizza and salad will be available and there is no charge to eat and watch the movie. All are invited to attend.
The VSEA Membership Recruitment Committee is pleased to announce a 2018 casino trip with a two-night stay!
March 23 to March 25, 2018
Lodging Cost: (Two Nights at Two Trees Inn):
$138 per person/double occupancy; or
$122 per person/triple occupancy.
Bus Cost: $70 per person Bus will depart from Waterbury at 12:00 p.m. and White River Junction at 1:00 p.m.
(2) $10 food credit or full Festival Buffet;
$5 food credit or full Breakfast Buffet;
$20 slot play;
20% discount at any Foxwoods gift shop with a purchase of $25 up to $1,000; and
A Foxwoods souvenir.
To register or for more information, please contact VSEA Union Rep Bob South (email@example.com) or Administrative Assistant Sue DeVoid (firstname.lastname@example.org). Each can be reached by phone at 802-223-5247.
Payment must be received within one week of registering or you will lose your spot. Cash, check and credit card payments accepted. To pay, please contact VSEA Union Representative Bob South by email (email@example.com) or phone 802-223-5247. Thank You!
Kansas Lawmakers Float Bill To Prevent CoreCivic From Ever Overseeing Day-To-Day Prison Operations
Kansas State House
A February 11 Garden City Telegram story details how Kansas lawmakers are actively working to ensure that CoreCivic (the firm hired by the state to build a new Kansas prison) or any other private company can ever run the day-to-day operations at any state prison. Lawmakers authored the bill after a 20-year, $362 million lease-to-own contract for a new state prison in Lansing, Kansas, was approved by the State Finance Council.
From the story:
CoreCivic, which is based in Tennessee, was contracted to build the new prison. However, under measures outlined in the bill, which was endorsed by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, CoreCivic would not be granted authority to oversee personnel operations at Kansas adult and juvenile facilities.
Concerns with CoreCivic first arose when lobbyists with close personal relationships to former Gov. Sam Brownback were hired by the company.
While the influence of those lobbyists could have played into the move to keep Kansas prisons privatized, shortcomings that have contributed to lawsuits and complaints against private prison companies were also cited.
The privatization of prisons has prompted concerns over the safety of officers, who have been found to be undertrained while working in understaffed environments with high turnover. The inadequacy of medical and education programs at privatized prisons has been cited as another concern.
In some cases, problems incurred outweighed the cost savings private prison companies often advocate. Also, private prison companies benefit from systematic increases in incarceration rates, which provides little incentive for such companies to offer education that rehabilitates prisoners and allows them to become functional members of society upon release.
And then there’s this line, which is worrisome and did not go unnoticed by VSEA and its DOC members:
“The Senate bill that prohibits outsourcing of personnel management operations at state prison facilities may have been designed to mostly address safety concerns, while also protecting state employees who must absorb a significant decrease in staffing when the modernized prison opens in Lansing.”
National AFL-CIO Co-Sponsoring Petition To Supreme Court In Advance Of Janus Hearing
United States Supreme Court Building
The national AFL-CIO is one of seven organizations co-sponsoring an online petition to send to the U.S. Supreme Court in advance of February 26 oral arguments in a case titled Janus vs. Illinois. The worry is that the Court will rule to strip away public-sector unions’ hard-won right to represent “non-members,” or in VSEA’s case, “agency-fee” payers.
The petition reads, in part:
“This month, 50 years after the Memphis workers’ strike, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, a case brought by corporate elites to divide working people by limiting our power in numbers.”
Mother Jonespublished a story this morning about a new labor organization forming, called the “Campaign Workers’ Guild (CWG).” The group is seeking to “organize election staffers, particularly those who work for pro-labor Democrats.”
From the story:
“So far, the [CWG] has entered negotiations with two congressional campaigns and one gubernatorial campaign, to boost wages and improve working conditions in an industry that relies on short-term contract workers. ‘We’re coming together,’ Julia Ackerly, an executive board member of the Campaign Workers Guild and former campaign staffer for Bernie Sanders and other progressive candidates, says, ‘because for a really long time the culture of progressive campaigns has been exploitative and campaign workers have been denied basic labor protections.’”
Note: Sounds like a perfect fit for some Vermont candidates, right?
VSEA Policy Analyst Pens Overview Of State’s FY19 Budget Proposal
Following the FY19 budget address by the State’s top official, VSEA Policy Analyst Adam Norton reviewed all the documents made available to the press and public, and he has boiled down his findings into a one-page summary. VSEA members are urged to read through Norton’s summary to learn what’s being proposed and if your service could be hurt or helped by language in the State’s FY19 budget proposal.
Collective bargaining is the process by which unionized employees negotiate with their employer over mandatory subjects of bargaining, including wages, benefits like health insurance, working conditions and a grievance procedure to enforce the contract.
Is Next Opportunity To Enroll In VSEA’s Popular Delta Dental Supplemental Plan Benefit
Letters will be sent to VSEA members in April 2018, announcing a new, open-enrollment period to participate in your union’s very popular Delta Dental Supplemental Plan. The enrollment period is also when members already in the program can amend their number of dependents also using the program, if this number has changed in the past year.
Once received in your mailbox, all enrollment forms will be due back on a May 2018 date to be announced.
Note: If you are already taking advantage of this benefit, and you have no changes this year to your coverage, you do not need to send back a new form, as you will be automatically renewed.
What’s VSEA Done For Vermont State Employees?
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.
President Bellini Wants Your Cost-Savings Idea(s)!
Heading into the January 2018 session, VSEA members already knew it was going to be another case of “new budget year, new budget deficit.” It’s a Vermont problem that refuses to go away, and our state’s quality public services and many of the men and women who deliver them continue to suffer as a result.
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.
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.
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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.
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Thank you in advance for subscribing. Please urge your colleagues to do the same.