VSEA members representing DOC, Parole & Probation, DCF and AHS attended an informal issue dinner reception on February 16, where they were able to talk with lawmakers about enhanced employee safety and security – the night’s topic. The next reception is February 21 at 5:30 p.m. and the topic is "stopping privatization."
VSEA members belonging to the Non-Management, Corrections, Judiciary and Supervisory Units can click here to view your contract. All these contracts expire on June 30, 2018.
Important! Let VSEA Know If You DO NOT Want To Participate In New Electronic Balloting
When VSEA conducts its next membership vote; all members will be able to vote electronically for the first time in your union’s history. Members can still receive a ballot by U.S. Mail, but you will need to let VSEA know that this is your preference as soon as possible! Failure to inform VSEA that you would prefer your ballot via the U.S. Mail could result in you not being able to cast a vote on important decisions that impact the VSEA membership at large.
If you want to continue to cast your vote via U.S. Mail, please send an email to email@example.com or letter to VSEA headquarters, attention “My Voting Preference”, 155 State Street, Montpelier, 05602.
Thank you in advance for your attention to this important notice.
Join VSEA’s Texting List!
Texting is a great way for VSEA to let members know about important state employee issues or fights in a timely manner, but VSEA can’t text you if we don’t have your correct cell phone number.
Or contact VSEA headquarters (802-223-5247) today to provide, check or update your number. Please urge your colleagues to do
Now Available Online: VSEA’s Legislative Team Weekly Report: February 6 – February 10, 2017
VSEA’s Legislative Team has begun to post weekly reports to let members know what’s been happening at the State House in Montpelier. To get the latest VSEA updates from under the Golden Dome, you will first need to log into your VSEA.org account (log in here) and then click here.
At State House Day, VSEA members get a chance to talk face-to-face with legislators about the services you provide and the issues and challenges you and your colleagues face.
Register today and help make this VSEA’s most successful State House Day ever. With Vermont facing another budget deficit, it’s important again for VSEA members to demonstrate their collective power at the State House to remind lawmakers that we’re not only state employees who provide services, we’re also Vermont voters, and we care about the adverse impact service and personnel cuts have had—and will have—on the communities where we live.
More on events associated with VSEA State House Day to come in future WIAs. Stay tuned.
VSEA 2017 Scholarship Applications Now Online!
Every year, the VSEA Scholarship & Awards Committee solicits scholarship applications from VSEA members and their spouses, dependents and domestic partners. The 2017 scholarship applications are now available online, and VSEA students who are seeking financial assistance this year in the pursuit of post-secondary educational goals can download one here.
The deadline for applications is May 8!
Bolton Valley Offering VSEA Members A Discount On Daily Lift Tickets
Bolton Valley (BV) Ski Resort has been a VSEA Advantage Program participant for years, offering state employees discounted season passes. That offer has come and gone for this season, but BV is now offering VSEA members $5 off lift tickets that are purchased online. This is an additional discount off the already-lowered online lift-ticket price.
Important! To purchase an online, discounted BV lift ticket, you must first receive a good-for-one-use promotional code directly from the VSEA Advantage Program. To get a promo code, contact VSEA’s Susan DeVoid by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone at 802-223-5247. Susan is only available during normal VSEA operating hours (Monday-Friday,
9 am- 5 pm).
VSEA Membership Recruitment Committee Launching New Recruitment Effort
The VSEA Membership Recruitment Committee is launching a 2016/2017 “Membership Engagement and Recruitment Initiative” to grow the union’s ranks, asking members to talk with current agency-fee payers about the benefits of full-fledged membership and why s/he should make the switch. If they decide to upgrade their membership, the recruiting member will have the satisfaction of knowing they helped their union become stronger, but, in addition, the Membership Recruitment Committee will be awarding different levels of prizes to members, based on the number of new VSEA members recruited.
Here are the guidelines to participate and be eligible for a prize:
Whether submitting your recruited member(s) name(s)on a physical recruitment card or online, you must include your name as the recruiter;
Every member who recruits a new member will has his or her name entered into a drawing for the Grand Prize. The winner’s name will be drawn at VSEA’s Annual Meeting in September 2017, and the winner must be present to claim the prize;
Team entries are being accepted. Please register with Membership Recruitment Committee Chair Katelyn Chase by emailing her at email@example.com.
Members who recruit a new member, who then agrees to join your union’s political awareness committee (VTPAC) will receive an additional chance to win the Grand Prize, and
The cut-off date for this competition is August 30, 2017.
Here are the different prize levels:
$10 gift card and a VSEA water bottle (75 prizes awarded)
$25 gift card and a VSEA hat (40 prizes awarded)
$50 gift card and a VSEA tote bag (15 prizes awarded)
$100 and a VSEA fleece vest (8 prizes awarded)
1 Grand Prize – $1,200
Note: WIA will periodically remind members about this effort until its culmination in August 2017.
Local VSEA Activist Running For Bennington District School Board
Longtime VSEA Steward and activist Chris Murphy is asking VSEA members who live in his school district to please consider supporting his candidacy for District School Board on Town Meeting Day, March 7. Chris is a 14-year VSEA member who works as a Social Worker in DCF’s Family Services Division.
Of his candidacy, Murphy’s flyer includes a quote, reading, “I have devoted my professional life to working with children and on their behalf. It will be an honor to continue working to make our schools even stronger and our community even better.”
Good luck Chris!
Threatened While On The Job? VSEA Wants To Know.
VSEA President Dave Bellini is asking all state employees who are threatened while performing your job duties to provide an account of the threat not only to your supervisor or the State, but also to VSEA.
“VSEA wants to begin to compile its own record of threats against frontline state employees, no matter your occupation,” explains Bellini. “I’m asking all employees who are threatened, especially those working in AHS, to take a few minutes to fill out an online form VSEA made to collect your report. The information will help us provide a firsthand account of the number of threats being made and where they are being made, in addition to some other things.”
VSEA Executive Director spoke on half of the numerous P&P officers who have contacted the union to voice their support for the legislation, sharing several officers’ firsthand accounts of perceived—and often very real danger—with lawmakers. Howard passed out a sheet that listed attacks on officers with knives and hammers, death threats to the officer, their family and sometimes even a pet, firearms visibly on the premises and more. Howard also reminded lawmakers how Vermont social workers had been sounding the alarm for years about how they sometimes feared for their personal safety when in the field, checking on the well being of a child or children whose parents, or parent, are known to be very dangerous. “[VSEA social workers] warned the management of DCF that a social worker would be killed in a parking lot,” Howard explained. “[Probation officers] feel as the social workers did then, that a probation officer will be killed.”
The DOC has taken a neutral position on the bill. As the news story reports, New Hampshire P&P officers carry firearms. “In New York, probation officers in Clinton and Franklin counties have the option to carry a gun, and New York state parole officers are also allowed to carry firearms after being trained.”
AHS Chief Operations Officer Dawn O’Toole sent a memo on February 16 to all AHS staff, informing them of several safety and security enhancements being implemented in the coming months to better protect frontline workers. These include: two new safety training tracks, and a third in development; the installation of video cameras, panic buttons, lock-down buttons and impact-resistant reception windows; and the hiring and placing of designated security staff. AHS employees are also reminded to fill out BGS incident report forms. Finally, contact information is provided for each AHS department’s designated safety coordinator.
“Some of the things being implemented here are ideas that were generated by frontline AHS workers, and it’s good to see that AHS listened and is now working to implement some,” VSEA President Dave Bellini tells WIA. “We’re a long way from being where we need to be though. Still a lot of work to do.”
Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) snowplow crews proved again this week why they are the nation’s best. While several nearby states were busy shutting down everything in sight because of the snow—or in some cases, impending snow—Vermont AOT workers simply shrugged the storm off and went out and did the great job they always do.
DOC Employees Squelch Inmate Uprising At
St. Johnsbury Prison
Just a few months after correctional officers were taken hostage at the Northern State Correctional Facility in Newport, a dozen or so inmates decided this past weekend to attempt to take over an entire unit of the St. Johnsbury prison. The inmates’ uprising didn’t last long though thanks to frontline DOC personnel taking quick action to prevent what could have developed into a very bad situation.
According to a February 14 VTDigger story about the uprising, it lasted roughly two hours and no one was injured—thankfully. DOC Facilities Director Mike Touchette said the incident is being investigated and the damage costs are still being assessed.
VSEA President Dave Bellini posted a comment to the Digger story that read, “First a hostage taking at the Newport prison, now, losing control of part of another prison. Prisons are dangerously understaffed. Turnover is sky high. This is the tip of the iceberg. Why do we always have to wait until someone is killed to notice the obvious?”
State’s Proposal To Dismantle DII To Create New Agency Gains Traction
One of the three “government efficiency” proposals the State floated in its January budget address was to dismantle the current Department of Information and Innovation (DII) and replace it with a new Agency of Digital Services. Whoever is appointed to be the agency’s new secretary will report directly to the governor. A Feb. 15 VTDigger story reports that “Under the plan, IT managers will no longer be union members,” but VSEA is flagging this report as false, after confirming with Human Resources that the IT managers never belonged to a VSEA bargaining unit.
According to the story, no current DII employee will lose his or her job as a result of the new agency being created. The Senate Institutions and Government Operations Committees voted unanimously to endorse the proposal.
AHS Secretary Announces Full Review Of Vermont’s Mental Health System
A week after lawmakers received an earful on the state of Vermont’s mental health system from frontline workers, including many VSEA members, VTDigger reports today that AHS Secretary Al Gobeille is embarking on a mission to “dive deeply” into how Vermont currently provides mental health services. Gobeille is meeting today with various stakeholders in Vermont’s mental health debate, and he is aiming to have his full review completed in a few weeks. He is also warning that there is “no silver bullet” to fix the system.
Some lawmakers are calling for quick action. Digger quotes Sen. Richard Westman (R-Lamoille), referencing last week’s hearing and testimony from frontline workers who say they are in danger of being assaulted by patients who were being held involuntarily because they are a danger to themselves or others. “The first time somebody really gets hurt or something like that happens, we’ll rush to do something in a way that might not be the best thing to do,” explains Westman. “So I want a plan. I want us to move. But this is something that — something bad’s going to happen.”
Sen. Jane Kitchel (D-Caledonia) echoes her colleague’s sense of urgency, saying, “We have patients in the emergency room assaulting sheriffs. This is not a new problem. It’s just a problem that hasn’t been solved.”
Agreement Reached To House 50 Inmates In St. Johnsbury Work Camp’s Closed Wing
It took a while to reach an agreement, but the DOC is announcing that it has reached a deal with the town of St. Johnsbury that will allow for the transfer of 50 inmates to the Northeast Correctional Complex (a.k.a. St. J Work Camp). The inmates will be housed in a unit that has been closed since October 2015 because of a declining number of inmates who were eligible for the work camp program.
The main difference with the incoming population of 50 is that they are minimum-security inmates who will not be participating in the work camp program. That is a change from the town’s previous agreement with the DOC. A February 15 VTDigger story about the agreement explains that all newly transferred inmates “will have access to programs to help them when they re-enter the community, such as courses on life skills, road construction and cooking on a limited budget.”
Note: Some DOC officials believe this agreement will soften the blow of potentially closing the Windsor prison, but even with the 50 inmates being moved, you still have 50+ inmates at Windsor who will need to be re-housed somewhere, as well as the 200+ inmates soon coming back to Vermont after being kicked out of a Michigan private prison.
VSEA Schedules 2017 “Day At Fenway” Event For August 27
Last year, VSEA scheduled its first-ever “VSEA Day at Fenway” event, and it was a huge success. This year, VSEA will again be sponsoring a trip to Fenway, this time to see the Red Sox battle the Baltimore Orioles in a 1:05 p.m. start on Sunday, August 27. The estimated cost is $80 per person, which includes a bus ride to and from the park, as well as a ticket to the game.
If you and your family would be interested in joining your union and fellow members at Fenway on August 27, 2017, you should contact VSEA Union Representative Bob South. You can reach Bob by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 223-5247.
The next VSEA Central Vermont Chapter meeting is Thursday, February 23, at National Life in Montpelier. The meeting begins at 12:00 p.m. in the Winooski Conference Room, which is on the complex’s second floor.
VSEA’s February 21 Legislative Issue Reception Focus Is Privatization!
The topic of the February 21 VSEA Legislative Issue Reception is “Stopping Privatization.” If you are working beside contracted employees doing basically the same job, your voice is important. If some or all of your service has been taken over by a contractor, your voice is important. If you don’t believe the savings being floated by a contractor are true or real, your voice is important. And if you have noticed a degradation of your service after some or all of it was contracted out, your voice is important. Please attend to make your voice heard to lawmakers in the room.
The reception is February 21 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m at VSEA headquarters at 155 State Street in Montpelier. VSEA members are welcome and urged to attend. Please RSVP to VSEA Organizer Danielle Warner by email: email@example.com.
VSEA Issues Final Call For Member-Groups To Enroll For New Legal Defense Fund Benefit
VSEA President Dave Bellini sent an email to all members yesterday, announcing what is essentially a “last call” for interested VSEA member-groups to enroll in a new legal defense fund benefit.
“VSEA is reaching out one last time to determine if there are any other member-groups (by physical location or job title) where more than half the employees want this benefit,” wrote Bellini.
To learn more about the benefit, please click here and then fill out the survey at the bottom of the explanation. Your answers will help VSEA better determine the worksites or work groups where more than half the members are interested in this offering.
Open Enrollment For New VSEA Supplemental Vision Benefit Ends February 28!
The open period for VSEA members to enroll in your union’s new supplemental vision benefit program began February 1 and ends February 28. The new vision benefit offer is similar in nature to VSEA’s popular supplemental dental benefit, which your union began offering to members years ago. Like the dental benefit, there is a small charge to receive the vision benefit.
Note: VSEA has taken steps to ensure this vision benefit is available to all members who want to enroll, but know that the payroll-deduction process for Executive Branch and Judiciary Unit members is different than the one for State Colleges and Housing Authority members. Members in the Executive and Judiciary Branches have their premium deducted automatically but State Colleges and Housing Authority members’ premiums will be paid through direct monthly billing. State Colleges’ members are reminded that this vision benefit is different than the one offered by the colleges.
New Hampshire House Votes To Kill Right-To-Work Legislation!
The New Hampshire House provided that state’s workers with a huge win on Thursday, when it voted 200 to 177 to kill so-called right-to-work legislation that had narrowly passed in the Senate. The vote effectively ends debate about the ill-advised legislation for at least a couple of years. Reports say that most watching the House vote expected it to be a lot closer than it turned out.
“To put it behind us and move forward is what’s best…” remarked NH House Speaker Shawn Jasper after the vote. “We have to start moving forward, there has got to be some healing.”
Seacoastonline reports on February 14 that, prior to the full House vote, NH veterans banded together with labor leaders to publicly denouce right-to-work legislation. One veteran explaining his reasoning, saying, "It’s important to realize you can’t walk into any factory or mill, fire hall, VA hospital, post office; on to any job site in the state of New Hampshire and not run into a veteran who is also there working. When you have a right-to-work bill, which is a bill that encourages stealing, you are taking money away from veterans, you are making veterans work places less safe and you are denying veterans what they need access to more than anything, not a standing ovation at a football game, but access to a good job that allows someone to live a life of dignity."
Location & Dates Of
St. Johnsbury Meetings Has Changed!
VSEA Organizer Tim Lenoch is personally conducting informational meetings in set workplaces on set days in four locations. He says the purpose of the meetings is to provide members with an opportunity to “join with their colleagues and VSEA staff for updates and discussion on the issues and challenges facing state employees and the impact on your working conditions and the services they provide.” He adds that members are welcome to “come share their ideas and hear from co-workers on how to build a stronger union and improve public services.”
Snacks and refreshments are provided.
AHS Conference Room
State Office Building
232 Main Street
White River Junction
State Office Building
118 Prospect Street
First Floor Conference Room
State Office Building
100 Mineral Street
AMENDED! VSEA Labor Educator Alters Winter 2016 Training Schedule
VSEA Labor Educator Tim Lenoch asked WIA to make members aware that he has made some changes to his previously announced winter 2016 trainings schedule. Some trainings have been cancelled and the date for others has been changed. (* = date change)
If you are interested in registering to attend one or more of the remaining trainings, you can do so by clicking here. Please direct your training questions to Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All trainings begin at 9:00 a.m. and end at 4:00 p.m.
Location may change based on worksite location of registered participants. If this happens, registered participants will be notified at least a week ahead of the training. Mileage and lunch may be reimbursed or provided.
TARGETED DEPARTMENT/BARGAINING UNIT TRAININGS
Vermont State Colleges’ Stewards
VTC Campus, Randolph Center
Thursday, April 6
VTrans Training Center, 1716 US Rte. 302, Berlin
Tuesday, April 11
NEW STEWARD TRAININGS
Steward 1: Introduction and the Basics
VTrans Training Center, 1716 US Rte. 302, Berlin *Friday, March 17
Steward 3: The Contract and Challenges in the Workplace
VTrans Training Center, 1716 US Rte. 302, Berlin *Friday, March 30
Steward 2: Protecting the Contract and Building the Union
VTrans Training Center, 1716 US Rte. 302, Berlin *Friday, March 31
Steward 2: Protecting the Contract and Building the Union
VTrans Training Center, 1716 US Rte. 302, Berlin
Thursday, May 16
ALL STEWARD TRAINING
VTC Campus, Randolph
Friday, May 26
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.