VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: February 23, 2018
VSEA Bargaining Teams Begin Prepping For Trip Back
VSEA Labor Relations Director Gary Hoadley sent a brief bargaining update this morning to the home email addresses of all VSEA Non-Management, Corrections and Supervisory Unit members who have provided headquarters with a valid address. In the message, Hoadley details the current status of the 20-day fact-finding process, warning that the State’s unwillingness to date to negotiate around the terms and conditions contained in the fact-finder’s report means VSEA’s Teams are almost certainly headed back the Vermont Labor Relations Board for a final contract determination, much like what happened in 2016.
VSEA Creates Council Member & Steward Facebook Group Pages
Responding to VSEA members’ requests for new ways to engage with their fellow union members and state employees, VSEA recently created two new Facebook group pages, one for Council members and another for Stewards. The pages are being administered by VSEA, and in order to keep out trolls or non-members, the name of anyone seeking to join one or both of the groups will be checked through VSEA’s membership database.
Hopefully, these pages will provide VSEA Council members and Stewards with a place to ask questions, provide information and post articles of interest to the group. In addition, Council members and Stewards can now engage with their counterparts statewide on a daily basis.
VPCH Signs Settlement With VOSHA. Remedy Now Required.
VSEA frontline workers at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital (VPCH) in Berlin confirmed with management this week that it did sign a settlement with the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration (VOSHA) on Friday, February 17, which means VPCH management is now required (by set dates) to address several serious safety and health violations identified by VOSHA inspectors early in 2017. The facility was initially fined $14,000 by VOSHA, but it was temporarily waived in lieu of promised abatement. At the time, VSEA President Dave Bellini said in a press statement, “Hopefully these long-awaited VOSHA citations will help cut down on the high number of employee assaults at the VPCH. This situation and others across Vermont are why VSEA will never stop fighting for stronger safety and security protections for our members. VSEA members working at VPCH look forward to assisting management in any way they can to make sure these serious VOSHA citations are adequately addressed–and in a timely manner.”
Here are some of the short-term fixes VOSHA is requiring:
By February 17, VPCH management must begin to create a “Safety Council”, and, according to VSEA members, it is in the works;
By March 5, VPCH management must issue a survey “on how best to provide information and decisions discussed around EIPs and High-Risk Notes and how best to get more staff input”;
By March 5, VPCH management must staff survey on risk assessment protocol;
By March 5, VPCH management must hold training for staff on “legal issues”;
By March 19, VPCH management must produce a first draft of a “stand-alone” written workplace prevention and crisis response policy: to include a laundry list of things;
By April 18, VPCH management must add a document to each patient’s admission packet, clearly articulating that violence or threats of violence are unacceptable; and
By June 18, VPCH management must host a training forum with “selected” frontline staff.
In February 2019, VPCH management must meet one of the most important VOSHA requirements, which is to provide employees with a place of employment “free from recognized hazards that are causing or likely to cause death or significant physical harm to employees.”
VOSHA is also requiring VPCH management to provide it with a “full accounting of all fiduciary expenditures, including staff time and capital expenditures, to achieve abatement. VSEA will also be asking to see this accounting.
"So the folks from Vermont are treated like they’re from Pennsylvania."
Vermont AHS Secretary Al Gobeille, commenting in a February 22 Seven Days story about State officials and lawmakers now rethinking a decision that essentially signed away Vermont inmates’ rights as part of a contract agreement the DOC inked with a Pennsylvania prison. VSEA openly questioned the potential adverse ramifications of this contract provision when it was announced.
Deadline To Sign Up For VSEA Supplemental Vision Benefit Is Wednesday, February 28!
Since February 1, VSEA has been openly enrolling members into your union’s VSEA discounted Vision Benefit. Please note that the vision benefit open-enrollment period ends next week on Wednesday, February 28, 2018. Please follow the link below to learn more and sign up today!
In advance of the coming Town Meeting break, VSEA’s Legislative Committee is meeting on February 28 to discuss the current status of legislation important to state employees, get updated on Unit bargaining progress and the potential to have to educate lawmakers about the process and to meet with lawmakers who are key State House players in the VSEA-member-related issue debates happening now and the ones that will be happening soon.
AOT Employees Remind Motorists To Respect Snow Plows
The Agency of Transportation recently posted a video to its Facebook page, featuring frontline workers reminding motorists to be careful when driving in the proximity of a Vermont snowplow. It’s an important message, and VSEA members are urged to share the post with your friends, family and co-workers.
Motorists should also slow down when approaching AOT workers filling potholes. Just last week, a 64-year-old Colorado AOT worker was struck by a car while filling potholes, and he died a few days later. The Gillette News Record reports that the employee’s co-workers are carrying the worker’s remains from Denver to Pagosa Spring for burial, and the procession will include a snowplow that the worker drove during his 14 years as a state employee.
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
Supreme Court Rules (Correctly!) That Teachers’ Collective Bargaining Sessions Are Not Subject To Vermont Open Meeting Laws
Score one for Vermont workers, after the Vermont NEA successfully defended teacher negotiating sessions being closed to the general public.
Props to NEA Counsel (and past VSEA staff member) Rebecca McBroom (pictured here arguing in front of the Supreme Court) for all her outstanding work to obtain the ruling!
Here’s an excerpt from a press release issued this afternoon by the NEA:
"The court also made clear that contract talks are meetings of equal parties, and applying the Open Meeting Law would upend that balance. “We are especially gratified that the Supreme Court reaffirmed that educators and school boards are equals at the bargaining table,” [NEA Attorney] McBroom said.
The court also outright rejected the newly formed VSBA assertion that the law requires public bargaining. For decades, the court pointed out, teachers and school boards have conducted bargaining in private. “We are hard-pressed to believe that the experienced lawyers engaged in labor negotiations of this type overlooked this issue until recently,” the court said."
Economic Policy Institute Releases Report That Exposes The Organizations That Are Funding The Janus v. Illinois Hearing
The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) released a report this week that shines a light on “the organizations financing the attack on unions’ ability to represent workers.”
The EPI report begins:
Over the last decade, a number of cases attacking the rights of public-sector union members have been quietly working their way through the courts and, finally, up to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The most recent of these challenges is Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear on February 26. If the court rules for Janus, it will likely have the most significant impact on workers’ freedom to organize and bargain collectively in 70 years.
Janus is the third case to come before the Supreme Court in five years involving public-sector unions’ ability to collect “fair share” (or “agency”) fees. As this report will show, Janus, and the two fair share cases that preceded it, did not grow from an organic, grassroots challenge to union representation. Rather, the fair share cases are being financed by a small group of foundations with ties to the largest and most powerful corporate lobbies. These organizations and the policymakers they support have succeeded in advancing a policy agenda that weakens the bargaining power of workers. In Janus, these interests have focused their attack on public-sector workers—the workforce with the highest union density.
We examine the core group of organizations financing this litigation. By tracing the origins of these legal challenges, and explaining how the challenges target unions, we show that challenging fair share fees in the courts appears to be part of a broader billionaire-financed agenda to weaken unions and shift power away from ordinary workers.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Administrative Assistant Sue DeVoid (email@example.com). 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone 802-223-5247. Thank You!
Catholic Church Pens Strong Condemnation Of Janus Lawsuit’s Potential Harm To Workers
From February 21 Post To National Catholic Reporter:
"The strength of individuals, bonded together for better wages and working conditions, is not only a Catholic teaching, it is reflected in the National Labor Relations Act. Employees have ‘the right to self-organization,’ to join or form ‘labor organizations’ and ‘to bargain collectively.’ Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it precisely for the purpose of equalizing bargaining power.
In the whole history of the United States, there are few clearer examples of the convergence of Catholic social thought and American public policy than the National Labor Relations Act. The two systems of thought converge precisely on the importance of solidarity. Solidarity is a Christian virtue that aims to promote social justice; it is also the foundation of American labor organizations and a precept of federal law.
And while the National Labor Relations Act does not apply directly to Janus v. AFSCME, the spirit of Catholic social thought, and the original intent of the National Labor Relations Act can both be productively accessed for interpretive guidance.”
In Wake Of Horrific Parkland School Shooting, Florida Teachers’ Unions Launch Assistance Fund
From the Florida teachers’ unions’ fundraising page:
"Our hearts are broken. It is impossible to make sense of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County, Florida. But in moments of tragedy, our union family comes together to support one another—and we ask you to join us.
Your contribution through the AFT Disaster Relief Fund will go directly to providing resources and supports for the students, families, educators and staff at Stoneman and the surrounding school community.
Thank you for standing with our union brothers and sisters and the communities they serve."
Chanting to lawmakers “Do your job so I can do mine,” West Virginia teachers converged on the state capital today after walking off the job en masse yesterday across 55 counties. It is the first statewide teacher’s strike since 1990. Teachers are frustrated with the Governor’s proposed pay increase and health care raid and are demanding help from lawmakers.
The walkout is only scheduled to last two days, but according to an Associated Press story this week, many teachers are telling their union they are prepared to stay out an additional week(s), if that is what it takes.
"If our people tell us to, then that’s what we’ll do," says one teacher.
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.
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.
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.
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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