Franklin/Grand Isle Chapter Meeting
14th Star Brewery
133 N. Main St
Quote of The Week!
"The Stowe Mountain Resort leases some of the most iconic and valuable public lands in the state. The current lease terms are almost 50 years old and are out of date. There is reason to believe that Vermonters are not receiving a fair return for the lease of these unique public assets. According to the terms of the lease, the sale of the resort has to be approved by the State. This is a rare opportunity for the State to use its leverage to revise the lease terms."
State Auditor Doug Hoffer, commenting on a VTDigger story about this week’s sale of Stowe Mountain to Vail Resorts Inc. Like VSEA, Hoffer is hopeful that renegotiating the Stowe lease could generate new revenue.
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.
Now Available Online: VSEA’s Legislative Team Weekly Report: February 13 – February 17, 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.
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.
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!
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.
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 (email@example.com) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
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.”
12:00 p.m. – Panel Discussion – VSEA members representing various services will be participating in a panel discussion about the key issues facing state employees. Listening to the conversation will be House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and other legislators. Panel will convene on the floor of the Vermont House of Representatives.
1:00 p.m. – Lunch
1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. – Attend Legislative Committee Meetings
4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. – Annual VSEA Legislative Reception with State Legislators and Statewide Elected Officials. Being held in the State House cafeteria.
Register today to 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.
Council Chair Conducting Social Media Challenge During State
Last year, VSEA Council Chair Aimee Towne decided to try something new around State House Day, asking VSEA members to compete in a “social media challenge.” It went very well, so Towne is conducting the challenge again this year.
As VSEA members navigate the State House on February 28, Towne is asking them to pose for photos with officials, lawmakers and others. Once the photo is snapped, members are asked to share it to VSEA’s Facebook and/or Twitter page. Some of the State House leaders members will be seeking out for the challenge include the House Speaker, Senate Pro Tem, Governor and Lieutenant Governor. Members also score points for photos in the House and Senate chambers, in front of the State House and in front of their favorite quote found on marble inside the building.
Deadline To Sign Up For New VSEA Supplemental Vision Benefit Is Tuesday,
Since February 1, VSEA has been openly enrolling members into your union’s new VSEA discounted Vision Benefit. Please note that the vision benefit open-enrollment period ends next week on Tuesday, February 28, 2017. Please follow the links below to learn more and sign up today!
Questions? Feel free to email email@example.com or call 802-223-5247.
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.
VSEA Mourns Passing Of Past-President Samuel Hudson Jr.
VSEA is sending condolences to the family, friends and past colleagues of Past-President Samuel Hudson Jr., who led the union from 1975 to 1977. Hudson, who passed away on February 16, was VSEA President when lawmakers amended the State Employee Labor Relations Act to allow employees to bargain over wages. Hudson’s position was Franklin County Forester for the State of Vermont from 1957 to 1982. His nickname was “Tree Man.” In addition to fighting for his fellow union members, Hudson also fought for his country, serving in both World War II and the Korean War.
Seven Days Columnist Correctly Sums Up The Status Of Budget Discussions At State House—And It’s Not Reassuring
Seven Days “Fair Game” Columnist John Walters filled part of this week’s entry with a piece about the status of the budget under the Golden Doom. According to Walters, the State’s budget plan is “currently foundering in the legislature.” Sen. Chris Pearson (P-Chittenden) explains that part of the reason might be that the State “just sort of plopped it on our desks and walked away.” Sen. Kevin Mullin (R-Rutland) seems to agree with Pearson, adding, "I don’t think there was enough preplanning and enough getting buy-in from people. If you’re going to try to sell sweeping change, it takes a lot of people with boots on the ground—going out and meeting with people across the state to sell that approach—and I just don’t think there was enough time." Pearson then offers, "Talking to colleagues on House Appropriations and elsewhere, they’re really having to start from scratch. As I understand it, folks have asked the [State] if [it] has a second draft that we can work from, and I gather the answer is, ‘No, we do not.’"
The State’s failure to effectively sell its budget proposals to lawmakers means the job of formulating a new budget could soon fall to the legislature’s money committees. With the State promising to veto any new revenue measures, coming up with a fair budget (one that doesn’t again balance Vermont’s budget on the backs of state employees and our clients) could prove very difficult. VSEA’s legislative team continues to monitor any and all budget conversations at the State House, and VSEA will be sharing whatever information it learns with members.
When Vermont law enforcement needs help examining key pieces of evidence important to a case, they turn to the VSEA members who work at the Vermont Forensic Laboratory in Waterbury. WCAX aired a story on February 20 that takes viewers inside the facility to learn about how the staff would handle a request to examine a firearm in evidence.
“I look at what I’m given for evidence and provide answers based upon what I see," explains VSEA member Kendra Cyr, a firearms examiner at the lab. "I look at the manufacturers specifications, the rifling, make sure the firearms functioning properly." Cyr says her job is to try to confirm that the evidence matches what the police say happened. She does this by examining “the anatomy” of guns, bullets and casings. "You wouldn’t think that you would need to send it,” she says, “but as part of their investigation they need documentation that the firearm was actually functioning properly instead of, well maybe the person dropped and it accidentally shot themselves."
Cyr, who the story reports wears a lab coat and not a badge, reminds that her job is about the evidence and not the accusation.
Free Press Reports: VSEA Committing Resources To Advance Legislative Agenda
Photo: GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS
The Burlington Free Press reports on February 22 that VSEA has spent more on lobbying in the first quarter of the 2017 legislative session than any other Vermont organization. The paper notes that VSEA has spent nearly double what it did during the same period in 2016. VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard explains why the union decided to commit more financial resources to lobbying in 2017.
“We’re facing a new administration, many new legislators, new legislative leadership," Howard explains. "Where there’s uncertainty, the best strategy is to have a strong offense." He adds that
"This year we’re actually promoting our own agenda." The paper lists two VSEA agenda items being passage of a strong anti-privatization bill and passage of a bill to allow Parole & Probation Officers to carry a firearm.
Rep. Fields Writes Letter In Support Of VSEA Member’s Candidacy
The February 21 Bennington Banner included a great letter to the editor from House Rep. Rachael Fields, supporting VSEA member Chris Murphy’s candidacy for District School Board on Town Meeting Day, March 7. When not serving at the State House, Fields can be found serving VSEA members in her full-time role as Union Representative.
Here’s an excerpt:
“Not only is he thoughtful, considerate, compassionate and an incredibly forward thinker, Chris [Murphy] is also a fighter for the public good. When the Bennington State Office Building was found to have a large number of employees getting sick from sarcoidosis, Chris stepped up against political pushback and fought hard to ensure his colleagues could work in a safe and healthy environment and that the citizens of Bennington would not be risking their health and safety by coming in to access state services.”
Here’s what WIA published about the Auditor’s report in June 2015:
Early in 2015, Vermont State Auditor Doug Hoffer released an audit that showed some of the leases the state signed with major ski resorts are outdated and that payments have actually declined over the years, when adjusted for inflation. This has resulted in the resorts enjoying some very lucrative deals, which has allowed them to expand and reap higher profits.
Vermont Senator Tim Ashe (D/P-Chittenden) had the courage this session to pen a letter to the ski industry, asking the owners of Bromley, Okemo, Killington, Stowe, Smuggler’s Notch, Burke and Jay Peak to willingly reopen lease negotiations, even though their leases don’t expire for several decades. Ashe wrote, “the ski world of the lease’s origin would be unrecognizable today.” Auditor Hoffer supported Ashe’s effort, saying, “I don’t think it’s unreasonable for someone to ask the question ‘are taxpayers getting a fair term?’”
With a budget deficit still looming large over Vermonters, VSEA believes it’s time for the State to renegotiate this lease, which could generate potentially millions in new revenue for Vermont. Call your lawmakers and the Governor’s office today to demand that this mountain lease be renegotiated with Vail Resorts Inc. The Jay Peak lease should be renegotiated as well, now that the resort is in a state of flux, with no real plan in place to date
The next VSEA Lamoille Valley Chapter meeting is Friday, March 3, at the 14th Star Brewery, 133 N. Main Street in St. Albans. The meeting begins at 5:00 p.m., and food is provided. Questions? RSVP? Please contact Chapter President Michael Gordon by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
VSEA’s March 2 Legislative Issue Reception Focus Is Health Care!
The topic of the March 2 VSEA Legislative Issue Reception is “Health Care.” If you’re a VSEA member or retiree who is concerned about the future of your health care, please attend to make your voice heard to lawmakers in the room.
The reception is March 2 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.
Attacks On Workers Rise At Nebraska State-Run Psychiatric Hospital
Just a few weeks after VSEA members working at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital testified to lawmakers about an increasing number of patient-on-employee assaults, frontline mental health care workers at a Nebraska psychiatric hospital are sounding a similar alarm. Nebraska’s KETV reported on February 20 that employees at the Lincoln Regional Center are on edge after a rise in the number of assaults on frontline workers, including one incident where an employee had to undergo plastic surgery after a patient bit the top of his ear off. Another complains of suffering five concussions and being stabbed in the face. The head of the Nebraska state employees’ union issues a warning in the story, saying, "We’re going to get someone killed. Someone’s going to die out there if we don’t get this under control." The state agency that oversees Nebraska’s mental health system says it is making efforts to track assaults better and set up an incident-reporting mechanism.
The Chicago Tribune reports today that a years-long contract battle between Illinois state workers and their Governor may soon be coming to a head after workers voted on Thursday to authorize a strike. The workers have been attempting to get the Governor back to the bargaining table for months, and they are hopeful that the fear of a strike will make that happen soon.
"Let’s be clear, we have come to this juncture today for just one reason only: the refusal of Gov. Rauner to negotiate with our union," says Roberta Lynch, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31."We are willing, more than willing to work to find common ground. But we won’t just roll over."
The Illinois workers’ contract expired in July 2015.
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.