VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: February 7, 2020

Weekly News From VSEA!
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Week In Action Newsletter
February 7, 2020
Just Announced!
Join us for the Annual Legislative Reception in the Cedar Creek Room of the Vermont State House! Your chance to talk with key lawmakers about issues important to you!
Thursday, February 20, Starting at 4:30 p.m.
RSVP Online!


If forecasts are correct, driving later this afternoon will be very challenging for motorists across Vermont, but take heart that our roads are being maintained by the nation’s best transporation workers. Thanks as always Vermont AOT for keeping our state moving, even in the worst conditions. 

And remember, don’t crowd the plow!

VSEA Strategic Analyst Summarizes State’s Budget Proposal

In the Legislative Department’s “Budget Summary 2020” email sent this morning, VSEA Strategic Analyst Adam Norton summarizes the State’s budget proposal and what it could mean for public services and the employees who provide them.

Here’s an excerpt:

To fund [its] initiatives, the [State]’s FY21 budget proposal includes a request for AHS to identify $13 million in “efficiencies;” some of which VSEA will oppose, including:

  • The anticipated closure of Woodside, which would result in roughly 50 employees being RIF’d—most represented by our union. VSEA is vehemently opposed to the closure of Woodside because it will result in some of Vermont’s most vulnerable children being sent to privately operated, out-of-state facilities. The closure is estimated to save just shy of $3.5 million, however the cost to move the remaining juvenile population out of state is projected to be $2.5 million;
  • Reductions in personal service contracts across state government;
  • Insourcing a premium processing contract in DVHA; and 
  • Restoring funding for the Community High School of Vermont back to the Education Fund; the pool of money that has historically funded the CHSV.

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Judiciary Unit Follows Up Montpelier Action With One In Burlington. Formal Mediation Begins.

A week after members Of VSEA’s Judiciary Unit Bargaining Team conducted an contract-campaign action outside the Vermont Supreme Court, some of the Team members followed it up on Tuesday with a morning of handing out flyers and educating anyone entering and exiting the Superior Court House in Burlington about their contract fight.  

Pictured here participating in Tuesday’s action are Judiciary Unit member Zach York (forefront w/glasses) and VSEA staffers Jen Larsen and Brian Morse.
The Team’s actions are designed to draw Vermonters’ attention to what they say are the Court Administrator’s repeated refusals to meet with them to negotiate in good faith, and in a timely manner, about compensation. In fact, the Team even went so far as to file an unfair labor practice, which begins:

In this unfair labor practice charge, the Vermont State Employees’ Association (“VSEA”) challenges the actions of the Judiciary Department of the State of Vermont (“Judiciary”) in failing and refusing to meet at reasonable times and confer in good faith with respect to wages and other compensation, and by further engaging in surface bargaining by delaying substantive negotiations over compensation, refusing to consider or respond to proposals relating to compensation, and by otherwise refusing to engage in good faith negotiations with the intent of reaching an agreement over compensation, all with an intent of imposing terms negotiated by the Executive Branch, all in violation of 3 VSA §§1026(5) and 1036(e).

ULP aside, the Judiciary Team and the Court Administrator have now agreed to contract mediation. This new phase of the negotiating process with a neutral, third-party was supposed to began this morning, February 7, but weather forced postponement. 

While you’re here…

Show Your Support!

We want to show the Court Administrator that VSEA members are behind our Judiciary members! Will you take a minute to sign our petition?

Sign the VSEA Judiciary online petition today!
Download PDF petitions.

Listen & Share!
Woodside Workers Talk With VTDigger

This week, VTDigger reporter Alan Keays posted a podcast of his conversation with VSEA members working at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center about the State’s desire to shutter their facility and why that’s such an ill-advised and misguided approach. Discussion includes VSEA workers’ ideas to keep Woodside open.

If you haven’t already, call the Governor and your lawmakers and ask them to listen to this report and to keep Woodside open for Vermont’s kids.

Listen Here

Related: [State] Move To Close Woodside Prompts Questions, Alternate Proposals

State Colleges Looking For $5 Million Budget Bump

WCAX reported recently on Vermont State Colleges’ officials asking lawmakers and  the State for an additional $5 million in funding “over the next few years to grow programs, recruit more students and help the state’s workforce development woes.”
The $5 million ask would go toward NVU, Castleton University, Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College.

“We are vital to our community. We are working hard to innovate and continue to innovate by creating new programs specifically addressed to tailoring to the workforce needs of our community,” NVU President Elaine Collins tells WCAX.

In its 2021 budget, the State has allocated just half-a-million to the Vermont State College system for academic support and retention, which is far short of what officials say is needed. 

Additional VSC Challenge…

VTDigger reports this week that State Colleges’ officials are warning about a marked rise in health care costs, which only adds to the difficult financial challenges  facing the system as a whole. 

From the story:

The chief culprit of this upcoming financial cycle’s woes is the same problem that has plagued the rest of state government: skyrocketing health insurance costs. The colleges have avoided large premium hikes in recent years, but VSCS chief financial officer Steve Wisloski told a subcommittee of trustees Monday that the system’s insurance broker had warned a double-digit increase was almost certainly coming.

Note: VSEA’s VSC members are currently engaged in bargaining with the Chancellor’s Office on a new contract. Obviously, these developments will make negotiations even more difficult than they already were.  

VSEA Vision Insurance Program Enrollment Ends February 28!

February 28, 2020, is the deadline for VSEA members who haven’t already enrolled in your union’s popular vision-care program.

More information about the vision benefit being offered was emailed earlier this week to members. It has also been posted to VSEA.org under “VSEA Insurance”.

Another Weather Cancellation, But VSEA Legislative Dinner Series Continues 

VSEA Members’ Chance To Meet Face-To-Face With Key Decision Makers Outside
The Dome

Photo from a recent VSEA Legislative Committee-sponsored issue-dinner meeting, where VSEA members and retirees educated lawmakers in attendance about staffing issues across state government. VSEA Legislative Committee Chair Margaret Crowley is addressing the group. 

Legislative Dinners Resume!

Well, so much for hoping that a future snowstorm won’t cause the cancellation of another dinner meeting, but that’s what happened this week. Regardless, the VSEA Legislative Committee’s issue-themed, dinner reception series will pick up again next week.
RSVP Online!
  • Thursday, February 20 –
    Annual Legislative Reception in the Cedar Creek Room of the Vermont State House! 

    Starting at 4:30 p.m.

    VSEA’s annual legislative reception in the historic Cedar Creek Room of the Vermont State House. This is VSEA member’s chance to grab a drink and hors d’oeuvres and talk with your lawmakers about important issues and concerns at work.

    View/Download Flyer

    Facebook Event Page
RSVP Online!
  • February 6 Pension Dinner Being Rescheduled

VSEA Website Undergoing Maintenance

More than a decade after VSEA’s website first came online, the site is currently undergoing long-overdue maintenance and changing its look in the process. While VSEA’s website is being brought into the 21st century, it will still be accessible to members to find contact information, contracts, etc., however, VSEA members will not be able to register for new accounts

“VSEA’s Communications Department understands this maintenance will be a temporary inconvenience for some members, but the upgrades and fixes really need to happen, and, honestly, we couldn’t wait any longer,” explains VSEA Communications Department Director Doug Gibson. “We appreciate members’ and retirees’ patience while this work is completed, and we look forward to rolling out a new and improved website very soon.”  

While maintenance is being performed, members and retirees experiencing issues with the VSEA website should contact the VSEA Communications Department. 

Your Chance To Voice Your Opinion About State’s Budget Proposal 

The Vermont House and Senate Committees on Appropriations are seeking public input on the State’s recommended FY 2021 State Budget and will hold community-based public hearings on Monday, February 10, 2020, 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. at the following locations:

  • Barre City: Downstreet Housing and Community Development, 22 Keith Ave, Suite 100
  • Morrisville: People’s Academy High School, Auditorium, top of Copley Avenue
  • Rutland City: Rutland Public Schools, Longfellow School Building, Board Room
  • St. Johnsbury: St. Johnsbury House, main dining room, 1207 Main St.
  • St. Albans City: St. Albans City School, Library, 29 Bellows Street
  • Winooski: Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC), 10 East Allen Street (follow the signs when entering the building)
  • Springfield: Springfield Town Hall, 96 Main Street, 3rd floor Conference Room (Selectmen’s Hall) [5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.]

The Committees will take testimony on the Governor’s recommended State budget at the above date and times. Anyone interested in testifying should come to one of the hearings. Time limits on testimony may apply depending on the volume of participants. If you have a story you would like to share privately with the committee members, please contact Theresa to schedule this at the end of one of the hearings.

To view the proposed budget go to the Department of Finance and Management’s website.

For more information about the format of these events, contact Theresa Utton-Jerman or Rebecca Buck at tutton@leg.state.vt.us or rbuck@leg.state.vt.us, or call 802-828-5767 or toll-free within Vermont at 1-800-322-5616. Written testimony can be submitted electronically to Theresa or Rebecca through e-mail or mailed to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations, 115 State Street, Montpelier, VT, 05633.

Requests for interpreters were due by Monday, January 27, 2020.

VSEA Winter Membership Drive Underway! 

Ends February 28!

A reminder that VSEA’s Winter Membership Drive is in progress, but you still have a little more than a month to participate. Never forget that ongoing recruitment is vital to the strength of your union!

And there’s rewards in addition to you helping to grow your union,  including:

  • Members who recruit TWO members will receive a VSEA insulated travel mug;
  • 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!  

Bonus! Every time you recruit a new member now through February 28, your name is entered into a drawing. Four names will be pulled at random, and each winner will receive a check for $100!

Learn More About VSEA’s Winter Membership Drive Here!

Quote Of
The Week!


“Younger people are coming in, and they want more work-life balance. And they see unions as a really important tool for achieving that.”

Rutgers University Center for Innovation in Worker Organization Research Director Janice Fine, commenting in a February 4 Washington Post story about a reported rise in young people forming unions in the non-profits where they work. Take note Vermont!

Upcoming Meetings:

Labor / Management Committee Meeting:

Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility
Tuesday, February 11

1:30 p.m.
Superintendent’s Office
7 Farrell Road
South Burlington

For more information please feel free to contact VSEA Organizer David Oppenheimer, doppenheimer@vsea.org
Talking Point:

U.S. House Passes The “Protecting The Right To Organize” Bill

Last week, WIA included a story about the U.S. House of Representatives being poised to pass the “Protecting the Right to Organize Act,” and this week the Washington Post reports that “one of the most significant bills to strengthen workers’ abilities to organize in the past 80 years passed the House on Thursday, the latest sign of momentum for the labor movement.” 

From the story:

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act would amend some of the country’s decades-old labor laws to give workers more power during disputes at work, add penalties for companies that violate labor law, and grant potentially hundreds of thousands of workers collective-bargaining rights they don’t currently have. It would also weaken “right-to-work” laws in 27 states that allow employees to forgo participating in and paying dues to unions.

But sadly…

The bill is unlikely to be taken up by the GOP-controlled Senate, as [anti-worker politicians] and business groups have argued forcefully against it, saying it would hurt employers, violate privacy rights and be a major boon for national unions.
This Week:
Remember… Don’t Crowd The Plow

VSEA Strategic Analyst Summarizes State’s Budget Proposal

Judiciary Unit Follows Up Montpelier Action With One In Burlington. Formal Mediation Begins.

Listen & Share! Woodside Workers Talk With VTDigger

State Colleges Looking For $5 Million Budget Bump

Another Weather Cancellation, But VSEA Legislative Dinner Series Continues
VSEA Website Undergoing Maintenance

Your Chance To Voice Your Opinion About State’s Budget Proposal

VSEA Winter Membership Drive Underway!
Talking Point:
U.S. House Passes The “Protecting The Right To Organize” Bill
February 10
State Budget Public Hearings
Various Locations

February 11
OSA Bargaining 
155 State Street
8:00 a.m. 

February 11
Union Rep’s Meeting – VVH 
325 North St
4:30 p.m. 

February 11
Union Rep’s Meetings – VVH 
325 North St
6:30 a.m.
1:00 p.m.
2:30 p.m.  

February 12
L / M Committee Meeting – Chittenden
Superintendent’s Office
7 Farrell Road
South Burlington
1:30 p.m. 

February 13
Legislative Dinner – Privatization
155 State Street
5:30 p.m. 
Important Reminders:
March 31 Is The Deadline To Submit VSEA Bylaw Changes

You Can & Should Report Building-Related Safety & Health Incidents

New VSEA Steward Training Dates Posted!

VSEA Legislative Team Now Posting Updates Online

2020 VSEA Scholarship Application Available Now!

VSEA Retirement Security Fact Sheet

My Office Is Freezing!

Bolton Valley Again Offering Discounted Ski & Ride Passes To VSEA Members!

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!
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!
March 31 
Is The Deadline To Submit VSEA Bylaw Changes
The deadline to submit proposals for changes to VSEA’s Master Bylaws is Tuesday, March 31, 2020. Proposals must be mailed to: Tim Belcher, General Counsel, c/o VSEA Headquarters, 155 State Street, Montpelier, VT 05602.

Proposals should reference the number, section, sub-section, etc. of the bylaw you would like to change. You should also include the language you want to add, delete or substitute. Also include the reason(s) you are making this proposal.  Example:  “Bylaw 0 A (1) (b) Change: Monday to Sunday. Reason: Makes it easier to work with the calendar.”

Please be sure the changes you are recommending include all Articles and/or Bylaws that may be affected by the proposed change.

If you have questions, please contact Tim by email at tbelcher@vsea.org.
Reminder: You Can & Should Report Building-Related Safety & Health 

Over the years, VSEA members in various state offices across Vermont have probably lived through, seen or heard about a building-related safety and health incident that sickened state workers or caused a state building to be investigated, or worse, vacated. If you have a safety and health issue where you work, VSEA is reminding about the State’s “Building Related Incident Notification” (BRIN) reporting system and is urging members to use it. All BRIN forms submitted go directly to Buildings and General Services (BGS). 

To aid you, VSEA has produced a BRIN process explanation flyer to print out for your own reference, share with your colleagues or post on your VSEA-designated bulletin board. 

VSEA BRIN Process Explanation Flyer

Important BRIN Links
New VSEA Steward Training Dates Posted!
VSEA Field Services Director Gretchen Naylor asked WIA to include an announcement about new training dates for VSEA Stewards:

Judiciary Steward Training 
Tuesday, February 25, 2020
8:30 a.m. -3:00 p.m.
Montpelier -VSEA
155 State Street 

Colleges’ Steward Training 
Thursday, March 26, 2020
8:30 a.m. -3:00 p.m. 

Montpelier -VSEA
155 State Street 

Friday, July 17
8:30 a.m. -3:00 p.m. 
Rutland -Holiday Inn
476 Holiday Drive

Thursday, September 24
8:30 -3:00 p.m.
Montpelier -VSEA
155 State Street

Wednesday, December 9
8:30 a.m. -3:00 p.m.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
870 Williston Road, South Burlington

Friday, March 5, 2021
8:30 -3:00 p.m.
Montpelier -VSEA
155 State Street 

*As of July 1, 2020 all VSEA Stewards in the Executive Branch are eligible for VSEA leave time for Steward Training, provided they receive supervisory approval.

Please RSVP to VSEA Administrative Assistant Sue DeVoid at: sdevoid@vsea.org or call 802-223-5247.
VSEA Legislative Team Now Posting 
Updates Online

VSEA’s legislative team at the State House has begun to email and post updates from the State House.  

Latest: February 6 Legislative Update

Interested VSEA members can find more information about the 2020 legislative session by visiting VSEA’s 2020 Session Online Hub. Here you will find a collection of resources, reports and tools to help VSEA members navigate the Vermont Legislative Session, including:

  • 2020 Legislative Session Reports;
  • 2020 Legislative Session Agenda;
  • Find/Contact Your Legislator;
  • Virtual Vermont State House Tour;
  • Become A VTPAC Member; and
  • VSEA Legislative Committee Profile.

The hub will be updated with new information as it becomes available.

2020 VSEA Scholarship Application Available Now!

The VSEA Awards/ Scholarship Committee is currently soliciting applications from students seeking financial assistance in the pursuit of post-secondary educational goals.

The Committee will announce the recipients of the scholarships at the June Council Meeting.

View/download the 2020 VSEA Scholarship Application.

Deadline: 4:30 p.m. on May 8, 2020

Note: Depending on your settings, the link above will open a PDF in your web browser or download the PDF to your computer or device. If you have any questions please email vsea@vsea.org.

VSEA Retirement Security Fact Sheet
Did you know? Defined benefit plans are safer and more reliable for Vermont’s retirees & are cheaper for taxpayers than risky, Wall St 401(k)-style plans. Learn more about the differences between defined benefit pension plans and defined contribution pension plans (a.k.a. 401K) here.
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
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
Need To Update Your Contact Information
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group here!

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group here!
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