VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: February 9, 2018
& State Receive Fact Finder’s Report
VSEA Labor Relation Director Gary Hoadley’s update:
“VSEA staff negotiators and the Non-Management, Supervisory and Corrections Bargaining Teams all received a copy on Thursday of a much-anticipated fact-finder’s report that includes written findings and recommendations for successor collective bargaining agreements. On December 15 and December 18, VSEA Bargaining Teams and the State of Vermont presented testimony and evidence on the issues in dispute before the neutral, third-party, fact-finder after VSEA and the State were unable to reach a tentative agreement, following several months of direct negotiations.
VSEA bargaining teams and State negotiators now have a 20-day period to review the report and attempt a negotiated settlement, utilizing the recommendations of the fact finder. If the dispute remains after 20 days, VSEA and the State must each submit a package of its proposals to the Vermont Labor Relations Board for a Last-Best-Offer final decision. The current collective bargaining agreements expire on
June 30, 2018.”
President Bellini Responds To Reports Of Racial Discrimination & Harassment At Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital
In response to several press reports this week about a Human Rights Commission report that details several incidents of racial discrimination and harassment at the Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital in Berlin, VSEA President Dave Bellini asked WIA to include this statement by him in today’s edition, so here it is:
"VSEA members are committed to a diverse and safe work place for all employees throughout state service. We condemn racism, bigotry and harassment in all forms, and we call upon the management of state agencies and departments to live up to their responsibility to ensure state employees’ safety and dignity while they are providing public service.
The VSEA considers the recent findings by the Vermont Human Rights Commission, regarding VSEA member and Vermont Psychiatric Care Hospital employee Ismina Francois, to be deeply troubling. It is clearly the responsibility of the Department of Mental Health officials and managers to make protecting the safety, well-being and human rights of their employees a paramount priority.
It is VSEA’s view that Department of Mental Health management is failing to respond to workers’ safety, discrimination and harassment concerns in a meaningful and effective manner.”
VSEA members are invited to spend all or some of your Valentine’s Day talking and meeting with your local lawmakers as part of VSEA State House Day 2018, which is February 14.
The day begins with an informal VSEA-sponsored breakfast with lawmakers, beginning at 8:30 a.m. at the Capital Plaza Hotel, where the VSEA Council is meeting throughout the day. VSEA members are invited to attend the breakfast, but if you are not a Council member, you will be asked to leave once the formal Council meeting begins, which is 9:30 a.m.
Throughout the day, there will be opportunities for members to sit in on testimony at the State House, especially discussions about issues pertinent to the state employee(s) in attendance. This year’s twist, however, is that there will be no special VSEA event in the House Chambers at noon, as there has been in years past.
From 4:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., VSEA is again sponsoring its very popular evening Legislative Reception at the State House. This event allows members to talk with lawmakers in a more formal setting. This event features a nice array of food and beverages.
This is VSEA members’ designated day at the State House. Hope to see you there!
On Wednesday, February 14, VSEA members are invited to attend an informal VSEA-sponsored breakfast and talk with lawmakers present about what you do and the service you provide to Vermonters. The breakfast begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Capital Plaza Hotel and concludes at 9:30 a.m.
Hope to see you at the:
VSEA Breakfast with Legislators Wednesday, February 14 8:30 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. Capital Plaza Hotel Governor’s Ballroom Montpelier
Wednesday, February 14
4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Cedar Creek Room
Note: Following the breakfast, the VSEA Council is meeting throughout the day. VSEA members are invited to attend the breakfast, but if you are not a Council member, you will be asked to leave once the formal Council meeting begins, which is 9:30 a.m. However, non-Council Members can choose to stay but will not receive release time.
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
Former DOC And AHS Chief Blasts State’s Private Prison Proposal
A February 7 Seven Days column included a story about former DOC Commissioner and AHS Secretary Con Hogan recently returning to the State House to blast the State’s ill-advised proposal to allow CoreCivic to set up shop in Vermont.
From Seven Days Fair Game Column:
"Hogan’s testimony was a thorough, point-by-point takedown of the plan. Vermont’s corrections system works because it’s spread around the state, he said, while a ‘campus’ would be isolated from community. Prisons ‘are schools of crime; large facilities are even better schools of crime.’ Large projects are prone to cost overruns. Putting mental health patients in a prison complex is a bad idea. Building beds for federal detainees, simply to harvest revenue, is also a bad idea. Demographic trends indicate a likely decline in inmate populations. Reducing the number of inmates ‘should be our first priority, not building more beds.’ And private prison corporations cannot be trusted.’"
"CHSV costs Vermont taxpayers roughly $3 million a year — accounting for less than 2 percent of the state’s overall corrections budget.
Meanwhile, the state spends about $60,000 a year to keep an offender behind bars. But over the years, not all governors and legislators have looked at CHSV as a good investment that is key in helping offenders secure jobs that pay a livable wage. In recent years, state budget cuts have reduced CHSV’s staff from 51 to 37 employees.
‘It’s been on the chopping block for years,’ Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a former state senator, told me last March. ‘It’s very shortsighted. Most people who are locked up, eventually get out. Why not give them the tools they need to lead productive lives?’”
On Saturday, February 3, VSEA members traveled to TD Garden to watch the Boston Bruins take on the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins pulled off a great victory leading the Maple Leafs 4-1. Here are some photos from the event:
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.
LATimes On U.S. Supreme Court’s Impending Janus Ruling
The Los Angeles Times published a story February 8 about the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments soon on a case titled Janus vs. Illinois, and the Court is expected to strip away public-sector unions’ hard-won right to represent “non-members,” or in VSEA’s case, “agency-fee” payers.
From the article:
“[IL Governor Bruce] Rauner’s challenge to union fees is likely to win favor from the court’s five more conservative justices… Two years ago, the court was set to strike down mandatory union fees in a case brought by a California schoolteacher. But the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia left the court split 4 to 4.
Once Justice Neil M. Gorsuch was confirmed to fill Scalia’s seat, the court said it would decide the union fees issue in the case from Illinois.
‘I’m highly confident" about the outcome,’ Rauner said in December. ‘With Gorsuch at the Supreme Court, we believe we will prevail.’
Union leaders see the case as a well-funded political attack on public employees. ‘This is about power. They are attacking us because we fight for a better life for working people,’ said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. They say they are reasonably confident members will continue to pay their dues, even if they are no longer required to do so."
Note: Several national unions are already planning protests on February 24, or two days prior to the Court beginning to hear oral arguments on the Janus case.
Finally, a little good news. Mother Jones published an article this morning, titled “The Economic Outlook for Millennials is Bleak. Now They’re Unionizing in Record Numbers,” and it begins:
“Add one more thing to the list of retro things young Americans are rediscovering: Unions. According to the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal think tank, 76 percent of new union members in 2017 were under 35. That’s pretty significant, considering that workers 34 and under make up just 40 percent of the country’s total workforce. In short, young workers may be kicking off a trend that could strengthen a labor movement that’s been brought to its knees by decades of attacks from employers, corporations, and hostile lawmakers.”
Michigan Governor Announces The End Of Private-Firm Prison Food
Four years ago, Michigan leaders and lawmakers decided to engage in an experiment by privatizing the state’s prison food services, which, prior to privatization, state employees had staffed. But after “years of maggots in food, smuggling by kitchen employees, kitchen workers having sex with inmates, inadequate staffing levels and other problems,” the Governor announced on February 8 that he is ending the experiment. He also announced the jobs would be returning to state workers.
The state’s contract to feed about 40,000 to 43,000 prisoners at 33 facilities has been plagued with problems since it began in December 2013.
The Free Press, using Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, documented a litany of problems, including meal shortages, maggots in the kitchen, the smuggling of drugs and other contraband by kitchen employees, kitchen workers engaging in sex acts with prisoners and even attempting to hire one inmate to have another inmate assaulted.
Nick Ciaramitaro, legislative director for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25, whose members used to staff the prison kitchen, said many of the more than 300 former workers have moved on to other jobs or retired, but he expects there will be a core workforce available to train new hires.
One Third Of Hawaii Corrections Officers Scheduled To Work Super Bowl Call In Sick
Hawaii News Now reports on February 8 that 213 of the 733 Corrections Officers assigned to work during last Sunday’s Super Bowl called out sick, translating to 34% of the staff being out. The story points out that the 213 is a drop from last year’s 260.
Hawaii DPS said staffing was adequate and no visitations were canceled.
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.
VSEA Legislative Team Begins Publishing Weekly Updates
VSEA’s legislative team at the State House is now publishing a short, information-packed, weekly recap of what’s happening in Montpelier that VSEA members need to know about.
This edition’s topics include: State’s private-prison proposal, overview of anti-privatization legislation, outcomes of the recent Budget Adjustment Act and a piece on the success of the Legislative Committee’s recent dinner receptions with lawmakers.
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.
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.
The VSEA Membership Recruitment Committee is pleased to announce a 2018 casino trip with a two-night stay.
March 23 to
March 25, 2018
$70 per person
Bus will depart from Waterbury at 12:00 p.m. and White River Junction at 1:00 p.m.
Lodging (Two Nights/Two Trees Inn):
$138 per person/double occupancy
$122 per person/triple occupancy
(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!
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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.