VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: January 10, 2020

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VSEA Council Members At State House To Welcome Lawmakers Back

VSEA Council members met Tuesday at the Capitol Plaza Hotel in Montpelier, which, by design, coincided with the opening day of the 2020 legislative session. Council members discussed legislative priorities, planned and strategized around them and continued to do the union’s business.

At noon, Council members took a break from their meeting to make their way to the State House, some touring it and others spending a few minutes saying hello and talking with their local lawmakers about VSEA issues and concerns. 

Prior to going to the State House, Council members heard in the morning from three leaders in the Vermont labor movement, each discussing the challenges their members are confronting and all seeking ways to work together with VSEA and other unions to champion and pass the bills important to working Vermonters. 

Big thanks to:

  • Deb Snell, President of Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals;
  • David Mickenberg, Working Vermont Lobbyist; and 
  • Jeff Fannon, Executive Director of the Vermont National Education Association

Following the Council meeting, a Council-sponsored reception for lawmakers was held in the State House cafeteria. VSEA members from Woodside worked and addressed the crowd and their facility’s future was the night’s featured topic. Thanks to everyone who attended!

Photos From Tuesday:

Top: David Mickenberg, Working Vermont Lobbyist Bottom-left: Deb Snell, President of Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals Bottom-right: Jeff Fannon, Executive Director of the Vermont National Education Association


New Council Members are sworn in!
Left-right: Rebecca Karzmarczyk (ESD), Harmony Harriman (DOC), Kevin Baker (DOC), and Reginald Lantagne (DOC).


VSEA Legislative Specialist Tom Abdelnour and VSEA Strategic Analyst Adam Norton lead Council members on a tour through the House Chamber of the Vermont State House.


VSEA Woodside members sharing the importance of the work they do in a question-and-answer session with Council members. The Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center in Colchester faces potential closure. Learn more on VSEA.org.


Stalled Bargaining Forces VSEA Judiciary Unit To File ULP Against Court Administrator 

In what VSEA Judiciary Unit Bargaining Team members say is an all-too-familiar pattern of stalling by the Court Administrator when it comes to discussing wages and benefits at the bargaining table, VSEA’s Judiciary Unit filed an unfair labor practice (ULP) this afternoon with the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB), charging the Court Administrator with “failing and refusing to meet at reasonable times and confer in good faith with respect to wages and other compensation.” The ULP adds that the Court Administrator is “further engaging in surface bargaining by delaying substantive negotiations over compensation, refusing to 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 the intent of imposing terms negotiated by the Executive Branch, all in violation of 3 VSA 1026(5) and 1036(e).” 

“Since the Judicial Branch unionized 20 years ago, this has been the pattern,” explains VSEA Judiciary Unit Chair Margaret Crowley. “The Court Administrator attempts to delay discussions about wages and benefits until the legislative session has already begun. It’s because he or she hopes to just impose whatever the Executive Branch negotiated, but we contend that we’re a separate branch of government with separate and distinct employee wage and compensation needs, and we deserve to be heard—and today, not in January.”

The VSEA Judiciary Unit’s ULP includes a request for the VLRB to “schedule this matter for consideration on an expedited basis.”

VSEA’s Board Of Trustees Passes Resolution, Condemning Sexual Harassment & Exploitation 

VSEA’s Board of Trustees met on Monday and passed a resolution that reads: 
Whereas, Numerous reports have come to light in December 2019 detailing sexual harassment and exploitation in Vermont’s workforce;

Resolved, That the VSEA Board of Trustees condemns the sexual harassment and exploitation of all people living and working in Vermont;

Resolved, That the VSEA Board of Trustees commends and encourages all efforts to bring forward credible reports of abuse, and condemns any attempts to silence, intimidate, or retaliate against people bringing forward such reports; and

Resolved, That the VSEA Board of Trustees calls on the Governor to ensure a safe environment free from abuse and retaliation for all people living and working in Vermont.
“The VSEA Board wanted to be on record with our entire membership, the public and the press, that our union strongly condemns any and all incidents of sexual harassment or exploitation,” explains VSEA President Dave Bellini.

2020 VSEA Legislative Dinner Series Kicks Off Next Week

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

Photo from 2019 VSEA Legislative Committee-sponsored issue-dinner meeting, where VSEA members and retirees educated lawmakers in attendance about their defined benefit pension plan and why it must be protected. 

Two years ago, VSEA’s Legislative Committee decided to begin hosting a series of informal dinner meetings, where VSEA members and retirees could talk with invited lawmakers about the issues important to them. The dinner meetings have proven so successful that the Committee decided to again sponsor a new series of meetings in the coming weeks.

Each dinner will be held at VSEA HQ (155 State Street, Montpelier, VT) starting at 5:30 p.m. Dinner will be provided.

Here’s the schedule to date with the topic being discussed:

Thursday, January 16 – Pensions

Thursday, January 23 – Staffing

Thursday, January 30 – Privatization

RSVP here today for any or all of the 2020 dinner meetings.

Seven Days Article Shines Spotlight On Lengthy DHR Employee Investigations; An Issue On VSEA & The Auditor’s Radar For Years

Seven Days published a piece Wednesday, titled, "Cost of Misconduct: State Employees Placed on Leave Get Paid While Investigations Drag On" and it’s definitely worth a read. In the piece, VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard and DHR’s Deputy make it clear that AHS Secretary Smith’s desire to eliminate stipulated agreements is the wrong way to approach the issue. 


Ninety-five Vermont state employees were put on paid leave during misconduct probes in the year before December 4, 2019, according to state records. On that day, as Seven Days published its story about Chittenden Regional, 29 state workers were out on investigative leave, including 14 from the Department of Corrections. (As of this week, according to the state, 15 Corrections staffers are out.)

In that same year, those under investigation were paid for 46,069 hours in which they did no work, according to the Department of Human Resources. The bill to taxpayers? More than $1.25 million in base pay alone.


Reminder: In 2017, the State Auditor highlighted DHR’s lengthy investigations in a report. Here’s an excerpt from a post about the report to VSEA’s website:

"Less than a year after the Auditor’s Office exposed that the Vermont Department of Human Resources (DHR) was failing in its charge to perform timely employee evaluations, a new set of audits released today find that DHR is also guilty of allowing cases of alleged "employee misconduct" to drag on for months or even years. This delay all too often costs the state a lot of money, and this is at a time when all agencies and departments are being asked to tighten their fiscal belts."

Bad News! Brattleboro Retreat Being Sold? Closed? 

VPR broke a story last weekend that executives at the Brattleboro Retreat are considering selling the mental health facility outright, largley due to a payment dispute with the State. Mind you, the Retreat is one of the state’s primary facilities to care for Vermonters with acute mental illness. If it were to close, Vermont’s already struggling mental health services delivery system would be hit very hard. 

VTDigger Story

With this latest news, it means lawmakers and State officials must now immediately address facility and care issues for:

  • Vermont at-risk youth;
  • Vermonters with acute mental illness;
  • Vermonters in step-down treatment, following acute care; and
  • Incarcerated Vermonters with mental illness

Once again, VSEA is reminding that much of this could have possibly been avoided if VSEA and its members and retirees working in mental health had been listened to, both in 2006 and 2011.

Here’s a couple of reminders of what VSEA and its members and retirees were advising State officials:

Update: Situation Calming?

Seven Days reports on Thursday that a meeting on Wednesday between Brattleboro Retreat Executives and AHS officials went better than expected.


Secretary of Human Services Mike Smith said Wednesday night that negotiations over the future of the Brattleboro Retreat have left him optimistic that the center’s closure is not imminent. 

“We all agreed that finding a path forward to return the Retreat to fiscal stability was the goal,” Smith told Seven Days on Wednesday, hours after meeting with the center’s executive team in Montpelier.

Note: VSEA continues to champion the idea for the state to invest in a large, stand-alone mental health facility (which includes a forensic wing) to treat this very vulnerable Vermont population. Had the State and lawmakers listened to VSEA in 2006 and beyond, the facility would be in place and would have already paid for itself.

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.

Applications will be considered from persons entering or engaged in:

  • Educational or vocational degree or licensed programs;
  • Course(s) to further skill development; and
  • Self-improvement courses.

Those persons eligible for scholarship consideration follows:

  • VSEA members;
  • VSEA members’ dependents;
  • VSEA members’ dependent step-child; and
  • VSEA members’ spouses/domestic partners.

The Scholarship Committee will base its decision for the scholarship eligibility on the following criteria:

  • Career goals;
  • Financial need;
  • Abilities and initiative;
  • Life experiences;Class standing (recent graduates); and
  • Community and school involvement.

Scholarship amounts vary each year, ranging from $500 to $2,000. The VSEA Awards and Scholarships Committee reserves the right to determine the amount of each scholarship award, based on available funds.

Please Note: Applications and accompanying documents will not be returned to applicants once submitted.

Deadline: Completed applications and all accompanying data must be received at VSEA Headquarters no later than 4:30 p.m. on May 8, 2020.

Quote Of
The Week!


"I think this probably is a systemwide issue."

AHS Secretary Michael Smith, commenting in a VTDigger story this week, agreeing with a just-passed VSEA Board resolution to condemn sexual harassment and exploitation in all departments and agencies across state government.


Upcoming Meetings:


Chapter Meetings:

NEK/ St. Johnsbury Chapter
Tuesday, January 14

12:00 p.m.
DCF District Office Building
Shared Conference Room
1016 US Route 5, St. Johnsbury
Please RSVP Online

For more information please feel free to contact Ellen Hinman, VSEA NEK/ St. Johnsbury Chapter President, ellen.hinman@yahoo.com


Bennington Chapter
Tuesday, January 14

5:00 p.m.
Tap House – Catamount Glass (Backroom)
309 County Street, Bennington
Please RSVP Online

For more information please feel free to contact Victoria Thorpe, VSEA Bennington Chapter President, Vthorpevsea@gmail.com



Montpelier Agency of Education Worksite Training
Tuesday, January 14

12:00 p.m.
National Life, Davis Building
Montpelier Room (Basement Conference Room)
1 National Life Drive, Montpelier

For more information please feel free to contact Danielle Warner, VSEA Organizer, dwarner@vsea.org


Legislative Dinner Reception:

Topic: Pensions/ Retirement
Thursday, January 16
5:30 p.m.

155 State Street, Montpelier

Please RSVP Online


Talking Points:


Working Vermont Hosting January 22 Event With AFT’s National President Randi Weingarten 

Working Vermont (a coalition of Vermont labor unions, including VSEA) is pleased to be hosting a reception for national American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten. 
Here are the details:

AFT Randi Weingarten Reception
Wednesday, January 22, 2020
State House Cafeteria
4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. 

Nation’s Longest-Running Continuous Strike Ends

Bloomberg Law reports this week that, after three long years on strike, about 200 United Steelworker miners are finally back on the job at the Lucky Friday mine in Idaho. The mine is owned by Hecla Mining Co.

From the story:

“Our members’ strength and determination to resist Hecla’s unfair demands has been rewarded with a contract that’ll set union members up for future success,” Montana said.

USW Local 5114 began the strike March 13, 2017, after the company attempted to unilaterally impose parts of a new contract on workers. The USW filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board over the company’s actions and the two parties reached an informal settlement in the summer of 2018, agreeing to good faith negotiations.

In all, workers stayed off the job for about 1,029 days. That’s longer than any other ongoing strike, according to records from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, a federal agency that tracks work stoppages.


The title of longest continuous U.S. work stoppage now passes to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3 in the New York City area. The union went on strike against Charter Communications-owned cable and internet provider Spectrum on March 28, 2017.

New Poll Finds Nurses Are Most Honest, Ethical Workers

According to new Gallup poll findings released this week, "America’s nurses maintained their reputation as the most honest and ethical workers in 22 professions that Gallup assesses every year."


Currently, 85% of Americans say nurses’ honesty and ethical standards are “very high” or “high,” essentially unchanged from 2018. In fact, Gallup says nurses have been No. 1 for 18 straight years.

“Nurses are consistently rated higher in honesty and ethics than all other professions that Gallup asks about, by a wide margin,” writer R. J. Reinhart states. “Medical professions in general rate highly in Americans’ assessments of honesty and ethics, with at least six in 10 U.S. adults saying medical doctors, pharmacists and dentists have high levels of these virtues. The only nonmedical profession that Americans now hold in a similar level of esteem is engineers…”

Engineers came in second, with 66% saying individuals in this field have high levels of honesty and ethics. They were followed by medical doctors, pharmacists and dentists. Police officers were next, with 54% rating them as being highly ethical. The remaining professions all received less than 50%.

Note: Congratulations to all VSEA nurses for this very admirable distinction.  

This Week:

VSEA Council Members At State House To Welcome Lawmakers Back

Stalled Bargaining Forces VSEA Judiciary Unit To File ULP Against Court Administrator

VSEA’s Board Of Trustees Passes Resolution, Condemning Sexual Harassment & Exploitation

2020 VSEA Legislative Dinner Series Kicks Off Next Week

Seven Days Article Shines Spotlight On Lengthy DHR Employee Investigations; An Issue On VSEA & The Auditor’s Radar For Years

Bad News! Brattleboro Retreat Being Sold? Closed?

2020 VSEA Scholarship Application Available Now!


Talking Points:

Working Vermont Hosting January 22 Event With AFT’s National President Randi Weingarten

Nation’s Longest-Running Continuous Strike Ends

New Poll Finds Nurses Are Most Honest, Ethical Workers



January 14
Child & Elder Care Committee Meeting
155 State Street
9:00 a.m.

January 14
NEK / St. Johnsbury Chapter Meeting
DCF District Office
1016 U.S. Route 
Shared Conference Room
St. Johnsbury 
12:00 p.m. 

January 14
Training: Performance Evaluation Rights
National Life
Davis Building
1 National Life Drive 
Montpelier Room
12:00 p.m. 

January 14
Bennington Chapter Meeting
Tap House
305 County Street
Back Room
5:00 p.m. 

January 15
VSCSF Executive Board Meeting
155 State Street
9:00 a.m.

January 22
AFT’s Randi Weingarten Reception
State House Cafeteria
4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. 


Important Reminders:

VSEA’s Winter Membership Drive!

VSEA Policies Updated!

Have You Signed The Petition To Increase State College Funding Yet?

My Office Is Freezing!

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

State Employees Who Are Threatened On The Job Should File "eAlert" Form

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!

What Is The VSEA Advantage Program?


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!


VSEA’s Winter Membership Drive!

Never forget that ongoing recruitment is vital to the strength of your union! 

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

Each time you recruit a new member during the designated period (December 1 – February 28, 2020), your name is entered into a drawing.  Four names will be pulled at random and winners will receive a check for $100! Just make sure new recruits add your name in the "Recruited By" field on the membership application.

Need a quick reference to help with your recruiting? You can view an informational webpage with some recruitment tips and advice here.

If you have any questions or want a list of non-members in your area, please contact VSEA Director of Operations and Organizing Amy Kinsell by email:

Help spread the word!
Download, distribute and post this flyer in your worksite! Thanks!


VSEA Policies Updated!

View VSEA Policies in the "Member-Only" Section of the VSEA websiteVSEA.org log-in required.

Don’t have a VSEA.org account? VSEA members can request a free account here.


Have You Signed The Petition To Increase State College Funding Yet?

Sign The Petition Online!


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


State Employees Who Are Threatened On The Job Should File "eAlert" Form

We are reminding members that there is an online form to fill out if you are threatened while at work

Find The State’s “eAlert” Homepage Here
Important: Once you land on the eAlert page, you will see an entry labeled “threat” in the menu provided. Click on it and you land on a page with written instructions and fields to complete.
In November 2017, the current Secretary of the Administration sent the State’s “Workplace Safety and Security” policy to state employees, and VSEA members are encouraged to read through the different policies, examples and responses, prior to an actual event occurring.


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


What is the VSEA Advantage Program?

Did you know?
The average VSEA member can save hundreds of dollars a year by taking advantage of some of the Members Only benefits offered through their union!


It’s free, just for being a Vermont State Employees’ Association PerksConnect member!

Learn More!

Questions? Feel free to email 
vsea@ vsea.org


Need To Update Your Contact Information
With VSEA? 

Don’t Have
Union Card? 

Request A Green VSEA Union Card

Have You Been Threatened
At Work? 

Send A Threat Report To VSEA

Are You A
Council Member?

Join the VSEA Council Facebook group here!

Are You A
Chapter President?

Join the VSEA Chapter Presidents 
group here!

Are You A

Join the VSEA Steward Facebook
group here!





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