VSEA Cheers State’s Decision To Hang On To Vermont Life Magazine
VSEA is cheering a WCAX report that the State is abandoning its effort to sell Vermont Life magazine to the highest bidder, and will continue to propose funding for the respected and valued publication, whose dedicated staff has been working in limbo for months.
"The [State] is changing its tune when it comes to selling Vermont Life magazine, the publication with pretty pictures that’s $3 million in debt. They now see it as part of a plan to recruit new residents.
"Lawmakers last year directed the state to explore options for the troubled magazine’s future, including selling or licensing the publication to someone else. But Thursday the governor’s team said the state will now keep it. Officials say they consider the magazine and its 50,000 subscribers too valuable to give up.
‘We think that there’s a bright future for Vermont Life, whether it’s as a magazine in the near-term or long-term—just as a media asset going forward,’ said Commerce Secretary Michael Schirling.
September 2017: VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard made the following comment in a WIA story about the State proposing then to put the magazine out to bid to a private vendor.
“VSEA believes Vermont Life is a public asset that pays for itself with increased tourism that translates to increased revenue for our state—and increasing tourism is something the new administration was actively promoting during the campaign. It should be clear that this well-known publication is a vital tool in our state’s marketing efforts and is worth the investment.”
Note: Congratulations to the entire Vermont Life staff.
VSEA Files ULPs With Vermont Labor Relations Board
Challenging The Department Of Human Resources’ and Judiciary’s Misuse of Temporary Employees
VSEA filed two unfair labor practice (ULP) charges this week with the Vermont Labor Relations Board (VLRB).
The first ULP asks the Board to find that the Department of Human Resources (DHR) misclassified employees as temporary workers in violation of the law. The filing also seeks review of the Commissioner’s approval of waivers permitting managers across state government to retain temporary workers past a statutorily imposed 1,280 hours-worked-in-a-given-year cap. Records that VSEA received through a Freedom of Information Request show that the DHR Commissioner is granting waivers to the cap without the required evidence there is a bona fide emergency, as mandated by law. Instead, the waivers are being granted merely to “fill government functions that were constant and ongoing.” VSEA contends that the Commissioner’s refusal to reconsider “has the intent and effect of systematically misclassifying employees as temporary employees in violation of existing law…”
“Lawmakers established the yearly cap for a reason—with the explicit instruction that management has to show there is a need because of an emergency situation,” explains VSEA President Dave Bellini. “The Department of Human Resources has to follow the laws on the books, but, when it comes to making sure the need to extend a temp’s hours is legitimate, VSEA found through an information request that, in some cases, there is no reason even being provided for a waiver, but it gets approved. This practice has to change, and we hope the Board agrees with our position and makes DHR follow the law.”
VSEA initially asked the DHR Commissioner in July 2017 to reconsider DHR’s approval of some 60+ waivers granted in cases that VSEA flagged during an earlier review of public records. VSEA added that the Commissioner must recognize that the incumbent employees are classified employees entitled to all applicable rights and benefits, including retirement and health care benefits and the rights and benefits set forth in the applicable collective bargaining agreement.
VSEA’s second ULP challenges a recently resigned Judiciary employee’s assigned “temporary” status, contending the classification “interfered, restrained and coerced the VSEA and [employee] in the rights protected by 3 V.S.A. ξ1026(1) and (5)," and that the Judiciary "refused to bargain with the Union concerning the employee’s terms and conditions of employment, all in violation of 3 V.S.A. ξ1026(1) and (5)."
“The Department of Human Resources has to follow the laws on the books, but, when it comes to making sure the need to extend a temp’s hours is legitimate, VSEA found through an information request that, in some cases, there is no reason even being provided for a waiver, but it gets approved.”
VSEA President Dave Bellini, in a January 11 VSEA press release about the union’s filing two ULP’s this week against Human Resources and the Judiciary, contending each is misusing temporary employees.
DCF Officials Attribute ESD Position Cuts To Dwindling Enrollment
Just before the end of 2017, VSEA received notice from the Department of Human Resources that the Department for Children and Families’ Economic Services Division (ESD) is proposing to save as much as $1 million a year by eliminating 12 District Office Supervisor positions statewide. According to a January 9 VTDigger story, DCF officials told lawmakers this week that the proposal is being made because “fewer Vermonters have been using the benefit programs the Division manages,” which are Reach Up, 3Squares and LIHEAP. The story notes though that the decline is only in enrollment and not in general assistance need.
The proposal would select three of the 12 supervisors being displaced to become new Operational Supervisors, charged with the oversight of two District offices. Three current Operational Supervisors already exist, so adding three positions raises that number to six. Because these 12 positions have VSEA-negotiated RIF rights, each displaced worker is expected to be able to explore “opportunities in the AHS more broadly.”
VSEA members WIA spoke with generally agree with the assessment that enrollment is down right now, but, like one lawmaker quoted in the VTDigger story, they worry that this is just a temporary lull and enrollments could quickly begin to rise again.
“I’d be concerned if we did away with the capacity to help people in economic services,” said Rep. Mike Mrowicki, D-Putney, a member of the House Human Services Committee, which took testimony on
the DCF proposal.
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
Vermont Representative Speaks For Many When Defining What “Affordability” Means To Most Vermonters
Brattleboro Representative Tristan Toleno (D) recently conducted an interview with WKVT-AM radio about the current legislative session. In the interview, Toleno comments on the ongoing debate here in Vermont about our state’s “affordability,” and he offers a perspective on affordability that is worth hearing.
Next VSEA Legislative Dinner / Reception Is January 18!
VSEA Members’ Chance To Meet Face-To-Face With Key Decision Makers Outside
Above is a photo from last night’s initial dinner / reception, which highlighted the issue of privatization and its potential adverse ramifications for state services.
The VSEA Legislative Team kicked off the 2018 VSEA-sponsored dinner reception season, and members were able to talk face-to-face last night with lawmakers about the harm of privatizing state services. Next up:
January 18: Safety & Security
Create a safe and secure workplace environment for all state employees.
January 25: Retirement
Advocate to protect and defend state employees’ defined benefit pension system.
Each dinner reception is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m at VSEA H.Q. (155 State Street, Montpelier)
Organizer Holding Worksite Meeting For AOT Members In Montpelier On January 17
VSEA Organizer Carmen Scoles has scheduled a worksite meeting on January 17 to talk about issues and concerns to AOT employees working at National Life in Montpelier. The meeting begins at noon in the Montpelier Room (D026) in the National Life.
Hassett demonstrating VSEA’s new electronic balloting at Annual Meeting this past September.
Today is Laurie Hassett’s last day working as an administrative assistant at VSEA headquarters. Laurie started working at the union in July 2014, and she’s been a much-valued resource ever since for both staff and members, as well as always being available to pitch in to help out on any VSEA project, campaign, event, meeting, etc.
VSEA wishes Laurie the very best and thanks her for her years of service to VSEA members statewide. Laurie will be joining the staff at the Department of Human Resources.
Maine Offers Its Businesses Ongoing Tax Breaks, But There’s Not A Lot To Show For The Expenditure
A January 10 Bangor Daily News commentary by Maine Center for Economic Policy Analyst Sarah Austin is titled “Maine Business Tax Break Program Has Failed. Lawmakers Need Better Ideas To Create Jobs.” Here is an excerpt:
“The Pine Tree Development Zones program was created in 2003 to encourage job creation in economically distressed areas using a slate of tax breaks and lower utility rates. Over time, the program expanded to cover the entire state. But, like other tax breaks that deliver windfalls to corporations, it’s failed to deliver any meaningful benefit to Maine families or Maine’s economy.”
“The most recent review by the Legislature’s Office of Program Evaluation and Government Accountability—state government’s nonpartisan watchdog organization — found that Pine Tree Development Zones are not designed to achieve the program’s goal of creating quality jobs in economically distressed areas. OPEGA’s review found that the program provided tax benefits to companies for up to two years, even if they didn’t create a single job, and that successful companies in prosperous regions of the state can extract more benefit than companies in more distressed communities.
The Legislature has also conducted independent studies to estimate the program’s economic impact on the state’s economy. The two most recent reviews of this program, conducted in 2014 and 2016 by an independent consultant firm, Investment Consulting Associates, assessed the program’s return on investment. Based on the consensus that nine out of 10 of these projects would have gone forward without the program, the data show that Mainers get a negative return on their investment in Pine Tree Development Zones.
The truth is that tax giveaways to businesses just don’t do much to spur genuine job creation and development. Maine lawmakers will face great pressure from special interests this session to extend this failed program. They’ll call the program an economic development tool, but we must recognize it for what it is: a tax loophole that allows corporations to escape paying their fair share for the things that can truly contribute to shared prosperity.”
Note: Vermonters can expect to hear a lot in the next few weeks about the need to provide additional tax incentives to Vermont businesses, but, hopefully, we can learn from Maine’s experience.
CHIP Not The Only Federal Program Hanging In Limbo
WIA has recently included stories about the U.S. Congress’ failure to provide solid funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which has left many states, including Vermont, hoping for a concrete funding proposal before the money runs out and the once federally funded program is left to depend on whatever a state can afford to put into it. In the interim, the federal government is keeping CHIP running by providing short-term funding, but everyone agrees that this cannot continue for long.
It’s been 100 days now since Congress missed a deadline to pass a long-term spending bill, and CHIP is not alone in being a program that many of a state’s citizens-in-need rely upon. Other programs that could soon be in trouble if Congress doesn’t act include:
The Community Health
Center Fund – These clinics serve 27 million people, most of them low-income, and about half of them are in rural areas, where options for care are limited;
Service Corp/ Teaching
Health Centers – The Corp sends doctors to medically underserved areas and in exchange, pays off their medical school debt. There are about 10,200 corp members scattered around the U.S., and about half of them practice at community health centers;
Maternal, Infant and
Early Childhood Home
Visiting Program – Helps at-risk parents, like teens or those with a history of substance abuse, care for themselves and their children during their first years of life. Nurses and social workers provide them with pre- and post-natal care, parenting skills and counseling on education and job opportunities; and
Public Health and
Prevention Fund – This is the country’s first fund dedicated to public health programs and efforts to prevent epidemics. Since it was created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), $2.3 billion has gone to state and local governments. By 2016, it accounted for 12 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s budget.
The VSEA Membership Recruitment Committee is pleased to announce a 2018 casino trip with a two-night stay.
Dates: March 23 to March 25, 2018
Bus Cost: $70 per person
Bus will depart from Waterbury at 12:00 p.m. and White River Junction at 1:00 p.m.
(Two Nights/ Two Trees Inn): $248 / single occupancy
$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!
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.
We Want To Know What You Think of VSEA’s Week In Action
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.
What’s VSEA Done For Vermont State Employees? See For Yourself
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.
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.
President Bellini Wants Your Cost-Savings Idea(s)!
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.
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