VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: January 18, 2019



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VSEA Thanks State Employees For Stepping Up (As Always) To Facilitate The Host Of Issues Caused By Federal Government Shutdown

VSEA sent big thanks this week to any and all state employees who are currently working hard to address some of the issues being caused by the federal government’s shutdown. 

VSEA knows that DCF employees statewide have been working tirelessly all this week to inform Vermont federal food assistance program (SNAP) beneficiaries that, due to the shutdown, their February 2019 benefit is being mailed to them this weekend–well in advance of February 1. DCF workers are offering beneficiaries advice on how to budget the money.

Related Story: States Warn Food Stamp Recipients To Budget Early Benefit Payments Due To Shutdown 

Note: If you’re a VSEA member whose workload has increased due to the federal government’s shutdown, please share your story with VSEA by sending an email to vsea@vsea.org and write "Shutdown" in the subject line. Thanks!

"Protect Your Pension" Meeting Now
On Video

Prior to the legislative 2019 session kicking off, VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard was conducting an education tour around the state, talking with VSEA members and retirees about an expected attack on your pension, who is behind it and how to help prevent it from happening. 

If you weren’t able to attend a presentation in your area, VSEA is pleased to now share this link to Steve’s December 2018 St. Albans presentation.

This video is for VSEA members only. To view it you must be logged into your VSEA.org user account. If you do not have a VSEA.org account, please sign up for a free account here.

Watch the presentation online

VSEA Corrections Officers’ Reclassification Approval Will Spark Pay Increase

The State of Vermont recently approved the reclassification of hundreds of Vermont Corrections Officers (Class 1’s and 2’s), which translates to higher pay for frontline officers who work in a job that more and more states nationwide are struggling to fill.   

"Both these classes of Corrections Officers strongly believed they were worth more–and that their jobs were as well–so they worked together to change their situation by filing for group reclassifications," explains VSEA President Dave Bellini. "The State and the Scott Administration reviewed the workers’ request and approved it, which was really great news for hundreds of hard-working, frontline COs. It confirms that these VSEA members had a strong case for a re-class, and VSEA believes it will help the state a lot with recruitment and retention to these critical public safety positions; a problem other states are grappling with as well."  

Due to negotiated contract language, the pay increase for the CO1 re-class has to now be granted by lawmakers because the class exceeds a one-percent threshold to forgo legislative approval. Bellini says VSEA is lobbying lawmakers hard right now to find the funds necessary for the CO1s’ pay increase in the budget adjustment process, which is underway now. 

"A big thanks to all involved who made this re-class possible and to all those who are committed to providing the funding needed for these two classes of COs," adds Bellini. "This is–and will be– important recognition and thanks for these groups of workers for the hard job they do daily, 24/7."  

Register Today For State House Day 2019!

At State House Day, VSEA members are afforded an opportunity to talk with legislators about the services you provide and the issues and challenges you and your colleagues face.

Join us for the legislative reception!
At 4:30 p.m., in the State House’s Cedar Creek Room, your union is hosting its annual legislative reception, where you can talk with your lawmakers over drinks and horderves. This is a fun, casual way to meet with lawmakers about the issues important to you. Join us when you can – leave when you must.

Register today and help make this VSEA’s most successful State House Day ever. Let’s show lawmakers and State officials at the State House what real collective power
looks like!

Register Online Here!

Told You’re Being Investigated? Watch This Video!

In response to requests from members for information about an employee’s rights in investigatory meetings, VSEA’s Communications Department posted a video this week, featuring VSEA activist Robin Rieske talking to members about their rights. 

It is important that every VSEA member knows his or her rights when it comes to union representation in investigatory meetings. Union representation at these meetings is a cornerstone of the labor movement. Your right to representation—as outlined in your contract and, in some cases, labor law—can be complicated.

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 Here: Know Your Union Rights

Not currently a VSEA member?
You can sign up online here.

2019 VSEA Legislative Dinners Continue

At the first in a series of 2019 VSEA Legislative Committee-sponsored issue-dinner meetings, VSEA members and retirees met last night with lawmakers to talk about their defined benefit pension plan and why it must be protected. 

VSEA’s Legislative Committee is again hosting hosting a series of informal dinner meetings, where VSEA members and retirees can talk with invited lawmakers about the issues important to them. 

Upcoming dinners and topics:

Thursday, January 24 – Mental Health and Youth Services

Thursday, January 31 – Employee Rights: Safe Staffing, Temps, Security, and Privatization

Just Added!
Wednesday, February 6 – Woodside  

RSVP here today for any or all of the 2019 dinner meetings.

Event webpage to view and share! 

Your New Health Care
Co-Pay Is $25! Make Sure You Use The Correct Card

VSEA members should have received a mailing recently from Blue Cross/Blue Shield, containing your new health care card(s) for you and your family members. 

As many of you have pointed out, BC/BS has, in fact, sent out two mailings with cards, one containing card(s) listing your co-pay as $20 and another reading $25. The card(s) with $25 are the correct ones, and members should dispose of the card(s) with $20. The newly negotiated co-pay is $25.

The error was made by BC/BS, and VSEA is in no way responsible for the incorrect mailing. VSEA does, however, apologize for the confusion.

Note: Co-pay for specialists is now $30. 

Professor’s Commentary Asks For Increased Funding For State Colleges

VTDigger posted a commentary on January 14 by Northern Vermont University Professor Tyrone Shaw, titled "Underfunding of State Colleges Must be Remedied," which is a position VSEA’s State Colleges Unit members have been championing as well at the State House and in their local communities. 

From the commentary:

For the 26 years I have been teaching within the Vermont State Colleges system, successive chancellors, boards of trustees, presidents, faculty, staff, associated unions and students have tried in vain to convince the Legislature to honor its statutory obligations.

Although some modest increases have been realized, they are by no means sufficient to turn this lamentable situation around. On the contrary, in the face of ongoing inadequate public funding, pressures at every level within our postsecondary system continue to grow despite our considerable efforts at both cost cutting and sweeping reorganization. And there have been consequences.

Vermont has won the race to the bottom nationally in terms of state funding for higher education and consequently to the top for tuition costs. Vermont has the lowest levels of college continuation in New England and the highest numbers of young people leaving the state. This is what decades of disinvestment have wrought. Meanwhile, funding for public colleges and universities in our surrounding states — our competitors — now stands on average at 30 percent, putting us at an ever greater disadvantage.

DCF Seeking $2.7 Million In Funding To Keep Woodside Operating

VTDigger published a story on January 14 about DCF’s push for more funding to keep the doors open at the Woodside juvenile facility (Vermont’s only juvenile facility) in Colchester.

Story excerpt:

The Vermont Department for Children and Families is asking the lawmakers crafting budget adjustment legislation to spend about $2.7 million to cover operating expenses at the Woodside Juvenile Rehabilitation Center, the state’s only detention center for youth.

The request comes after the department announced in October that it was giving up efforts to secure federal funding the Colchester facility lost in the fall of 2016 because it failed to keep up with federal standards for juvenile justice.

Note: VSEA represents many of Woodside’s employees, and they are a dedicated and caring group who, like VSEA, cannot imagine Vermont shuttering its only available youth facility.

VSEA Membership Drive 2019
Now Underway!

Between January 1, 2019, and September 1, 2019, VSEA is calling on all members to become active recruiters—and you might be rewarded for your efforts. Here’s how:

  • Members who recruit two members will receive a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card;
  • Members who recruit five new members will receive a VSEA insulated coffee mug; and 
  • Members who recruit ten new members will receive a $50 Visa gift card.  

Every time you recruit a new member during the designated period*, your name is entered into a drawing to be conducted at VSEA’s 2019 Annual Meeting. Four names will be pulled at random and winners will receive a check for $300! 
Need a quick reference to help with your recruiting? You can view an informational webpage with some recruitment tips and advice here.

* Please be sure the new members you recruit add your name to the "Recruited By" line on their union card or membership application.
If you have any questions, or want a list of non-members in your area, please contact VSEA Director of Operations and Organizing Ray Stout by email: rstout@vsea.org

VSEA Announces March Trip To Foxwoods Casino!

The VSEA Membership Recruitment Committee is pleased to announce a return trip to the Foxwoods Casino in March. 
Saturday, March 23 to Sunday, March 24, 2019

Travel Cost:
$69 per person
We will depart from Waterbury at 8:00 a.m. and from the Wilder Exit (I-91, Exit 19) at 9:00 a.m.

Lodging (One Night at Two Trees Inn):
$133/single occupancy
$78 per person/double occupancy
$70 per person/triple occupancy

Please contact VSEA Union Rep Bob South (bsouth@vsea.org) or Administrative Assistant Sue DeVoid (sdevoid@vsea.org). Each can be reached by phone at 
Register For VSEA’s Trip To Foxwoods Casino Online Here!

Important Information!
Payment is non-refundable and 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 (bsouth@vsea.org) or phone 802-223-5247. Thank You!

Foxwoods Resort Casino website

Quote Of The Week!


“Vermont has won the race to the bottom nationally in terms of state funding for higher education and consequently to the top for tuition costs.”

Northern Vermont University Professor Tyrone Shaw, from a commentary he posted January 14 to VTDigger, calling for more funding for Vermont’s state colleges.  


VSEA Meetings/ Trainings/ Events:


Upcoming VSEA Organizer Worksite Meetings

  • National Life – AOT
    Tuesday, January 22

    12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
    Discussion w/ AOT Members About Move To Barre 
    National Life
    1 National Life Drive
    Fifth Floor Board Room

    Questions: Contact VSEA Organizer Carmen Scoles: cscoles@vsea.org

  • Burlington P&P
    Monday, January 28

    12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.
    Burlington Probation & Parole
    Conference Room 
    50 Cherry St.

    Questions: Contact VSEA Organizer David Oppenheimer: doppenheimer@vsea.org

Upcoming VSEA "Protect Your Pension" Meeting

  • Vermont Veterans Home
    Tuesday, January 22

    12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m.
    Vermont Veterans Home
    Third Floor Large Conference Room 
    200 Veterans Memorial Drive

    Questions: Contact VSEA Organizer Carmen Scoles: cscoles@vsea.org

Upcoming VSEA Chapter Meeting

  • Waterbury Chapter
    Wednesday, January 23

    12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m.
    Public Safety Building
    First Floor Lab Classroom
    45 State Drive

    Questions: Contact VSEA Waterbury Chapter President Brett Pierce: brett.pierce@vermont.gov


Points of Interest:


Columnist Calls For Sick-Out By Federal Employees Not Being Paid During Shutdown

The American Prospect posted a column online January 15 by Joseph McCartin, titled "It’s Time for Federal Workers to Get Sick."

Here’s an excerpt:

Federal workers have no right to strike, and the last significant national collective action by a group of federal workers ended disastrously when the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) defied the strike ban and walked off their jobs on August 3, 1981, only to be fired by President Ronald Reagan and permanently replaced. In part due to the painful legacy of PATCO, no union has breathed a word about collective action by federal workers to end the current impasse. 

But a spontaneous sickout of federal workers in response to the present situation would present a different set of facts than obtained in 1981. First, no union would (or would need to) initiate or coordinate the action. Second, most Americans would understand why it had become intolerable for these employees to work under present conditions. Unlike the air traffic controllers, who were widely portrayed as having deserted highly paid jobs in order to pressure the government for even more money, employees who engaged in a sickout to protest their hostage status would be doing so as a last resort and demanding only that they not be deprived of their paychecks. 

Sickouts have long played an important role in the history of public sector labor relations. Because most state governments, like the federal government, prohibit strikes, public workers of all sorts have repeatedly turned in the past to sickouts when no other means of protest was available. They became so common in the inflation-ravaged 1970s, when public workers saw their pay outstripped by the skyrocketing cost of living, that they acquired creative names: Policemen called them the “blue flu,”fire fighters the “red rash,” and teachers “chalk-dust fever.” 

Read Column

Related: Michigan State Official Says Feb. 5 Is State’s Panic Date 

Related: Why Don’t Unpaid Federal Workers Walk Off the Job?

Los Angeles Teachers’ Strike Is About More Than Just Wages & Benefits

More than 30,000 United Teachers Los Angeles members went on strike citywide this week to demand better pay, benefits and working conditions but also to prevent the continued privatization of public education. 

From a January 17 story posted to Salon:

"…here in the nation’s second-largest school district, where an incredible 98 percent of UTLA voting members voted to authorize a strike last August, the issues are not limited to wages and benefits, as they were in West Virginia, Arizona and Oklahoma. “I feel like this is part of the war to keep public education public,” said Mize, a UTLA chapter chair at the NOW Academy, which is built on the former site of the Ambassador Hotel, where Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

Many of the striking teachers see the battle in Los Angeles as a front-line action to put an end to starvation of public school funding on one end, and corporate-fueled privatization on the other. And while that debate has been playing out in Los Angeles and across the country for years, union leaders and teachers believe this could be a last stand. “If this doesn’t work there may not be a union left,” said Mize.

Here are some other articles, detailing the teachers’ strike:

L.A. Times: What Would a Deal to End the LAUSD Teachers’ Strike Look Like?

New York Magazine: With Teachers’ Strike, L.A.’s Long-Simmering Charter-School Battle Comes to a Head

Slate Podcast: What Are L.A. Teachers Fighting For?

This Week:

VSEA Thanks State Employees For Stepping Up (As Always) To Facilitate The Host Of Issues Caused By Federal Government Shutdown

"Protect Your Pension" Meeting Now On Video

VSEA Corrections Officers’ Reclassification Approval Will Spark Pay Increase

Register Today For State House Day 2019!

Told You’re Being Investigated? Watch This Video!

2019 VSEA Legislative Dinners Continue

Your New Health Care Co-Pay Is $25! Make Sure You Use The Correct Card

Professor’s Commentary Asks For Increased Funding For State Colleges

DCF Seeking $2.7 Million In Funding To Keep Woodside Operating

VSEA Membership Drive 2019 Now Underway!​

VSEA Announces March Trip To Foxwoods Casino!


Points of Interest:


Columnist Calls For Sick-Out By Federal Employees Not Being Paid During Shutdown

Los Angeles Teachers’ Strike Is About More Than Just Wages & Benefits


VSEA Reminders:


2019 Legislative Session Online Hub

Getting Ready To Retire? Retired Already? Join The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter!

What You Should Know About The Anti-Worker Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

Guaranteed Issue Term and Whole Life Insurance for VSEA Members!​

Bolton Valley Again Offering “Industry Rate” To VSEA Members On 2018-19 All-Access Season Passes​

What Is The VSEA Advantage Program?


VSEA Calendar:

January 21
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day
VSEA & Most State Offices Closed

January 22
Organizer’s Worksite Meeting: AOT 
National Life
1 National Life Drive
Fifth Floor Board Room
12:00 p.m.

January 22
"Protect Your Pension" Meeting: Bennington
Vermont Veterans Home
200 Veterans Memorial Drive
Third Floor Large Conference Room
12:00 p.m.

January 22
Child & Elder Care Committee Meeting
155 State Street
1:00 p.m.

January 23
Waterbury Chapter Meeting
Public Safety Building
First Floor Lab Classroom
45 State Drive
12:00 p.m.

January 24
Dinner Meeting w/Legislators – Mental Health & Youth Services
155 State Street
6:00 p.m.

January 25
Office of Child Support Labor – Management Committee Meeting
155 State Street
9:00 a.m.


2019 Legislative Session Online Hub

A collection of resources, reports, and tools to help VSEA members navigate the Vermont Legislative Session.

Clicking on the hub’s main link, members and retirees are taken to a page that lists a number of options to click on, including:

The hub will be updated with new information as it becomes available, such as the just-approved VSEA legislative priorities.


Getting Ready To Retire? Retired Already? Join The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter!

Long-time VSEA activist and leader Terry Lefebvre asked Council 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 appealed to Council members to talk up the Chapter to co-workers they know who might be preparing to retire. 
With a possible fight looming on retirement security, Lefebvre stressed the importance to build the Chapter to be able to mobilize large numbers of past state workers to protect and defend the benefits they bargained to win over decades.

If you already belong to the Retired Members’ Chapter, a big thanks to you.
Learn More Here About The VSEA Retired Members’ Chapter


What You Should Know About The Anti-Worker Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

Thanks in advance for visiting VSEA’s Janus webpage to ensure you are an informed union member. 


Guaranteed Issue Term and Whole Life Insurance for VSEA Members!

WIA was asked by VSEA Benefits Administrator, Joanne Woodcock, to include the following in this week’s newsletter:
Aflac life insurance helps take care of your loved ones* immediate and future needs if you should pass away. Immediate needs can include burial/funeral expenses, uninsured medical costs and current bills and debts. Future needs could include income replacement, education plans, ongoing family obligations, emergency funds, and retirement expenses.

Aflac is insurance for daily living. It’s never easy to think about life insurance, but it can mean that your family will have added financial resources to help with ongoing living expenses. Aflac life insurance is designed to provide you and your beneficiary(ies) with cash benefits. The following options are available and can help provide peace of mind during a very difficult time.

  • Guaranteed-issue** – 10-year, 20-year, or 30-year Term Life coverage up to $50,000.

    … or Guaranteed-issue** Whole Life coverage up to $50,000.

  • Ability to borrow from the policy’s cash value to help pay medical expenses, college tuition, down payment on a new home, or any other bills you may have.

Apply Today – No health questions asked.  Ask your VSEA Insurance Benefits Advisor how an Aflac life policy can help you and your family.

Joanne Woodcock
VSEA Insurance Benefits
888-510-4467 (call me toll free)
Learn More Here

* Certain face amounts may not be available. Underwriting requirements apply. ** Subject to certain conditions and payment of claims is subject to all policy limitations and exclusions and pre-existing conditions. 
This is a brief product overview for illustrative purposes only. Benefits and/or premiums may vary based on the state and benefit option selected. Riders may be available for an additional premium. Policies described herein have limitations and exclusions that may affect benefits payable. For costs and complete details of the coverage, contact your Aflac insurance agent/producer. Individual coverage is underwritten by American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus.  
WWHQ | 1932 Wynnton Road, Columbus, GA 31999 | aflac.com


Bolton Valley Again Offering “Industry Rate” To VSEA Members On 2018-19
All-Access Season Passes

All VSEA members in good standing are eligible to purchase a pass or passes. You can purchase yours today by first contacting VSEA by email at vsea@vsea.org. VSEA will verify your membership status and provide you with VSEA’s code, which you will need to complete your online purchase.

Once you have the required code:

  • Click here;
  • Click “Buy Online”;
  • In the “Cart View,” click on “Add / Change Guest” to set the pass-holder’s name and information to each pass, then;
  • Click “Proceed to Checkout”;
  • Enter VSEA’s promotional code and click “Apply Code.” The cart should refresh and reflect your discount.


Pass Type: Pre-April 2 Price/ Post-April 2 Price

Adult (18+): 
$379 / $429

Youth w/Adult

$159 / $179

Youth (7-17): 
$199 / $239

Senior (65-74): 
$229 / $239

Child (6 and under): $29 / $29

Ski Bum (18-25): $179 / $279


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


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At Work? 

Send A Threat Report To VSEA

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VSEA Council Member?

Join the VSEA Council Facebook group here!

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VSEA Steward?

Join the VSEA Steward Facebook
group here!

Subscribe To VSEA Today!

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.

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 is working hard to collect members’ contact information.

You can help us 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.

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