VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: January 19, 2018
VSEA Strongly Opposes State’s Proposal To Allow, Out-Of-State, Private Prison Industry To Gain Foothold In Vermont
Numerous news outlets reported this week on the State’s intention to float a proposal to allow former private-prison (now real estate entity?) CoreCivic to gain a foothold in Vermont by paying to construct a 925-bed correctional and mental health facility in northwest Vermont and then lease it back to the state for 20 years. According to all reports, in the near-term, the State would continue to administer the newly built prison, and state employees would staff the facilities, but the terms and conditions of the lease moving forward remain unknown. The lease terms, especially ones relating to annual rent and / or employee rights and working conditions, could be subject to change at some point or could allow for wholesale changes in facility administration. VSEA members should insist that if the State’s proposal gains momentum (and VSEA seriously hopes it doesn’t), the terms and conditions of any lease being considered must be made public far in advance of any formal decisions being made.
CoreCivic used to be known as Corrections Corporation of America, or CCA; a company whose facilities nationwide have had numerous well-documented cases of human and prisoner’s right’s violations, substandard health care, conducting gladiator-like fights between inmates, etc. Understaffing and low wages are also ongoing issues at CCA, now CoreCivic, facilities. Given the company’s less-than-stellar reputation, many Vermonters, including VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard are openly blasting the State’s proposal, pointing out that just because CoreCivic has a new name doesn’t mean a company with its sordid reputation is suddenly okay for Vermont.
“This is part of the private prison industry’s strategy,” Howard tells VTDigger in a January 16 story about the proposal. “Becoming a landlord is now one of their biggest revenue streams. The question for Vermonters is, do we want to turn over our entire correctional system to a massive, morally corrupt and morally questionable industry that will produce profits from [Vermonters’] tax dollars?”
In a WCAX story the same day, Howard warned about giving companies like CoreCivic a foothold in Vermont, saying, “[Partnering with CoreCivic] gives a private prison company a tremendous amount of leverage. Once they control the Corrections system they hold all the cards and then they decide what Corrections policy is."
As is pointed out in every story this week about the State’s proposal, it’s just a proposal right now and still has a long way to go, however, VSEA will continue to work with other concerned groups to try and squash any debate at the State House before it can even begin, reminding leaders and lawmakers every day about CCA’s (now CoreCivic’s) very checkered past and about how many lawsuits have been filed against the company for numerous, well-documented infractions—and about how much in fines CoreCivic has had to pay out to date.
VSEA members are urged to contact State leaders and your lawmakers today to voice your opposition to any proposal that would allow a private company with a reputation as tarnished as CCA to gain a foothold in Vermont.
“The question for Vermonters is, do we want to turn over our entire correctional system to a massive, morally corrupt and morally questionable industry that will produce profits from their
VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard to VTDigger on the State’s proposal to allow a tarnished private-prison operator to set up shop in Vermont (under a new name).
“We will await the decision in the Janus case, but we must do all in our power to protect collective bargaining, the right to organize, and preserve workers’ rights.”
Failed “Challenges For Change” Program Now Returning As “PIVOT” Program?
When the Douglas Administration rolled out its infamous cost-savings “Challenges for Change” Program at the height of the recession, VSEA and its members were some of the first to label the effort as “window dressing,” saying it all might look good on paper but the proof will be in how well it works in practice. Well, it didn’t work and after just a few short years, Challenges for Change was mothballed and was widely mocked for just how badly it failed and how few of the program’s promised outcomes were actually realized. Now comes word that January 23’s budget address will feature the official roll out of a new State program called PIVOT, which appears is primarily intended to improve efficiency across state government and possibly generate some savings, although how these things happen remains unclear. The devil will be in the details, which, again, will hopefully be fully explained to Vermonters on January 23.
“Indeed, the goal isn’t necessarily to save money. It’s to improve operations. ‘We will save in some areas, maybe spend more in others as we identify needs,’ said Allyson Laackman, executive director of the Burlington Housing Authority and GMET member. She served in the Obama administration and instituted a process similar to PIVOT in the White House. ‘Once you budget based on impact, you spend more efficiently,’ she added.
“It sounds promising. But the whole process is essentially a black box. [Agency of Administration point person Sue] Zeller says that GMET, as an advisory group, is exempt from state open meetings laws. PIVOT is an administrative process with no official reporting requirements.
“In the end, it’s too soon to tell if PIVOT will be a transformative force or a fizzle. There are a lot of talented, dedicated people devoting their energy to the project, but that doesn’t guarantee results.
“In her 35 years in state government, [Sen. Jane] Kitchel has seen this movie before. "The question is, are you getting outcomes that are over and above what you would normally expect?" she said. ‘Once it’s over, do people revert to their old behavior?’"
Note: As always, VSEA members must be on guard against any new programs or proposals alleged to “improve efficiency” or “streamline services.” You know that in the past these efforts have sometimes resulted in positions or services being cut.
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
As WIA was going to print, there was still no resolution in sight in Washington, D.C., to avoid a potential shutdown today of the federal government. Given this fact, CNN today published a short list of the immediate impact of a shutdown.
700,000 undocumented immigrants who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program will be affected, as there’s currently no fix in place ahead of the March 5 deadline;
9 million children who are under the Children’s Health Insurance Program — whose parents usually earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to afford private health coverage — will have less certainty about the future of their health care;
About 1.3 million active-duty military will be expected to work potentially without pay. The military is currently paid through February 1;
In the 2013 government shutdown, about 850,000 government employees were furloughed each day — and there could be a similar number this time around;
1.87 million civilian government workerscould be exempt from furlough — including the workers at the Transportation Security Administration and food safety inspectors, border patrol officers and federal prison guards;
681,170 residents in Washington, DC, could potentially not receive basic services such as trash pickup, because the city budget is tied with the federal budget;
2018 VSEA Scholarship Application Announcement Coming Next Week!
VSEA’s Awards and Scholarships Committee will be sending an email to all members next week, informing you about when members and their family and dependents can begin applying for a 2018 VSEA scholarship award. In the past, these scholarship awards have benefitted dozens of frontline employees who are pursuing a degree to help advance their career in public service. The children of many VSEA members have also received awards to help with the costs of their education.
Date Change For Next VSEA Legislative Dinner / Reception
Please note the final VSEA Legislative Dinner/ Reception (Retirement) originally scheduled for Thursday, January 25 has been rescheduled to: Thursday February 1, 2018. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.
February 1: Retirement
Advocate to protect and defend state employees’ defined benefit pension system.
The retirement dinner reception is from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at VSEA H.Q. (155 State Street, Montpelier)
Above is a photo from last night’s second dinner / reception, which highlighted the issue of frontline employees’ safety and security. It was a packed house and the back and forth between lawmakers and frontline workers was very productive.
VSEA President Dave Bellini stresses the importance of workplace safety and security to lawmakers in the room last night.
The VSEA Legislative Team and Committee held its second 2018 dinner reception this week, and members were able to talk face-to-face last night with lawmakers about enhanced safety and security for frontline state employees. Join us on February 1 for our final Dinner Reception, RSVP here.
Montpelier DMV Employee Appreciation Day Is
Montpelier DMV Employees are welcome to stop by the second floor hallway of the Montpelier DMV building (120 State St.) from Noon to 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, January 24 where VSEA staff and member leaders will be on hand to provide VSEA members with updates on the issues and challenges facing state employees and learn more from you about how your service is functioning and what your needs are. Come share your ideas about how to build a stronger VSEA and also hear what your colleagues think. Bring your lunch, your co-workers, and your concerns.
Stop by during your lunch break for treats and VSEA giveaway items!
For more information please feel free to contact Carmen Scoles, Union Organizer, 802-223-5247 / email@example.com
VSEA Again Offering Discounted Tickets To See The Vermont Bucks!
VSEA is pleased to again this year to offer members and retirees the chance to see a Vermont Bucks 2018 indoor football game for a discounted price.
VSEA has a block of 20 discounted tickets (up from last year’s 10) for every Vermont Bucks 2018 season home game. There is a two-ticket limit, per-member, per-game (but some special circumstances will be considered, in consultation with VSEA). The tickets, which are on Gutterson Fieldhouse’s VIP Box Level, are $35 each (usually $100) and will be distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.
In order to rank the states, SmartAsset looked at four factors:
Percent of state government revenue which comes from the federal government;
Percent of workers employed by the federal government;
Quality of federal jobs; and
Ratio of income taxes paid compared to money received from the federal government.
“Vermont ranks high in terms of federal funding compared to income taxes paid,” reads the report summary. “For every dollar Vermont sends to the federal government the state gets back $1.14. In that metric, the Green Mountain State ranks sixth. Federal government employees are also big producers in the state’s economy. According to SmartAsset data, the average federal government employee makes 1.89 times what the average worker earns. Vermont ranks eighth in that metric.”
The Press Republican reports today that Vermont Fish & Wildlife Biologist John Buck will be hosting a two-hour instructional talk on Saturday, February 24, to educate participants about Vermont’s winter birds and then take them out in the wild to look for some. Buck has worked at Fish & Wildlife for more than 35 years and is Vermont’s migratory bird project leader.
Buck will give his presentation at the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area Conference Room in Addison.
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.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Administrative Assistant Sue DeVoid (email@example.com). 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone 802-223-5247. Thank You!
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?
GET EXCLUSIVE OFFERS, DISCOUNTS & MORE
It’s free, just for being a Vermont State Employees’ Association PerksConnect member!
At the top of the Advantage Program page, click the link that says "Click Here To Log Into The New VSEA Advantage Program". This will redirect you to the new Advantage Program website. Please note this link will not work unless you are logged into your VSEA.org account first.
Select a category and start saving!
Present your VSEA union card, mobile device or printed coupons and offers at participating businesses and receive immediate discounts.
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