VSEA’s Week In Action Newsletter: January 3, 2020





When lawmakers return to the State House next Tuesday, January 7, they will be greeted at noon on the State House steps by rallying VSEA Council members. The Council is acting quickly to build support for safety and security legislation that VSEA and its supporters will be championing this session. The bill is being sponsored Sen. Andrew Perchlik (D-Washington) and Rep. Mary Howard (D-Rutland). 
In short, VSEA’s proposed safety and security bill would:

  • Create an independent Vermont State Building Security Board to develop, implement, and evaluate the success of comprehensive security plans and procedures for the worksites of state employees, and the employees of the Vermont Judiciary;
  • Create an independent Director position to take the politics out of safety and security decision making process; 
  • Require annual budget request and reporting;
  • Create a law enforcement agency for the courts and state office buildings, similar to the Capital Police; and
  • End the awarding of contracts to private security firms, like Securitas.

Read full bill here
VSEA members and retirees across the state who are able are urged to rally with VSEA Council members!  

VSEA Rally for Safety & Security
Tuesday, January 7
12:00 P.M.

State House Steps

To Win A Fair Contract, VSEA Judiciary Unit Members Are Going To Need All Members’ & Retirees’ Support Early In 2020

Unlike VSEA’s Executive Branch members, who negotiate contracts directly with the Governor’s Office, VSEA’s Judiciary Unit members negotiate directly with the Court Administrator. VSEA Judiciary Unit Bargaining Team members report that the Court Administrator has been very difficult to negotiate with the past and she is, sadly, again being verydifficult in the Unit’s current round of bargaining, which began a few months back.

The Team reports the Administrator is again employing a “my way or the highway” approach at the table, meaning “take-it-or-leave-it” wage proposals with unfavorable conditions for the workers attached, requests to drop union proposals outright, and, especially unnerving to the Judiciary Unit Team, dragging her feet when asked to schedule new dates to bargain. The Team is angry that there are currently weeks between sessions. The Team’s next scheduled negotiating session is January 8. 

This notice is just a heads-up, as VSEA Judiciary Unit members will almost certainly be asking the entire VSEA membership, including retirees, for help and solidarity in the coming weeks and months. They will be sharing Information about what you can do on VSEA’s Facebook and Twitter pages, the union’s website, and through email and texting. 

Judiciary Unit members are saying thanks in advance for your support in 2020!​

VSEA Slams AHS Secretary’s Proposals To Address Systemic Problems Within DOC 

In a December 23 VTDigger story, VSEA Executive Director Steve Howard reacted to AHS Secretary Michael Smith’s pre-holiday announcement about a series of proposals he wants to see adopted and enacted to address the systemic problems within the DOC, including drug testing of Corrections employees.

“I think I would characterize it as an overreach to try to hide from the public the fact that this case is really gross managerial and incompetence,” Howard said. “I think what they’re trying to do is make it look like it’s all the COs who are guilty here, but it’s really the management of the Department of Corrections that are at fault.

"He said “99 percent” of the correctional officers are “upstanding” employees and they’re all being painted a “broad brush” in the report.

Howard said correctional officers had been raising their concerns and reporting incidents of misconduct to DOC and getting little response.

He said the report’s recommendations to make changes through legislation rather than collective bargaining are an effort to “cut” the union out of the process.

“It shows that the administration really wants to trample on the rights of the correctional officers in order to cover up the failures of management,” Howard said. “I think we should expect more of the administration than that.”

First Windham & Chittenden, Now Barre. Vermont Judiciary Hires Private Security Firm Securitas At Another State Courthouse

A few years after the Court Administrator’s Office decided to hire private firm Securitas Security Services to provide security at the Windham and Chittenden County Courthouses, the Times Argus reports on December 30 that the same firm is now under contract at the Washington County Courthouse.

From the story:  

Gregg Mousley is the chief of finance and administration for the Vermont Judiciary and oversees security at the courthouses statewide. Mousley said the courthouse now has one Washington County deputy stationed there, two Lamoille deputies, and the two security guards.

He said previously there had been four security officers assigned to the courthouse, but the state decided to add a fifth due to four officers being insufficient. The courthouse also houses the state’s attorney’s office, the Department for Children and Families, and the probation and parole office for the Department of Corrections.

“All it took was one sickness (from a security officer), and we were having to reschedule hearings,” he said.

He said the state turned to a private company because both sheriff’s departments in Washington and Lamoille counties couldn’t fill the two open positions the state had for courthouse security.

For now, Mousley said the security officers only handle screenings at the entrance. But he said the plan is to get them trained in the coming months so they can also work as a court officer.

But he said he doesn’t want the security company to take over security at the courthouse. That’s what happened in Windham County years ago because the sheriff’s department there felt it wasn’t getting paid enough to work security for the courthouse.

“Secuirtas are the only ones in the building. There is no sheriff contract down there. And so we do sometimes have people surrendering, they might have an arrest warrant out for them. They come to the courthouse to surrender and we can’t arrest them because there is no law enforcement in the building,” he said.

Mousley said those people are told to turn themselves in to the nearest police station.

He said, ideally, there would be at least one law enforcement officer in every courthouse in the state because they do have the ability to arrest and detain people, an ability private security guards don’t necessarily have.

Note: VSEA will be working with lawmakers this session to try to put a stop to the Court Administrator’s Office contracting with private, for-profit firms to provide security to the public and VSEA members and other employees working in Vermont’s courthouses.

VSEA’s 2020 Legislative Agenda

VSEA’s Legislative Committee has finalized its 2020 legislative agenda for your union. Here are the priority items for the upcoming session, which gavels on January 7. 

  • Protecting and Enhancing Retirement Security;
  • Securing a Budget that Maintains Vital Public Services;
  • Protecting Our Health Care;
  • Enhancing Employee Health, Safety & Security;
  • Preventing the Privatization of State Services;
  • Preventing the Exploitation and Overuse of Temporary Employees;
  • Stopping “Right to Work” and Protecting Collective Bargaining; and
  • Collaborating on Solidarity Issues Affecting Labor and Working Vermonters

If you have any questions about VSEA’s 2020 agenda, please contact VSEA Legislative Specialist Tom Abdelnour at tabdelnour@vsea.org.  

Quote Of
The Week!


"…Vermont’s shameful support of its state college system — the state covers just 17 percent of VSC’s operating expenses — is hampering economic growth and denying economic opportunity to young adults. This must change."

Line from an editorial this week in the Manchester (Vt.) Journal , urging adequate funding for Vermont’s state colleges be a legislative priority this session. 


Talking Points:


New VT Public Assets Institute Study Reports Impact Of Vermont’s "Inadequate Public Investment"

Vermont’s Public Assets Institute recently released its annual "State of Working Vermont" report, and, along with it, a renewed warning about our state’s growing income gap and an inadequate response from policy makers. 

From a PAI press release:

Economists told us last summer that the current economic recovery had become the longest on record. Vermonters at the top of the income ladder have enjoyed the effects. But for the 66,000 in poverty, the single mother earning no more than her counterpart did before the recession, or the parents who can’t afford good child care, it doesn’t feel like 10 years of growth.

These conflicting indicators, reflecting the challenges of Vermont’s top-heavy economy, are laid out in State of Working Vermont 2019, released today by Public Assets Institute in Montpelier. Vermont’s economy expanded, but too many Vermonters haven’t seen the benefits of this growth. Wages increased, but far faster for high-wage workers than for those earning less. Child poverty hit its lowest point in 15 years, but still exceeded 10 percent.

“Our policy makers need to try something new,” said Paul Cillo, founder and president of Public Assets. “This is a pattern we’ve seen for too long. Coming out of the recession, Vermonters had reason to expect their lives would improve, but the benefits aren’t trickling down.”

The report points out that Vermont’s spending on public goods, as a share of Vermonters’ total income, has remained flat for 25 years. The state is now paying for its failure to invest adequately in necessities like the state employees’ pension funds and clean lakes and rivers.

More on Report: 

New OSHA Finding: Three-Quarters Of Workplace Assaults Are On Health Care Workers

According a recent ABC News story:

Three-quarters of all workplace assaults happen to health care workers, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. And right now, unlike other professions, there is no federal law requiring prevention, reporting, or action if a health care worker is assaulted while on the job. 


In February, Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., introduced a bill that would require OSHA to issue a nationwide standard for establishing and implementing workplace violence prevention plans for health care professionals. The bill, the “Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act,” or H.R. 1309, passed the House on Nov. 21 with bipartisan support.

"But the American Hospital Association opposed the bill, which is pending in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, saying hospitals "already stress workplace violence prevention."

Courtney pointed to the fact that 32 Republican representatives supported the bill, along with the Kentucky Nurses Association.

“We’re hoping that they are going to prevail on [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell,” Courtney said, referring to the Kentucky nurses. “Because, you know, saying ‘no’ to nurses is not easy.”

McConnell declined comment.

EPI Posts 13 Charts, Clarifying What U.S.’s Economic Priorities Need To Be In 2020

The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) recently posted what it believes America’s economic priorities should be in 2020, and they have done it in the form of 13 informative charts; some illustrating how much unions help workers and one showing how a large percentage of Americans support belonging to a union.

Worth a look.

At Height Of Snow Season, One Minnesota County’s Plow Operators Are Threatening To Strike 

CityPages reports today that 180 Teamster snow plow operators in St. Louis County, Minnesota, are threatening to strike at the height of snow season, unless a fair contract can be negotiated. 

From the story:

The drivers are represented by the Teamsters 320 union, as are many of the county’s mechanics, maintenance crews, sign technicians, and other workers. They’re about 180 members strong, and last month, they agreed to go on strike by a staggering 112-1 vote.

Duluth, St. Louis County’s largest city, has already been inundated in snow several times at the top of the winter season, and there’s likely plenty more where that came from. In a statement issued Wednesday, the county promised it has contingency plans in place in order to make sure the roads get cleared, “using supervisors and other staff who are licensed and qualified to plow.”

The union’s vote came after many hours of negotiation attempts. Teamsters 320 recording secretary Erik Skoog says their last mediation session with the county was 19 hours long and ended in an unsatisfactory offer.

"We feel it was a shell game how they were proposing it to us,” he says, “Like they were trying to put something past us because we were tired. We’re not second-class citizens just because we’re blue collar workers."

After the vote, they bided their time until the holidays were over and their contract was up.

This Week:

Council To Rally For Enhanced Employee Safety & Security 

To Win A Fair Contract, VSEA Judiciary Unit Members Are Going To Need All Members’ & Retirees’ Support Early In 2020

VSEA Slams AHS Secretary’s Proposals To Address Systemic Problems Within DOC 

First Windham & Chittenden, Now Barre. Vermont Judiciary Hires Private Security Firm Securitas At Another State Courthouse

VSEA’s 2020 Legislative Agenda


Talking Points:

New VT Public Assets Institute Study Reports Impact Of Vermont’s "Inadequate Public Investment"

New OSHA Finding: Three-Quarters Of Workplace Assaults Are On Health Care Workers

EPI Posts 13 Charts, Clarifying What U.S.’s Economic Priorities Need To Be In 2020

At Height Of Snow Season, One Minnesota County’s Plow Operators Are Threatening To Strike 



January 6
Board Of Trustees’ Meeting
155 State Street
9:00 a.m.

January 7
2020 Legislative Session Begins

January 7
Council Meeting
Capitol Plaza Hotel
9:00 a.m.

January 10
Judiciary Member Worksite Meeting – Montpelier
Supreme Court Building
111 State Street
Lunch Room, Basement Level
12:20 p.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 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!

Nearly 900 Have Signed VSEA’s Petition To Increase State College Funding. Have You Signed Yet?

My Office Is Freezing!

Working Vermont Hosting January 2020 Event With AFT’s National President Randi Weingarten

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!

After a very successful membership-recruitment initiative this fall, VSEA is excited to announce a new membership drive for the next quarter.

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!

The VSEA Board of Trustees is letting members and retirees know that an updated version of VSEA’s Policies (which includes changes the VSEA Council voted to approve at its November 15 meeting) is now available for viewing on VSEA’s website. The new version is searchable and includes page numbers and a table of contents.

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.


Nearly 900 Have Signed VSEA’s Petition To Increase State College Funding. Have You Signed Yet?

Although Vermont is among the top five in the United States for K-12 education funding, Vermont is ranked 50th for state college funding.* VSEA members are standing strong in support of the Vermont State College staff and are demanding a solution to the many years of chronic underfunding.

To demonstrate how much our state colleges mean to Vermonters, VSEA is urging members, retirees, and the public to sign the union’s online petition, which calls on state officials and lawmakers to immediately increase VSC funding.

* Source: Inside Higher Ed.com – January 21, 2019

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. 


Working Vermont Hosting January 2020 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. 

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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